Equine consultant Richard Maxwell is a horse behaviourist and a qualified Masterson Method Practitioner who combines a unique blend of natural and traditional methods of horsemanship to help horses and their owners.
The work of Richard is renowned across many equestrian disciplines and at all levels, with his clients including the likes of International Event rider Sharon Hunt, Dressage star Matt Frost and Tom Dascombe, Racehorse Trainer at Michael Owen’s Manor House Stables.
Reviewing the situation:
Richard’s approach always begins by gathering information to help him assess the particular needs of every horse that he is asked to work with. He first spends time with the owner to gain their feedback and to discover goals and objectives.
Richard explained: “My client base is varied and stretches from Olympic Event riders to the everyday person in the street, but for me, what is crucial is that people are able to enjoy their horses. Some of my clients say that they only want to be a ‘happy hacker’, but the main thing is that they are happy and, ultimately, that they are safe.”
Richard started his career in the army, joining a tank regiment. When the draw of horses became too great, he transferred to the Household Cavalry where he became a riding instructor training Life Guard Subalterns and producing young horses for the military.
In 1988, Richard’s own introduction to ‘natural horsemanship’ came through a chance meeting with the legendary Monty Roberts.
“Monty came over to the UK to give a demonstration for the Queen whilst I was in the Household Cavalry. A rider was needed for the demo and I was volunteered,” said Richard, who is based at Barnley Equestrian Centre in Suffolk along with his wife Sam.
“Working with Monty, I witnessed techniques that I had never experienced before from a horsemanship point of view. I gleaned so much from his knowledge and I found it incredibly interesting how you could take something from a completely different style of equitation, such as western or rodeo, and introduce this back into ‘mainstream’ training.”
|“The best advice I could offer would be to remain open-minded and to look beyond the training methods used in any one discipline. However, we need to be careful that we don’t drown in a sea of too much information, I did that myself in the early days and this can lead to ‘analysis – paralysis’. Learn to be like a magpie – select the bits that work for you and then build on those foundations.”
Richard on … Pursuing a career within Natural Horsemanship
A unique blend:
Richard’s approach to training horses has evolved throughout his career. He believes that, in most instances, equine behavioural problems have their genesis in pain. Because of this, he begins by treating any residual physical discomfort using techniques inspired by Andy Andrews and the ‘Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork’ system founded by Jim Masterson.
<Image: Echo (2) by Roy Gadsden
The Masterson Method aims to relieve stress and tension at key junctions in the horse’s body and this system of ‘bodywork’ encourages a horse to seek active participation in the treatment rather than simply tolerating the procedure.
Richard explained: “I first met Andy Andrews 25 years ago, and he helped me to appreciate how the physiological can affect the psychological and how this contributes heavily to behavioural problems. On meeting Jim Masterson, I was able to put a few more pieces into the jigsaw puzzle and I now feel that I have a fuller picture through being to help horses physiologically as well as through the behavioural training and rehabilitation work.”
At each demonstration, Richard encourages his audience to realise that issues cannot be resolved within a single session. His ethos is to evaluate each horse and to try to empower owners by arming them with the tools for further development.
“I often encounter a sense of hopeless with clients who are dealing with a ‘problem’ horse, so I try to offer them a starting point from which to deal with their issues,” explained Richard, who worked with three very different horses during his visit to Reaseheath.
“Any demo is only a snapshot and the answer to behavioural problems is never a quick fix, but if I can get just one thing right that might help a horse, I like to think of it starting a domino effect – then the peripheral problems surrounding that issue may start to lessen.”
Meet the horses:
Echo: The Ex-racehorse
Echo is a 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding who was bought off the race track by owner Julie Price.
Julie’s aim is to do some riding club level activities with Echo but the duo have been experiencing some tension-related problems.
Said Julie, “Echo found the atmosphere at Reaseheath a little overwhelming and was totally unmanageable at first. Richard was able to turn a hysterical horse into one which was calmer and easier to handle. There is a long road ahead, but Richard has given me some tips on how to help Echo in the future”.
Easter Bunny: The anxious dressage star
Easter Bunny is a KWPN gelding who is working at Advanced Medium level dressage. He was purchased as a 4-year-old by owner Penny Lindop, specifically for dressage rider and List 4 BD judge Toby Blake to compete.
‘Bunny’ has an impressive CV and, in 2014, the son of Valdez was a finalist at the Shearwater Young Dressage Horse Championships. The striking chestnut gelding has since competed at the Summer National Dressage Championships at BD Novice level and at the Winter Dressage Championships at Elementary level.
Earlier this year, whilst competing at Hartpury College, Bunny was overcome by ‘stage fright’ in the indoor International Arena, becoming very tense and strong. Due to this, Penny was keen to gain Richard’s advice.
| “Richard is an excellent communicator who is able to fully engage the attention of his audience. In a relatively short space of time, the exercises undertaken alleviated any underlying tension allowing my horse to relax and become confident in his surroundings. It was fascinating to observe how Richard’s methods achieved the desired result and I felt that the session was extremely beneficial.”
Penny Lindop, owner of dressage horse ‘Easter Bunny’.
Harvey: The reluctant loader
Harvey is a 14-year-old Welsh Section D who is owned by Clare Broad. This combination regularly competes with British Dressage and enjoy jumping, showing and hacking.
Clare applied to attend the demo as Harvey has been experiencing issues with loading especially when traveling alone.
“I learnt a lot from Richard Maxwell; his methods and techniques really worked for Harvey and after the session, he was even loading himself without a rope or being led. I am thrilled with the outcome and have lots of new ideas for future training. I love Richard’s approach and his understanding of our four-legged pals,” said Clare.
More about Richard and his work can be found via www.richard-maxwell.com