When Abbeville firefighter Cory Bourque is not donning the dark blue Abbeville Fire Department uniform or his protective firefighting gear, he is sporting Wranglers and a cowboy hat.
He is not trying to impress the ladies with tight denim and a spotless stetson; he is trying to impress another group — the 15 horses he keeps in the stables at his 2H Bar Ranch in Abbeville.
Horses have been a part of Bourque’s life since he was a small child, riding and caring for his father’s quarter horse.
“I got hooked on it,” he explains. And he started buying and selling more horses. “I just enjoyed it so much I started training the horses we had.”
More than 20 years later, Bourque is looking to make training horses a full-time gig. Maybe training horses isn’t an accurate description. This time next year, he hopes to be training horse trainers about what he calls the “new way” of training horses.
“I used to train the old way,” Bourque remembers. “The old way was pull to turn, kick to go. It was about whipping them and jerking on them and just being mean to them. It is not about that anymore.”
Bourque refers to the new way as “natural horsemanship.”
Watching Bourque ride a horse, it is simple to see the differences. There is no loud calls, spurring, yanking, nothing like the cowboys of famous westerns. Actually, Bourque’s movements on the saddle are barely perceptible, while his horse, Peppy’s Little Wrangler, trots forward, backward and side-to-side.
Bourque, a native of Youngsville, was a follower of the old way until about five years ago when he discovered the teachings of Dennis Reis, a horse trainer from Penngrove, Calif., who was teaching natural horsemanship, a call back to horse whispering.
“In 2005 I bought Dennis’s program,” Bourque says, petting Filly after a demonstration at Delcambre Elementary. “Watching Dennis in person and on his DVDs, I knew this was a great system.”
It wasn’t long after applying Reis’ system that Bouque noticed changes in Peppy’s Little Wrangler, which is a horse that Bouque literally had to chase down and rope when he bought her.
So enthused by the results of the new system, Bourque soon became somewhat of a disciple of Reis, becoming certified in the system and attending many of Reis instructional tour stops. Bourque spent countless hours applying the Reis system to his horses. The practice paid off, and Bourque earned seven of 16 endorsements at the first of Reis’ tour stops he attended.
Followers of Reis earn endorsements by performing specific tasks in front of Reis. One endorsement might be made up of eight of so components. Bourque currently has 12 endorsements, and will be signing a contract with Reis in January to travel around the country instructing trainers with Reis.
“We are promoting the system and pushing,” Bourque says. “We will be putting on school teaching people how to handle their horses.”
Through the schools, he will be showing riders that often times, the horse is not the issue. The rider is.
“You hear it all the time: ‘I was riding my horse and he bucked me off,’” he says. “Well, you have to ask what made the horse buck. If you would have prepared the horse a little better, it might have not bucked. We are trying to educated people a little better.”
The goal of the system is to create a “soft” horse, Bourque says. Soft is a horse term meaning a horse is controllable.
“It is a position to be able to move every component of your horse, his head, his shoulders, his hind limbs,” he explains. “If you can move all these parts, he is going to trust you, and he is not going to have this mental issue about having a big old scary thing on my back, and I’m going to buck him off.”
Creating soft horses is something Bourque has been doing at his own ranch for several years now and doesn’t plan on giving that up once he starts touring the country. At the 2H Bar Ranch he specializes in colt starting, halter breaking, buggy starting, and generally fixing problem horses. He also offers clinics to anyone wanting to become a better horseman.
“Once they leave my place, they are either trail-ride horses, or they go to a cutting horse trainer, or they are thoroughbreds and they go to the track,” he says.
Hollywood will be getting a taste of Bourque’s abilities soon also. He is currently playing a part in the movie “Secretariat,” which is filming in the area, as a horse trainer. A part he said did take much practice.
He has also been tapped by Tractor Supply Company, the largest retail farm and ranch store in the country, to do demonstrations of his abilities at grand openings across the United States.
And remember, Bourque does all this while still maintaining his position as a full-time firefighter for the Abbeville Fire Department, a position he feel he might have to regretfully give up as horse training becomes a bigger part of his life. But he is in no hurry. Patience is a virtue of a horse trainer.
“Training horses has taught me patience,” he says. “It really helped me as a father too. It rocketed my horsemanship skills, but it helped me out at home too.”