Thursday, September 1, 2022

Florida Cowboy: An Interview with Bryce Burnett

Bryce Burnett at work @ flcowboy68
Photos by Delane Burnett

Florida Cowboy: An Interview with Bryce Burnett
by Gina McKnight
From the August 2022 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication with permission

“It is an indescribable feeling of appreciation
 for God's creations in nature and
the animals we are stewards of.”
~ Bryce Burnett on being a cowboy
Bryce Burnett lives in the middle of Florida USA. He is a true cowboy – surrounded by cows, horses, and family. He is a gentle soul, training his horses with finesse, making it look easy. But we know it isn’t easy. It’s hard work that takes dedication. I was engaged with Bryce’s Instagram and his beautiful horses. His wife, Delane, takes stunning photos of Bryce at work. I caught up with Bryce and asked him a few questions about what it’s like to be a Florida cowboy.

Welcome, Bryce!

GM: Every cowboy has to have a first horse! When was your first encounter with a horse?
BB: I was around 4 years old. I went to the Ogden Pioneer days rodeo with my grandpa. He would buy me cowboy hats and kind of encouraged it. I think that is what hooked me. My first opportunity to ride was when I was about 11 years old at a local stable where I worked cleaning stalls.

GM: Sounds like your grandpa may have been a bit of a cowboy, too! Describe a day in your life...
BB: My days are pretty packed. They always starts with getting all the animals fed. I try to get my colts ridden before the Florida heat sets in. Sometimes I will try to kill two birds with one stone and take a couple of colts to ride while checking cattle or day working. Most people that know me from social media aren't aware that I made most of my living being a farrier. I still do that a couple days a week.

So between managing a cow calf operation, starting 4-8 colts a month, being a farrier, and raising a wild toddler, I am always on the go.

GM: When breaking a horse, what methods do you use?
BB: Mainly, pressure and release. You can use a horse’s natural reaction to move from stimulus to your advantage. Basically, they think while they are moving. That's the nature of the beast, to move or get away from something they aren't accustomed to. When the horse stops moving to the stimulus, we release pressure. Along those same lines, I believe that controlling the horse’s feet controls the horse’s mind. Everything we do from picking up the horse’s feet to walking, trotting, cantering, moving lateral and lead changes starts with controlling a horse's feet, one step at a time. Even standing still and not moving pertains to this. This is where the horse gets comfort with us and learns to trust us.

GM: Can every horse be broke to ride?
BB: Yes, to a degree. You can get some success if the horse is healthy with no physical issues. I have come across a couple of horses that tolerated being ridden but they didn't enjoy it and they were looking for an excuse to buck. Horses nowadays are bred by us for all kinds of jobs and some are really good at bucking. They can be very athletic and rodeo horses are a great example of that. If I was a horse, I would want to be a bucking horse. You get fed well and work for 8 seconds a few times a year. That would be a great life!

GM: Do you have a good horse story to share?
BB: I've had a lot of good horses come through my program. I have also had a lot of troubled horses come through my program. One horse that comes to my mind is a mustang mare that the owners had tried to start on their own. Unfortunately, the saddle rolled off her back and under her. she ended up going through a fence and kicked the saddle off. A saddle rolling under a horse is probably the worst thing that can happen when starting a colt. 

It took several months of saddling her without having a reaction. Most of it was how I laid the saddle on her back. I did a lot of putting it on and taking it off.

The tension eventually left and she became my favorite horse to ride. She was easy going and kind hearted. She was a horse that I could easily see becoming a kid's horse.

With that being said, I did buy her from the owners and used her quite a bit to help me start a lot of other colts.

GM: What's the best thing about being a cowboy?
BB:  For me it is when you get a horse that is with you. He knows your thoughts and actions. He trusts you and responds to you with hardly any effort. I find that the most enjoyable. It is an indescribable feeling of appreciation for God's creations in nature and the animals we are stewards of. That is true partnership with your horse. I don't consider myself a trainer. I just learned how to help young horses cope with their fears.

GM: What advice do you have for novice riders?
BB:  A saying I live by is "You will learn more by being around100 horses a day in 1 year then 1 horse a day for a 100 years." So find a way to involve yourself with as many horses as you can. 

GM: What advice do you have for those looking to purchase their first horse?
BB:  Take lessons first. Learn the fundamentals of walk, trot and canter. Develop balance and rhythm on a well-trained horse.

Don't be afraid to buy an older horse. They will take care of you and help your confidence.

Above all, don't do it alone. A lesson program is a life saver, literally.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
BB:  Most importantly, being a leader. Being able to adapt your techniques to deal with a horse’s individual situation. You ride your horse with your heart. You develop an internal rhythm and that rhythm needs to change. Sometimes you need to bring a horse out of his or her comfort zone to advance. I always try to end a training session with a calm rhythmic and comfortable horse. Whether we realize it or not, everything we do with our horse is training. As a horseman I try to always be aware of that. A horse is always looking for a leader and we need to be that for them. 

Connect with Bryce
TikTok: flcowboy68


Dorothy Blair said...

That's a great interview with a man that lives by what he says.

Unknown said...

Great article Bryce! Congratulations!!

Humphrey Baldwin said...

I just love his cowboy hats.

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