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Between The Reins


Harry Wins photo contest
Harry Whitney’s portrait “Bandy” is featured in the March 2012 issue of Cowboys & Indians as the winner of the Portrait category in their annual photography contest. This is a prestigious international contest open to both professional and amateur photographers and the competition was fierce with thousands of entries. The juried categories included: landscape, equine, action, portrait and wildlife. This was Harry’s first foray into photography competition. Not bad for his first time out of the chute! The portrait can be viewed online at: or in print on newsstands nationwide.




Winter, 2012



In this issue:
The Cup The Proof is in the Pudding Life, Harry & Horsemanship When One Door Opens
2 3 5 8

This newsletter is an all-volunteer effort designed to reflect the horsemanship approach taught by Harry Whitney. While Harry will offer his thoughts and ideas, he does not take personal responsibility for the content of student contributions.


Harry’s photography website has undergone a major overhaul in the past few months. There is now a shopping cart feature, new images and photos available as greeting cards! Of course, you can still view his portfolios at any of his clinics and place orders there, as well.



Letter from the Editor
Dear lovely readers, Welcome to our first issue of 2012! It deserves mentioning that the only guidance Harry gave
Sarah & Lovely Louise

horsemanship and am acutely aware that being allowed access to a master craftsman of any art is rare. I hope the following pages will inspire you to contribute to this newsletter why you come, what you learn and what you leave with after spending time with Harry. I’ll close with the “Harry-ism” I took home from my clinic this year: “Responsiveness versus tolerance has a different feel.” With joy,

to me as your newest editor of this newsletter is that he

wanted it to be about each person’s experience in their horsemanship journey. In particular, why we come to a Harry clinic, what we gain and what we take home. For me, I go to Harry’s because I appreciate the art of

Sarah O’Brien, Editor

The Cup by: Kathy Davis Baker I am sure many of you have heard Harry talk about a horse’s cup running over with angst. It is not a Dixie cup, coffee cup or even a red solo cup! But, in my mind, the analogy that Harry uses about a horse’s cup is really important. Over the years I have asked myself., am I emptying out my horse’s cup, am I adding to it, or am I keeping it the same? In my daily interactions with my horses I tend to notice their mental, physical and emotional state. I ponder if their cup is really empty of angst, if their life is copacetic.
ing on the edge of tipping and like a juggler you are looking to keeping the flow within the cup and not out? How much anxiety is there in just that one moment for the person? It doesn’t have to be an anxious moment but it certainly is an intense moment to work things out between the horse and the person.

Why is the cup concept so important? To me, it relates to spill over, my fear meter goes up a few notches! Recently, I stopped by to visit with some clients as they

my own self preservation.—when a horse’s cup is about to

I try to improve their state of well being in the little minu- were ending a trail ride on their farm. I noticed one particular mare who was not settled, her mind and body tia of day to day dealings. I ask myself questions like:

How does the horse feel about my approach to them in the field, how do they feel about being haltered or bridled or saddled or being ridden? How do they feel about loading in a trailer? How can I get them feeling really good about our time together? How do I empty out their cup? How do I keep it from filling up to overflowing? Or what does one do when it is teeter-

were separated and she could not stand still with the rider on her back so we could chat.

...Continued on Page 2

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The Cup, cont’d.
The mare’s cup was about to overflow, the angst was barely being contained by the rider. As I stood on the ground, I picked up the reins and worked with the mare on getting her mind and body back in one spot—here with us. The angst would be able to leak out of her cup if the mare could get her body where her mind was (back to the field where her pasture mate was neighing for her). It was a very busy few moments, blocking the thought of leaving, offering her a sweet spot. She could let go of a thought and feel good and then “zoom” she was gone again, and we started all over with helping her. Pretty soon, the rider, who was not at all familiar with this concept, was able to help the mare get settled. Not much time passed before the mare was yawning and rolling her eyes and standing quietly. The owner got the biggest smile on her face and said it was the first time she was able to have the mare stand still in such a good way. I smiled too. I knew I had emptied out that cup a little, and maybe (just maybe) had inspired the owner to do the same on future rides.

