I was challenged today to determine my “Why?” If you want to make a difference in the world, you must be driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief. Life is too short to have no why… or a fuzzy why. So I began really thinking about my beliefs, and why I am doing what I am doing for horses and their owners. Here’s what I came up with:
When I first began educating myself on how to train horses, the methods I was studying just didn’t feel right to me. It was all about force, and getting your horse to “submit to the pressure” you were applying. The behaviors being displayed by my horses were very clear indicators that they were scared, confused, and reacting to stressful situations without thinking. In my gut, I knew this was wrong and that there had to be a better way. But I felt so lost. I was enrolled in coursework being taught by people who had been in the business with years of experience. I thought of them as experts. I personally e-mailed my instructors expressing my concerns in my horses’ behaviors. I was told to continue what I was doing and that my horses would learn to “submit to the pressure.” This seemed to be the mindset of the majority of people I spoke with when it came to training horses. More correctly, I should say, breaking horses. I believe there is a very big difference between breaking a horse and training a horse. Realizing this led me to the discovery of my “why.”
I believe, when you are breaking a horse, you are using dominance and power to force your horse into a situation where they feel their safest option is to submit to your will. After repeatedly doing this, eventually the horse stops thinking for itself and simply follows orders. On the contrary, when training a horse, you are teaching your horse to be a willing partner. You are recognizing the horse’s ability to think, and allowing them to make decisions for themselves. The art of training is when you have taught the horse to want to do, what your cues are asking them to do. This creates a calm horse, who remains responsive to your subtle cues.
Recently, this past summer, as I introduced my yearling filly to a friend of mine’s 6 year old daughter, the naive 6 year old asked me, “So are you going to break her?” I smiled and corrected her as I said, “I am going to train her.” This is my why. This is why I am doing what I am doing. Because the mindset needs to change. Horses can be trained to become calm, responsive, willing partners, without being forced into submission. I am not only attempting to train horses, but I am also attempting to educate their handlers and owners, to teach them how to create a healthy relationship with their horse that is made up of an equal balance of trust and respect. By following a step by step process, guided by the principles and ideologies of experts in the world of horsemanship, I am training horses. I believe in the process I am using. I have seen great successes with the process. And I want to educate others.
“Training” horses should be the standard across the industry. “Breaking” horses should become a thing of the past.
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.