Reputable horse trainer and national equine competitor, Shamas Haws, volunteered his knowledge and insights to Southern Utah University equine students at the college’s Kenneth L. Cannon Equestrian Center Thursday.
SUU’s equine program and horsemanship classes draw a diverse group of students with varying experience and disciplines. That said, Haws’ insight provided the students with philosophies and techniques applicable to every equestrian.
With the help of his daughter, Teri Dawn Haws — a world-class equestrian in her own right as well as a current SUU marketing student, Shamas was able to not only explain his training philosophies to students but demonstrate them as well.
Teri Dawn guided her horse through easy stops, precision spins, and even lead changes. Each skillful maneuver was performed with only slight leg cues and even less cuing with the reins.
“I want to have a relationship with my horse,” Shamas said. He emphasised this concept, central to his training, throughout the presentation, “I want it to to be 51% what I want and 49% what he wants.”
This idea of building a relationship stems from Shamas’ desire to have a “willing horse.” He related past experiences where he would make horses perform and the result was not a broke horse, but a broken one.
“I want [the horse] to do it because he wants to do it and not because he has to do it,” the cowboy, who is from Erda, Utah, explained.
Shamas told the students that horses learn from the release of pressure. By adding pressure with the reins as well as leg and body position and then releasing that pressure at the moment of desired change, the horse would not only learn the cue, but want to respond to it.
Every step of the Erda cowboy’s training integrates this concept of pressure and release.
“I shouldn’t have any pressure on him when he’s doing what I want him to do,” he emphasised, “That is a true release of pressure.”
The effectiveness of this concept is evident in Shamas’ horses. Even the most difficult horse tasked to him, a gelding he calls Journey, is on the road to national competition.
“I’ve never seen a horse buck so hard,” Shamas said of Journey, who served as his stage during the demonstration.
Shamas met Journey during a 2015 Road to the Horse training competition that took place amid the rolling green hills of Lexington, Kentucky.
Each year the event pairs the world’s best equestrians with an untrained three-year-old American Quarter Horse to test their ability not only to make the animal rideable, but performance ready.
During his 2015 appearance at the event, Shamas selected his three-year-old from a herd provided by the Four Sixes Ranch out of Guthrie, TX. As the third competitor to choose, the Utah cowboy did something unexpected.
He did not end up going with his third or even fourth pick. Instead, he chose Journey.
“I stepped in the pen and this horse walked out of the group and looked right at me the way he is looking at you now,” Haws said as the dark horse stood alert, ears pricked forward, “I said, ‘Looks like he just chose me’ and walked out.”
Haws said that everyone at the show thought he was crazy when he loaded the high spirited horse in his trailer. Shamas admitted he had doubts himself.
Despite the initial worries, Journey became not only show-ready, but one of the favorite horses Shamas has ever worked with in his 30 years of professional training.
The cowboy decided he could not part with the gelding at the close of the contest and brought him home to Utah.
Shamas’ journey with Journey was more than a competition to him. Working with the testy horse solidified something about his training method: it works.
Now Haws shares his horsemanship knowledge at every opportunity. By teaching private lessons, taking on outside horses, and presenting at clinics, he is able to share not only his talent but also his experience becoming a better horseman.
“I’m not afraid to make mistakes,” he said, “Mistakes are how we learn.”
Story by: Mikyla Bagley
Potos by: Mikyla Bagley