At every one of my clinics, the first question that I ask my participants when it is their turn is to please introduce themselves, their horse, and what their equine goal is. What I really mean by that is for the participant to tell me their name, their horse’s name, and what their desired goal is for that particular horse. I want them to tell me their hopes, their wants, and their dreams for that horse to make it into the horse that they want it to be. However, what I usually get is the person’s name, the horse’s ENTIRE history from day one of its birth including, but not limited to, age, breed, rescue status, past owners, past injuries, list of sensitivities and vices, etc., and then one small goal for that horse.
Do you guys want to know a secret??? I don’t care about the horse’s past. I don’t care about what the horse does or doesn’t like, what they are afraid of, or how many people that they have hurt during previous training. I don’t care if the horse bucks, bites, kicks, rears, strikes, etc. The horse tells me everything that I need to know as soon as I start working on them. And most importantly, I don’t treat the horse like the horse that they are. Treat a horse like the horse they are, and they will forever be that horse. I treat the horse like the horse that I want it to be! If you automatically start working a horse with the preconceived notion that they are going to do all of these horrible things or that they aren’t going to like it, you are subconsciously affecting that horse already from the very beginning of training and setting them up for failure. You have to set that horse up for success! As a trainer or rider, you must go into each and every training session being calm and confident that you are going to make positive progress with that horse each and every day.
The progress with every horse is going to vary, even though they all speak the same language. I’m not breed racist and by that, I mean I don’t care if your horses is a Paso, Arabian, Quarter Horse, wild Mustang, draft horse, pony, or any other breed. I’m going to take every breed of horse that comes to a clinic or into my training program through the same process. The amount of pressure needed to get the desired results will vary between horses whether they are hot or “sensitive”, cold or “dull”. My goal is to see progress in every session, even if it’s only one percent. Putting that in perspective, at the end of working a horse 100 days, that’s going to give you a 100% better horse than what you had, making the bare minimum progress each day. If you are having training sessions and not making any progress, you are doing something wrong. The more clearly you can present what you’re teaching to the horse, the quicker they are going to understand, learn from it, and then be able to move forward. The difference between three different trainers, one who gets the job done in 1 month, 6 months, or 2 years, is the clarity in which they present the information to that horse for them to understand. None of these systems are wrong, the first trainer has just been able to create crystal clear communication with their horse.
All too often I see that the trainer or rider is the horse’s biggest limit to their success. Society has put the standard that you must do this for 10 days, you must do that for 30 days, etc. This is my biggest problem with today’s society even outside of the horse world. Why should a student who can pass a grade on day #1, spend any ENTIRE year of their life wasted in that grade? I’m not going to limit a horse. If they can pass each of my grade levels, starting in Preschool, then I immediately move to the next level. When I’m working 10 different horses at a clinic, this could mean that one horse may spend a half an hour just learning how to have respect in Kindergarten versus another horse that may pass through all of the grades and be under saddle working on advanced maneuvers after only 10 minutes. If they can pass the test, I’m ready to let them reach their full potential with each and every step of my program towards the rider’s goal and becoming the horse that we want them to be!
Michael Gascon, a 5th generation horse trainer from Poplarville, Mississipi, has spent his life around horses in all sectors of the equine business from breeding and showing world champion Paso Finos to training problem horses of any breed and competing in colt starting competitions. Outside of those experiences, Michael quickly saw a need to become a world-renowned clinician that could not only train and fix problem horses but could also make horsemanship simplified to where even a beginner could communicate clearly with their horse to achieve the desired results. “The Horse Guru” television show, that released its first of 26 episodes this June on Farm & Ranch TV, has allowed the general public to follow Michael on his adventures around the world as he changes the lives of horses and riders. He trains the untrainable, rides the unridable, and does the impossible in order to learn how to create crystal-clear communication and bridge that gap between horse & rider.
Although Michael has been titled the #1 Gaited Horse Trainer in the World due to his success with the Paso Fino breed, his desire to make a difference in the equine industry and to become the best all-around horse trainer in the world has challenged him to advance his skills and specialties to be applied to any breed. “From a pony to a Percheron and anything in between, there’s no problem too big or too small, The Horse Guru can handle them all,” said Michael Gascon. Not only do his horse clients vary by breed and discipline, but his owner clientele varies by country, riding ability, discipline, and ultimate equine goal for their four-legged partners.
With over 300 million views world-wide on his viral social media videos, it’s not out of the ordinary for Michael to wake-up on any given morning and approach his family with another crazy idea. Thirteen months ago, that was exactly the case when he had the vision of creating a 40-foot-long Chinese dragon that would enclose four Paso Finos, gaiting in corto, underneath it. He wanted to bring something to the equine world that was amazing and had NEVER been done! He knew that the Paso Fino breed could make it happen! He has based his performance career around this spectacular breed that wants to be given a job and excel in it. His main mount for all expos prior to the dragon was Tito, one of their prized stallions. Tito also got to play the leading role as the “Dragon Slayer” once the dragon was finished!
