He doesn’t consider himself a horse whisperer, but Ron Burfoot has always had a way with horses.
The Horse Lake farrier was recently recognized by the International Horse Agility Club for his world-class horse agility training when he was named the 2021 Walk Only League & Liberty Cup World Champion.
Horse agility requires a horse trainer to successfully lead their horse through a series of obstacles – either by leading the horse or having it follow based on commands.
“I like just playing with my horses and I’ve been doing that forever. I’ve had horses all my life so it just progressed from training my own to taking in a few for other people,” Burfoot, 66, said. “I’ve been doing agility since 2013. It just fit in with all the things I was doing with my horses”
Burfoot discovered horse agility through his friend Marilyn Niemiec. The two are members of the International Horse Agility Club, which is based out of England and has 2,000 members across the world. The club evaluates members’ skills based on monthly submitted videos, using patterns provided by the club.
Niemiec said she found the club online and thought it would be a good way to build confidence in her own horses. Burfoot decided to join her, and the two now provide camera duties for each other.
“I feel pretty proud of him. (Ron)’s accomplished a lot and he definitely communicates with that horse and the horse sticks to him and listens,” Niemiec said.
Burfoot initially bought his mare Misty Morning Dreamer 12 years ago for his daughter to ride. After one of his other horses was injured, however, he started working more closely with the then-four-year-old unbroken mare and decided to use her instead.
“She’s a gem to work with. She’s very good and exactly what you’re looking for in this kind of competition,” he said.
As an older horse, “Dreamer,” the stage name Burfoot has given her, participates in the walk-only version of the competition. He employs the Parelli Natural Horsemanship system – a quiet method of training that takes each horse as an individual and encourages the trainer to understand their steed.
Burfoot said staying calm and building a relationship based on body language is key for a horse to succeed on the agility course.
“The walk only is meant for older or gimpy people and horses. Dreamer injured herself about four years ago, so we don’t get rated by speed but by our technical skills,” Burfoot said. “I don’t feel like keeping up to a cantering horse anymore so it suits me well.”
Being named world champions is rewarding, Burfoot said, noting it takes a lot of training and effort to get to that level. When he’s not doing agility training, Burfoot spends his time working as a farrier, a profession he’s held for the past 43 years.
“(Working with horses) is just a passion and a drive that’s always been there. It seems like that’s where I gravitate to, working with the horses.”
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