Kathy Davis Baker is an accomplished horsewoman and artist living in Midway, TN. She can be found at:

The Proof is in the Pudding by: Linda Bertani
We’re a resistant bunch—the “we” being adult learners. Who could blame us? After all, we’ve had plenty of knocks and bumps to create a history of experiences. That history shapes our belief systems—and what are belief systems if not to be clung to with all our might? My question to you is: Where does clinging to our experiences leave us in our horsemanship learning process? Well, here’s where I see this come up most often at clinics: “Harry, Haaaarrrreeee .. ride my horse. C’mon, Haaaaarrreeee.” (Please note that the whining inflection is not always coming from the student.) Somehow, Harry is persuaded to work with a student’s horse. Sometimes, we are even lucky enough for a full-fledged DEMO! Off he goes to work his magic, that Mr. Harry-fella. And to what result? We are all THRILLED!! And, we want more, more, more! Why, why, why do we want this so much? Does it actually help? I believe there are three main reasons we students want to see Harry work with our horses: 1. We want him to see and feel what we see and feel. Sometimes, we want vindication that “Yes, this surely is a tough problem you are dealing with. This is the first time in my 3. 2. life I have seen a horse behave this way.” Other times, we want validation that we are, in fact, seeing or feeling what we think we are seeing and feeling. Okay, we’ve accepted that maaaaaybe our horse is really just a horse and maaaaaybe we are somewhat in this mix. So, could Harry maaaaybe now help us/show us/FIX this for us? We are on the fence about a concept because, as I mentioned above, we’ve brought previous experiences with us and we are having difficulty letting go of some belief system even though it’s been unraveling before our eyes for months. We have a strong desire to re-juice our “proof” jar. As learners, proof is a key to our progress. To alter the thinking of the adult learner – and, thus, belief system – and then be compelled to modify our behaviors to change the outcome -we need PROOF that the method is valid. Very often, it seems, we need proof over and over and over again. After all, we’ve had plenty of practice thinking a certain way. By shifting our thinking and committing to a new belief system, based upon evidence we have been shown, comes with responsibility. We are now responsible for applying and testing the new information. Continued page 4

The Proof, cont’d.
To test it, you see, because that’s more proof to the learner about whether the method is viable. hands that lead rope back to us, it now requires a real commitment by us to, well, to be mature in our learning. (Whaaat?? No one told me about this “maturity” thing when I signed on to putzing about on trails and just having fun with my poeneez!) This maturity in our learning process requires, I believe, two main commitments from us: 1. A commitment to clarification – Knowing Harry WILL hand that lead rope back to us, we need to be prepared to ask questions to clarify our perceptions. “Did I see that correctly?” “Did you say to try going this way when I see that?” And then, we need to TRY the activities he’s suggested and to, yes, clarify again with our questions. that same thing again?” 2. A commitment to power through our fears—as adults, we fear failure in ways that young people do not. We “learn” ourselves away from joy and fun. Though ego is an important part of our survival in the world, it sure gets in our way when we are consumed with how we appear to others or when we fear we might not be successful in “helping our horse”. Ego is a very human trait and must be negotiated in its healthy use and timing. The truth is—it is hard to imagine a more complex learning environment – humans, other humans, horses of all sorts and temperaments. And, in addition to our previous experiences shaping our beliefs, we have language discrepancies to sort through. (How, one wonders, does this ever work out?) Years ago, my husband hollered out instructions to me, his then -willing construction helper: “measure from the top of the board!” And, I did. At this point, you’ve already figured out that MY “top of the board” was not HIS “top of the board”. I mean … really … there ARE four sides. But, I digress. that mean? What about when he says: “Do whatever you need to do to get his attention back in the pen?” And, the crystal clear: “There, there, there.” Each of us will call forth a variety of pictures in our minds when we hear those words and phrases, all of them different based on our varied experiences. Add to this that Harry is often attempting to convey the unconveyable. What, after all, is “Start where you want to end up” in terms of understanding how much “pressure” (another word to wind up an imagination) we should inject into a situation? In this complex learning environment, these demonstrations by Harry provide us with a way to interpret the language. They continue to whine for Harry to SHOW US, we need to all understand that there is a bit of an unwritten contract: Harry understands that we need proof and that we often need it over and over and … well, we need help. And we, the ever-resistant student, need to understand that our piece in this contract is to do our part to demonstrate our commitment to learning by clarifying, trying, and being open to accepting proof when offered.

