Thursday, November 5, 2009

What can and should you really expect from your trainer?

I get a lot of inquiries regarding training, and many of the potential clients want to know how long it will take me to train a horse for them, be it for trail or the horse show ring. This will be a series that will be done in a few parts.

When told that I am not sure how long it will take, then some of these clients look else where for a trainer that will tell them what they want to hear. While I realize that some of them want to budget for training, there are others that want me to be train a horse that is going to win for them in a designated amount of time that they seem to think is realistic.

There are several factors that I take into consideration before I take a horse into the barn.

1) The general conditioning of the horse when they arrive. I always tell a client that I can start to train the horse if he is conditioned properly before he shows up. I do understand that some owners do not have a facility that they can work out of so I always offer them a lower conditioning rate for the first month. Also I have to mention here that what I may consider proper conditioning, may not be what the owner considers to be proper. So before the horse is brought into the barn, I will provide the owner with a conditioning schedule, that is providing they have the facilities to work the horse.

2) What kind of behavior does the horse exhibit when he arrives. I personally like to give them a week of light work so that they can start to settle into a general routine. There have been many horses that have come my way that took longer to settle in and exhibited some bad habits that had to be dealt with before we consider putting that horse to serious work.

3) Is the horse a mare, stallion or gelding. We have a saying here, when a stallion comes into the barn on Thursday, his brain will arrive on Monday.(Sometimes his mind just gets lost in the mail!)

4) Am I starting this horse under saddle, if so there again conditioning is important. If the horse is here to be started and is in good condition, then I will be on that horse at the end of the first week after he settles in. If the horse is not conditioned, them there will be a 30 day conditioning period.

5) If the horse is here to be trained to go into the show ring, then a lot depends on the horses mentality when they get here. If they are not mature enough to handle the training required to go into the show ring, then we will take it a lot slower.

I have always been a firm believer in moving at the horses pace and not the owners, and I make this very clear from the beginning. If the horse is not happy then no one is going to be happy.

I have had owners in the past offer to pay me more to achieve their goals, but it is not really up to me how fast we proceed.


Heather said...

This is a great topic. I recently made the decision to take my 6 year old arab gelding to a trainer for trail training. I was having issues with him being hyper-alert, spooky, running down hills, etc. He wasn't confident, I didn't trust him, and we weren't making progress. He had been under saddle for about 8 months and knew the basics. He knew his leads, how to neck rein, and to move off of legs.

So, I told the trainer that I wanted him to be more confident and to approach scary things without fear. I wanted him to know how to pick his way through unusual or 'scary' situations with confidence and without fear. She lives and trains at the edge of a 2,000 acre state park.

I went to ride him today after about 3.5 weeks of training and he is doing great. He goes where I point him, he travels with his neck relaxed and lowered. He now knows how to approach something that is scary, sniff it, step on it, or cross it. He wasn't concerned about anything on the trail even when we went off trail and to a 'new' part of the park.

She will keep him for another 2.5 weeks for a total of 45 days. She has changed his bit from a full cheek snaffle to a mild broken curb for more leverage and control. She also sometimes ride him in a martingale. She has ridden him hard and with confidence. She has the knowledge of tack to know what will work for him. These are all things I couldn't bring to the table myself.

I expected more confidence and less anxiety and that is what I got.

SFTS said...

Just wanted to drop by and say ~ long time no see, OUTSTANDING post and glad to see you back posting again, you have always had a terrific blog.

Our Sunlit Farm Training Blog ~ Laying The Foundation

fernvalley01 said...

It takes the time it takes . The only thing that you can absolutley will happen quickly with a horse a wreck! My trainer ,likes to put a 60 day start on uoir young ones , that said ,my Classy filly this year was home and dandy after 30 days , Ernie laughed and said she was so quiet 2 weeks might have almost done it! I like that he is honest and if the horse needs more time he will say and if not he will let us know as well.

NewHorseMommy said...

I sent my new and first horse for a tune-up. When I met my trainer, I came home and told my husband "My trainer is 12 years old!" She turned out to be 21 and awesome!

I have no intention of showing, and as she put it, I just want to "toodle around" on the trails.

She said her primary goal was to make him safe for me (a beginner) and was unsure if he would longer than 30 days.

He's an older (15) horse and it turned out he had been really well trained at some point in the past, but not worked for a while and very out of shape. The first few rides, she could only ride him for 20 minutes or so because he would be panting and covered in sweat (this was in January).

