Training Advice

In recent years, I have been approached with requests to help with difficult training issues such as bolting, spooking, rearing, and aggressiveness.  In most cases, the horse owner wants to know how long it will take to change the horse’s behaviour.  Unfortunately for the owner, I can only answer “it depends”.  It does not depend upon the owner’s time frame or agenda.  It does not depend on the owner’s budget.  It does not depend upon the show schedule, the upcoming big trail ride or the weather.

It depends upon the horse.  It depends on how deep the behaviour is ingrained.  It depends on what caused the behaviour in the first place. It depends upon how much the horse is able to forgive and is willing to let go of the old behaviour.  It also depends upon how much responsibility the owner is willing to accept for the behaviour and how willing he or she is to change how he or she is with the horse.  If the owner isn’t willing to change their behaviour and learn a different way of being with their horse, is it really fair to expect the horse to change?

Being with a horse is based on relationship.  What is true for our human to human relationships is also true for our human to horse relationships.  I cannot change anyone else.  I can only change myself.  The amazing thing is that as I change, the people (or horses) around me will notice and be affected by my change. 

There are no quick fixes with horses … or with people for that matter.  Be wary of anyone who guarantees they can “fix” or train your horse in 30 days.  This type of training relies on “one size fits all” thinking.   Be especially wary of trainers who do not want you to be part of the training process.  You need to know how your horse is being trained so that you can continue with the same training program when you take your horse home.  Be extremely wary of any trainers who do not want you to watch them training your horse.  You need to see how your horse is being trained so you can be sure that no violent methods are being employed.  Be wary of trainers who do not or cannot provide satisfactory answers to your questions.  There is always an explanation for what is going on and why a certain method is being used.

It is unfortunate that many people have been lead to believe in the 20 minutes in the round pen to taking the first saddle, bridle and rider; the 30 day “breaking” or starting model; the 3 months under saddle and ready to compete or be the perfect, “bomb proof” trail horse.  Training must never be rushed and must be set at the horse’s pace, not that of the owner or the trainer.

Remember the answer to “how long with it take” is always the same … “it depends”.


You might find this thread about a difficult training situation on the Chris Irwin forum interesting. 

 “I am having a problem with a three year old paint colt, who has spent his life to date handled with Chris’ methodologies. His groundwork is impeccable, he walks trots and canters in beautiful frame and has accepted bridle and now saddle and 6 months of lunging work. The issue comes about when the rider is mounted, and he is asked to go forward. While kept in a bend, he can stand to be mounted, but when enough of the ‘bend’ is let out to allow forward movement, he will snatch his head up, rear and flip over.  Yes, he has had his teeth checked and his chiropractic work done.  This trick seems to be a manipulation as he waits until the rider is in the awkward position of letting out enough slack, makes the request to go forward and the colt knows perfectly well he should step forward.  Rather than taking the step, he just says ‘No’ by a really nasty and dangerous device.  This is not a ‘half rear’ and threat, he means business and has gone over twice now. The rider is not in good position to address the evasion as hands and legs are pretty well occupied in self preservation.

Any ideas on how this could be handled would be much appreciated. We are getting pretty close to the end of the rope with this guy.”

You can read the full thread, including my response, by following this link

Anne Gage – The Confidence Coach
Helping horses & humans be better … together.


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