There are a plethora of different equine trainers in the world, and they all appear to have one thing in common to me; they see the horse as a tool. Horses are a tool to help people win ribbons; they are a tool to help with self-esteem; they are a tool to help veterans with PTSD. Horses are used as a way to get something else.
Most trainers need to get through a certain number of lessons each day in order to pay the rent. They are under stress to make their mortgage payment. They have bills to pay. This means that they may use a horse in a lesson who has been acting out, because that horse hasn’t been worked that day, and consequently the horse and the rider have to suffer through an hour of misery. The trainer has a valid need, but again; the horse is the tool, and his needs are not being met.
Obviously, the problem with this is that it ignores the needs of the 1,000 pound, sentient being who also happens to be a prey animal. In training the horse, the first thing a person needs to do is put him or herself second. Instead of determining what a person wants, we need to FIRST determine what the horse wants.
I work with a lot of different horses at Hanaeleh- some of them have been abused and neglected; some just had the poor luck of being owned by people who could no longer care for them. Some are lame, some are sound. What they all have in common, however, is that they have their own personalities. They all have their own unique needs. One of the differences that our horses experience at Hanaeleh is that there is no set agenda, and the horses’ needs are put before anything else.
This does not mean that I do not train the horses for riding or other disciplines, and it doesn’t mean that there will sometimes be strongly worded conversations between me and the horses. What it does mean, however, is that I have to always put the needs of the horses before my own personal agenda. This means that I will not try to train a horse to ride in 30 days because no horse is going to be safe and comfortable with only 30 days of training, no matter what any trainer says. This means that I do not allow horses into circulation into our EAC program who are going through mental or emotional trauma. This means that I have to constantly listen to the horses so I can determine if they are unhappy with their current training regiment and need to change something, even though that may be inconvenient for my personal schedule.
In my blog, I go into more detail about my personal philosophies in training, as well as some “tips” that may help people who are working through issues with their own horses. Our horses are our friends, our compatriats, and our partners, and we need to be cognizant of that relationship, and build upon that foundation- to do that, we have to accept their own voice in the conversation.
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