Neil was rejected by every major publishing house in the world, after writing a book capturing a life working with horses in rural Australia. Too unusual, they said. Not what people want. The knowledge is unrecognizable, they said. Won’t sell, they said. Sorry.
So with his wife Chris, he pulled his savings together, found a printer and published it himself, throwing himself at Facebook after teaching himself how to use an iPhone.
Four years later, the book FEAR-FREE HORSE TRAINING is selling up to 600 copies a month, he has more than 50,000 followers on Facebook, and thousands read his weekly blog posts. Not bad for a child of the 1950s, who still can’t “do” metres and centimetres and knew nothing of social media.
Neil Davies has become the J.K. Rowling of the horse publishing world, riding a broomstick all the way to the bank. Harry Potter would be impressed. There were many times during the tsunami of rejection that Neil fantasized about what he would do with publishers if ever he had control of a broomstick. But he is not that kind of person. Way too gentle.
He is the kind of person who can ask a horse to do just about anything it is possible for a horse to do, and the horse will do it.
Of course, there are people who say he just might be the most gifted horse trainer in the world today – or ever. Yes, his knowledge IS that unusual. It turns pages for people and causes horses to relax and learn. He doesn’t stand in front of the horse. He stands beside the horse, just kind of nudges him along with the attitude, hey mate, we can do this together.
I have had a ringside seat to Neil’s incredible journey. I was riding a tide of success selling Australian Stock Saddles in America 30 years ago when Neil arrived at my ranch in Malibu. He came wearing thongs, shorts and tee shirt. Said he was a horse trainer. Yeah, I thought. Good on ya mate. I told him I had an unbroken horse and he could do something with it.
Off walked Neil in his thongs, shorts and tee shirt, to the horse. “This will be funny” I thought. At that moment, I heard my name being called. It was “long distance.” I left to take the call.
Fifteen minutes later I returned and there was Neil standing on my horse’s back.
I don’t shock easily. But I was, well, momentarily speechless. Images sprang to mind. Me taking Neil to horse shows and managing his appointments and soon doing product deals with boot and feed companies. A pot of gold loomed before me.
A couple of months later in 1989, I did get him on the calendar for the California State Fair in Sacramento, where people turned up to the Cavalcade of Horses to watch Neil as the four o’clock show.
Neil’s demonstration lacked “wild” bucking horses and the ropes, flags and restraints loved by so many horse people. It lacked showmanship and fancy talk, because, to quote Neil, “you can’t talk and listen at the same time.” He concentrates wholly and solely on the horse.
Best of all, Neil’s presentation lacked the horse being used as a scapegoat – when it comes to teaching horses, Neil blames no-one but himself.
After eighteen days of demonstrating his horse insights, Neil’s show was voted one of the most popular at the Fair.
Fast forward to 2011 when a now retired Neil again visited me in Malibu. On the very last day of his visit, I organized a film crew to document Neil while he worked with one of my horses. The utter simplicity and effectiveness of his training approach amazed me all over again, and I said “Mate, you gotta share this. You should write down everything you know.”
I might as well have suggested he build a rocket ship.
“I’m not a writer,” he said.
“Well, let’s try,” I said. “Everybody is a writer. Only difference is some people write and some do not.”
And that was the beginning of a long relationship between Neil and his laptop and myself as writing coach and mentor.
Amazingly, Neil Davies developed a style that is eloquent and simple, working with words everybody understands. And so his incredible book was born, FEAR-FREE HORSE TRAINING, Every Step of the Way.
Horse owners have shown this IS what they want, an approach to the horse that is based on building confidence and simple methodology, absolute consistency laced with quiet kindness delivered in “horse time,” not people time. His key is removing fear.
Off the back of his book, Neil is developing video streaming, audio podcasts and new ways of marketing his message on the internet. He has become a one-man industry. Make that a two person industry. As they say, behind every successful man is a woman who loves him and knows how he works.
Chris Davies understands her man about as well as he understands horses.
Becoming a wildly successful self-published writer has only one drawback they did not anticipate: the physical labor involved hauling books on a daily basis from their beachfront home in NSW Australia, to the post office, for mailing around the world.
By Colin Dangaard