Out of the common questions that equestrians ask each other about, this one may be in the top three on the list: How did you learn to ride/train/work with horses? The answer’s vary drastically between people, for some they had lessons from local instructors as they grew up, for others it might be that they were self taught.
When I am asked this question the answer that I give usually is that I have several hundred books and over 200 hrs of DVDs that I have acquired over time to learn. My first 4 years in horse’s I had 2 main books from which I learned, then as I grew I realized the more I could read the more I could experience. There were many falls and mistakes as there are for anyone crazy enough to ride a horse. This challenge pushed me more and gave me the determination to find a way. So I purchased more books and tried more techniques, I went to more clinics and found more mentors, I tried different equipment and found the things that worked and the things that didn’t. With the thousands of dollars spent on this education, I found one thing that has stuck with me till now: Never stop learning.
My first book I owned about horse training, I’ve had this since I was 12 years old.
For you it may be that horses are a hobby and nothing more. Fair weather riders have an equal obligation to learn how the horses that they place their trust in work. More often I see people leaving horses because it is dangerous or too much responsibility for them. Why? The answer is in how they learn about horses if they have, in any way, given their time to study these unique animals. If I had never fallen from a horse all those years ago, I probably never would have been so intrigued to follow this path of constant work, constant experience, and constant learning. It may be at times I am inundated with the information I find but this fuels the desire to learn even more. To this day I still haven’t been able to buy every horse book that has ever been written and I’m sure there will always be some information that I will be able dig up as I grow in experience. That makes it more eventful and interesting. The theories that span centuries and disciplines have given the people that have horses today even more reason why they cannot excuse poor horsemanship. Make time to learn and it will pay back the investment, I promise.
Here are some ways you can use my method of ‘lessoning’:
–Find a person that has more horse experience and ask questions
When I started chasing horses, I had no idea how vast the horse world was. I found local barns and training centers close enough for my mom to drive me to and I begged them to let me clean stalls. This was my way of being able watch trainers that had more experience than me. They might have been less than stellar at training but I still learned. Don’t be picky about who you learn from but only be picky about what you retain. If I saw something I didn’t think made sense I would ask them to explain. Usually they gave me the reason why not to train that way but I still learned from that experience.
–Read books on horse related content
I have a theory that there is a genealogy of all the biggest trainers and clinicians of today. It goes back hundreds of years, changing hands through the mentors, masters, and Horsemen that passed it on. Once you pick up one horse book, it will mention the names of the people they got the information from and then you can get books on those people and soon you have many books all linked by common practices and the people that use them. Books serve as a wealth of history of horse training and the legacy these animals share with us.
–Find clinics or workshops that focus on different aspects of horse training
The first clinic I went to was a Chris Cox clinic before he won his first Road to the Horse in 2008. Watching him work with a horse got me so inspired about my own work with my horse that I have tried to go to at least one clinic a year on average since then. Now I go to almost 3-4 clinics and demonstrations each year and they still get me excited. This is an important way to socialize with the people that inspire your learning.
–Watch videos of training
This is my most recent way of learning that I have found great results from so far. Growing up and only learning from books and pictures I missed many things that I had to improvise through to make work for me. Now that I have grown my collection of training DVD’s, I am finding the immense benefits of seeing training methods in actions everyday and readily available whenever I need help. If you can’t afford books or DVD’s then you can watch many trainers and methods of training on YouTube at no cost at all.
All of this is my method of ‘lessoning’, learning, and finding new or old ways of working horses or on improving myself. When you have one set of eyes looking at a problem you can only have limited solutions, the more people you study from then the more eyes can help find the solution that is best for you.
How do you lesson?