To train or not to train with a trainer
I can’t tell you how many times I hear the words, “I sent my horse to a qualified trainer for 30 days and my horse is back to his old tricks”. It is disheartening and frustrating for me to hear a client utter those words. So who is to blame? Is it the trainer’s fault; is it the owner’s fault? Or is it the horse’s fault? In my experience, the answer to that question lies in the thought process involved in the training regimen. There is no set time for any horse to decide whether they are going to become an obedient, reliable partner who loves, and cares for their owner and vows to take care them 100% of the time. It is the owner’s responsibility to understand that the training for the horse is an investment and, in some cases, lasts for the lifetime of the horse. If you are an owner who cares about your horse’s well being, then you understand from the beginning that the horse is your partner. They are not a machine, they are not disposable, and they are not mechanical. They have good days and bad days, just like you. They have habits that may, or may not have been molded by how they were raised by both horse and human. The responsibility lies in the fact that you have chosen your mount, and you must do your best to place, train or recondition your partner for the duration of their life. This is the education aspect of where finding a trainer who is qualified to enhance your horse’s behavior is crucial. Money is the concern of most horse owners. I hear many clients tell me, this is their retirement, this is their fun, and this is their friend. They want to be able to enjoy a trail ride with their children, or compete in a horse show as a low level goal. Communication is what they are seeking. A solid mind to carry them through the obstacles they may face. What riders and owners fail to realize is that the education and guidance for your horse is forever. I encourage my students to become a leader, and to keep learning no matter what level, what experience they may have, how old the horse is, how young the horse is, or what the financial situation is. From the trainer’s perspective, here is my opinion. I wish in some cases I could wave my training magic wand and fix everything quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. I feel as a trainer it is my job and my responsibility to assess the horse and rider relationship to the best of my ability and education. I say that with the utmost respect for all trainers. The trainer’s level of education is crucial for those looking for a trainer. I have set up my business so I can take those horses that need the rehabilitation, and I can take the necessary time to do what is necessary to help them. That is what my rehab program is about. It is about reanalyzing, rewiring, reteaching, revamping. It’s about creating a plan and teaching the client to keep the education going. If you are investing the time and money, then you need results. That is the bottom line. We are in an age of quick fixes, we want answers now. We are used to hitting a button, or instantly getting an answer, but with horses that is just not the case. They have feelings, they have obstacles in their mind, and they have reasons that we will never know, about why they choose to trust someone, or they choose not to. I am a detective in some cases and the investigation begins the second I hook a lead rope to the halter. With the age of you tube, dvds, expos, clinic auditing, etc., I feel like we have lost the age of allowing the qualified people who have had vast experience and knowledge with horse behavior and education take over. It seems as though everyone is an expert these days. Owners too. When dealing with animals, people are protective and I don’t blame them one bit. You are essentially sending, in some cases, your “child” to boot camp for 30 days and you should be concerned with their care. A trainer who is looking for the next big marketing technique to better their name or business may not be the trainer for you. Look for those who keep your horse the top priority; Not how many horses are top priority for that month. Again, I say this with respect for all trainers. We are all in this together and most will tell you that they care greatly for the horse’s well being. What saddens me are those who don’t and who I hear the horror stories of those who took the money for 30 days of training only to find their apprentice or their business taking over. It ends up that they don’t put as much time as is necessary on the horses to make them ready for the owner to begin the partnership. I caution owners to take a minute to do the research. Look for a trainer who has positive feedback from others. Watch them work; visit the barn ahead of time. Talk to their other clients. I don’t pretend to be a vet, a farrier, a massage therapist, or chiropractor. I am a trainer as that is my area of expertise. I understand that most owners understand the habits, the behaviors, the tiny little corks that their horse may have as they spend the time with them and are used to those behaviors. The flip side to that is the qualified trainer can step in, teach the horse and owner how to set up a concrete system to piece into place in order to establish a solid ground to begin from. I can’t stress enough the safety involved. I become aggravated at those trainers who whip out a video and try to tell the general public that they can teach their own aggressive horse how to trust them without any prior experience. When the owner tries and becomes injured, then who is to blame? The reality of that scenario is every horse is different. I have worked hundreds of horses over the years, and I am trained to see things before the average eye will. That is what keeps my reaction time in check. I can reprimand when necessary, and see when a horse is fearful, is protective, or is just flat out being disobedient. There is such a difference and that correction needs to be established early on. So with all these points in mind I ask you to think very hard about who you send your horse to, how it is worked, and how much time you are ready to dedicate to your horse. 30 days is no guarantee of your future with your horse to be 100% safe. There is not a trainer out there who can claim that to be true. The good trainers will be honest with you; they will let you know the reality. They will establish a foundation and set up a future plan. A future plan that includes an occasional fine-tuning regimen to keep the horse and rider crisp and fresh. Education to keep the relationship going is necessary. Be ready as an owner to handle the truth, or what you need to do to be ready to establish a solid partnership. To train with a qualified trainer can be one the best experiences and decisions that you ever make for both you and your horse. I have established relationships and saved both horse and rider teams. It is inspirational to hear those that tell me years later, “my horse is so solid, and so reliable. They have a great work ethic, and I owe that to you. Thank you”. Those words and stories are what keep me going, to keep learning and keep encouraging those to look and seek out the professionals who keep their clients in mind. An owner trainer relationship can last a lifetime. There is no better feeling than to have someone whom you trust give you advice when you need it. That is what a trainer can bring to your horse and rider relationship.