Tom has a way of explaining things that both make sense and make you think. Ray Hunt said that was the hardest thing to get us to do. It doesn’t matter if you are a green rider, young rider or if you are a highly advanced rider, Tom accepts where you are. He also pushes you to your ability, but never above what you are capable of accomplishing. I had the dubious honor of bringing someone to winter camp who didn’t agree with Tom’s assessment of her abilities. He also didn’t feed her what she wanted to hear, to the point she left winter camp. Tom’s reasoning in his honesty was that he didn’t want her to her “wake up” one day knowing he had lied to her; this honesty is something so rare in the world today. Tom said horses don’t always tell him what he want to hear either. I would never have stuck with my horse “Sapo” without Tom to get him broke to ride, much less become the partner he did. It seems I get a new “re-set” at least yearly; I think I become more aware with what I’ve thought on to get another “ah-ha”, or at least “hmmm…”
At the second clinic I attended a participant requested Tom ride his horse as he had previously been completely unable to get his horse to cross a tarp and was too frustrated to attempt it. Tom talks about how important straightness is to the horse. He picks a post on the opposite end of the arena and walks the horse towards it all the while working on keeping the horse straight. Tom says that if the horse gets straight, he’ll get sure. If the horse backs up, no problem, as long as he’s on the line to that post. Tom never pressures the horse, but does do what is necessary to keep him straight. The horse crosses the tarp without any fuss whatsoever in a matter of a few minutes! A non-issue!
The simple comment that made so much sense to me was “I’m waiting on him, but I’m not (just) doing nothing while I’m waiting.” We all love being around Tom and Trina, you bring out the best in us and our horses!
A year ago, when I first rode with Tom, my horse was constantly in self-preservation mode. She snorted, pranced, bucked and struck her way through. Everything she did was with a snarky, horrible attitude. I didn’t know any better than to be the ‘how-to’ girl at that first clinic. With nothing else going on, I focused on mechanics.
Now it’s a year on, thankfully my horse is surer of me and we are in a better place. I took the past year slow, aimed for softness, having my horse reach for me when I reached for her. There were lots of things that Tom could’ve focused on fixing at this clinic. He left the minutia alone, avoided overloading me and instead, gave me the directive to stop doubting myself; to believe I had the base elements and he had me concentrate on speed, or as Tom would put it getting “lope-itis”. I know if I follow his advice a lot of the other problems will correct themselves as a result, and I am sure some new ones will appear.
Tom has this uncanny knack of taking the rider beyond where they thought they could go. Not by being pushy, just by planting his belief in them. He can see where the rider and horse have been, and he understands where they are going long before they will glimpse it. Tom is at least a year ahead of most riders and he finds that one string to tug so that like magic the whole big mess unravels for horse and rider. I saw that come through for most, if not all of the other riders in the clinic. And it definitely did for me.
Beyond horsemanship Tom is an excellent stockman. He immediately erased any embarrassment I felt in relation to my lack of skill and in all areas I felt like I came away with the knowledge and confidence to go on alone. For most of us, we need that because after the clinic we work in isolation with our horses.
Tom is generous and down-to-earth and for Tom things don’t begin and end at the arena. Tom got my spurs fitting ‘just so’ and noticing the awkward way I was saddling up, he showed me how to throw the saddle on my horse with a little style instead of tying up the stirrups and apologizing for the way I to lift the saddle over. I feel proud of being able to do these things now.
Tom has put me off riding with other clinicians. Why is that? Quite simply because he is so good. The horsemanship and the riding that Tom presented made so much sense to me, and the presentation of that made so much sense to my horse that I have enough to go with for the next year until I’ll see him again…. I wish he’d visit twice a year… at least.
On the final day we rode out through the vineyard, ‘Cairo!’ called Tom as I brushed my horse’s tail out, ‘we’re not going to a show!’ I laughed. He was reminding me, we had a job to do and I was off-task. Next year I promise to get my horse handy for his visit.
In the Western world all the greats have a partner, Butch Cassidy had the Sundance Kid, Tom has the Trina and she is pretty special too. My hope is that every horse and rider gets alongside the Curtins.
It was pretty special having you both here. I look forward to more of the same and different next year.
The first time I met Tom Curtin I had no real expectations. I thought I was looking for some direction in my horsemanship on the ranch. Maybe getting a phone number to call if I needed some help between clinics. I soon found out that first year there was no reason to worry. Tom called me and asked how things were going with the horses. That was almost ten years ago.
Since then Tom and Trina have not only shared their knowledge with horses but their family and friends! My wife and I have traveled through Montana, Wyoming and Texas with the Curtins meeting like-minded folks and talking horses and ranching. That direction in horsemanship I was looking for transformed the way I perceive and operate my ranch. Tom exemplifies the best in what a stockman should be and that’s a helluva a lot to be good at!
Kanapaha Timber, Land & Cattle