I have a theory that training horses has a lot in common with parenting. There are a million experts out there and the tendency of the rest of us is to find the right theory, check our brain at the door, and follow that theory to the letter. I've heard of parenting experts who guarantee a “new child in a week” and horse trainers who claim they can “train a horse in five minutes.” What happens after that is anyone's guess.
For Rosamond horse trainer Bill Cameron, training horses is very different. Cameron, 54, has been riding since he was one-year-old and rode his childhood pony “like an Indian.” He has been a professional trainer for forty years and, like his father before him, has trained many horses for movies and commercials.
His method of training is called “Natural Born Riding” and Bill starts with what is natural for horse and rider. He doesn't want his students to check their brain at the door but rather, bring what comes naturally to them to their horse.
“It [the name] just popped in my head … it's a good name for my style of teaching and riding,” he said. “It comes natural to a person and they don't know it. Timing is everything in riding and it is about being in cadence with the horse … literally breathing in rhythm with the horse.”
And, there is no such thing as a bad ride, according to Cameron.
“Horses aren't machines that you put a quarter in,” he said. “I hold myself accountable for every step my horse takes. We don't make them do anything,” he said, “…we set up opportunities for success.”
After training horses from Monterey to Santa Ynez, Cameron returned to Rosamond in 2004, when his father, horse trainer Denzel Cameron, passed away.
“My parents were here on the ranch for thirty years and I came back to help my Mom,” Cameron said. He also found great happiness in Rosamond where he has trained AQHA horses for Tehachapi resident Barbara Ferrante, owner of Jake's Steakhouse.
While training Ferrante's AQHA geldings, I'll Cowboy Up and Especially Colonel, for reining and ranch horse competitions, Ferrante and Cameron began looking for new challenges. In 2007, Barbara introduced Bill to Craig Cameron's (no relation) Extreme Cowboy Racing on DVD.
“I remember thinking, 'hmmm…I was born for this,” said Cameron.
Extreme Cowboy Racing involves thirteen obstacles that horse and rider must “attack” for time. According to Barbara Ferrante, “It's speed with horsemanship.”
“It's like gladiators on horseback,” said Cameron, “It [Extreme Cowboy Racing] tests me, my courage, and my trust in my horse.”
It is that trust between Bill and Cowboy that has brought them great success and an even greater opportunity. In 2008, the pair won the Extreme Cowboy Association (EXCA) competition at Equine Affaire in Pomona. In 2009, Cameron and Cowboy won both the State and the Regional EXCA champion awards. Most recently, the two have been invited to the Calgary Stampede. If you don't know, the Calgary Stampede is the Super Bowl, World Series, and Stanley Cup of Rodeo. And Cameron and Cowboy are one of twenty North Americans hand-picked to compete in the first EXCA Race in Canada.
It will be emceed by founder Craig Cameron and is expected to be tough competition.
“It's an honor just to be invited,” Cameron said, “…and the Canadians are out for blood…they want to get the Californians.”
“People love to watch it [Extreme Cowboy Racing],” Cameron added. “It's a great spectator sport… the crowd cheers you on like a football game.”
“The tougher the course, the better he does…and the more he is separated from the rest of the riders” said Evon Kurtz, Cameron's assistant for the past five years, who does everything from mucking stalls to public relations.
Looking beyond Calgary, Cameron will be teaching his “Natural Born Riding” methods to riders in Alaska in August, Arizona in October and Sweden in the spring. For more information on Natural Born Riders, check Bill's website at: www.naturalbornriders.com or you can watch him on YouTube by searching his name and Extreme Cowboy Racing.
Bill will also be teaching clinics in Tehachapi.
“Tehachapi has really taken me in,” said Cameron. Perhaps with parenting and horse training, we need to look for what is “natural” inside us.