Light Hands Horsemanship™
is proud to have Spalding Labs and Spalding Fly Predators
as our sponsor once again. We’d like to thank Tom Spalding
for his continued support and sponsorship. For more information
on fly predators for your summer fly control needs, go to
Debby and I continue to be thrilled with
the enthusiastic response to the newsletters. We always
welcome your comments and suggestions at
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For additional details, call 1-530-346-2715.
LHH is considering a 2011 event in Pennsylvania. Anyone
interested in attending, please contact Debbie Beth-Halachmy
WHAT IS “LIGHT HANDS?”
I’m not opposed to horse shows. They
were created, as were other domestic animal shows, for the
“improvement of the breed.” Unfortunately, our greatest
human failings-greed and ego-have corrupted all kinds of
animal events. Horse shows are just an example, because
I can assure you that equally unethical and inhumane practices
exist in competitions involving other species.
The goal of winning or making money makes
greed the primary problem in the industry. Ego is
also involved, because to win strokes self-esteem, and heightens
competitive spirit. The result of this is that we see, in
all disciplines of horsemanship, terrible abuses which physically
and/or mentally damage the horse. Here are just a few examples:
In dressage, the practice of rollkur (extreme over-flexion
of the head and neck, and severe contact with the bit) is
banned by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports
“Examples of rollkur.”
photos by Horses for
FEI just established distinction between rollkur and posture
not achieved by force and aggressive hand-set, and has banned
rollkur. It has also been condemned in the book,
of War, and DVD, “If Horses Could Speak,” by German veterinarian
and horseman, Gerd Heuschmann.
Western pleasure classes have, for many
years, been corrupted by the “peanut rollers.” Horses are
shown with freakish and artificial gaits, and the head is
carried ridiculously low. Excessive weight is borne by the
forelegs, which contributes to eventual unsoundness.
But- these practices profit the trainers. Western
reining and cutting are wonderful events, but the futurities,
which once existed only in racing, now cripple thousands
of horses. The futurities, designed for three-year-olds,
necessitate hard training of two-year-old colts whose bodies
are rarely up to the task. Millions of dollars go
for joint treatments and medications to suppress inflammation
The most dramatic example of cruelty is
the “big lick” in Tennessee Walking Horse classes, wherein
grotesque and unnatural gaits are obtained by cruel and
harmful methods. These include outlandish horseshoeing methods
and the infliction of pain to the feet, although the practice
of soring has been long-banned.
The responsibility for these industry abuses
is shared by:
The associations that allow them.
- By the trainers who use them.
- By the judges who approve of them.
- By the owners who are either indifferent, or willing to ignore them.
Unfortunately, what is acceptable at horse
shows becomes a goal for casual riders, even if they don’t
compete. “Lightness” does not come naturally to us. We are
a predatory, tool-using species, so it is natural for us
to use items such as whips, spurs, and bits, and to use
them coercively and forcefully, like weapons. Thus,
the use of excessive force is innate in us as a species,
and what is often seen in horse shows is regarded as a model
It is for these reasons a
“Revolution in Horsemanship” began in the last quarter
of the 20th century, and is gradually sweeping the world.
It inspired me, and my co-author Rick Lamb to produce a
2005 book with that title, which explains the history of
this revolution. In 2007, I wrote a sequel,
Natural Horsemanship Explained, which explains how lightness
works, and why it is more humane. That’s why the subtitle
of this book is “From Heart to Hands.” LHH is also a more
effective form of horsemanship.
LHH is an ancient practice, but it’s not
prevalent. Most riders throughout the world, in all
disciplines, still use strong-arm force on the reins, inflicting
agony upon the horse’s mouth. That is, and should
not, be the purpose of a bit. If horses can be taught
to turn, stop, and back up in a hackamore or halter, the
only legitimate reason for a bit is to signal to the horse
via its very sensitive mouth.
The reason so few of the prominent Natural
Horsemanship clinicians participate in horse show events
is because they deplore the “heavy hands horsemanship” much
of this industry encourages. With our LHH clinics,
we hope to facilitate a gentler, kinder, more effective
means of communicating with our horses.
