NickerViews is a series of interviews with horse folks in the Cayuse Communications family. These interviews consist of 14 set questions. Our next interviewee is Dr. Steve Peters, one of the most popular presenters at the Best Horse Practices Summit. A Utah resident, he is an accomplished neuropsychologist at Intermountain Health. In October, he will present on horse brain science and how knowing about it can optimize your arena work and trail rides.
He helped Maddy Butcher with the neuroscience in her book, Horse Head: Brain Science & Other Insights.
- In 50 words of less, tell us about yourself and your life with horses.
As a kid, I grew up in a military family but tried to ride as many horses as I could everywhere we moved including Japan, Hawaii and England. Besides eventually being able to own horses, my Neurology background led to a scientific interest and evidence-based approach to inform my work with horses.
Do you like group rides or riding solo? Why?
I like riding with no more than one other person. I prefer to spend time focused on the conversation and interaction with my horse. I enjoy adding in little exercises and “question and answers” as we ride. Socially, I also find that riding with just one other is more comfortable for me.
- What do you recall as your finest horsemanship moment?
Most rewarding was when my horse, Comet finally started to trust in me after three years of abuse from a previous owner. From rearing and hating to be touched to calm and comfortable being around me. Being able to bring out a horse that is sensitive to my requests from one who was purely reactive.
- What’s your worst horsemanship moment?
Although aware of a bad situation getting worse, I continued to ignore what changes were taking place in my horse thinking I could ride them out. An emergency room visit and CT scan of the head hopefully taught me a lesson.
- What frustrates you the most in the horse world?
The arrogance and rigidity that “our way” is the right way despite evidence to the contrary, especially when that thinking is clearly not in the best interest of the horse. A lot of competitive events put winning above the horses welfare.
- What inspires you the most in the horse world?
That so many people are looking for “a better deal” for the horse and are starting to rely more on evidence than marketers, charismatic experts or rigid systems in this regard.
- Tell us about your favorite hat/helmet when riding? Why?
My favorite cowboy hat is a reflection of years of experiences getting soaked with rain, riding through brush, getting sun bleached, coming off my head when things got a little western, etc. It took years to form fit to my head. It looks pretty rough and I take pride in that.
- What kind of saddle to you prefer to ride in? Please describe.
My favorite and most comfortable saddle was made by L.J. Willemsma. It’s a Wade with a really comfortable ground seat. It is made with lighter leather with much of the excess trimmed away in order to be closer to the horse. Over the years I have made some changes such as adding some five-inch brass stirrups that feel better for me and will handle a wider boot in the winter. I also have a McCalls “Northwest” wade with bucking rolls and a shovel back cantle that puts you right down in the saddle that I really like with certain horses.
- What’s in your saddle bag?
No saddle bags
- What’s your favorite ingredient as trail food?
An apple, an Amy’s bean and rice burrito or almonds. They all fit in my pockets.
- What ingredient will wreck an otherwise delicious trail mix?
Anything with sugar in it.
- Where would you like to be (in the horse world/with your horses and horsemanship) in five years?
Martin Black and I are beginning work on evidence-based stockmanship to investigate the science (neurological underpinnings) of cattle and the interaction with horses. We are planning some University talks and some presentations to the cattle/beef industry. Otherwise, I will be retired and enjoying more time with my horses, my community and dogs.
- What’s something on your bucket list?
A new Ford 150 and two horse gooseneck trailer so that I can check off all the many great rides in the general vicinity of my retirement home in Colorado.
- What’s the most recent thing you’ve learned (related to horse work).
Recently, I went to my friend Martin’s ranch where he showed me some techniques that would make my messages much more subtle riding a bridle horse as well as a lot of great advice on positioning myself on cows.