Equine trainers in record attempt

Headshot of Bob Garnant
Bob GarnantCountryman

More than 20 years of horse training will be put to the test as a team of up to 23 liberty horses are asked to manage all instincts in a show of horsemanship wizardry.

Professional equine trainers Sam and Sascha Watson said they would stretch the limit of their careers with their record attempt, which will feature at the Margaret River Farm Day Out on November 17.

"We have developed the event to showcase the wonderful environment in which we work and to give visitors an opportunity to enjoy a unique horse demonstration," Sam said.

"Working multiples of horses at the same time is how we refine the process of training wild horses."

Sam and his sister Sascha, of Horses and Horsemen, Margaret River, rely on their research into liberty horse training to train horses in bulk and to continue to increase safety.

Liberty training is where the horses are at liberty to run away - they are not restrained by halters, lead ropes or other forms of attachment.

Sam said horse training this way allowed for better rider training at his family's horse school.

"We cater to beginners as well as advanced riders and their horses," he said. "Even some of the best competitive horses can resort to primitive instincts at the best of times.

"Safety is essential when dealing with large animals and liberty training is perfect, because the rider is not connected to the horse and is less vulnerable to injury. Equally, the horse doesn't have to fight restraint, rather can simply feel free to run away if concerned by the process."

With a well-trained horse as a working platform, Sam said riders also had the speed, agility and other attributes of a horse to aid in getting the job done safely and efficiently.

He said this ability to create behavioural changes to horses in multiples - numerous horses simultaneously - was part of their ongoing research into productivity in horse training, which was traditionally a one-on-one model.

Sam and Sascha will be offering a demonstration of training teams of liberty horses at their family's working horse farm at the Margaret River Farm Day Out.

With help from Sascha, Sam's attempt at a record for the largest liberty team of horses will be just one of the feats that will be on show.

"I have fourteen horses going comfortably in a team and by November 17 may even have up to 23 going," Sam said.

"Liberty training is not new in principle, but we have been experimenting with new insights for safety, productivity and fun. For example, when exploring how we could train young horses in multiples, that led to the unique principle of the 'foal train', which is where we train younger horses from horseback.

"Once trained to operate at liberty in pairs, these pairs line astern resulting in a 'train' of weanlings - or any age really - which can then be taken on jaunts around the farm."

"So much can be learned from animals if we just watch them make reasonable conclusions about what we see," he said.

The principles of liberty training were also used for sheep handling on the family's property.

Sam and Sascha have a herd of relatively low-maintenance cleanskin sheep to co-graze the pastures with horses. To take delivery of their starter mob of sheep, they spent three hours on horseback teaching the herd to walk, stop, turn and stay calm.

Then they taught the mob to follow Sam's black Friesian stallion, Tike. It was then a simple matter of walking Tike home along the main road with the mob following behind.

"With more practice and research this herd 'training' would make handling any herds of sheep low stress," Sam said.

The Watson family welcome all interested people to their inaugural Margaret River Farm Day Out, to be held at 1813 Osmington Road on November 17 from 10am to 3pm.

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