Interview with Dan James - 2015
The Horsemanship Journal was lucky enough to talk to Dan James during his clinic at Oakridge Arena. As told to Vicky Rooke.
WH: Is liberty training a stand-alone exercise or can it help with riding?
Dan: Liberty is in itself its own discipline and is often used in shows, movies and stunts. Some very good liberty horses don’t make as good riding horses. That being said, liberty training can help put some horses in a good frame of mind which helps with the ridden work.
WH: Are there any particular traits that you look for in a horse?
Dan: A horse has to suit your lifestyle. Like a car. A car must suit your lifestyle. For example, you might need a truck or a sports car. You also have to consider the horse’s job, whether you want it for reining, liberty or something else. A horse has to suit the job you want it to do.
WH: What would you look for in a suitable liberty horse then?
Dan: When considering horses for liberty it must be remembered that liberty horses are often wanted for shows and movies. Therefore, one of the major considerations is colour. The horses should be colours that are recognisable, whether that is black, palomino, grey and so on.
WH: How do you train the ‘riderless turnaround’? Is it a long process?
Dan: To begin, the horse needs to be able to turnaround well under saddle. When the horse can turnaround well under saddle you can then go back to the ground and teach the aids from the ground. In fact, once a horse can turnaround under saddle, teaching it to do it from the ground is not that long a process. This is an example of how—in addition to ground control leading into ridden work—ridden work can also lead back to ground control.
WH: It seems there are quite a few trainers coming out of Australia. Do you think there is something about horsemanship in Australia that is a reason for this?
Dan: One of the main things about Australians is their great work ethic. They are hard workers. Also, they are very well rounded. This is mostly due to the fact that as the industry is so small in Australia they can’t really specialise in anything. This means they often do well when they go overseas.
WH: How have you found the British?
Dan: Well, I’ve only been teaching them for half the day so far but from what I have seen, and the time I have spent with Lee Rutter, I have found them to be very receptive and have got on well.
WH: Have you ever had horses, or people, that you have had to walk away from?
Dan: There have been more opportunities for me to walk away from people than horses, which is normally due to difference in views. That being said, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t ever walked away from a horse. However, as time goes on and I have gained more knowledge and experience, I find I am better able to help more horses.