Chico Bond took his thumb and let it rest on the mare’s neck. Without a hint of movement on his part she dropped her head a bit, a bit more, swiftly and calmly towards the stable floor. He removed his hand, and she bobbed right back up, apparently unaffected. “See, it’s just as simple as that really,” he said. “That’s what you do, but on a bigger scale. People try to make it more complicated than it is.”
At the Rafter D Ranch in Denison, horse trainer Chico Bond spends all day riding and training an expanding herd of foundation quarter-horses from lines like Hancock, Driftwood, and Leo. His uncommon training style is as simple as a thumb on the neck.“Training horses is learning to apply pressure, horses just want to get along,” he said, “and instead of hurting them and scaring them, slight pressure makes them uncomfortable and they learn from what gets you to release the pressure. Good pressure is not pulling, it’s lifting a very slight amount, and the horse will search for how to make it stop.”
Although simple to understand, skill is needed to train the horse correctly. “Timing is the most important thing. You have to keep a careful eye on them and reward the slightest try, because you don’t want them to do the right thing and not be rewarded. It’s the trainer’s responsibility to get across the pressure, to react the instant the horse moves.” said Bond. “You know practice makes perfect? Well, perfect practice makes perfect. You train through repetition, but you spoil an animal by rewarding wrong behavior. You can’t spoil by rewarding the correct behavior—just like kiddos.
“Horses are herd animals, they’d rather have a leader than be a leader. It’s important to demonstrate to a horse that you can protect it. They’re prey animals, you’re working with centuries of instinct. The first [instinct] is to flee, but you want the animal to look to you for protection.” Bond teaches his horses to look to him at a young age. “We set up controlled situations in the round pens where we rope them and keep them roped til they look to me and then release them. Timing is very important, you have to pay very close attention and the second they look let them go and reward them.
“What you’re looking for is a partnership when you train them,” he said. “The horse responds to what you ask freely and without resentment, willingly. When you break horses, you’re breaking their will. They do the job but they don’t do it willingly. He [the horse] needs to be part of it. You need to be able to express what you want in a way the horse understands.”
Bond, born in Gainesville and raised in Sherman has always had a rapport with horses. “God just made me that way, all my life. I grew up around horses, and I’ve always loved being around horses. When I was younger I did factory work, I was a welder and machinist. A fellow got me started riding and I just jumped at the chance. It’s a God-given talent, I mean I’m lucky to make a living doing this, if I wasn’t getting paid I’d be doing this for free.”
He started training in the mid-70s, and originally did it the traditional way—breaking the horse. He changed his ways after renting a video tape “Round Pen Reasoning” by John Lyons. Bond realized this method was more effective than what he had been doing, “it worked because it worked for the horse,” he said, “it made more sense.” Bond has since learned from Bill Smith in Wyoming, and attended clinics with Ray Hunt—both renowned trainers. Previous to the Rafter D, his skills had been advertised by word of mouth. “In the past I’ve been booked three years in advance. I still do take in a few individual horses. Right now I’m booked until next March.”
“This is something that I’ve always loved to do, said Bond, “I do my best to give the animal a good foundation so that when they’re working they can hold up and be good horses. You don’t ever have a ‘finished’ horse.’ There’s always more you can teach a horse, there’s always more a horse can do.”
Featured Archive Story
Ray Bledsoe doesn’t believe in day-old cookies. They have to be fresh to be good in his estimation, which is why he mixes his dry ingredients the night before and puts them into zipped plastic bags, three batches at a time. In the morning all he has to do is add the eggs and liquid or oil and whatever other ingredients are called for, and he is in business.
By Dan Acree
People are taking notice of Betty Nash’s art. Her works, done in oil, are graceful, subtle manipulations of light and shadows, of deep colors and reflections. She uses the chiaroscuro style (the play of light and shadow) embraced by masters such as Rembrandt and Raphael.
For Colleen Barnes, who hosts Enchanted Dress-Up Tea Parties and Glamour Girl parties at Simply Puzzled, her boutique at 2010 Loy Lake Road, “it’s a girl thing. When these little girls are all dressed up, they feel good, they feel beautiful, and their personalities come out. Some are silly, some are shy, but it’s a good thing—it builds confidence,” she said.
Looking for the Printed Version?You can find a complete set of Texoma Living! Magazine in the library at Austin College.
Featured Archive Story
By Dan Acree on December 1, 2007
Not so long ago, New Year’s Eve called for gentlemen in black ties, ladies in formal gowns, an elegant menu, exotic libations, and an orchestra with a chart of “Auld Lang Syne” on their music stands. In the Mulberry Room of the Grayson Hotel or the Ballroom of the Hotel Denison, revelers danced the night away until the clock’s hands came together at XII, and then the band played, couples kissed, and streamers, confetti, and the toot of tin horns filled the air.
By Special to TLM on September 1, 2008
Summer vacation is over. School has started. Nikki Bitzer is back in the classroom. Life is good, really good. For this Sherman teacher, nothing sounds so sweet as the bell signaling the start of another class.