Lee Sewell’s whole direction for training owners and their horses is to
get a better deal for the horse. Learning has always been important to Sewell,
and has been a lifelong process with regard to horses.
Sewell’s experiences include evaluating and rehabilitating horses from the racetracks. His program consisted of first getting the horses off their “rocket fuel” diet, and turning them out to be “just a horse” for a few weeks. Their training started back at square one with ground training, driving, and then to riding. “To determine if the horse would go better in Dressage or in the Hunter/Jumper arena,” said Sewell, “I’d evaluate each horse, looking for good minds, athleticism, and attitude.”
Sewell has also worked ranches in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Most times he was starting colts and fixing problem horses, inevitably winding up being the resident horse guy. Some of his other duties were to ride horseback 10-12 hours a day breaking ice for the cattle to get water.
Sewell believes ranch work is one of the most demanding calls for a horse. “Besides the physical attributes of stamina and athleticism,” said Sewell, “the horse needs to be patient, good minded, and have a blue collar work ethic. A horse that’s a quitter won’t make it doing ranch work, and a horse that is temperamental can’t take the pressure.”
In 1983 Sewell attended a John Lyons clinic in Steamboat Springs, Colorado with his daughter, Rene. The trip and clinic were a graduation present to Rene, but Sewell was impressed and he’s been training horses ever since. Sewell has also been influenced by the gentle approach to horse training by such greats as Tom and Bill Dorrance, Ray Hunt, and his mentor, Craig Cameron. He also studied Dressage and equine movement from Wolfgang May, formerly of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
Sewell developed “Humane Horsemanship,” which is observing the horse in his interaction with other horses and using that information to deal with the horse on his own terms.
“I think we are all constantly in a learning process from the day we are born,” said Sewell. “How many “horsemen” won’t attend clinics because they don’t want to appear stupid? That old cowboy ego can get in the way of progress.”
It’s no different for the horse. The horse learns from the day he’s born, and Sewell tries to find ways to tie what he wants the horse to learn to the horse’s normal process of living. The learning process is retained and effective when the horse is free to learn without pain and fear.
Learning is a two-way street for Sewell. Not only has he started hundreds of colts, corrected “problem” horses, and retrained horses – Sewell is continuously learning too. He’s had many teachers since he received his first horse, Buttermilk at the age of 4. “Maria, was a big mule who helped me learn to rope,” said Sewell. “My 24-year-old Gay Bar King mare, Pistol introduced me to cutting and team penning. Sonny Boy, is my Colonel Freckles gelding who has won everything in sight in the Western world and went on to compete to second level in Dressage, along with teaching many kids how to ride. Sonny is my closest friend, and if he could speak “human”, I’d be in trouble!”
Sewell’s strong desire to learn and improve crosses over to his love for passing on that information to others. He has a special ability to teach the new or unsure rider, believing it is important to give them a solid foundation because the new people are the lifeblood of the horse industry. The key is to ensuring that the new individuals into the horse world have a good experience, is to make sure they receive solid and safe instruction.
“Everyone will make mistakes,” said Sewell, “and I hope that people can learn by my mistakes and what I’ve learned from those mistakes over the years.”
Clinics and training sessions don’t always run smoothly – the horse doesn’t always cooperate and some horses are more challenging than others. “Recently I worked a 2-year-old Warmblood at trailer loading,” said Sewell. “It was the first horse I ever worked with that I couldn’t get into a trailer. His owner later told me that he went into the trailer for her using my technique…I just flat ran out of time, and it was embarrassing.”
“Another time I was working at a clinic in Belton where I pushed a young horse too hard, trying to meet a human-imposed schedule,” said Sewell “and I got dumped in the process. It’s interesting to note that in both cases I was embarrassed because the horses involved weren’t wearing watches!”
Sewell is ready to present “Humane Horsemanship” any time and any place and is always looking for new public and private venues. He’s always looking to make a better deal for the horses…whether it’s starting one colt at a time to make a good horse, or reaching ten people at a clinic to make their ten horses happy – it’s all about the horses.
Jerry Lee Sewell passed away on March 20, 2012. He was an intelligent, kind man and will be missed by many.
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