Trainer seeks horse, rider in harmony

By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico

Michael Richardson has been at ease working with horses from a young age but a life-changing event completely reshaped his approach to interacting with horses and launched a career working with horse lovers.
Richardson, a paraplegic horse trainer from Hico, Texas, taught two seminars Tuesday entitled �Enlightened Horsemanship� at the N.M. Ag Expo in Portales. The crowd�s interest was obvious as Richardson remained in the saddle talking to people with questions well after the allotted time had passed.
�It was a great show, great people,� Richardson said. �I�m just happy to be here and happy to share.�
Tom and Janice Prescott of Portales were among those horse owners who had lots of questions for Richardson.
�I�ve learned a lot more from him than I have in the last few years here,� Janice Prescott said. �Just because he�s working with his mind.�
When he was 20, Richardson was involved in a motor vehicle crash that nearly cost him his life and left him a paraplegic. Five weeks after his accident, in 1986, doctors OK�d a therapeutic horseback ride. According to his Web site, that ride was all Richardson needed to motivate him to return to an active and optimistic life.
He prepared himself for his future career at the Equine Studies Program at Parkland College in Illinois. That�s also where he met his wife, Tiffany, whom he says is his partner in the business, which he says is about 70 percent traveling to seminars and the rest training horses at their center in Hico.
Richardson said that before his accident, his approach to working with horses relied heavily on his physical strength and abilities. He says he had to adapt his techniques by thinking through problems from both his perspective as well as that of the horse to find a method that works for both.
�More times than not, horses have a people problem, not the other way around,� Richardson said. �You need to develop a partnership between the horse and rider. A horse has to want to do this.�
Because he views horsemanship from a different perspective than people with use of their legs, his seminars and training are geared toward creating a harmonious balance between horse and human � developing them into �one mind, one body.�
Roosevelt County Extension Agent Patrick Kircher said the response to Richardson�s program has been very positive.
�Even folks with a lot of horse experience said they came away with something,� Kircher said. �He brings a unique perspective, both as a person and a horse trainer.�
Richardson says venues the size of the Ag Expo are what he likes most, giving him a chance to teach and interact with 100 people instead of just one or two.
�Horses have been a godsend to me, a catalyst to show people what is possible,� Richardson said.