Of Horse

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What Every Trainer is Tired of Hearing
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What Every Trainer is Tired of Hearing

Trainers, this one is for you. To our clients, please know that this is all in the spirit of good jest! (Seriously though, we hope you pick up on the underlying truth.)

Ten things every trainer is tired of hearing: 

1.) "He's never done that before!"

This one's a crowd favorite! The first time the horse misbehaves, you know, from something minor like stopping for a bite of grass while to rearing up and striking, the owner is quick to assure that this is something she has never seen her horse do before. Ever.

Whenever a client tells me this, I know from years of experience and loads of studying equine behavior and psychology, it means one of three things: Either, they're lying, they've never asked the horse to do what I asked it to do, or they're lying.

2.) "He never does that with me."

Oh really? So your horse is a perfectly behaved gentleman for you, but suddenly decides to grow a set of horns and transform into the devil himself whilst in my presence? Interesting.

3.) "He knows how to do that."

Clearly he does NOT or he wouldn't be running around in circles instead of backing up like I asked. Forty-five minutes ago.

4.) "He means well."

I hope so, because if he chases me out of the roundpen again, I'm going to have my doubts.

5.) "He just loves people."

I appreciate the positivity here, but all trainers know this is code for: He has no regard for any human's personal space whatsoever.

6.) "He just started doing that the other day."

I believe this about as much as I do the first.

7.) "I've tried that and it didn't work."

This one is probably the most frustrating because it puts us in a situation where we have to tell the person they obviously didn't do it right. And that always sucks.

8.) "Can I give him a treat?"

No. Just no.

9.) "I think he may have had a bad experience one time."

Yeah, maybe. In a past life. Or maybe he's just throwing a temper tantrum right now because he's a spoiled brat. Which leads us to number ten...

10.) "I may have spoiled him some."