What Michael thought would be a quick 10-day custom order from Hong Kong, China actually ended up being eight months of production and one month in United States customs before finally arriving at his ranch, Horse Haven. The wait was well worth it! Upon arrival, the dragon needed over one month’s worth of custom renovations to make it fit perfectly and safely for his team of magnificent horses. That wasn’t the only struggle in the process of making this vision become a reality. One of the most important details was actually finding the horses that we capable of handling this kind of activity and doing a great job at it. Ten horses later…Michael finally found the four trusty steeds that he needed to carry his dream into the arena. These horses were ridden by Michael’s father and sister, Jaime and Brooke Gascon, one of his trainers Luis Benabe, and a family friend Christian Figueroa.
Training the horses was an adventure in itself. How do you train four horses to ride completely blind, under a dragon suit, with a dark house and spotlights? For Michael, his approach was simple. Teach the horses to trust you and trust your judgment about anything. Michael, his trainers, and his family rode the selected dragon horses around the farm in full racing-type blinders giving them only rein, leg, and verbal commands. Through this process the horses had to learn to trust that the riders were not going to allow them to get hurt and that they would keep them safe. After that relationship was established, training then escalated into a tarp dragon that was far less expensive to break if anything went wrong. Once all of the issues were worked out and everyone was prepared physically and mentally, both rider and horse, then they made their first full dress rehearsal run-through in true Michael Gascon fashion…the day before they left for the event!
Originally, this venture was supposed to make its debut at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, NC in September, but he was presented with an even earlier opportunity that he couldn’t turn down. In April he added another discipline trainer to his Gascon Horsemanship program, adding to his growing list over ten different disciplines to learn from. His new trainer, Kelsey Lauberth of the Trixie Chicks Trick Riders, had already booked the 2018 BreyerFest event and asked Michael if he had any interest in being involved. Without any hesitation, Michael agreed even though he only had 30 days to complete the needed renovations and train the horses.
BreyerFest, an equine event that just celebrated its 29thyear, is the largest celebration of Breyer Model horses internationally where over 30,000 spectators gather every year. Breyer Model horses have been in the making since 1950. This company originally started as a plastic parts manufacturer until their #57 horse, which was meant to be part of a mantel clock, was so popular on its own that they transitioned into making model horses. Since then, they have grown to be the industry leader in model horses and are sold and cherished internationally.
During BreyerFest, there are horse expos, clinics, and performances going on all day for three days. In addition to the entertainment side of things, model horse enthusiasts can shop, sell, learn how to show or make custom modifications to Breyer Horses, or even meet the real horses behind the Breyer Horse. They showcase several new models every year. Although Breyer has only had a few Paso Fino model horses made, Michael is in high hopes that Tito will be selected to represent the breed in the near future! Having the ability to entertain crowds at BreyerFest was a huge door-opener for the Paso Fino breed to get seen in the spotlight, literally.
Michael and his team were able to be involved in “The Night of the Horse” celebration during BreyerFest in order to debut the Paso Fino breed in his two equine entertainment acts, “The Mike & Tito Show” and “Puff the Paso Dragon”. “The Mike & Tito Show” is one of Michael’s favorite was to entertain with just himself and his special stallion in the spotlight. They go around the arena gaiting with a beverage, jump roping, chasing a soccer ball, dragging a fellow trainer on a rope, and free running. It was a crowd-pleaser and kept everyone on the edge of their seats waiting for the next big thing to come.
“Puff the Paso Dragon”, other than the costume that immediately catches your attention, told the story about a dangerous giant dragon that devastated the lands and devoured horses by the herd, only to be stopped by Tito the Titan and Michael the Magnificent. Michael and Tito got to play the part as heroes in full samurai suit, also imported from China. This act was selected by production as the finale of the entire event and left the crowd roaring. Michael was very honored by the opportunity to be the final act at such a well-known event. “It’s just crazy to create something that is just in the mind and then see hard work turn it into reality. It’s just amazing!” said Michael.
After the show concluded, Michael and his team re-entered the arena to sign autographs and talk with the spectators about their thoughts on the event. The horses loved the extra attention and the Gascon family loved sharing their passion with others. Once the event was over, the fun didn’t stop. Michael and his family were able to invite the other equine professionals and entertainers to come experience the Paso Fino breed first-hand such as Dan James, from Double Dan Horsemanship, and his wife and some of the riders from the Trixie Chicks Trick Riders, who had never ridden a gaited horse. They spent several hours sharing their horses, showing them how to ride them correctly, and converting them to the gaited experience!
There is no comparison to Michael’s passion for the Paso Fino breed. He hopes that by continuing to put his outstanding horses in front of the general public and horse enthusiasts alike, that he can build an awareness and love for the breed in others. In 2019, Michael plans to keep adding to his specialty acts and take his equine entertainment to the next level. For more information about any of his Gascon Horsemanship programs or for performance booking inquiries, please visit their website at www.gasconhorsemanship.com.