Ryan Rose tames wild mustangs and teaches others to do the same
Ryan Rose has trained 1,000 horses in his lifetime. His three-week mustang-taming course draws students from all over the world.
Ryan Rose got his first horse, a quarter horse named Flick, when he was 12 years old and living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They had the makings of a beautiful friendship. Rose had been obsessed with horses since his first pony ride at a local fair. He loved everything about them.
Flick, however, didn’t get the memo.
“She was actually a very challenging horse,” Rose says. “I was getting bucked off her. I was scared to ride her. This thing that I loved to do, and now I was afraid to do it.”
What was he doing wrong? Or what wasn’t he doing? Rose found a book, Pat Parelli’s “Natural Horse-Man-Ship,” and shows on a cable channel — RFD-TV — that provided counsel.
There was a lot to learn, but he quickly made progress.
“Horses communicate with their body posture and body language,” he says. “Once you learn to read that, you can pretty much know what a horse is going to do before they do it.”
With Flick, Rose applied his new knowledge and made a breakthrough. “It inspired me to go on this journey of learning as much as I could about horses.”
The journey eventually took Rose, 34, to one of the top teaching facilities in the country, and led to his opening Rose Horsemanship Center in 2017 in Brooklyn, just south of Oregon.
Rose trains horses at his center. He does clinics and workshops at the nearby Horse First Farm. He’s trained more than 1,000 horses in his life — problem animals are his specialty — and among Rose’s bigger events is an extraordinary three-week mustang-taming course in which 10 students help tame 10 Bureau of Land Management wild mustangs.
This past summer was the third year of the course, and through Rose’s YouTube channel and other social media, all 10 mustangs were adopted into new homes by the end of the class.
One viewer of the 2020 mustang course video wrote, “Thank you for helping these horses adapt into the human world with dignity.”
Madison horse owner Steve Klaven was a student at last summer’s mustang class. He has also participated in Rose’s three-day clinic and last October spent five days at Rose’s camp at a massive ranch in Truscott, Texas owned by one of Rose’s friends.
“Ryan is an extremely gifted instructor,” Klaven says. “He understands horse psychology, customizes his lessons for each student and when teaching, breaks his knowledge down into digestible parts.”
When Rose was a teen in the UP, his equine immersion — shows and trail rides and 4-H fairs — led others to seek him out. “By the time I was 15,” he says, “people were asking me to train their horses.” He was always learning.
“I had a desire to be better and learned early not to blame the horse for not knowing what it was doing,” Rose says. “It was up to me to figure out how to present it to them better.”
By 19, he had his own business in the UP training horses. Rose learned that training a horse did not necessarily finish the job.
“You hand the horse back to the owner and sometimes the owner would have trouble reproducing the results,” he says. Teaching owners led to clinics and Rose discovered just how much he enjoyed the teaching.
“I decided to invest in myself,” he says, and he enrolled in one of the top teaching programs in the country, Parelli’s Natural Horsemanship, run by the man whose book Rose had discovered as a boy.
Rose spent four years at Parelli’s facilities in Colorado and Florida. Early on, he started helping teach the classes. It was at a Parelli facility that Carlos Osorio observed Rose and inquired if he might be interested in relocating to the Midwest — Osorio owns Horse First Farm in Brooklyn, Wisconsin.
“When do you want me?” Rose said.
The move paid multiple dividends, including Rose’s introduction to his wife, Emily, a physical therapist and dressage rider — a precise and elegant equine form — who boarded her horse at Horse First Farm. They opened the Rose Horsemanship Center together in 2017.
The three-week mustang-taming course has drawn students from all over the world.
“There’s a need,” Rose says, noting that the Bureau of Land Management has thousands of wild mustangs in holding facilities.
“They need to be adopted,” Rose says. “I’m known for being good with difficult horses. Mustangs are difficult at first because they’re so afraid of people. But I can’t train them all myself. I thought if I could teach people to train them, then who knows how many mustangs they could help? It’s been a huge success.”
Rose is leery of any idea that he has a “horse whispering” gift or talent.
“I’m gun-shy about that,” he says. “I put a ton of work into this over the years, starting at 15.”
Doug Moe is a Madison writer and a former editor of Madison Magazine. Read his blog, “Doug Moe’s Madison,” on madisonmagazine.com.
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