"Each horse is an individual with a personality all its own and learned behaviors, problems, or reactions, that are a direct result of its environment."
As a trainer I don’t believe there is anything we learn through apprenticing, clinics, seminars, expos, books, programs, videos, showing, competing or workshops that even compare to the education we receive from the horses and people we work with. Each situation no matter how similar has different components with each horse and rider alike.
I feel very strongly that it is impossible to assembly line horses into any one specific training method that is guaranteed to get you equally desired results on all horses. And, for that reason, I don’t have any fail safe new revolutionary training method to reveal, no gimmicks, training videos to sell, special halters or training devices to help miraculously convert your horse.
What I do offer however is over 20 years of solid, hands on experience and education training horses and riders. An education I believe that is continued daily and never ending. Although, I do like to poke fun at some of the established training methods and/or regimens on occasion, in all honesty, I really do believe you can probably walk away having garnered something positive from pretty much any of the methodologies out there being used by established professionals. It’s not the methods, concepts, or theories I have a problem with per se; it’s the concept that all horses can be molded into the perfect horse via a specific set of rules doled out in a specific order.
That in my mind is assembly lining!
The success or failure of training horses relies solely on communication. As trainers we learn a number of ways to communicate what we want and need from the horses we work with. We all have a basic game plan and approach to specific problems or obtaining specific results, but that doesn’t mean it works for all horses. Often we have to be patient and flexible, and through a process of elimination, discover the best form of communicating what we want and need from a horse. It only makes sense that horses coming from different backgrounds, temperaments and owners and with different problems, experiences and levels of training are going to need training that address who and where they are as individuals.
There are a lot of factors that need to be considered when deciding the appropriate direction to go regarding the training of each individual horse. Taking all of this into account, prior to deciding which approach or course to take in training, will only benefit and assist in gaining a desired and successful end result.
Some factors to consider include, but are not necessarily limited to:
• Pre-training environment(s)
• Amount of human exposure.
• Level of experience and knowledge of owner(s)
• Pre-training treatment received from owner(s)
• Any prior handling or training
• The lack of any handling or prior training
• A possibility of health problems or injury
• A possibility of poorly fitting tack, improper use of tack, or tack that is too severe / mild to accomplish desired results.
• A possibility of prior accidents or traumatic events
• The horse’s disposition (fearful, excitable, aggressive, spoiled, hyper, lacking ambition, short attention span, over intelligence,limited intelligence, hypersensitivity to touch, sound or unfamiliar surroundings, etc. )
After assessing the characteristics, disposition and any contributing factors a horse possesses, I believe good communication skills and the application of basic, legitimate, traditional, training methods work for most horses. However, I have never been opposed to using unconventional training methods; if they are necessary, safe and humane, and accomplish the task.
Equally important to careful assessment and employment of proper training techniques, is:
• Acknowledgment that this is a unique, very intelligent, very powerful animal, with a mind and ideas of it’s own, that should not be feared, but always respected and never taken for granted.
• A sincere love of working with and genuine respect for these amazingly intelligent and majestic animals.
• The ability to communicate kindly and effectively what you don’t want; and to praise and reward the correct and learned responses you ask for and receive.
• The ability to be patient and consistent in the face of confusion or adversity.
• The ability to create an environment where an animal works for you because he wants to and enjoys it; NOT because he has to, is made to, or is broken down mentally and physically.
Lastly, and probably the most important thing I have learned thus far regarding training;
“There is always more to learn! “
And because of this, I have found it personally beneficial to:
• Learn different techniques being utilized, which are safe and working for others, regardless of how unorthodox.
• Accept that training horses is a life long education.
• Continue that education through any legitimate informative resources or training available.
• Consult other trainers when necessary.
• Attend clinics, seminars, and expos when possible.
• Keep an open mind to new training concepts.
I believe that when you have employed all of this; at the end of the day if confronted with an occasional horse that needs something extra, isn’t responding, or can’t seem to grasp the method being used; your not stuck, frustrated, or compartmentalized; and there are plenty of alternative options at hand to get this animal on the right track and successfully achieve the desired end result.
What “IS” the desired end result?
In my mind; it’s a horse that responds to requests, trustingly, confidently and without resistance because he understands what’s expected of him and enjoys the rewards that come from pleasing you.