Thursday, January 6, 2011

A new direction

The past year and a half has been eventful, but I haven't really been clear on how to write about it. Training a young horse from the ground up seems so prosaic. I have a whole lot of opinions, but somehow have thought that I lacked the educational background to express them.

I've changed my mind. In the last year or so two "trainers" have come and gone from my barn. People who get paid to train horses, and supposedly have years of experience. Neither was any older than me, and while they may have had more formal experience, I wasn't impressed with either.

One used mechanical aids to force her horse into a position that superficially appeared to be correct -- but was in reality completely wrong. Mechanical aids such as draw-reins, martingales and tight side reins serve only to teach the horse bad habits. Being forced to hold his head at some angle does nothing to teach them to use their bodies (abdominal, butt and back muscles) correctly.  I suspect that it probably can lead to atrophy of the proper muscles as well.  Not a lot different from me using a corset to hold myself upright, the muscles would quit doing the work.

The other "trainer" was downright abusive. She also used mechanical aids, this time to tie the horses head around to teach him to "give" to the bit. He's not "giving" at all and in fact could be seriously injured if left with his head tied around for very long or if he spooked in such a position. Her horses also all had severe sores on their mouths from her method of teaching them to "give". If you have to sore his mouth to make him listen you need to try something else.

I believed my experience to be far less, and in terms of the number of horses trained, it is. But, I retrained Ketah, who was horribly abused and turned her into a horse that is not only gorgeous under saddle (I once got an offer to buy her for dressage), but regularly gets petted at the barn and told how sweet she is by those who didn't know what a hellion she was! I helped to train her son from birth on, and he's a really great horse too (and a big goofball). Sati has been a whole different experience. But I've worked her from the ground up and I get complimented on her now too.

While I don't think I'll be offering training services any time soon (I rather enjoy my day job) I will quit second-guessing myself from lack of education.  I have a whole shelf of training books and a good stock of common sense that seems to be doing allright.

Once upon a time Ketah really was a hellion.  Plenty of "cowboys"
were scared of her.  Now she's the barn pet.  Of course the other
is so clearly a "crazy Arab".  Quick, someone wake them both up!

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