Horse trainer Ray Ainsworth

The man who listens to horses stood in the middle of the arena with nothing but a long flexible stick to prod the untrained horse to cooperate.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Ray Ainsworth said, flicking the bar against his foot, “it just annoys them.”
He encouraged the horse to move along using his ‘arm extender.’

The horse kicked at its light touch. Ray Ainsworth glanced at the audience, “I know how much distance I need to keep safe and he does, too,” he assured us.

The half dozen horses he worked with that afternoon quickly chose to avoid being annoyed during the 30 minutes he spent with each because Ainsworth always established first and foremost that he was in charge. When a horse made even the slightest aggressive motion towards him, Ainsworth would do an emphatic “Yah!” and wave his arms up high. Every time he did it, the horse turned away from him.

Although there was a definite pattern to the lessons, the age and personality of each animal dictated variations in the lesson plan.
In three hours of watching Ainsworth work, my husband and I never bored. Years ago we listened to the library’s audio book, “The Man Who Listens to Horses” by Monty Roberts, so we jumped at the chance for a demonstration of the non-violent training of and work with horses. We made a contribution to Rainbow Farms for Handicapped Children and slipped into the arena to watch.

Ainsworth began each 30-minute demonstration in the ring talking with the owner. One fearful owner did not want to be in the ring with her untrained, halterless horse. Ainsworth showed her how to establish “I am the leader” by shouting, “rah!” and flinging his arms over his head at the animal.

The animal snorted, bucked and balked, but kept away. Using the arm extender with one hand and pointing with the other Ainsworth moved the animal around the circle. When it stopped and turned its back side to him or shook its head, Ainsworth annoyed it until it turned around and circled on command.

Ainsworth wore himself breathless with the first horse; with the second he watched its responses grinned and said, “He is smart. This is gonna be fun.”

Inside a half hour, he took each inexperienced horse, saddled them and rode them back and forth to demonstrate they had their ‘steering’ and ‘parking’ in place.

He built up equine trust and desensitized the horses to touch. Once they relaxed to his presence, he rubbed from their backs down each leg on each horse – repeating the action on both sides saying, “What you do to one side, you must do to the other.” He established a ‘steering wheel’ by tugging the lead until the horse touched its side.
Saddling began with a light-weight English saddle strapped on for a few minutes to desensitize the horse to a saddle. As the second horse galloped and bucked against the empty saddle, Ainsworth leaned back, watched and said, “He’ll go around two or three times.”
The horse did as predicted and stopped.

“He’s trying to figure out what happened to him,” Ainsworth said and waited for the horse to turn to him for an explanation – then he stroked the horse all over and moved on to a saddle blanket and heavier saddle.

When he finally put on the riding saddle, he again rubbed each side, put one foot in the stirrup on that side and bounced a bit, then walked around to do it to the other side.

Finally, he swung his foot across the saddle, sat down, rocked back and forth vigorously and began to ride in very tight circles showing that the horse would respond to the training for direction and stopping.

He worked with a horse which had had to be forced to stand still to have its hooves trimmed the first time. Within half an hour, the farrier could run his hand down the horse’s flanks, pick up a foot, apply rasp and remove the excess hoof.
Another horse refused to stand still when mounted. Having gently established leadership in 15 minutes, Ainsworth placed the saddle on the horse and swung up – the horse did not walk away. Ainsworth told the owner to work with the horse at home daily for a month and he would have much more enjoyable trail rides.

Before the day’s demonstration ended, they brought out a horse that had fought against entering the horse trailer. Earlier in the day, Ainsworth had spent time working with the horse so it would enter the trailer. In the afternoon, without any reminders, the horse calmly followed Ainsworth into the trailer.

When the owner came to walk it out, she grabbed the lead under the horse’s chin. Ainsworth said, “No. Hold it a few feet out on the lead. Otherwise it is like someone grabbing your nose and making you walk. You lead, let the horse follow.” … which pretty much summarized the afternoon’s demonstration.