Kevin was a man I met in Denmark. He said he was of gypsy blood and his knowledge of horses came from over 700 years of blood sweat and tears. This information was passed down the line to him. Kevin had a place with about 12 horses including 5 Percheron stallions aged between 4 and 6. The horses had been running wild in the bush and had never been touched. They were put on a truck via a cattle race and delivered to Kevin.
I had heard of Kevin and his horses around the town. At the time, I was looking for a horse to start and train, so we met and got on really well. Kevin said he would show me ‘his’ way to start a horse. He also said that I gave off no ‘sparks’ and that I should get along with the horses. I now know he was talking about my aura and the energy that flowed around me. He said that the horses could see and feel the energy I put out. The way to work with horses was to control the kind of energy that surrounded me.
Kevin was a short, big man with a big stomach. He had no fear of these big wild horses. They were pushed into a yard and he walked right in amongst them without showing any fear. He particularly liked a horse that tucked under when he touched their rump. He could predict the behaviour of each of the horses. “This one will buck, but will be a good dressage horse when he is started and trained” he would say.
I chose one of the Percherons. They all looked wild and huge. They had feet like dinner plates which were in serious need of a good trimming. Their manes and tails were knotted, they hadn’t been wormed and as yet hadn’t been worked or had much human contact, plus they were all still stallions!
Kevin walked up to the horse I had chosen, a 16 hand, dark grey, 4 year old who had supposedly been well bred, but you really had to use your imagination. Kevein said “He will be a very beautiful looking horse one day”.
Kevin called me into the yard to meet my new horse. I can tell you, it is a lot easier to stand outside a yard and watch a man stand amongst 5 huge wild stallions. I quickly appreciated the enormity of the experience I was having with Kevin. He was also testing me. As I stepped into the yard, I tried desperately to control the energy around me and to try not to show any fear.
As I stepped towards Kevin, the horses began to snort and back up. My horse stayed standing in front of Kevin at arms length. When I reached Kevin’s side, he told me to just stand still and to be quiet. I did what he asked and soon I could hear the wind blowing through the giant forest trees, I could hear the birds singing, I could even smell the horses.
After ten minutes or so, the big horse stepped in front of me and started to smell me. Kevin quietly broke the silence and told me to slowly lift my hand and very lightly stroke his nose. If I was to go too close to his eyes, he would back up defensively. The big horse allowed me to touch him. “Okay” said Kevin, “He accepts you. Go home and find a name for him. Come back tomorrow and we will start him”. I called decided to call my horse Sir-rarb.
I now wanted to find out all about Percherons. Who were they? Where did they come from? What I found out was a great noble storey.
Learning from Kevin was exciting and unique. Unfortunately, kevin was very well and not long after we started, Kevin died.
After Kevin’s death, Monty Roberts book became really important to me. I knew Kevin’s horses needed to be started. If I was for find homes for them, I would have to do the basics, worming, feet, leading, float loading etc.
In hindsight, it was pretty stupid of me to round yard wild stallions. Having limited knowledge and being ignorant of how dangerous it could be, is probably the only thing that kept me safe.
I fixed up the old round yard. With Monty’s book in one hand, all the necessary parts highlighted, and a rope in the other, I started round yarding. It went great! In a week of working in the cold wind and rain with some sunny bits here and there, I was able to have all six stallion’s feet done, I wormed them, castrated and halter started all six. The work that Kevin had taught me with ropes and groundwork kicked in perfectly with Monty’s way of thinking. Thank you Kevin and Monty.
Later, a friend said they had an old horse training tape (VCR) made by a great Australian horseman. That great Australian horseman was Neil Davis. watching this video turned out to be a profound moment for me, I watched it over and over, as it turns out the knowledge I gained from this tape is the strong core and heart of the method I use in my training method today.
Neil was using his method long before the Americans hit our shores. His method is powerful and advanced. Everything I have learnt, before and since, grows from the core of Neil Davis’ knowledge.
I watched his tape everyday. Starting and restarting all the horses that came into my life.
One day a brilliant master saddle maker moved from Perth to Denmark. His name is Lyn Polcun. He brought with him an enormous amount of knowledge about horses and horsemanship.
I’ll continue to share my story with you tomorrow, I wish you all happy and safe riding, Shane