A BIT OF BACKGROUND – “I will be a safety to him. I will be his heaven.”
“Well, I was born to be this way,” Nakoa says. “My dad exposed me to these things. He didn’t teach me about horses, but he created an environment where I just wanted to learn for myself.”
“I had three kupuna,” Nakoa said, referring to the Hawaiian tradition of learning from elders. “First was Henry Keamalu, born in 1886. Then Joe Kahananui. Then John Pe’a. None of them ever had anything to do with horses, but I use what they taught me every day of my life.”
“For example, you have to be able to ride your horse before you ever see him,” says Nakoa. “Once I walk into that circle out there, I already know what’s going to happen.”
The ability to visualize is the key in traditional Polynesian culture. Nainoa Thompson, Hawaii’s premier celestial navigator, tells a story about how he learned to navigate from an elder.
“He asked me, Nainoa, can you see Tahiti?” Thompson says, “I said, ‘Yes. In my mind I can.’ Even though we were thousands of miles away, my teacher said, ‘good, because if you ever lose that vision, you will become lost at sea.”
In 1970 Harry went to California and worked for the Peachtree outfit. There he started 75-100 head of horse a year on this 40,000 acre ranch, while running the breeding program of 100 broodmares. It was here that Harry studied and learned about the snaffle bit.
After a few years in Colorado and Texas he moved back to Hawaii to run the family ranch. During the late 80’s Harry had a chance to twice compete in the NCHA Cutting Futurity in Fort Worth Texas. He now conducts horse communication seminars in California, Louisiana and Texas. He and his daughter Kau’wela went to Germany in 1994 and won the title of International World Cup Cutting Champions. Kau’wela Nakoa is the official wrangler at the Dahana Ranch. She has competed in the National High School Rodeos, U.S.T.R.C. Ropings, Team Pennings and Jackpot Cuttings.
Harry’s main objective was to learn more from his father while taking over the family ranch and understanding more of the Hawaiian culture. (Ha’ola)
It was through Ha’ola that Harry understood that communicating with horses was a way of life; about your own being and respect of space. The horse will then have respect for you and follow as you project an idea. Today, very few people are aware of Ha’ola and applying this technique to horses. Harry is the only person we are aware of in Hawaii to utilize this method of horse training.
What Harry does comes from three generations of Hawaiian cowboys (Paniolo) who were heavily influenced from the immigrants with equestrian backgrounds from Spain and Portugal. These immigrants came to Hawaii to be sugar plantation workers. The first vaqueros arrived in Hawaii in 1825 and are responsible for teaching the Hawaiians the art of cowboyism. Harry counts among his many mentors, his father; William Pa’akaula Kalawaianui, Bill Dorrance, Ray Hackworth and his Ha’ola* Kupuna.
Nakoa’s philosophy of “training” rather than “breaking” horses make him in demand by horse owners the country over.
There are those who declare Harry Nakoa as one of the most naturally talented horsemen around. Phone calls from mainland professionals who ride their winning ways into hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, posing puzzled questions to Harry might possibly give you an idea. Questions from the pros like, “Harry, have you ever had a horse do this? SO WHAT DO I DO?” are common questions directed at him.
Much has been written about Daniel Harry Nakoa. Some will label him as the “Hawaiian Horse Whisperer.” He is not so fond of that term. After listening to him explain what he does, who he is, what he believes… I find that there is so much behind his way of being that a few words can’t really describe the whole picture. After some silence and thought about what those few words might be, we are only left with the words, “Horse Communicator.” Pretty weak, but it does a simple job of explaining.
Listed below are some bits and pieces of articles by others and quotes by him that may give a better understanding of what he does. Enjoy…
Putting Horses in the Closet – As written by Holly Foster for the Quarter Horse News Culture. It permeates everything Harry Nakoa does. He is by nature and spirit a Hawaiian. He is by heritage and heart a horseman…read more
“People come to me and they want to learn about horses,” Nakoa said. “but they end up learning about themselves, and that helps them with the horses.”
Nakoa is a friend of (the late) Bill Dorrance’s and credits he and Tom Dorrance with the success of the whole modern training phenomenom. He rode horses on the mainland for 15 years before returning to Hawaii to learn from his father. He is also a friend of Punk Carter, past NCHA President, and helped Punk change his methods in starting and training cutting horses. Nakoa spends time with his friends at Babcock Ranch in Gainesville,Texas.
“I get into the horses head. I teach the horse to extend his willingness to learn.” This is the kind of communication he calls “projection.” “I think angry projects angry. The horse understands. Think gentle. The horse understands.” Is this a form of telepathy? He laughed. “That’s tricky. It’s sort of, but not quite. A horse is not smart enough to read my thoughts, but he’s smart enough to read my movements. He learns my tendencies. I give him cues.”
“Harry makes the horse relaxed and feel good before getting on,” Bud said. Bud is from Texas, an old time cowboy from his ten gallon hat to his boots. “What the horse learns first they’ll stick with the rest of their lives. That’s why it’s important to train them early like this.”
“Once a horse and I understand one another, I don’t have to say much. I’ll project my commands with a look, a slight gesture and often just an attitude, and they know what to do.”
What Harry basically provides are techniques to teach absolute respect between horse and rider, and total submission and attention by the horse to the rider.
“We should not be the “boss’,” he insists, “but we can be a respected partner.”
*Ha’ola was practiced in Polynesia prior to the 6th century and has gone underground since then. Only bits and pieces are known today, while the outer perimeters of this cultural practice are known as “hooponopono.”