Welcome to The Versatile Horse website – dedicated to the joy of western riding in all its various forms.
Talk to any western riding enthusiast…
Talk to any western riding enthusiast who does more than just reining, showing in hand, or western pleasure and see a particular light come into their eyes.
The source of that light is the exhilaration that comes from riding a horse that can not only quietly handle anything you have to offer it on a ride out but, in competition, work a good reining pattern, show well round a barrel race course and then go out and work a cow. I call it versatility.
We believe that it’s a waste of a good horse simply to concentrate on one discipline. In the USA, a horse is the cowboy’s working partner. Traditionally, on their day off, the pair would compete against others to show all the essentials of a good working horse. That is, a ready response to subtle cues, nimble footwork and the ability to start, stop and change direction in the blink of an eye.
A Western Riding start
I first discovered western riding when I was transfixed by a video demonstration of a Reining Pattern. We were on vacation in the Camargue and happened upon what appeared to us to be a western themed ranch. It had a bar, a restaurant and, best of all, they had live country music on a Saturday night. Sitting having a beer before our meal, I was transfixed by the video playing over the bar. What this guy was doing with his horse was just mind-blowing.
The hairs on my arms stood up with goose pimples (sad soul that I am, it’s doing it again now as I write this!). I asked the guy behind the bar what it was all about and thus it was that I met Mike Paulin, who was then the publisher of France’s leading magazine on western riding. Mike is also a breeder/trainer of Appaloosas. I must have bored him to tears as I bearded him with questions that night but he was kind enough to ask us back the next day. He showed us around his ranch with his beloved Appaloosas and I was smitten.
Bar -S Ranch
On Mike’s advice, I contacted the AQHA – UK as soon as we got back to England. They put me in touch with Stuart and Lesley Powell and I quickly realised how lucky I was to have their Bar –S- Ranch practically on my doorstep. At the time, others learning western riding were travelling to them from all over the South East of England. Riders have passed through Stuart and Lesley’s training regime and are now competing at the very top of professional riding in the USA.
It was Stuart who imbued me with his passion for the working western horse. Lesley’s attention to detail kept me on the straight and narrow as I found my way into western riding. They introduced me to what some would say has been the love of my life: Delphick’s Boy George.
Delphick’s Boy George
George (as he was lovingly known by all who met him) was a 16.3 Appendix American Quarter Horse. Stuart trained him as a youngster. But his first owner later discovered that western riding wasn’t really for him. I was lucky enough to be around when the time came for George to change owners. Stuart and Lesley warned me then that George would teach me more than I was capable at that stage. It was a roller coaster of a ride. Bumps, cuts and bruises and many sleepless nights became the pain that comes with the love of a horse. But the highs were immeasurable and, as with all things in life it’s those that you remember most.
Sadly, George died in 2016 after a long illness. After 16 years of life together, the vacuum he left was huge.
People who have never known the love of a horse don’t know that the horse becomes what defines you. Without a horse in your life you lose your identity. It sounds soft but that’s how I felt. So, after a some months of grieving for George, I started to look around again.
I travelled all over England looking for another Appendix American Quarter Horse. For me a full AQH never has the go and life in him that you need for a versatile horse – see the article elsewhere on this site. I came close to getting what I was looking for but it didn’t happen before I discovered the Trakehner breed. And so Peanut came into my life.
But it transpired he’d had a troubled life before he came to me. And before we managed to solve all his issues, he developed 3 ugly great sarcoids. Touching wood, they have been successfully lasered away. But my feeling is that they were stress related. So we’ve left him to enjoy life as a horse for a while and will come back to him when we can see the time is right.
Exbury Dun Dreaming (Dun D)
And so it is that I’ve found and fallen in love with a beautiful Appaloosa. Meet Exbury Dun Dreaming:
As for the rest, what’s here is an accumulation of what I have written about western riding in various publications. I hope it tells the story of the joy of western riding in all its various forms. It’s not intended to be a definitive “how-to-do-it”. That’s the domain of people far more gifted and experienced than I am. So I hope those that read here and see something that doesn’t quite set with their way of going about it will treat me gently. Please do feel free to leave your comments.
It’s all here – come on in and look around!