On horse handling:
"I think many of the ways most people handle horses, western or English, goes against the horse's nature, and we're creating problems unnecessarily. We think only of human nature and what we need and want out of the horse, instead of what he's really about physically and mentally. For example, I think we bend horses too much, and that's one of the biggest reasons we have so many stressed horses and why our training takes so long. Human-wise, bending may seem logical, but it's mechanically wrong for horses. They need to be balanced, and when you bend them more than a certain degree, it's unnatural and they're out of balance. Not all of my peers agree with that, but that's my philosophy. You won't ever see a horse bending on his own for very long."
On why you shouldn't pull on a horse:
"Never pull on horses. As soon as you do, from the ground or while mounted, they'll lock their jaws, which stiffens their bodies. I've had to retrain my reflexes once I discovered this method because it goes against human nature not to pull. If you shake hands with someone and pull on that hand, the other person is inclined to pull back just as hard. When you do that to your horse's face, he'll pull right back--you're creating resistance."
On learning from on-the-job training, ranch work:
"Most good clinicians don't set out to be that. They're just good at what they do, and their skills take them to it. I keep at it because I have some different ideas to present to people, and want to get them to really think. So many people try really hard with some philosophies floating around out there, but without much success. Too often, the more clinics they attend, the more confused they become, and that tells me that maybe there's a different approach we need to take."
On ground work:
"I know the buzz word in the clinic world right now is ground work, but I try to keep my ground work as minimal as possible. I want it to have real quality and a good effect so I can get on the horse's back and truly go with that horse. From the ground, you're always creating some sort of resistance, because you ask them to go, but they're always having to come right back to you. I do believe in ground work, but want to make it brief and effective, then mount up and move on. Excessive ground work drains the life out of our horses before we ever get on them. Then we spend the rest of the time kicking them and trying to get them to go. It's counter-productive."
Curt Pate was the featured clinician at the 2006 American Quarter Horse Association Regional Experiences. View a photo gallery from the Region 5 Experience and share stories in the Regional Experience Forum.