The Corral Welcomes Our New Feature Writers From Double Dan Horsemanship – Dan Steers & Dan James
When Dan James and I met on the El Caballo Spanish Horse Centre in Western Australia we quickly realized that our training styles complemented each other so we developed and began performing a show together called “The Dan and Dan Show”. In 2009, we left Western Australia moving to New South Wales to begin training with one of the world’s elite liberty horse trainers, Heath Harris. Heath, having more than 40 years of experience welcomed us into his program and willingly shared his training techniques. Dan James and I took the knowledge that Heath had shared with us and developed the Double Dan Horsemanship training method: Ground Control, Long Reining, Body Control Under Saddle and Liberty.
We teach the Double Dan Horsemanship training method because we believe that each horse owner should have a horse that is safe to be around and easy to handle. Each level of training is similar to baking a cake, we break down the end result into easy-to-understand exercises (ingredients) so that when they’re all blended together our horse becomes soft and supple, a piece of cake.
Horses are prey animals by nature; they are ready to react with a fight-or-flight response at any time. Our job as handlers, trainers and riders is to be aware of surrounding threats and their need to escape as we transform them into safe and willing partners. Horses have an incredible memory so we must remember to be careful with our actions. Once they take place, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten. Understanding that horses process and learn differently than humans do, we’ve built our system for horses to easily comprehend, while keeping trainers in a safe environment.
Each horse that comes into our training program begins with the same Ground Control foundation. Ground Control is ideal for teaching general horsemanship regardless of age, breed, training history or discipline. By beginning with a solid foundation in Ground Control horses move through the rest of the Double Dan Horsemanship program with a better understanding and softer handle. In this stage of training we teach horses to flex laterally to the left and right sides, control the shoulders and hindquarters, come to the trainer’s shoulder and to stop.
Once a horse is comfortable going through each Ground Control exercise, we move into Long Reining. For me the Long Reining portion of our training is about teaching a horse to be obedient in a bridle. This is the first time that the horse is introduced to the bit and bridle. During Long Reining we teach a horse to flex laterally and vertically, control the shoulders, rib cage and hindquarters at a walk, trot and canter, stop, back up and transition between gaits. Using this technique allows trainers to work through problems safely for both horse and trainer.
Body Control Under Saddle is essentially an extension of the Long Reining. The bit controls the head and neck, like we did with the long reins, while the riders’ legs control the shoulders, ribcage and hindquarters. The most important aspect of training Body Control is for riders to keep each cue separate. The goal is that if my legs are not engaged and I turn the horse’s head that the horse will stand still and only laterally flex his head.
For trainers that don’t intend to ride their horse or just want to take their horsemanship to the next level we introduce them to Liberty training. We transition from Ground Control exercises into Liberty exercises by taking all restraints off the horse. In Ground Control we’ve established our foundation with whip cues; Liberty training relies on refined whip cues to control the horse’s movement from the ground. Our Liberty performances is where you’ll see Dan James and I cueing our horses to rear, sit, lie down, run to marks and work in opposite directions. All of these tricks can be trained by beginning with Ground Control.
Dan James and I are excited to take each step down the Pathway to Horsemanship. We invite riders of any skill level to push the boundaries of horsemanship and build a trusting partnership with their horses.
Growing up in Western Australia Dan Steers first discovered his love for horses in his early teens; first developing his horsemanship and farrier skills he then moved on to training horses under Corry Holden. Before long he was conducting regular horsemanship clinics. Steers and good friend, Dan James, began performing together at El Caballo Spanish Horse Centre developing their horsemanship techniques before relocating to New South Wales in 2009 and forming Double Dan Horsemanship, leading both young stars down the Pathway to Liberty.
The 2012 Mane Event Trainer’s Challenge winner is not only a powerful clinician but trains and competes at the highest level of campdrafting. Starting and training horses with the Double Dan Horsemanship method is Steers’ true passion. Combining education and entertainment Steers electrifies crowds across Australia, Canada and the United States.