The other day on Facebook, we had put up a post about training. Printed on a picture, we put the inscribed word ‘Good horses are developed over years, not trained in months.’ We were really surprised at the interest in the post, with over 2,100 people sharing it to their Facebook page, reaching over 160,000 Facebook subscribers (as of the submission time of this article). So given the enthusiastic reception for my message, it really got me thinking about this statement and people’s belief and support in this message.
When horse owners send their horse to me for training, it is usually for either 30 or 60 days as that is within their budget. There are many specific issues I can make progress on in this time. But I will not likely be sending home a perfectly trained horse! In fact, since it can take a year to develop the muscular support in the horses back and loin for a proper topline, 60 days won’t even be close. For a horse to have a well developed and collected canter or lope, they must have a well developed topline. Proper training over the year’s time will develop this topline which is necessary for collected gaits.
Training a horse is like going on a diet. It takes consistent work and diligence with a willingness to change tactics when desired results aren’t achieved. Consistently and correctly training a horse will give eventual results. But as the horse develops, the rider must also develop. About 20 years ago I knew a guy who bought a very expensive world champion western pleasure horse for his daughter to show. About two weeks after purchasing the horse, off they went to a horse show. The expensive show horse bucked the little girl off in the show ring. The reason for this…the horse had a high level of training but the little girl did not. The girl sent so many mixed messages to the horse, that in it’s confusion and frustration it bucked her off. What needed to happen was investing in the girl’s skills, so she could learn to ride the horse. After this experience, they did just that and they went on to do quite well together.
I don’t care what discipline you ride, training is essential for horse and rider partnership and safety. For example, while a trail horse may not need the amount of concentrated training that a top level dressage horse needs, all horses can improve their performance in their ‘job’ or discipline with the proper training. Given the dangerous situations trail horses can encounter, the training of both horse and rider is critical. I get frustrated when people say, “Oh, he’s just a trail horse.” In my mind, trail horses must be well trained (and desensitized) and the rider must be skilled in order to form a good partnership that will keep them both safe on the trail.
In order to achieve that high performing partnership between horse and rider, it takes time, patience and consistency. Find the knowledge through an instructor or mentor who can explain the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of good horsemanship methods. Be willing to improve your skills as you seek to improve the skills of your horse. Remember, if your horse is having a problem, you are part of the problem and part of the solution.
The recipe for horse and rider success = correct training for the horse to build mental and physical skills + good instruction for the rider to build horsemanship skills + the time necessary to achieve a partnership. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Correct practice makes perfect.
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Terry Myers is a national clinician and champion horse trainer with a depth of knowledge developed from over 45 years in the horse industry. Myers has been a popular clinician at multiple expos in the U.S. and Canada. To learn more about Myers’ Ride-In-Sync methods as well as clinic and training services available, visit Myers at www.tmtrainingcenter.com or on Facebook.