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  1. Of Horse Support
    Of Horse Support
    Thanks for sharing. We needed this bit of humor in our lives today!
  2. Funchy
    Your clients arent all liars. There are explanations for what they are seeing. Horses don't generalize nearly as well as people. So if you teach a horse to do something (let's say line himself up with mounting block himself) he may be good at it at your outdoor wooden tall block. But the behavior will need to be refreshed when your client goes home and tries it with a short block in the indoor. The horse is getting cues from the environment of what's expected of him, and when environment changes he truly can act differently. If clients struggle to get same results at home, they're not lying. Part of your job is to teach them what cues/commands you taught the animal. You're teaching them as well as the horse. It doesn't make sense to tell clients not to "spoil" a horse. You teach horses behaviors. "Spoiled" isn't a behavior. And what behaviors you think it means may be different than what I think a "spoiled" is. Same goes for vague words such as respectful. Why no treats? That's like me telling you not to train with a stick/stick. Food as a reward is a tool. A whip is a tool. Your swinging rope is a tool. You may not know how to use food as a tool, but there's no reason why your clients can't use positive reinforcement training. (Did you know dangerous marine and zoo animals are all taught with positive reinforcement? And that serious tasks such as seeing eye dog is pos reinforcement, too?)
    1. horsetails
      Thanks for the feedback! I know that not all clients are liars, this was mostly for comedic value. Most of the points were focused towards major unwanted behaviors that have obviously been practiced before. A good trainer can tell if a horse has absolutely no idea how to do something or if the horse understands and is just having trouble because a factor has varied such as environment. Again, I'm talking about those obvious times. The jab about treats was not intended to discredit the use of +R. What I was referring to is owners who shovel their horses treats all the time for doing nothing. I've seen people do great things with horses using +R and other animals as well. Predatory animals such as dogs and killer whales tend to respond even better than prey animals to +R. However, if you study horses in their most natural state, you will see that they only use -R with each other, so that is a powerful tool as well. They don't go around giving treats to each other to establish dominance. Again, thanks for all your feedback. Sorry you didn't enjoy it nearly as much as everyone else.
  3. Ravenscliff
    I have a great trainer now, but in the past I have had trainers that will take a horse for 30 days and at the end of that time they say "oh the horse is doing pretty good, but really needs another 30 days" I say fine, but a few days later I drive the 200 miles to check up and see how he is doing and you find out the trainer has barley done anything with the horse, I have to wonder who the lier is. I once sent a horse off, the trainer had her for 60 days, he dropped her off, told me she was good to go, that evening I took her to the round pen, worked her s but, got on and she planted in the ground, after giving the best bucking horse clinic you'd like to see. The "trainer" said "huh, she never did that with me" Now I know most trainers are good people and this doesn't happen often,, at least I hope. I don't think most clients lie about their horse. Most people don't understand the mentality of a horse, they treat them like big dogs and create the problem that trainers get to fix. Most people, even if they by videos, watch shows and read blogs, still have no idea about the precise timing that is involved to get the results that we'd all like to see., it takes 100s of horse worked to get that timing. I think most trainers would prefer to start with a blank canvas, then one that they have to strip first. I know you said your article was in jest, but then you can't turn around and say in all seriousness., and let's face it, if people brought you the perfect horse, they would need a trainer in the first place. So, perhaps trainers shouldn't complain to their clients, and then the clients would feel like they have to make excuses. I wish everyone could have the trainer I have, she is the best and constantly working to improve.
    1. horsetails
      I'm sorry you weren't able to relate to this blog and didn't enjoy it. That's too bad that you've had some negative experiences with trainers, but I'm glad to hear you've found a good one. Most trainers don't complain to their clients, that would be unprofessional. People offer these excuses all on their own and most often trainers hear these things at drop off or during the first evaluation session, not after the horse has gone home once his training is complete. You said yourself that people treat their horses like big dogs and as trainers, we can find humor in that while we help people correct the problems, that again you said, they create. Again, I apologize you didn't enjoy this one, I guess it's more humerus and relatable to trainers. Have a good one!
      1. Ravenscliff
        Oh please don't take me wrong, I enjoyed your article, and I can completely understand where you are coming from. Most people that bring you a horse are doing so, because they have no idea what to do with the monster they have created, I get that. I also understand that even if you can fix the horse, your job is only half done, because you probably can't fix the owner and the horse over time will go right back to where it was. My situation is a bit different in that I raise a few horses and send them to be started. I would assume the the person that comes for help only has thatnone or maybe two horses and this maybe the only time you see them. People make excuses, that's what they do, either out of embarrassment or Naïvity, but without them most trainers would be out of work, they should be greatful that someone is willing to spend the money to help their horse and not complain about the excuses. Thank you for listening. Stay Safe out there.
  4. Wyocowboy
    Great blog and pretty funny. Thanks for sharing your experience and humor. While I don't consider myself a trainer, I have worked with horses for 30+ years. I lived in Wyoming for 40+ years and worked as a wrangler and trail guide. People on rides would often ask how long does it take to train a horse. My answer was always, as long as they are alive. Every time you ride, you are training your horse. I have recently moved back to where I was born in PA. I was lucky enough to find a part time job at a boarding barn. At least I am still around horses! ???? I am of the opinion that 80% of the folks that own horse should should never own a horse. It's been culture shock moving from Wyoming back to PA. Thanks again for bringing a smile to my face.
    1. horsetails
      Thanks! I had the privilege to spend almost two years in Wyoming and I miss it everyday. I totally agree, we are always training our horses! Thanks for dropping in!
  5. Carolinaquarter
    Do you have a website or a business fb page? The things you know are so rare to come across. I feel like I'm reading my own words in all your blogs lol. I train and ride for the sherriffs office mounted search and rescue and I manage Start Em Right Ranch in Belton Sc. Check out our website, I think you'd really enjoy some of the reads! Startemright.com Btw, I am not Mike Kinsey (the owner). I am a female lol, not some man trying to be creepy ????
    1. horsetails
      We do! It is Andy Johnson Horsemanship and we have a group called AJH Unlimited on fb. I will check out your website! Nice connecting with similar minded horse people!

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