Part 1 (of 6): The Ugly Truth Behind Modern Horse Training
ast year I took on a new student named Carol (not her real name), who told me a story that I want to share with you.
Carol had been riding for several years at the time, but she was struggling to feel connected with her horse. So she began working with trainers.
Still not seeing the results she wanted, she eventually decided to shell out the thousands of dollars to attend a big-name clinician’s weekend clinic.
She was so excited. She was finally going to get to work with the master, and hoped she would finally achieve the bond she had been seeking with her horse.
Now, I’m not going to mention any names, but this was a world-famous clinician whose methodology is based on taking a tough stance with your horse.
He insists that the only way to deal with a difficult horse is to be the “alpha.” To force your horse to respect you.
Well, about halfway through the weekend, this famous clinician wanted Carol to perform a maneuver she wasn’t comfortable with.
Carol voiced her objections, but the clinician waved them off dismissively. He told her to just “man up,” stop being a “fairy,” and force her horse to do what she wanted.
There were about ten other horse owners watching this exchange, and Carol felt embarrassed. Everyone else seemed fine with the exercise, but she knew it wasn’t a good idea for her and her horse…
But she didn’t want to have wasted her money. She didn’t want to embarrass herself in front of this famous clinician or the other students. So, against her better judgement, despite knowing she wasn’t ready… Carol gave in and did what he told her to.
She ended up getting thrown. She broke her wrist badly, and had to leave the clinic early.
See, Carol knew in her gut that what this clinician was asking her to do was a bad idea. But she fell prey to the same bully-techniques that so many horse owners do…
And it cost her dearly — in medical bills, in pain, and in a loss of confidence.
Now, to be fair, I wasn’t there that day with Carol, so I can’t speak to the word-for-word accuracy of this story… But I can tell you that the effect it had on Carol was very real.
She was shaken by this experience, and,even years later when she came to me for help, she was still clearly suffering from the hit to her confidence.
The thing is, this is not a unique story. I believe what Carol told me because I’ve heard similar stories from countless others who’ve trained with even the top-dog, world-famous trainers.
I’ve heard of broken arms, broken backs, public humiliation, and fear-based training tactics that put both horse AND rider in a dangerous position.
All this evidence seemed to be screaming at me: “There HAS to be a better way.”
So, I began digging. And as is so often the case, the truth came out when I started to follow the money.
If you take a look at the typical cycle of horse ownership, it often looks something like this…
You buy a horse. You’re excited and passionate about them at the start. You look forward to the fun times you’ll have together and the relationship you’ll build. And, because it’s best practice, you send that horse off to a trainer who will “put some work in” and send the horse back to you.
Then, maybe you have a few good days — or even a few good weeks — but eventually, problem behaviors start to pop up. Maybe you get hurt. So, you send them back to the trainer (or maybe even a different trainer) to put the fear of God back in them and fix the problem behavior.
But the cycle repeats.
A few good rides, then the same old problems resurface. Eventually, you or your trainer might decide that it’s just a problem with your horse. They’re just too dangerous… Or, they need more training…
The sad truth is that many people go through this cycle 4-5 times before one of two things happens:
Either they sell their horse, or they put the horse out to pasture. In both cases, the bond you might have had with your horse is never achieved.
And sadly, the cycle often repeats itself all over again with a new horse. When that inevitably ends the same way, many give up on riding altogether.
This is NOT the outcome any one of us want.
But, if sending your horse off to a trainer isn’t the answer… then what are horse owners to do with problem horses?
Well, after years of investigating this problem and seeking a REAL solution (not just a solution that puts thousands in the pockets of big-name trainers)… I discovered a truth that the training world doesn’t want you to know:
In order to have a safe, bonded, and enjoyable relationship with your horse…
YOU have to train your horse yourself.
No one can build YOUR relationship with YOUR horse for you — not me, not your trainer, not even the young kid down the roads that bounces really good.
And… NO! You are not too old to do this!
In the next section I’m going to tell you the story of Susan, who nearly had to give up riding altogether after some bad accidents… That is, until she discovered the incredible truth that I just shared with you.