Each year I get invited by Dan Rhodeback down at Ohio State University to be a guest teacher for his equine science class for breaking and training young horses. Dan takes college students who may or may not have a lot of horse training experience and teaches them how to break a colt over a period of two semesters. He does this without an indoor facility, as The Ohio State University no longer has a indoor facility since it was devastated by a storm three years ago. To his credit, he gets the job done every year while keeping the kids safe.
I go into the class room without a lesson plan (no surprise for those of you who know me). I’ve been riding and training horses for so long, I can talk about it in my sleep. I start talking to these kids about my philosophies and human versus horse instincts. I get skepticism from some of the students, some don’t believe me and some are so green they don’t have a set opinion. We get to talking about different problems each is having with their young horses. With each student and their stated horse issue, I was able to point out how they had created the issue. Most of the kids could not understand the role they played in their horse’s problem. Their mentality was to make a horse learn instead of let the horse learn.
Ten years ago most horse trainers’ businesses were comprised of training young horses. With the huge changes in the horse industry and the economy since them, most of my training is retraining and problem solving for the mature horse. A key part of this is to train the owner on how to maintain the training I put on their horse. The reason I am making this point…if a horse is trained properly and with expertise when it is started, we don’t have to be retrained at a later time. Back to my OSU students…I asked the students to go get a horse for me to illustrate what I had been saying. With that horse I was able to explain basic training techniques, demonstrating with the horse as we progressed. We talked about instinct, body position and about controlling the horse’s feet. The more I talked, the more I realized that training the horse is more about training the human. Horses catch on quite quickly, if they don’t have a lot of screwed up baggage that some other person has created. It is not about teaching a training technique as much as teaching a mentality of understanding the horse/human interaction. Horsemanship is as much about understanding our instincts as it is understanding the horse’s instincts. To my way of thinking, horses are much easier to teach than people!
The more I talked and demonstrated, the better the horse became and the more the students began to understand not only how the training works but also why it works. Several of the students told me they wanted to become horse trainers after they graduated from OSU. So here was my response to that. Unless your family is very wealthy and is willing to not only pay your expensive OSU tuition bill but is also willing to pay the investment it would take for the barn, truck, trailer and training equipment plus build the clientele you will need to start a training business, you need to plan on being poor for a very long time! My advice was to go work for very successful trainers (while making below minimum wage) to learn and develop experience. Or better yet, find a good job in a different field and do horses for fun and personal satisfaction.
Horse training is something that I have done for the past 45 years. There is no pension or paid vacation, no fringe benefit nor a 401K, no employer paid health insurance to fix the broken bones that result from a horse disagreement. I can’t call in sick when I am too sore to ride as a result of a horse slamming me into a wall. I work seven days a week, 12 hours or more per day. Somehow, God willing, I am able to pay the bills and keep doing what I love to do. It is not a job; it is a way of life and one from which I will never retire. I love what I do and I do what I love, but I cannot say that I could recommend my profession to the young college students in that OSU class room. While I love to teach the hows and whys of horsemanship and riding skills, I am not sure I could teach those young eager kids how to become a horse trainer in a few short semesters. Dan Rhodeback, my hat is off to you!
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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.