Road to the Horse: Breaking a Horse in Hours
Experienced trainer from Texas captures Road to the Horse 2010 World Championship of Colt-Starting.
Craig Cameron works to gain the trust of WR Shining Alamo.
courtesy Sara Bewley and Road to the Horse
Imagine for a moment picking a feral dog out of a pack of 10 or so, and trying to teach that wild animal to abandon its instincts and trust you. Name any animal, for that matter: the task is daunting. Now imagine facing a wild horse weighing more than 1,000 pounds, and having just a few hours to earn its trust well enough for the horse to be rideable and willing to perform a presentation and navigate an obstacle course in front of a packed arena. The annual Road to the Horse Competition measures horsemanship by doing just that.
The event was so named by Tootie Bland and late husband Steven (it was originally El Camino de Caballo, only people didn’t pronounce it correctly) and refers to the movement to get back to our roots of taming and training horses in a natural way, to listen and work with the horse as the horse does within the herd, and shed the predator role that humans have adopted in the past. Three of the world’s top horse trainers and clinicians gather in the same arena, pick geldings out of a remuda of 10 horses, then in a little over three hours they rope, train and display them, all the while wearing headpiece microphones so the crowd can hear their every word.
Craig Cameron, Bluff Dale, Texas, took top honors at the 2010 Road to the Horse, leaving the Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with the distinction of being the 2010 World Champion of Colt-Starting.
“Really, it is a man working through the power of understanding. Those circumstances change moment to moment when you’re in there with a horse that’s really a wild horse,” Cameron says. “You’ve got to keep remembering that the horse is a prey animal, and if you push too hard – heck, if you push too fast or present things in a way he can’t understand – you’re going to get nothing but instinct from the horse, the instinct to survive. When a horse starts working like that, he bites or kicks or bucks or paws, he does whatever he has to do. Your main job is to show him that you’re not going to hurt him.”
In the beginning though, when Cameron and fellow horsemen Richard Winters and Ken McNabb gathered to pick which horse they’d work with, the power of understanding escaped many in the arena as Cameron selected a small 2007 AQHA Palomino gelding, WR Shining Alamo.
“He was probably the least likely horse anybody was going to choose,” Cameron says. “I knew I might be going out on a limb picking the horse that I picked because he was wild-looking, he was ragged-looking, and he didn’t have much polish on him at all, but what I did like, and the reason I chose him, is he acted brave.”