What is horse training?
Horse training is teaching your horse how to behave around you. It is a team effort between that horse and one or more people. If you have a horse, it’s worth making sure your horse knows what you expect from them. The should also know what they can expect from you.
Are you a horse trainer?
If you have a horse, you’re involved in horse training. There is no way around it. Horses learn from experiences and observations. And they are very observant! You may be distracted by the phone, other people or stuff on your mind, not aware of your horse. But every time you are near your horse, they are learning something from you. That makes you a horse trainer.
You might unintentionally teach them that it doesn’t matter to you what they do. They might try leaning on you or disrespecting you by pinning their ears at you. If you’re intentional, you might notice undesirable behavior and start changing it. Your horse will learn that you aren’t going to allow them to get by with disrespecting you or ignoring you.
It’s important to have them respect you since they can cause you harm without much effort. Even a gentle horse can cause human injury since they outweigh a normal human by 4-8 times. While on the ground, something may not seem like a big deal. But on your horse’s back, you might wish they hadn’t learned some of that stuff. They remember all the past “lessons” and you want those lessons to be in the best interest of the both of you.
Do you need to hire a horse trainer?
While you are constantly teaching your horse stuff, even if you’re doing things right, it may not be enough. Training a horse efficiently includes understanding
- how your horse learns
- what your horse already knows
- what your goal is with that horse
- the steps it will take to help your horse be competent
If you’re an experienced horse person, you might not need to hire someone. But if you’re not experienced, a horse trainer can be an extremely valuable part of building your relationship with your horse.
A horse trainer’s perspective
I’ve worked with a lady by the name of Terri Kinney of Star Amazing Grace Performance Horses. She has trained several of my horses and has taught me TONS about my relationships with my horses.
Terri has ridden since she was very young. She eventually got her own horses and decided she really liked training them. She worked with another trainer in the area for several years and then started her own training business. Her business was named after one or her challenging horses, Star Amazing Grace, or Gracie for short.
Terri’s approach to horse training
The goal with every horse is to bring out their best. The level of athleticism varies from horse to horse. Some are very smart while others are not. So she tries to work with what they they have and make it better.
She starts by observing the horse move in the round pen, noting strengths and weaknesses. Then she formulates a specific plan to make the weaknesses stronger and make the strengths better.
The goal is to train a horse to the point that it’s broke. It should understand the signals the rider gives, needs very little hand or leg pressure and be willing to work. If given the time, she can train them to work in the discipline that the owner would like them to.
The horse owner’s part in the plan
Terri asks that the owner stay involved from beginning to end. She encourages them to come watch at first. Then, when it’s time to ride, she has them ride their horse with her. It doesn’t work to train a horse and have the owner unaware of how to get it to perform. That’s why horse and rider working together under her supervision is so important.
The more the owner is involved, the more likely they’ll learn the tools/tips the horse has learned. That way they’ll be able to work with their horse on their own. Once the owner takes their horse home, they should have the knowledge to deal with issues as they come up.
Having a horse trained can be expensive. The horse learns at its own pace and can’t be rushed. It often takes months or years to get them finished in a chosen discipline. That kind of investment can be daunting to many. Instead, Terri hopes to send the horse/human team home to continue the work she has started.
Finding a good horse trainer
If you decide you need a horse trainer, it’s important to find the right one. You should consider things such as
- experience level of the trainer
- feedback from past clients and how their horses have done
- what discipline(s) the potential trainer knows well
- how much hand or leg pressure it takes to get a response
One of the most important aspects is to find a trainer that’s honest with you about your horse’s capabilities. A good trainer will tell you their opinion of what to expect and help you set goals that are reasonable. They also need to be honest with you about your own abilities and how you and your horse match up.
You may or may not like to hear their honest opinion and they may lose a client. But in the end, the right trainer will help you and your horse be the best team you can be.
Click here for more about Terri Kinney and Star Amazing Grace Performance Horses. Or read my posts Training your pets; what is it? or Horse training problems for other ideas about training, intentionally or not.
How do you handle training with your horse?