John’s major passion, developed over the last 20 years, is to promote Western riding, and to support people who train their own horses. Horses and people need to be able to enjoy their life together.
Over the years, John has been the senior partner in a firm of chartered architects, director of a leisure consultancy company, an expert witness in buildings-related litigation cases, author of advisory text for facilities and curriculum for physical education in Scotland and a Western Equestrian Society approved riding instructor.
His hobbies have included golf, dinghy racing, gardening and plant rearing, poultry breeding, bee keeping, photography, art, yoga, horse riding, driving fast cars and teaching.
In recent years he has focused on making his home and facilities at Blackford Glen into a place where fellowship, co-operation and enjoyment are the order of the day. Horse lovers, bee keepers, botanists, gardeners, musicians, people with visions, and people who are lost can all feel at home there. Like-minded people can be made welcome.
Having studied the techniques of renowned American and European Western riders and trainers, their ways, attitudes and skills, John eventually zoned in on the physical language they all used to communicate with their horses.
He wrote down his findings and they became the foundation for his teaching of people and horses.
He taught for several years before being persuaded by Bob Mayhew to acquire a Western Equestrian Society instructor’s qualification. Over time, John has taught and mentored people of all levels of experience and has encouraged many to purchase horses to be trained and ridden in the western way.
John offers tuition and advice to Western riders, non-Western riders and people new to riding. His students will require to work with their own horses. Anyone with an interest in horses will be made welcome by him at his home and yard at Blackford Glen, Edinburgh.
John’s brand states that he is ’training people to train horses’. He believes that a person must learn and understand a physical language in order to communicate with their horse and, if the horse requires it, teach that language to the horse. For this to work the language must be non-ambiguous and must be used consistently.
Western horses that have been ‘sent away’ for training to reputable western trainers should know much of that language. Those horse trainers are aware that riders need equally intense and structured training in order to communicate adequately with trained horses. This training is not generally offered to riders. This may be because it is often easier to train a horse than a person, or is it that the people do not realise that they need to know that language.
John’s normal teaching method is to demonstrate cueing and riding techniques from the saddle while the student rides their own horse. Most of his teaching is done at Blackford Glen but he will travel with his horses to teach in the Borders, Fife, Lothian, Tayside and the central regions of Scotland.
Individual tuition sessions appropriate to a student’s requirements can be accommodated. Group instruction, introductions to Western riding, guidance on safe trail riding, training of the Western horse or just an educated eye on the ground can be arranged.
From experience, John has become aware that not everyone is ready or able to come to the yard and “get riding lessons”. Many people need to be introduced, or re-introduced, to the equine world in a more gradual and understanding way. They have a desire to learn more about horses and become comfortable and confident around them. To those people John offers individual or group sessions on “speaking with horses”. That is, how to behave around horses, how to listen to them, how to understand them, how to form partnerships with them and how to benefit physically and emotionally from that experience.
In furtherance of his ambitions to improve peoples’ horsemanship and give horses a better life through the Western Way, John offers the following tuition and services:
• In-depth teaching of the language of communication between horses and their Western riders.
• Advice and tutoring in horse training techniques which prepare horses for a career as a Western riding horse.
• Advice and tuition for riders leading them to success in western showing or to safer and more rewarding trail riding.
• Sympathetic help for people who, for one reason or another, have lost confidence in themselves and in their ability to communicate successfully with their horses
• In association with Rahel Vontobel, advice on western saddle fitting and procurement.
• Advice on risk management and health and safety measures in relation to trail riding and staging of equine events.
• Invite people to attend his own clinics and host like-minded instructors, trainers and experts to run clinics, seminars and demonstrations at Blackford Glen.
Use the contact form on this site to contact him.
From time to time, John posts stuff on this site’s blog page under the categories ‘John’s Ramblings’ and ‘Training People and Horses’.