I find people feel the need to categorise my training methods and this is the subject of this week’s blog.
I meet someone new and the conversation invariably runs along the lines of:
“What do you do for a living?”
“I train horses”
“Mainly young ones or those that buck their riders off”
“Oh, wow, you’re a horse whisperer!”
“umm no not quite”
At this point I tend to cringe and start to explain what I do before realising I am not going to get away from the image of a cowboy in a Stetson that the term ‘horse whisperer’ has created!
In the equestrian world I am described as anything from horse trainer to horse behaviourist, natural horseman, horse psychologist or horse communicator; the list is long. But the truth is I want first and foremost to impart knowledge to both horses and riders, so I guess I should be known simply as a teacher! There is also the question of public perception when using some terms, when really I would like to think my methods and approach appeal to all levels and aspirations from international riders to amateur competition riders and ‘happy hackers.’
Take the term ‘horse whisperer;’ it creates the impression that what I do isn’t based on practical horsemanship that can be taught to others. There is no secret to what I do and I certainly don’t whisper in horses’ ears to make them behave!
All of this can be incredibly confusing to someone wanting to employ the services of a horse trainer. It is a minefield weighing up qualifications versus experience, not to mention what type of training methods will suit your horse and yourself and what you can afford. In these days of the internet and social media where everyone can be an expert and everyone has an opinion, it is even more important to watch someone work with your own eyes, view the yard, chat to staff and talk to previous clients with a similar horse or problems to you. You will soon work out who you want to train your horse.
In my opinion, experience is key and there is a reason why some people have run a successful business over a long period of time. In a very interesting book called ‘Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice,’ author Matthew Syed states that to excel in a sport or an area of business you need to have clocked up at least 10,000 hours of high quality practise. Over the past 13 years I calculate I have spent over 20,000 hours handling and riding clients’ horses not to mention the additional hours spent over previous years in Australia growing up on horseback, learning my trade and the time spent with my own horses.
I’m certainly not afraid to put my money where my mouth is. I have and will ride horses others deem too dangerous and to have no future, and can only do this through understanding and experience. That is not to say that I have all the answers and that I don’t ever make mistakes, but there aren’t many situations I haven’t come across. This is why I always try and pick the brains of older horsemen who have been in the game all their lives; just think of all that knowledge!
I have come to learn that even with my best intentions and different ways of describing myself, I can’t please everyone. However, I would like to think that the majority of clients are very happy with the results of my work otherwise I would have been out of business a long time ago! At the same time, I hope I will always remain open minded, able to learn from my mistakes and strive to develop and improve.
As for a name, someone suggested ‘foundation horse trainer,’ which I like as most of my work is about putting the correct foundations on a horse. However, as I start to explore training horses at a higher level I don’t want to pigeon hole myself as only dealing with young or ‘problem’ horses – so I guess it is back to the drawing board!
I hope you are enjoying the Your Horsemanship site so far, please feel free to give me any feedback good or bad as I can modify the site to ensure that you gain the most from it. If there are any videos you would particularly like to see now’s the time to tell me all about them! I will be holding regular webinars to answer your questions, so keep a look out for details.
Good Luck and don’t forget to have fun!
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