As exciting as the possibility of a new system seems when Harry For instance, when Harry says “go with your horse” what does

“Was that too much pressure when I did that?” “Did I miss give us a “frame of reference”. So, I say, if we are all going to

Linda Bertani lives in Rogersville, TN with her husband ,Vic, her ponees Dolly and Cha-Cha and her faithful dog -friend Abby. For 5 -ish weeks every year she also houses Harry for clinics on her ranch. She can be found at:

Life, Harry & Horsemanship by Alison Visokay
It wasn’t what I expected. I had expected it to be fun—it was. I had expected to learn a lot about horsemanship—I did. I expected to make new friends and have an adventure. Yep, did that too. What I didn’t expect was what else happened that week—it had nothing to do with horsemanship, per se, but everything to do with the philosophy of the teacher. I was mulling this over in my head as I merged onto Route 81, deliberate, story-telling style is threw me off at first. I learned I have to slow down— I have to really pay attention… I have to SEE his point of view from the picture of the story he paints. He won’t just TELL me. Pretty soon I get the hang of his story-telling method of teaching. Next thing I know he’s telling stories full of emotion and feeling and relating it—not to how the person feels—but to how the HORSE feels. Wow! He’s helping me understand the horse’s point of view by telling stories about humans that I can

heading north, back to Virginia. I checked my rear view mirror understand perfectly, and relating those stories to the horse’s to make sure my “partner in crime” was still with me. I could point of view. see Rippa, my chestnut Quarter Horse mare, contentedly pulling at her hay net, wearing a fly mask to protect her eyes from hay dust and swirling air as we traveled. She was doing fine, I returned to my thoughts. I went to this particular horsemanship camp on the recommendation of friends. Friends I had met on the internet, mind you—never in person. We For example, a student complained that her sometimes-hot horse spooked at a rock near her barn that the horse walks by every day. “[The horse] has walked by that rock every day for years, and this one day, she decides to spook at it!” Later that night, Harry tells us a story to illustrate his philosophy.

You are home alone at night. A storm discussed philosophy more than comes up complete with loud thunder actual method, so I knew and bright lightning, and you are feeling essentially we were on the same a little scared—glad to be safe in your page with our intentions even if house. Suddenly, a big clap of thunder not our ability. makes you jump just as the power goes out. A second later the phone rings, and you jump again, heart These people raved about Harry Whitney, a guy whose name pounding, you fumble around and find the phone. On the was I was unfamiliar with—hasn’t written a book and doesn’t other end of the line is someone, someone breathing heavily sell his own brand of halters and leads. No showmanship, into the phone. “Who is this?” you shout—really scared now! swagger or flash at all. But, he seemed to be a man who taught He hangs up. There is a knock on the back door. Who is out with depth. Indeed, several layers deeper than other more well there in this weather? Is it the caller? You decide to barricade -known people teaching horsemanship. yourself in your room. As you head down the hall in the dark, suddenly you bang your thigh hard on the edge of the hallway By the first night, I could see that this man was a cowboy, a table. You scream and jump back, taken completely off-guard cowboy like you see in the movies. He speaks slowly, and terrified… considering each word. He often speaks in allegory, telling a
story that parallels his point. If you can figure out the point of the story—you have his point on whatever the topic was. It is an engaging style; you have to be involved in what he is saying to understand. He doesn’t just tell you, he illustrates his philosophy with stories. Now, I’m from the northeast of the US—plain-speaking, fast-talking, get to the point! This slow, The story stops there. We all just sit a minute in silence, thinking about what Harry has just said.

Continued on Page 6

Life, Harry & Horsemanship, cont’d.

“It’s not about the table,” Harry tells us, “you are not afraid of the table. It’s about what happened BEFORE you hit the table, how you were feeling right before you ran into the table.” The room is again silent. Then, one of us looks at the student with the rock-shy horse and says to Harry, “It’s not about the rock. [The student]’s horse was feeling overwhelmed inside way before she startled at the rock.” “Right,” says Harry quietly, “the trick is, to be able to see what the horse is feeling BEFORE she spooks at the rock. Make sure she is comfortable internally before you add pressure.” Harry continued, “say that you told someone your storm story. Oh, that person thinks, she’s afraid of the table, I can help fix that. They take you to the table to show you it isn’t a scary table— encourage you to stroke the table and stand by the table and eat off the table. You’d think they were crazy! It’s NOT about the table.” I can feel this lesson sinking deep into my body. I own this realization now—we figured this out together. I have this concept internalized more completely than if Harry had just TOLD us not to worry about the rock. I now understand how the horse felt when she came upon the rock. There is, I realized, more to this cowboy and his story-telling approach than mere entertainment. The following day I have an epiphany. I’m in the round pen, working my horse on

