Charlie Hill being presented Ray’s Saddle by Carolyn Hunt
During the weekend of February 27th and 28th a group of invited horsemen and students of Ray Hunt gathered in Ft. Worth, Texas for a memorial clinic to honor and pay homage to one of the horse industry’s greatest legends. Among this select group of participants was Queen Creek resident and horseman Charlie Hill. These talented individuals were chosen because of their dedication to the horse, and to pay respect to the relationships they had with Ray and his legacy. Each participant provided the audience and a panel of peers an opportunity to evaluate/critique their performance and the accomplishments gained in relationship to the needs of the horse rather than a competitive or predefined agenda. In this manner, each was able to present their view of the ideals Ray had instilled upon them. In the end, the audience was asked to vote for the person who best exemplified the teachings and methods Ray had encouraged them all to learn. When the tally was completed, Charlie Hill was voted as having given the top presentation. In recognition Charlie received one of Ray’s personal Dale Harwood saddles. In thanks for their “try” as Ray would have stated; all 21 who came to memorialize Ray were awarded with a personal piece of his tack in recognition for their skill.
For Charlie, training, showing performance horses, and providing farrier services has been his lifestyle for over 50 years. He has worked with some of the top breeders and trainers including Howard Pitzer. This was what Charlie understood to be the “meaning” of horses until he met Ray Hunt in 1982. For those who knew Ray it was simple, Ray was always about the horse. Charlie became fascinated in this greater “purpose” Ray was trying to instill in those who would listen. Ray often referred to it as being about life, taking responsibility, and working on ourselves more than the horse, so we could have more to offer the horse. By understanding the way horses think and react, a greater harmony between the human and equine could be achieved in ways many of the other training disciplines could never expect. For the past 28 years this has been the journey Charlie has taken as he puts it; “studying his lessons”. It is the understanding of your horses movements and thoughts, and how one influences the other. It is recognizing your responsibility to the horse in all situations, and it is the ability to arrange these thoughts and movements to obtain a willing partner.
Charlie went to Ft. Worth that weekend slightly apprehensive in his ability to give his best “try”. A recent accident had left him with a couple of broken ribs. In addition, a knee replacement a year ago still leaves him with a slight limp. However, Carolyn Hunt made it clear to all the participants that this was not to be a competition, but an occasion to remember Ray. During a presentation, if an incident arose where assistance was required, that was okay. To this end, Charlie says this made his presentation better because he was able to focus on the lesson at hand.
Indeed the honor to be called one of Ray’s friends and to be among this talented group of horseman was quite a humbling experience for Charlie. As he worked his colt, Charlie says he felt Ray telling him to take responsibility and present himself to the horse, so the horse could accept what he was wanting from him. The encouragement from Carolyn, the moderators Bob Tallman, Sharon Camarillo, Pat Parelli, and the audience were an unexpected emotional boost for Charlie. He says the kind words of gratitude from total strangers in the crowd left him overwhelmed. I don’t know if I was just feeling a deeper loss that Ray was really gone, or a closer connection to Ray, or a pride that I had succeeded in doing what I had so desperately wanted to come to do “memorialize Ray.” I suppose it was a little of all of that, but I think it was a lot about the horse. If we take the responsibility and give the horse credit, and then adjust to fit the situation the way Ray showed us; it becomes so easy for the horse even though it may be difficult for us. Charlie also believes much of the emotion he felt was sympathy for all of those that didn’t get to know Ray well enough to understand this.
Charlie says he never expected to be the recipient of Ray’s saddle, and hopes and prays that he can hold up his end of the bargain, and continue to honor Ray and the horse.