After a month in the arena, she said he needed another 30, and she spend the next month just trail riding him. After that he was ready and I started my lessons with him!

What I really appreciated was her focus on MY goals and MY horse, rather than some "show horse/rider ideal." Even though she shows, she understood that was not where we were going. Also, her emphasis on safety. She said she would not let me ride him, until she was certain he would be OK for me. As it turns out, I've been pretty wussy (much wussier than the horse) and I'm still riding in the arena, but I hope to trail ride next summer and will be walking him along the trails in the meantime to get him used to it again. Luckily, there are trails where I board, so I don't need to trailer him to give him this kind of experience!

NewHorseMommy said...

Oh, and I wanted to mention how glad I am you are back! For whatever reason, I prefer this format!

Dena said...

JR you might want to get the hose.
Good topic.
Shameless whoring by another supposed professional.
But hey, that's the horse biz.
Waves at STFS and says we missed you too.

JohnieRotten said...


I like this format better myself. Easier to navigate.

GoLightly said...

Great post, JR!

nccatnip said...

Quite a timely post for me, JR. Just sent off one of my kids for training, now the nail bitting begins.
Great laid back boy and settling in well. Hopefully first ride this week.

kestrel said...

Great post! A good trainer will evaluate you and your horse and be honest about what they see, and whether there is... or not... potential. (Like, um, no lady, your twisted mutant is reallly not going to be going to the big shows. Geld! And stop choking that saddle horn to death!)
Some clients don't like that much, but they show their own "trainability quotient" by at least thinking about what the trainer tells them.
Nothing irritates me more than the person who shows up as a student, when all they really want is someone to tell them how great they are already!

rosesr4evr said...

Hello Everyone!!! **Waving wildly**

Good topic JR!! I'm just waiting for ya'll to move to Illinois so I don't have to worry about who's training the next one. Shipping to AZ would really kill the training budget.

Alright, who left the damn door open and let the pond scum of the horse biz slither in??? LOL

Rosie decided to go on an unauthorized outing today, so we had the great fun of putting up the charger in the dark!! And yes I laughed my ass off when she FINALLY got zapped!! Serves her right. I'm not evil, just not happy about chasing her snortin', head tossin' ass all over the place.

BuckdOff said...

Thanks for the timely topic, some friends are dealing with this situation right now, an OTTB..They just switched trainers, as the first one was trying to rush the horse along..And stop it, you guys! We all missed this forum, and would like to stay..It's not about Y'all..

cattypex said...


Everybody play NICE - I've missed this, and it's SUCH a better format for my Learning Style!!!!

GoLightly said...

Do you guys know of the late Bill Freeman?
Jim Wofford was ooohing and awing at a picture of him, in Practical Horseman. Beautiful article, as usual, beautiful quote, listen, JR. so cool.

Jim Wofford chats with cutting horse guy Don Burt, a bit.
Bobby Ingersoll had recently told Don "I just spoiled one of the best young horses I ever had. I put my hands down one day too late".
(forgive me if you've /heardread it before,like a million times)

It was a wonderful article on self-carriage, as usual, by Jim.
Fascinating stuff.

CNJ, the picture was of Bill Freeman cutting, taken from the front, so that's probably the best angle.

I'd expect a knowledgeable, confident, experienced horse-person, as a trainer.
A barn full of happy,healthy clean horses.
Sound Horses.
Horses moving in balanced self-carriage. Or Learning to move that way.

Great Expectations, Eh?

14th. so there.
Grow up, indeed.

GoLightly said...

OH, and sorry about the Phillies, JR.

Told ya, a Toronto cheer is the kiss of, well, not winning.

horspoor said...

I am so glad you are back to this format. Way easier for the techno-challenged like me. lol

Great post.

I tried an 18yr old Trak gelding on Friday. 3rd level horse, been used as a lesson horse for eons. One of those old schoolmasters that adjusts to the level of the rider. abs and legs were sore.

I let a woman that was a novice, older re-rider finish out my time. She'd tried him earlier in the day in the round pen. She gets on, he goes into babysitting mode. Just packing her, Mr. Nice. She gets out of position, he halts. Her hands are all over the place bouncing here and there...he is Joe Steady. Made me bust my hump to even connect to the bit.

Owner was laughing and says, "My first ride on him was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I'd been schooling my horse on 3 tempis earlier in the day. I then had a lesson to try him as a possible lesson horse. I couldn't even get him on the bit."