fluidly and easily to him, relaxed and happy to slow dance with this tall, gentle cowboy. Sure looks easy, I think nervously. My turn again…we start out okay but can’t get the last part right. I explain to Harry some of the challenges I face in distinguishing my left and right sides. He smiles at my nervous chatter. “Don’t worry,” he says, “you’ll get it.” I relax—he sure seems confident in me. He stands behind me while I try the maneuver again, and at the crucial moment, he gently puts light pressure on the top of my arm to guide me at a precise point. My horse effortlessly executes the turn and I am amazed at how easy that was—just that one tiny direction at that one precise point in time. I practice the maneuver several times left and right. Harry is satisfied that I understand and gives me a compliment on how quickly I picked up the technique. Later that day, Harry is working with a nervous, suspicious horse that was recently given to him because she was too difficult for her owner. He narrates his thoughts while he works with the horse. He is trying to convey to her that working with people does not have to be a bad experience— this is a big, broad concept. Harry is NOT trying to teach her any specific task, but he is using specific tasks to teach her this broad concept. Today he wants her to choose to stand near him and his tack and allow him to rub her with the saddle pad while standing at liberty. She is not only

“There is, I realized, more to this cowboy and his story-telling approach than mere entertainment.”

highly suspicious of HIM…she is line. Harry is teaching me how to bring my horse in to me, and even more suspicious of the tack. It takes quite a while to then send her back out the other way, by using very subtle cues, convey that she doesn’t need to worry but Harry doesn’t lose not leaping in front of her or snaking a rope at her feet or waving a stick in her face like many other not-to-be-named guys out there teach. Harry considers those techniques to be the equivalent of shouting, a rude way to communicate with a super-sensitive being like a horse. Save the shouting for when you really need it—an emergency. He is instructing me on what to do, and although we are sort of ending up there in the end…it’s clumsy and awkward and I feel self-conscious in front of all these other people. My horse is doing her best but judging by her responses I am not being clear to her. Harry comes in the round pen and takes her leadline. He executes the maneuver he had been trying to communicate to me perfectly with my horse, who responds patience. He stays right there in the lesson—talking us through each ear twitch and why he is reacting the way he is. Finally she chooses to stand with him and he pets her all over and she then walks around right at his side. In my view, this is very different from a lot of other not-be-named guys and how they get this attachment—there was no overwhelming pressure, no chasing, no driving up her fear so we could see her lick and chew as her fear let down a notch. Anyone can put a lot of pressure on a horse in order to get a lick and chew as she lets down when you release that pressure. Harry wants to meet the suspicious horse without adding a lot of pressure, getting her to come down and relax with him and feel better without having to feel worse first. Continued page 7

Life, Harry & Horsemanship, cont’d.

Continued from page 6
Later that night comes the epiphany. Someone asks Harry how he was able to be so incredibly patient with that horse and let her take as long as she did to come over and be with him and the tack. “I didn’t need patience,” he says,“I had faith in her, that she could do it. So I didn’t need patience.” That’s when it hit me. He had used that technique on me that day in the round pen! I was feeling self-conscious and nervous and afraid I couldn’t do it. Harry had FAITH in me…he simply knew I would get it. All I needed was that poke in the arm, a tiny nudge at precisely the right point. Maybe everyone else only needed the verbal instruction “step left.” I needed the physical poke. So what? Once I got, I got it! Harry knew I could do it once I understood, and his job was to help me understand. His skill was in adapting his technique to my individual needs as a learner. Patience, to me, can mean being condescending or it can also mean putting up with a long process because of the inadequacies of another. It can mean having some judgments about the person or horse. Faith is different. Faith implies a lot of positive qualities in the other, believing in them, finding a way to reach that person or horse without ever faltering once in your belief that he or she will get there. It implies KNOWING that they can do it. I felt that myself in the round pen. Harry simply believed in me and worked out a way to communicate with me that made sense to me. He didn’t just poke me in the arm at the right moment, he gave me the gift of his time and belief in me. “You’ll get it,” he kept assuring me, even as I doubted myself, buoying me up and giving me confidence. I saw him do that with the horse in the round pen too. Harry never faltered in his belief that this horse would be able to do this. He had faith. So he didn’t need patience. Contemplating my time with Harry, I wonder now if he set it up that way, so I could learn about myself from watching the horse, just as he had taught us about horses by telling stories about people. I had expected to improve my horsemanship at this weeklong camp. I hadn’t realized I would be learning life lessons that applied everywhere in my life or that I would come away with understandings that would shape me as a person. That was life camp, not just horsemanship camp. Alison Visokay was first introduced to natural horsemanship and Harry Whitney through the internet when searching for a better way to handle a difficult horse when traditional methods were failing her. She was quickly converted and purchased Rippa as a confidence building partner to learn this new method. Several years later their partnership is still going strong and they are enjoying their journey!



