What makes a good horse trainer? Patience, Timing, Feel, Intuition, Knowledge, Balance, Consistency? The list is pretty endless! It is why any decent horse trainer knows they’re never the finished article, and are always looking to improve and evolve.
I came across this photo that was taken at a Course Day this year. Sometimes what you might regard as a boring, insignificant moment when you are handling or riding your horse, can have a profound impact on the horse’s understanding and behaviour.
Take this picture. All I am asking for is a head and neck flexion to the right. I am maintaining the same pressure on the halter and waiting for that give. As soon as I get it, the timing of the release of the halter pressure has to be impeccable, so that the horse associates their flexion with the cue (check out Course F2: Preparing to Ride for the Suppling Exercises module!).
It seems such a small moment, but by teaching this horse to flex laterally to a light cue, it gives me access to the hind leg. Skip forward to the ridden work, and this flexion means I can control flight and associated behaviors, such as bolting, rearing and bucking. It also well as develops softness, lightness and self carriage in my horse.
And really, this is what training is all about. Building strong associations between a cue and the desired response from the horse, in order to make your interactions with your horse enjoyable!
There’s no short cuts!
As I have got older, I have definitely become more patient. I have become better at recognising when to finish a session with a horse, rather than going for “one more”. And, I have become more particular about certain areas of ground and ridden training that have to be “spot on” to save hassles later down the track. There are no short cuts!
That’s not to say I’m the finished article! I wish I could spend more time with other horse trainers, but I pick up lessons when I can with some great dressage and event riders. Catching up with top trainers such as Sean Coleman and Ben Atkinson at events like Horsemanship Showcase and Your Horse Live is always really enjoyable, and I always pick up a tip or two from any time spent with friend and Performance Coach, Charlie Unwin.
Meeting every couple of months, I have set up a group of trainers to swap training and business ideas over a couple of beers. If I could ask anyone along to join this group for the day, who would I go for?! A tricky one, but Aiden O’Brien, Michael Jung, Adolfo Cambiaso, Stacey Westfall and Carl Hester would be a great start…Who would be on your list?!