Have a question for Dr.
Send it to
We apologize that due to
volume, we can’t guarantee
Dr. Miller can respond to
all emails, but we are building
a more comprehensive
FAQ page on our website
to address your needs. All
questions may be edited
for clarity and space.
Is LHH an English or Western
LHH applies to all breeds
and disciplines. Eitan
is a classical European
horseman who has gone Western,
and originated cowboy dressage,
now a horse show event.
Lester Buckley is a Texas
cowboy and former cutting
horse champion who now lives
in Hawaii and Germany, and
is an F.E.I.-licensed dressage
instructor in Europe.
John Ensign is a Montana
horseman, clinician, and
Winters is a top Californian
clinician and reiner, as
is the legendary Jack Brainard
of Texas. I’m a veterinarian
and equine behaviorist.
Together, our diverse backgrounds
present a multi-faceted
symposium each May, in Santa
Light Hands Horsemanship clinics; "What is Light Hands?,"
An interview with clinician, trainer, and 2009 Road To The Horse winner, Richard Winters.
Light Hands Horsemanship™
welcomes this acclaimed
clinician, trainer, and
owner of Richard Winters
Horsemanship at The Thacher
Richard is also the 2009
winner of Road To The Horse
(an award designated for
a colt-starting competition).
It’s an honor to have someone
as accomplished as Richard
be a part of the weekend.
We caught up with him to
find out a bit more about
what “lightness” means to
What made you decide
to participate in the 2010
Light Hands clinics?
I just knew that if people
like Dr. Miller, Eitan,
Rick Lamb, and the other
clinicians were involved,
it would be incredible.
My wife Cheryl and I have
wanted to attend for three
years, but we’ve always
had scheduling conflicts.
When I saw a DVD from a
previous year, what struck
me was the camaraderie between
clinicians. None of
the clinics are doubled
up, so you don’t miss anything-
it has the feel of building,
and establishing, a family.
It’s smaller, more intimate,
and for the serious horseman
and true students of horsemanship.
There’s a difference between
horseback riding and horsemanship.
Horseback riding is just
not falling off! Horsemanship
is for the individual willing
to invest in themselves,
so they can learn what their
horse already knows.
Anyone can become a horseman,
but you’ve got to put in
the time. Horses by
nature want to get along
with us, but they’re horses-
they can’t understand us.
Therefore, we need to come
to their level.
How did you get involved
I’ve worked with
them for over 30 years,
but I didn’t grow up with
them. I thought about working
with them from an early
age, so starting in grade
school, I began riding my
bike out to local stables,
and began working as a “stable
brat.” In high school, I
began working with my mentor
(as well as Pat Parelli’s):
the late Troy Henry, of
What does “lightness” mean
It’s a very subjective term,
depending upon a person’s
agenda and discipline. For
me, it’s about engaging
my horse in a conversation;
the psychology of horsemanship.
At Light Hands, I’ll be
teaching a colt-starting
clinic that focuses on how
light hands begins on the
ground, the first time you
put a saddle on him. It
progresses with each step-
the first time you climb
on his back, the first time
you ask him to make a turn,
etc. It’s all a part of
that conversation you need
to have going with your
For more information, go
Mark Your Calendars!
Interested in catching one of Dr.
Spring and Summer Schedule:
May 20-23: Dr. Miller’s Light Hands
Horsemanship clinic will be held in Santa Ynez, CA.
For details, go to
July 31-August 4: AVMA Convention,
Symposium on the Art & Science of Handling Horses.
Click Here for details.
August 20-22: This annual event on
the Big Island features workshops, presentations and
exhibitions from the nation’s leading clinicians and
equine industry experts.
For info., go to
www.hawaiihorseexpo.com, or call organizer
Jones at (808) 887-2301.
For information on appearances and other dates and locations
Coming in our June newsletter:
Summer horse care, trail riding safety and protecting
your horse from heatstroke; clinician Richard Winters gives
us his account of this year’s Light Hands Horsemanship clinic.
Interested in booking Dr.
Miller for a lecture, demonstration, or book signing?