When One Door Opens by: Kelly L. O’Brien
I have been through a lot of doors in my short life. Of course, some have made more of an impression on me than others. We always have the expectation when we encounter a familiar door that it will open the same way every time. We know that sticky, heavy doors will require more force and that light, airy doors will open with a slight push or pull. Growing up I really had no choice about the door to my home. Many times, these doors were heavy and I would follow the examples of others by kicking or prying them open. If I encountered a light door I would fall backward from the surprise of not having a small altercation. I noticed that the light door would eventually start having issues staying closed, as it would become warped and less effective in keeping the elements out. Many would comment on how useless the light door was and that a sturdier door would have been a better investment. I noticed that the only door that never received complaints was the one that operated consistently every time, no matter how it was opened or closed. I remember the excitement of purchasing my first home. It appeared to be everything that I had wanted. While it did have some structural issues, the land was beautiful and it appeared that the home would need little cosmetic the locks on the front door (or attempting to- but we’ll get to that later). I ignored the foundation, as the task seemed too daunting and the home inspector told me I wouldn’t need to address it for at least a year, though I would have to adjust other thing going on in my life, I ignored the sporadic difficulties with my door. Sometimes I would have to shoulder fly open. Finally, with my knowledge of locks exhausted, I called a locksmith. The first time the locksmith, Barry, came out he asked me to demonstrate some of my door issues. I thought this was weird as previous maintenance men typically grunted at me then set to work cranking on the door until it opened smoothly. After opening and closing the door a few times Barry asked me about the foundation. I told him that I didn’t need to think about the foundation, that I just wanted the door to open the same way every time. After a long silence, Barry put a bit of grease on the hinges. He told me that the foundation really needs to be addressed but the door could probably operate now as long as I didn’t knee it open or slam it closed. I followed his advice for a good three months. It was hard to think about the mere act of opening and closing a door when there were so many other important things going on such as getting the right accessories for the house and making sure that my friends and family saw how beautifully put together my home was. However, I would make sure that the door was propped open whenever I had visitors, as I didn’t want them to see how crooked it had become. Six months later, the door wouldn’t open at all. Trapped inside my home, I called Barry. Barry eased the door foundation. He told me I could fix it myself if I put a little bit of time into it every day. A bit dubious, I set about chipping away at some areas and building up others. To my surprise, the door began to open more consistently. While before the operation of would pass through, I began to find relief knowing it will do what I need it to. I told Barry how nice it was to not have to

maintenance. My first move in home ownership was changing open, and then repeated that I really needed to address the

some of the supports if they started to tip over. Busy with every the door was a main topic of conversation with anyone who

it open, sometimes it would fly open as soon as it was unlocked. wonder about the door as often. He told me that was all well No matter, the home had a fresh new coat of paint and the new and good, but did I notice that the deck was sagging? roof looked quite nice. As life events began to happen, I noticed that the dead bolt would no longer work. Then, the regular lock also began having issues, then, the side door began to also get sticky then
Kelly O’Brien lives in Davisburg, MI with her horses, dogs and creaky farmhouse floors. She is studying for her graduate degree at Michigan State University. She can be found at:

Between the Reins the reins

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Upcoming Events at Mendin’ Fences
HARRY WHITNEY will be back, of course. As always, we are so pleased to be involved in these intensive week-long camps. If you are looking for lots of one-on-one hands on assistance with plenty of time for questions and discussion, this is a wonderful experience. This year, Harry will also do a DEMO before the actual clinics start. Though we have a strong crew of serious and dedicated students, we are hoping that some of the more local folks will take this opportunity to see what all our enthusiasm is about. DEMO Saturday, May 19th from 8:45 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Harry will work with one young horse and one riding horse. $15 fee includes demo and discussion period. Dates of the week-long camps: MAY 21 MAY 28 JUNE 11 JUNE 18 (pending) There are a few slots open in the first three weeks and we are filling the week of June 18th (and beyond, if needed). Additional info: Have a Harry related event you would like featured? Please send an email with the details and photos, if available, to:

Harry Whitney hard at work.