BOUNTIFUL - The old saying that “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” the water holds true in a lot of situations.
“Horses need leadership. By nature they are claustrophobic,” said Jeremy Watt of Bountiful. He conducts horse training clinics through his business, Utah Horse-ManShip.
Humans must prove they’re not just another predator, but more a partner with a horse, he said.
Watt has loved horses for many years. Fifteen years ago, he met a Farmington man who shares that love, who has a barn where he keeps several horses.
“He has become a great friend,” Watt said of John Hepworth, who is known by many for his ownership of Johnstown Limited or development of the European-style commercial/residential project in downtown Bountiful.
When the pair met, Watt, who then owned a construction company, had come to give Hepworth a bid on a remodeling project (which he won).
“Hepworth has always owned horses, done fantastic things with them,” Watt said.
Hepworth shared his knowledge of the principles of horsemanship over the next many months, five evenings a week and on Saturdays.
Watt spoke of one horse he called “extreme. He was so in need of leadership. He’d flip you in the face with his tail, put his foot on your foot. All horses need a leader. They’ve all got to challenge your leadership, need to know if you’ll provide for them.”
Over the months, Watt was able to change the horse’s nature.
Watt teaches the four principles of horsemanship in his clinics: E for empathy; A for assertive; R for respect and N for never lose your temper.
“A horse trailer is like a cave” to a horse, Watt said. “They don’t know where it will lead. We expect them to be OK, but if they resist, we have to be assertive.”
The other principles must be worked in as well, he emphasized.
“In empathy, usually no one (human) has to fight the food chain. A horse has to know where his feet are. That’s what has kept them alive for thousands of years.”
Of respect, he said that goes both ways. “Don’t violate a horse’s dignity,” Watt said.
During the trailer clinic, he trains horses to accept a pecking order, teaching them to be accepting, to perform seven exercises.
Watt tailors the training to include his audience.
“If the audience contains mostly adults, I might relate the training to parenting, to raising kids,” he said. “If there are a lot of kids, I might compare it to bullying in the playground.”
As for Hepworth’s support, Watt considers him like a close mentor, the closest of friends an example of two men from different generations who share a love, and passion, for horses and their well-being.