You know you have found the right trainer, not when they tell you everything you want to hear, but when they tell you the truth.
This has become a new favorite quote of mine. I can see where it would be so applicable in many
areas of life.
A parent of a student with a high level of special education needs, knows they have found the right teacher when the teacher explains the special education services the student needs to make true success, rather than tell the parent that the student is ready to be placed in mainstream classes to socialize with peers.
An athlete knows they have found the right coach when the coach informs them of endurance and strengthening exercises they need to do at home to reach their goals, rather than telling them to get plenty of rest between practice sessions.
In all areas of life, when we trust someone else to teach us, or guide us in the right direction towards reaching our goals, it would be most favorable for that person to direct us to sit back, relax, take the easy route, and simply let our goals happen. However, we all know how obviously unrealistic this is. We have been taught by others, and seen in our own experiences, that success comes when you put the work in to start at the start (your baseline), address the problems (identify your weaknesses) and work up to your goals (step by step, as long as it takes). So why do so many horse owners seem to think that these same rules do not apply to our horses?
I recently had someone contact me about working with her horse. To paraphrase the description she gave me, she said her horse had great groundwork, could stand to be saddled, could turn, and could stop. She continued on, stating the problem was that her horse was acting spooky and getting moody under saddle. The moodiness was characterized by pinning her ears.
She went on to explain that she needed her horse safe to trail ride, thought that some consistent riding would accomplish that, and she simply didn’t have the time to do it herself. I could have easily appealed to her interest, and increased the odds of her choosing me to train her horse by telling her what she wanted to hear. I could have agreed to put some rides on her horse in a 30 day training package and probably would have made some minimal and temporary progress with her horse, enough to have satisfied her with her choice in trainer for the time being. However, by following this plan, 6 months from now the band aid on her horse’s problems would have ripped off and she would be back at the search for a quick fix trainer. If I were lucky, she would have come back to me and we would repeat the same quick fix, and gotten ourselves started in this vicious cycle that would have ended up profitable for me, a waste for her, and really unfair to the horse.
That is not how I operate. I genuinely try to appeal to the best interest of the horse. Starting where the horse is and progressing as the horse is ready. I am not in it to make money off of people resending their horses to me over and over time and again. I am not in it to apply a quick fix or push the horse outside of its comfort zone to produce quick results that won’t last. I will always be honest with an owner, and will never sacrifice the truth, to tell an owner what they want to hear, or to sell a training package. I treated this case no differently.
I explained to her a typical scenario when I have seen moodiness in horses in the past. It’s quite possible that her horse may have become a little lazy. Regardless the cause, it was important to me to get this horse responsive again. I explained how I would work through groundwork to get respect and responsiveness back and that groundwork was much more in depth that lunging, grooming, and picking up feet. I also gave a quick explanation of desensitization and the necessity of balancing out the responsiveness with desensitizing to create a calm and willing horse that will develop trust in the handler and learn how to keep a level head while riding. With trail riding being this horse’s purpose, I also talked about wanting to address destination addiction to ensure there was no barn/trailer/buddy sourness. All of this was the truth. These are truly things that need to be addressed with all horses and are often overlooked as people rush through things selfishly focusing on getting their horses to do the things they want, when they want, rather than taking time to address a horse’s training adequately.
I ended our conversation as I do all of my initial training contacts, offering to meet her and her horse to really assess where we were starting and get an accurate idea of what needed to be done. Unfortunately, it did not come as a big surprise to me that this owner has not gotten back with me. I am assuming she has chosen a different trainer who appealed to her interests by offering to put rides on her horse, without taking the time to meet the horse and assess a starting point. This is usually how it goes. People want the results they want in the way they feel will be easiest.
In trying to appeal to public interest, this sadly used to be how I operated. With the first horse I had in for training, outside of my own, I rushed through exercises to try and get to where the owner wanted her horse to be in the 4 weeks I had her. I made some progress, and the owner was pleased with the progress, but ultimately, I do not believe the progress will be as lasting as I would like. And that is when I made the decision to stay honest and upfront in addressing the horse’s needs with all horses that I consider training, even when it costs me a client. Those who are searching for a quality trainer, will know they’ve found it, when they hear me tell them the truth.
I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who has taken my knowledge in Applied Behavior Analysis, and the methodology of expert horse trainers, to create an Equine training program that is anything but average. Working with my own horses has led me to discover my passion for not just training horses, but practicing quality horsemanship. For the best interest of the horses, I hope to spread this interest in quality horsemanship.