When Vaughn Knudsen was high school age, a great teacher came into his life that he would always treasure. Vaughn was with his dad and one of his brothers on their horses, sorting the yearling cattle when Jim Dorrance arrived in a pick-up truck along with Vaughn's uncle.
That day Vaughn gained a mentor and life-long friend.
One of Jim's gifts was to see the horse for what it truly was. Jim Dorrance taught Vaughn a fundamentally new way of thinking about horse training. It changed Vaughn's outlook on the future, and it helped him to create new thoughts of his own regarding training horses.
Vaughn also learned something extremely important that is so misunderstood in the horse industry. He learned feel. And he learned that feel can be taught to a person as well as a horse. Jim also taught Vaughn timing. The timing of when to release a stimuli in order to communicate what is being asked for gave Vaughn one of his greatest assets in his horse training program.
A few years later, Vaughn met Jim's brother Tom and developed a life long friendship with him as well. He then worked with and learned from both of the brothers for a number of years.
The teacher’s teacher, Tom Dorrance, told Vaughn that he had learned by observation of the characteristics of the horse itself. Vaughn put in the time and effort to learn from Tom, but the way Tom taught was by helping to set up situations where a rider had to figure things out and find the answer. You see, he taught people in the same way that he taught horses.
At the time Vaughn didn't understand how he could ever learn to get spins, lead changes, sliding stops, and the like by watching horses and understanding their characteristics. Tom Dorrance was not interested in maneuvers like those for a reining competition, because showing horses didn't fit him and his way of life.
Vaughn once asked him if he felt that the show ring was bad for a horse. Tom replied by telling him to use it as a comparison. Was the horse happier and better from the experience?
If yes, then good. If no what can you change to make it a positive experience for the horse.
Throughout his career as a professional horseman Vaughn continued seeking out teachers in the form of other horse trainers. After a lot of years put into riding in clinics, horse shows, and his own personal experiences of training horses, his best teacher has been the horse.
Because of the level of difficulty of his experiences learning from both horses and humans, Vaughn put a great deal of effort into how he teaches people. His explanations are broken down into small steps which are easy to follow and understand. He works to make the things that make sense to the horse easier for the person to understand and put into action.
Vaughn traveled all over the country riding with the best in the horse industry. He paid a lot of money not only to get to where these teachers were located but also for the opportunity to participate as a rider under their instruction. Vaughn never has been one to look over the fence and just try to observe lessons. Instead, he worked very hard to be the one taken out of his comfort zone in clinics and private lessons. He was taught and re-taught training concepts. Then he came to understand that one of the best teachers he could possibly search out was the horse.
In fact after all of those great horsemen and women still could not give him the answers he was seeking, Vaughn went back to the horse. He knew that his work with the flag and the rope in the round pen always worked. So he began to apply those same principles to his riding, translating each concept from the ground to riding the horse. By doing so, he discovered the connection and way in which all of the horse's maneuvers are related by design when performed correctly.
Vaughn makes it clear to those who ride with him that most of the answers that he was looking for were answered by the horse he was sitting on. The horse was just waiting to be asked.
The Dorrance Brothers
Jim, Tom, Fred and Bill Dorrance