Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Steuart Pittman's New Blog

Steuart and Salute The Truth

Welcome to Listen to the Horse. Future posts will have a subject and a theme. This, however, is just a bit of a ramble on what to expect if you choose to subscribe. Consider it a warning about who I am and what I am likely to say.

Training horses is most of what I do, and most of what this blog will be about. We do it for clients by the month on our farm, and we train the ones we own that are for sale. To my simple mind, training is about learning to ride well, knowing what you want to achieve, and then listening to the horse. The horse tells you what you need to know to figure out your road map to get where you're going. It's pretty simple, except that the horse is changing every second, so to be any good at it you have to pay attention.

I also get paid to teach people to ride their own horses well. I charge more for that because it's harder work. Some of my teaching is private lessons with regular students here on the farm, and some is at clinics elsewhere. It's a nice mix. Regular students test my creativity and force me to take some responsibility for progress over time. Clinics give me a snapshot of horse and rider on a day, and challenge me to create for them a breakthrough in their learning that puts them onto a new trajectory that they will have to manage in their future.

What I like about teaching people is that most really want to succeed. The sensation of the horse as an extension of one's body is enough to motivate folks to try really, really hard, but humans are a lot less honest with themselves than horses, and their brains get in the way. I'm no psychotherapist, but people who learn to "think like horses" sure do seem to catch on quickly to riding. Seems to me that they also enjoy living their lives. I am sure that I won't be able to resist the temptation in this blog to tease humanity, and maybe a few individuals within it, about the intellectual knots they tie while seeking to connect with nature's most powerful domesticated beast. If you are offended, please remember that I also am a human being.

What horses will do for people is amazing to me, and what people will do for horses is pretty impressive as well. I find the whole thing fascinating, but it goes further than that. When humans share a passion they connect with each other. They connect and become communities. That gives purpose to people's lives and makes us evolve as a species. Sorry, I know I shouldn't preach like that. Just read on even if you're disgusted.

In addition to the horse thing, I consider myself a lifelong community organizer. It's kind of like a religion. From 1984-1994 I worked for what used to be the largest national network of neighborhood organizations in low and moderate income communities of America. I organized in Chicago, in Iowa, and then was Director of National Campaigns in the Washington, D.C. office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). It was a fantastic organization that eventually fell victim to its own success long after I had made a decision to return to my family's farm in Maryland and make a living with horses. I mention this only to warn you that some of my thinking is tainted by a social conscience. It pops up unexpectedly.

Three Day Eventing is my sport of choice. The challenge of training horses to do dressage, cross country, and show jumping not only makes for strong horse-to-human bonds, but also is the basis for a community of people that shares a connection like nothing I have felt anywhere else in my life. Serious eventers are all friends at a deep level. They are organized locally and nationally in formal and informal structures, and their gatherings are always fun. For information about the sport go to useventing.com.

People from other horse sports also organize themselves and love each others' company. To some degree horse people organize geographically across disciplines. The Maryland Horse Council is one such group that I know well because I am about to begin my second (and last) two year term as president. Pulling horse folks together who don't necessarily ride together is challenging, except when outsiders are messing with our world, or when our animals are being hurt. Then we mobilize and kick butt. It's something I get a real charge from because it's people at our best. It's people in community.

The final aspect of what I will write about is the Retired Racehorse Training Project. Teaching to large audiences at horse expos gave me the confidence to organize a Retired Racehorse Training Symposium in the fall of 2009. When 350 people bought tickets I knew we were onto something. Filling the four hours with good information and entertainment was easy, and our post-event survey of attendees showed a huge demand for more education and promotion on the subject. Look for future posts about an apprenticeship program, training camps, and our new web site that is soon to be launched.

So after years of resisting the trendy word "blog" I am jumping in with my own. If reading my posts makes you feel part of a community, gives you ideas about training, makes you think outside the box,  or makes you laugh, please subscribe and ask others to do so as well. The more readers we have, the harder I'll work at this.

For more information on what we do on the farm, go to dodonfarm.com, and for regular news click "like" on our Dodon Farm Facebook page.

My parting line will always be the same...

Listen to the horse.


  1. I was at a park the other day, (I have resorted to this as I at this time cannot train my own horses or care for them) -- there were toy horses for the kids to ride... why? I thought people don't give a hoot about them anymore, (judging from comments I read from the vocal"naysayers" online) so why encourage little kids to pretend they are riding, right? It was
    sad and ironic but at the same time illustrates the bond and partnership that humans have had with equines for thousands of years. It is inescapable and sublime. I never believe that horse sports or activities are "dead" as is said, because the working man who sits behind his computer or in his office and would love to have contact with a horse for himself and his family tell me differently, -- those have been too numerous to count.

  2. riding at Dodon Farm in a round robin was my 1st ever event.. we were 3 hours late because my pony wouldn't load, my pony jumped out of the dressage arena, and ran away with me the whole time XC but the pictures show me grinning ear to ear...

    Later on we have taken all my ponies and horses to school with Steuart at Dodon... I love how he is relaxed and easy going

    I don't know how successful I'll ever be, but the being able to just sit there and go with it has really let me enjoy the sport