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Equine Experts Interviews - Linda Tatum

In order to grow, one must learn. In order to learn, one must study. That’s what my “Equine Experts Interview” installments will help you with – gaining knowledge from an expert. The dictionary defines the word ‘expert’ as : “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” 

This week we will be learning from natural barefoot trimmer, Linda Tatum. Not only is she an expert in her field of horses, but she also serves as trail blazer for the performance and rehabilitation industry.  I have been able to work with this sweet lady on a professional level for the past few years, I can say WITH OUT a doubt she is one of the most knowledgeable and hardest working horsewomen I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. I’ve also written an extensive post about how her facility helped my barrel horse here. Please enjoy 10 fast facts from Miss Linda!

Equine Expert: Linda Tatum from Bar L Equine Conditioning Center 

1.) If you could paraphrase what you do for your career with horses what would it sound like? Provide fitness conditioning  & rehabilitation for all types of performance horses.

2.) What were three important accomplishments that allowed you to develop into your current profession with horses?

College degree in Agriculture (Animal Science Emphasis), Nursing degree and several decades of medical experience, and natural Horsemanship knowledge.

3.) What have horses taught you most about people, and what have people taught you most about horses?

People who complain that they have horse trouble really have  just the opposite in most cases.I have learned how to read & interact with people much more effectively from what I have learned from horses. If people were more like horses most of the problems that exist in our world could be dealt with much more effectively.

Thanks to Linda Parelli for defining  and outlining  “Horseanality”.  It’s the horse behaviors that those of us with  horse experience are likely very aware of, but never had an outline or algorithm to follow in dealing with.  It is also provides a template to help others just starting out with horses get a language for observing & interpreting horse behavior.  The origional legends such as Tom & Bill Dorrance, &  Ray Hunt, & now Pat Parelli, Monte Roberts, Clinton Anderson, Craig Cameron (& other outstanding Natural Horsemanship Clinicians) all know these behaviors, but were not as effective as Linda Parelli in categorizing them. Knowing basic Horseanalities & how best to deal with them has really helped me to be more effective in my business.

4.) Name one thing that you think would be valuable for every horse owner to know. How to read horsenality.

5.) What aspects/parts of the equine industry do you think should be more integrated, and which areas already do a good job of it?

Although most of my holistic ideas and actions were birthed from my working with horses and horse people, I wish the Veterinary Medical Association’s could better recognize the advantages of a holistic approach to horse care by practitioners other than DVM’s.  I think their trumping of practitioners such as equine dentists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists does not promote the best of horse care possible in our country.  I do agree to the need for standards of practice & proper training & licensing for ancillary practitioners but do not think it is necessary to be a DVM to provide all equine services to the public.  Just as nurses, physical therapists, and dietitians assist doctors in their work and are all recognized as licensed medical professionals, so too should equine dentists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and equine acupuncturists be recognized as professionals in their respective fields as well.

Equine Events Centers, performance show organizers, & Breed Associations  should all work together to ban the use of performance-enhancing illicit drugs in horses. This would help level the playing field in competition. Although the racehorse industry is becoming quite consistent at testing for illegal substances across the board, many other venues in which performance horses operate really have no standard & don’t perform any testing whatsoever on a regular basis.  Many horses suffer injury or irreparable emotional or physical damage as a result of illicit drug use which often causes  horses to  be pushed past their capability.

Most all breed associations are now starting to get  “on board” with rules and regulations for registration in their respective associations.  They verify pedigrees based on DNA. They are also getting much better at keeping statistics within their breed and at specialty performance events. For example, barrel racing statistics are becoming a major source of desirable pedigree & performance bloodline information on performers in different breeds such as AQHA, APHA, & Thoroughbred registries. These statistics are also being kept for reining horses, cutting horses, etc. and are helping integrate performance horses regardless of their breed.

Equine  Associations are also are becoming better at policing their shows & penalizing those displaying obvious abusive treatment of horses at their events. With the advance of Natural Horsemanship, the world really is starting to become a better place for horses & humans, yet there is still much room for improvement.

6.) Share a goal or aspiration you would like to see the horse industry meet or one that you have for yourself.  More universal understanding & Advancement of Natural Horsemanship.  It’s still misunderstood & put down by the majority of horse “trainers” who obviously have no real understanding of what it really is.

7.) Please tell us one thing that you do that is “natural” for your equine partner. I strive to understand my horses “horsenality” & to always be a good leader for him or her. I’m also constantly listening and learning ways to better improve equine health and performance. Natural modalities such as vibration therapy and detoxification are subjects I find fascinating. 8.) Share one of the funniest or most memorable moments you have had surrounding horse’s/horse-people. I have hosted several natural horsemanship clinic’s at my facility in the past 2-3 years. It is always fun to watch participants–especially first time participants–get transformed into being more Savvy with their horses over the course of a clinic. However, It has also brought out some of the worst in people until they realize that their actions or lack thereof are causing the problems with their horses.  I think some of them have to go home and “lick their lips & chew awhile” after the clinic before they realize what they’ve really been through. 9.) Please list 5 fun facts about yourself related or unrelated to horses.

I think I was “wired” to work with horses from the day I was born.Horses are like potato chips to me. No way can I have just one!I think I’d like to travel if I could ever figure out a way to get away from my barn!I’m pretty crazy about other critters too. I have six dogs and now even a cat.I study biblical prophecy. I have been to Israel twice!

