Every once in a while I get people inquiring about me taking in horses to train. And my answer is usually "I don't do it."
Instead, I give one on one training lessons to my clients, where we go over theory and practices, so that they can train their own horses under guidance. Think of it like a riding lesson, but for training instead!
But why? Why do I not take in horses?
And the answer is, it just doesn’t make sense for my training/teaching style.
Because I believe in force-free training, which means I allow the horse as much choice as possible, listen to their opinions, use primarily positive reinforcement, instead of pressure and release, and focus on building a connection rather than just compliance.
And I’m not saying that it’s not possible to train someone elses horse with those factors, but it does make it a lot harder, especially when you take the horses to your own facility.
People do often have expectations, and a time-line when they send their horses off to a trainer. - Which is totally fair, after all, if you pay someone to train your horse you want results. But, when you start prioritizing the horses freedom of choice, willingness, and mental health, the process can be slower than expected or foreseen at times. Especially if the horse has a past history that starts bubbling up once they’re allowed to say “no”. So it requires the flexibility to be able to work on those things as they come up. It also requires patience when the horse says no, reframing the cue, changing what is being asked, and sometimes simply just giving them time to adjust.
When owners are able to be part of the process, and do alot of the work themselves, it’s much easier to understand what their horse is feeling, why they’re behaving a certain way, as well as gain an appreciation for the time and skill it takes to get where you want to go.
I’ve also found it to be much more effective to have the horses owner be the one to work with the horse.
One, the horse and owner already have a connection, they are familiar with each other, they have a trusting foundation, that I as a trainer, would first need to build. (Or, if they’re new to each other, might as well skip the trainer and directly build the relationship with each other)
And two, when you teach a horse something new, you also need to “train” the owner too,
Like in the cues that the horse is taught to understand, as sometimes those cues are different from traditional cues.
And even if you train the owner in the new cues, it doesn’t guarantee that the owner has the ability to maintain the training, or deal with any future situations, that inevitably come up. Especially since most people have certain habits that come from a traditional trainings background or they’re completely new to horses.
If the owner can learn right along with the horse, they learn the theory behind the training and can understand the process of how certain behaviours were taught, which makes them more likely to be successful in the long term.
When the owners learn how to handle and train their own horses, it sets them both up for success, and gives the owner an appreciation for the process, and their horse. And while this is relevant for all types of horsemanship and training methods, it’s even more so when it comes to using more untraditional approaches,
When I first started, I understood this from the get go and thankfully decided to set up my training business, so it works with my approach and my goals, rather than changing my approach, to suit the industry.
I found that most of the horse training business tends to push trainers mainly towards 30-90 day training programs or riding lesson programs.
I do notice this is slowing changing though, more and more trainers and coaches are setting up alternative programs.
My goal is to do my part to introduce kinder and progressive approaches into the horse industry, and to do so, I try to pass on my knowledge to others.
So that’s why I teach people how to train their own horses, and how to understand the theory and science behind it, instead of training the horses for them.