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Horsin' Around

Trainer Roach ‘whispers’
while he works with horses

His philosophy is growing in popularity

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (July 2010) – Charlie Roach has spent a lot of time around horses – so much so, that when he is near horses, his own animal instinct kicks in. He uses this instinct to bond with the animals to form a relationship and communicate with them.
Roach follows the philosophy of training horses by appealing to their instincts and herd mentality, enabling him to “communicate with horses on a higher level,” he said. This technique is known as Natural Horsemanship and, “once you know what to do, it becomes very simple.”

Charlie Roach

Photo courtsey of Traci Missun

Charlie Roach uses a natural
horsemanship philosophy
when training horses.

Natural Horsemanship has become a popular training method in the past two decades, and those who practice this philosophy are sometimes referred to as “horse whisperers.” The first known “horse whisperer” was Irishman Daniel Sullivan, who died in 1810 and earned a reputation for training vicious horses.
“By spending a lifetime around horses, you develop what works for you,” said Roach, 58. Natural Horsemanship is “a very old art.”
When Roach employs Natural Horsemanship techniques, his purpose is to make horses calmer, braver and smarter, he said. The ideology is similar to “making the right thing easy and the wrong thing uncomfortable.”
Roach gave a Natural Horsemanship demonstration at Town & Country Day, held in May at the Oldham County Fairgrounds. “I thought it was a good way to expose our horse leaders to different ways of achieving results,” said Kelly Woods, Oldham County Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development. Her goal was that “someone in the crowd learns something new.”
Woods said, “His whole methodology of training horses is very effective. Natural Horsemanship teaches individuals how to communicate with a horse so that it does not feel threatened and wants to do things for you. It’s a neat approach to working with horses.”
Even though his love for horses is evident, Roach didn’t start out as a horse trainer. He majored in law enforcement with a minor in political science. Because his father was a captain with the state police force, his family moved around quite often while he was growing up.
He moved briefly to Henry County, Ky., in 1976, and then lived in Oldham County from 1978 to 1990. He eventually moved back to Henry County with his wife of 30 years, Karen.
Self-employed under the name of Roach Stables, Roach has trained and shod Tennessee walking horses and other breeds. He has spent a small amount of time working for other horse trainers but works primarily for himself.
“I enjoy helping people and sharing ideas,” said Roach. “I had no mentor to take me under their wing when I was young,” he said of his reason for holding many clinics and demonstrations on Natural Horsemanship.
Although most are held locally, Roach has held an annual clinic in Castalia, Ohio, for the past 16 years.
To teach the Natural Horsemanship philosophy, “you’ve got to learn communication skills,” he said. He has spent a lot of time with horses, learning the technique before passing it on to others. “I watch today, do tomorrow and teach the third day.”
Roach has had no formal education in shoeing but learned on his own and by watching others. He said he lives by a motto he picked up from comedian George Burns: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Get your good better and your better best.”
After years of being what he termed “horse crazy,” Roach enjoys giving back to the community when he can by teaching horses to be calmer, braver and smarter. Through the Natural Horsemanship technique he employs attitude, knowledge, tools, technique, time and imagination to communicate with horses and train them in a way they can better relate to.
“To God I give all the glory,” Roach said of his talents. He is a natural teacher who has a way with horses.

• For more information on Charlie Roach’s clinics and services, contact him at (502) 845-7677.

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