10.)*What does ‘natural horsemanship’ mean to you?* Putting the Golden Rule Into Practice.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This translates into understanding and treating your horse like a partner instead of a prisoner. It is not the same as anthropomorphism.



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Linda Tatum Bio and Website: I have a lifelong history with horses. I was fortunate to be born on a working beef cattle ranch. We always had horses.  While cattle was and still is the main focus of my family’s business, horses were the love of my life. My grandparents were very interested in horses also. Before I came along, my grandparents used to raise re-mount horses for military use. Unfortunately, I never got to see this part of the business as by the time I was born horses were only kept  for ranch use.  However, we kept a herd of 15 to 20 AQHA broodmares and always had a string of good ranch-raised geldings for the cowboys to ride. My grandfather taught me quite alot about horses mainly from a confirmation and pedigree approach. However, I did not receive much instruction in proper handling of horses at a young age. I was left to my own devices, especially since I was a girl. After years of trial and error, much of it error, I was hungry to increase my knowledge of how to properly handle and get along with horses.  I was just clueless as to how to accomplish that. Most of the horse handling approaches I was familiar with involved force and intimidation. These techniques did eventually work it seemed, but it was very hard on both human and animal and never generated a  bond of trust between the human and horse.

After completing two bachelors degrees in college, one in agriculture (animal science emphasis), and the other in nursing I was still nurturing a love of horses and desiring more information on  how to properly interact with them. In the late 1980’s  I heard of a man who had special skills with horses and was able to treat them like a partner instead of a prisoner.  His name was Ray Hunt.  It was reported that this guy could take an untouched un-broke two-year-old and in the span of 2 to 3 days be riding him calmly & willingly around in the pasture without using brute force & restraint.  Unbelievable!!!  He even came to the ranch next door, the 6666 ranch, and showed their cowboys a very different technique of  colt-starting.  Although I was not able to participate in the 6666 ranch colt starting I did learn that this Mr. Ray Hunt was going to do a colt-starting clinic for the public in Odessa Texas at a later date.  I worked several shifts of overtime at the hospital to afford tuition for the colt-start clinic and I was there front row and center with my un-broke two-year-old !  What I learned over that weekend has remained with me since. I too was riding my two year old around in a calm manner at the end of that weekend clinic. Of course, it was just a start and I still lacked much knowledge, but it launched my foundation in natural horsemanship. I have been on a quest to increase this foundation of learning and improve my skills with horses ever since.

During my High School & College years I began to compete in rodeos. I started out at local play days when I was in middle school and then progressed to amateur rodeos. I mainly competed in barrel racing. However, when I entered college at Tarleton State University I learned to tie goats and breakaway rope as these were the women’s events in college rodeo competition. When you were rodeoing for your college, you were expected to compete in all the women’s events if possible. Unfortunately, I was not privileged to be around high level adult competitors in those events from a young age and was always playing “catch-up” it seemed. I often used  the “monkey see—monkey do” approach which was only marginally effective in the college venue. I also didn’t have the “win at all cost”  mentality of some of my competitors. My parents sent me to college for an education and to insure a career, not just to be on the rodeo team. Nonetheless, I did experience moderate success in my attempts and  I still enjoy competing in barrel racing and team sorting on occasion to this day.

I worked as  a Registered Nurse predominately in critical care for nearly 30 years. However, I have always had a desire to make my living working with horses in some manner, just no way to accomplish that goal.  Had the Natural Horsemanship apprenticeships that are available today existed when I was young, I would have certainly jumped at the chance to become one!  In 2007 I received some unexpected financial blessing in the form of an inheritance.  That was the year I also remarried. That financial blessing allowed me to construct a home & horse facility on land I owned but was unable to afford to develop. Then, I begin to dream of putting in a horse conditioning and rehabilitation facility on that property as well.  My decades of horse ownership & years of rodeo competition had made me aware that horses, like people, benefit from having proper physical conditioning.  If they have sustained an injury or had surgery horses benefit from rehabilitation just as humans do, not just being locked in a box stall for 6-8 wks to heal up & then hope they might return to use again at some point.  I had experienced this firsthand by having several of my favorite  barrel horses have to retire early due to arthritis in their knees and hocks because I was unable to keep them fit for competition while I was working long shifts. My experience as a nurse coupled with the fact that I also had previously studied animal science  and was familiar with natural horsemanship techniques birthed the desire for me to establish a conditioning & rehabilitation facility for horses in the Texas panhandle. It took several years of prayer, planning, self study, and hard work before Bar L Equine Conditioning Center, LLC opened its doors in September 2011.  The Conditioning Center offers Low Level Laser applications, total body vibration, and houses an Aqua Pacer underwater treadmill for horses.  The Center also houses an indoor free-flow walker for daily exercise in addition to the other modalities offered.  Initially, I felt like the “Maytag Repairman” as customers were few and far between. West Texans are very conservative and “old school” as a general rule.   However, our early successes began to be known and business began to increase.  In fact, we were able to get referrals from several local vets, chiropractors, and farriers. It has been very satisfying for me to see horses we have helped in the Conditioning Center achieve their owners goals in performance or resume competitive careers after injury or surgery. My goal is to remain progressive in our techniques  and strive for never-ending self improvement so we can offer our clients–the horses– and their humans high quality services that help them to be the best they can be both physically & emotionally.

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