Do You Need to Put Your Horse Into Training?

(Key questions every owner should ask themselves)

horses at grass

Finding yourself with a horse and no ties to a professional is a difficult undertaking at best and often leads to anxiety that many equestrians are unprepared to deal with. It's gut wrenching to find oneself immersed into the grey area of wanting to do what's best for your horse but not knowing when or who to turn to. Hopefully the following suggestions can shed some light upon a task that without careful planning can produce what has the potential of becoming your worst nightmare.

You must start by asking yourself what are your goals with your horse, how much time do you have available for your horse and how much you are willing or able to spend to secure someone with the experience you desire keeping in mind as with everything in this life, you get what you pay for.

Your goals for your horse often depend on its breed and your experience. Although most breeds can be accomplished in many disciplines some horses (as with people) are better equipped for one style of riding over another and matching the horse to the task is very beneficial. (For example, Quarter horses for Western Pleasure or Warmbloods for Dressage) Next you must evaluate what you know about your chosen style of riding and whether it will conflict for what your horse is equipped to handle. Training a horse to go in a way you're uncomfortable or unfamiliar with will do you or your horse little good.

Make a realistic assessment of your time and willingness to be involved. While there are those who want the luxury of having their own horse to ride without doing any of the work in regards to their horse's care there are many who want to be integrated into their horse's daily regiment. Be advised you may have to go to great lengths to find a trainer willing to incorporate the owner into the training process but they do exist. You just have to be undaunted in searching out such an individual.

Look carefully at your budget, keeping in mind some horses must stay in training an entire lifetime depending on what they will be expected to do, what their mentality is and what the owner's experience is. Even if you simply want a quiet mount to go on the occasional trail ride, some horses must see or experience something often or at least on a consistent basis to be relaxed and comfortable with what is being asked of him or where they may be asked to travel. Horses like people have a comfort zone and you need to be realistic about your abilities to see them through their challenges or whether it's best to have a professional deal with it.

How do I find the right trainer? Here's where networking comes in handy. Talk to everyone you know, trust, admire, respect, (starting to get the idea?). Ask someone whose horse is going in a way that you would appreciate. Don't know anyone? (You really are new to this aren't you?) Go to the local tack shop or feed store. Find where groups that ride your discipline gather be it a horse show, gymkhana, clinic or some other gathering. Talk, talk, talk, ask, ask and then ask some more, any and every question that comes to mind. Don't worry, people won't be annoyed. Horse people love to talk horse, give opinions and offer suggestions. Trust me, lend some horseman your ear sincerely and you'll have problems shutting them up. There's just one thing to keep in mind… let the ads you may come across be the last way you go about finding a trainer. There are exceptions but in my decades of experience a really good, kind, and effective trainer seldom has to advertise. If you walk into someone's operation in response to an ad believe me when I tell you to keep your eyes and ears very wide open. Look for flags; don't take anyone's word for anything. Be present as often as possible and if something doesn't make sense, call that trainer on it. I've had a simple philosophy that helps me weed out those that I consider undesirable; "if what's being done with your horse doesn't make sense to you it probably isn't making sense to the horse either".

Remember to keep your horse's best interest in mind. Think positive, expect the best, practice the "golden rule" and use the imagery of your horse at the end of the process being exactly what you desire and let that energy put you into a place that attracts not only the best trainer for your horse but for you as well. A good journey takes plenty of time. Enjoy the search and use the experience to learn more about yourself and your horse!