Perhaps one of the clearest voices in the natural horse care movement is Joe Camp, author of "The Soul Of a Horse." I am delighted to present his interview today.
Joe, I have to say right off of the bat that Buck Brannam's, "The Far Away Horses," has been my favorite horse book since it first came out, but I believe that you topped it with "Soul of the Horse." I find many adults in their forties and fifties, coming into the horse world for the first time. What does your book have to say to those people who might become discouraged and maybe even feel like they have bit off more than they can chew?
Joe – IT IS ALL WITHIN YOURSELF. YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU DESIRE IF YOU FOCUS AND GIVE YOURSELF THE ADVANTAGE OF MILEAGE. TIME SPENT WITH YOUR HORSES LEARNING TO UNDERSTAND AND COMMUNICATE WITH THEM. TOO MANY FOLKS WANT RELATIONSHIPS TO BE AUTOMATIC, WHETHER WITH HORSE OR PEOPLE. DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY. TIME NEEDS TO BE COMMITTED TO MAKE THEM WORK. EVERY HORSE ON THE PLANET WANTS TO BE IN RELATIONSHIP. IT’S ALL UP TO US. COMMIT TO THE MILEAGE.
Your book deals with natural horsemanship, natural hoof care, and natural horse care as a total package for modern horsemanship. Do you find much resistance to your strong endorsement of natural hoof care and natural horse care among today's established horse world?
Joe – OF COURSE. BUT THE RESPONSE IS SCIENCE. I DON’T PROMOTE MY “OPINIONS” OR “PHILOSOPHIES”. I TALK SCIENCE. EVERY HORSE ON THE PLANET IS GENETICALLY THE SAME. WILD OR SO-CALLED “DOMESTIC”. THEY’VE BEEN ON THIS EARTH FOR 52+ MILLION YEARS. AND WE WOULD’VE NEVER KNOWN HORSES IF MOTHER NATURE HAD NOT GIVEN THE HORSE THE GENETICS TO SURVIVE. FOR A PREY ANIMAL, A FLIGHT ANIMAL, THAT MEANS GREAT FEET TO FLEE FROM PREDATORS. HORSES IN THE WILD DO NOT HAVE HOOF PROBLEMS. ONLY HORSES WITH METAL SHOES, IN STALLS, EATING SUGAR, AWAY FROM THE HERD, LIVING COMPLETELY OPPOSITE THE WAY THE HORSE WAS GENETICALLY DESIGNED TO LIVE HAVE HOOF PROBLEMS. AND STRESS PROBLEMS. AND ALL KINDS OF HEALTH PROBLEMS.
If we are going to continue to draw new people into horse ownership, what changes do think need to be made to our modern model of riding lessons, shows, expensive horses, and even more expensive horse products?
Joe – I WOULD LIKE TO SEE FEWER PEOPLE COMING INTO HORSE OWNERSHIP, ELIMINATING THOSE WHO ONLY WANT HORSES TO USE AS A TOOL, ONLY WANT HORSES TO PROMOTE THEIR OWN EGOS. I’D LOVE TO LIMIT HORSE OWNERSHIP TO THE FOLKS WHO ACTUALLY CARE FOR THE HORSES THEY OWN. AND WHO HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO LEARN ENOUGH TO THEREBY KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THEM TO ACTUALLY ALLOW THEM TO LIVE AS HORSES SHOULD LIVE. THE “MODEL” THAT YOU MENTION IS NUTS. THE “MODEL” SHOULD BE: THIS IS A LIVING, BREATHING BEING WHO WANTS DESPERATELY TO BE IN RELATIONSHIP AND WANTS ONLY TO LIVE AS HE WAS DESIGNED TO LIVE.
Your book has a mythical thread running through it that begins with a Shackleford horse. Why did you select a Shackleford to represent the genesis of horses in the new world? Where on earth had you even heard of a Shackleford?
Joe – I’M A STUDENT OF OUR EARLY COLONIAL DAYS AND PRE-COLONIAL DAYS IN THIS COUNTRY. I’VE SPENT A LOT OF TIME IN WILLIAMSBURG AND ACTUALLY BEEN TO SHACKLEFORD BANKS.
Besides Monte Roberts, what other horse trainers and clinicians impress you?
Joe – IT’S ALL IN THE BOOK AND IN THE RESOURCES SECTION. ALL THE GOOD ONES ARE MERELY TRYING TO TAKE YOU TO THE POINT WHERE YOU CAN FIGURE THINGS OUT FOR YOURSELF. NOT ONE OF THE CLINICIANS I STUDIED EVER STUDIED THE DVDS AND BOOKS OF OTHER CLINICIANS. YOU GET THE BASICS, THE UNDERSTANDING, THEN YOU NEED TO BE LETTING THE HORSES BE YOUR TEACHERS.
All of my riders are human and that means that all of my riders have problems in some aspects of their lives. The full title of your book is The Soul of a Horse: Life's Lessons From the Herd. What are those lessons? Which of them are the most important?
Joe – THE LESSON MOST IMPORTANT I THINK IS: WE LEARNED THAT TO BE IN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HORSE WE HAD TO GET OVER ON HIS END OF THE LEAD ROPE. TO LEARN WHAT HE MIGHT WANT OUT OF THIS RELATIONSHIP, AS OPPOSED TO WHAT WE WANTED OUT OF IT. TO DETERMINE WHAT HIS DESIRES AND EXPECTATIONS WERE. AND ISN’T THAT THE WAY WE SHOULD APPROACH ALL OF OUT HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS AS WELL?
Agribusiness giants and the established horse world cannot make money off of natural hoof care and natural horse care. Will their economic interests be strong enough to forever keep natural hoof care and natural horse care out of the main stream?
Joe – THAT DEPENDS UPON US. WILL WE LET THAT HAPPEN? WILL WE, WHO CARE FOR THE HORSE AND HIS HEALTH AND HAPPINESS, HAVE MORE IMPACT THAN THOSE WHO ONLY WANT TO USE THE HORSE AS A TOOL? THE SOUL OF A HORSE IS CURRENTLY NOT BEING SOLD IN MOST TACK AND FEED STORES BECAUSE THEY READILY SAY THAT I AM ADVOCATING AGAINST THE PRODUCTS THEY SELL. THEY’RE WRONG OF COURSE. I AM ADVOCATING ONE THING ONLY: THE HORSE IS A LIVING BREATHING COMPASSIONATE BEING. GIVE HIM THE LOVE, CARE AND RESPECT THAT YOU YOURSELF DESERVE.