Interview with Ben Longwell From True West Horsemanship
Ben Longwell is an incredible horseman, sharing his love for horses as well as his love for God. As horsemen and women, we learn from each other, other trainers, books, and often video format. But there is no greater teacher than the horse and Ben emphasizes that often. His background includes ranch work and colt starting. And even living abroad in New Zealand. He and his family are now living in Oregon and sharing their knowledge and love of horses in many facets. Which includes a new and unique way to develop a seasoned ranch horse and rider. I’m so happy to introduce you to him on the blog. I hope you enjoy!
Can you give a brief history of how you got started with horses?
I’m not sure when I first sat a horse, but I can recall getting run off with when I was around 6. I always enjoyed riding and working with cattle, and my dad and grandpa taught me a lot. I started my first colt when I was 15 or so and had an opportunity to work as an assistant trainer, mostly starting colts for Mike Ross at Eagleview QHs. He really turned the light on for me.
What are some of the training options you offer currently?
We have transitioned into a different season in our business. We are offering Ranch-Based Horse Development for green/young horses. Which is a 3+ month opportunity for further advancement and experience for horses intended for any disciplines (not just ranch horses). By using the work, purpose and miles needed on a large ranch, we advance horses through real-life practical situations, building confidence and skills that can last a lifetime
Of course, we are still teaching a number of clinics, mostly based on ranches, including near our home base of Pendleton, OR. Whether trail riding or working cows, colt starting or problem solving, our focus is always on the best horsemanship to develop trust-based partnerships and riders that understand their horses.
I’ve heard you say many times you are a student of the horse. How does having that mindset change the way you work with each horse?
Every horse is different, so every horse needs to be handled differently and a person (if open and listening) can learn something from every horse they work with. Good horsemanship is a way of BEING around a horse that FITS the horse. We are not really “teaching” them very much. They are helping us to learn to communicate better and help us be better humans. This mindset means we work to adjust to fit the horse, rather than assuming that it’s up to them to always fit our deal.
Your mission statement emphasizes the ability to apply skills in a practical way. Is that something you saw was lacking in other horse training?
Yes, it is oftentimes. I don’t think true horsemanship can be squeezed into a method or step by step, “one size fits all” cookie-cutter approach. Many folks end up plateauing with a certain technique or level of understanding and the instructors fail to connect the dots for them to continue to advance. I think it’s best for there to be meaning for the horse – I’m not a fan of automated horses that have had too much repetition – and meaning often comes best through purpose. As a working cowboy, practicality and versatility are key!
You often share scripture and faith. Have you found God to open doors for you for honoring Him in such a way? (I believe others need to feel encouraged to do so as well.)
I believe God has blessed us as we’ve worked diligently and tried to honor Him in everything we do. We are called to be a light on the hill and it opens doors for us to minister to folks in an authentic way.
Can you share an example of what success looks like to you?
My family and I working together in the purpose that God has given us – developing people in the adventure of practical horsemanship, and thereby their character and relationships. And roping…any time there’s roping…
Who do you have to thank for who and what you are today?
God first and foremost – He has really blessed us, as we put Him first. My wife, Natalie, is amazing – we make a fantastic team and I couldn’t do it without her. My father-in-law has been instrumental in challenging and encouraging us to do new things. For where I am at today with horses, I would thank the thousands of different horses I have worked with – each one had something different to teach me. I’ve also learned so much directly or indirectly from many great horsemen, especially Ray Hunt, Martin Black, Jeff Sanders and Richard Caldwell.
What is your lifelong goal, personal or otherwise?
I enjoy learning and don’t ever want to stop. I study horses and horsemanship constantly. In the last few years, I’ve also dived into regenerative land/grazing management and soil ecology.
If you could give only one piece of horsemanship advice, what would it be?
Good horsemanship has variables in application because different approaches can stem from the same principles. The best horsemanship goes beyond effectiveness, to that approach which fits the horse. One of the most important thing horse owners should know is that it’s not about method, it’s about principle. And they should never stop learning!
The most important lesson horses have taught you?
To slow down and take more time and try to understand. So, patience and empathy, I would say.
A huge thank you to Ben and his wife Natalie for this interview and pictures.
If you’d like to follow along with True West Horsemanship, use the following links.