KATIA BENEDETTI CHATS TO KZN’S VERY OWN HORSE WHISPERER – A MAN WITH A PASSION FOR CHANGING PEOPLE AND HORSES’ LIVES
Pictures Catherine Grace Smith
Wayne Bushnell’s deep love for horses is imprinted in his DNA. Born into a family of horse enthusiasts, Wayne was put on to a horse by his parents and aunts even before he could walk, steering him into a lifetime dedicated to riding, learning and understanding these naturally gentle creatures.
At the age of 12, Wayne started playing polocrosse in his native Zimbabwe and his growing passion for the sport led him to play and later coach in a number of countries around the world. Whilst living in New Zealand for 17 years, he was also selected for the New Zealand Polocrosse squad to represent the country at the 2011 Polocrosse World Cup. Unfortunately though, an untimely injury prevented him from participating at the event.
An engineer by profession, Wayne’s career, together with his love for horses, have taken him to 29 different countries – including England, Ireland, Australia, and of course South Africa. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself in 1994, when Wayne spent one year riding on horseback in the Salta North region of Argentina. Here he immersed himself in the traditional Gaucho horse culture of the country, gaining invaluable experience and understanding in horses’ behaviour and how they should be treated. He has also spent time with world-renowned horse whisperer, Monty Roberts, and horsemen in the Australian Outback, honing his skills and deepening his knowledge. Later this year he will be travelling to California, USA, where another internationally esteemed horseman, Warwick Schiller, is based.
After returning to Shongweni for what was meant to be a brief visit during the 2015 Polocrosse World Cup, Wayne decided to settle here and start his own horsemanship business. Over the past four years Wayne Bushnell Horsemanship has grown from just one to countless happy clients across the province, with new requests for coaching coming in daily.
“The starting point in horsemanship is looking for a connection with the horse and establishing trust,” explains Wayne. “Horses are naturally gentle creatures but they can become easily stressed. That’s why I spend a great deal of time getting the horses into a state of relaxation before training them.”
This natural, fear-free method of horsemanship has meant that Wayne has been able to successfully help horse owners and riders with their discipline and behavioural challenges, turning even aggressive horses into gentle ones. He also offers a range of products such as bitless bridles and rope training halters that have been developed around natural horsemanship.
Wayne holds regular training clinics across the length and breadth of the province, going as far inland as Underberg. Training is one-on-one, allowing him to address the specific needs of each rider and horse. “There is no one-size-fits-all. Training horses is also largely to do with training people,” he says. “You can train horses with voice commands and clicks, but 90% of our communication with horses is about our body language.”
Wayne also offers training for grooms, trail riding, confidence building and leads Berg trail rides into Lesotho. This year he will be conducting clinics in the UK as well as in Spain, spreading his passion for natural horsemanship even further afield. He has also been a volunteer at the Horse Care Unit in Cato Ridge for the past three years, where horses are rehabilitated and homed.
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