Having Problems with Trainers! - Page 4 - The Horse Forum
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post #31 of 36 Old 03-07-2011, 11:35 PM
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Florida
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Ok, my embarassing moment when I was 19 yrs old..... I was riding with a very successful reining trainer who had just moved to our area. I had the horse I'd always dreamed of, though some of our issues weren't included in my dreams. I worked with this trainer for a week straight, hauling my 5 yr old gelding out to his place every day, taking full advantage of his "new to the area" promotional offer with a few of my friends. One night, we ran into the trainer at a night club after he had a few too many to drink. Now, almost 10 yrs later, what he said in his drunken stuper goes through my mind every day with every horse that I work. He said "how long have you had that paint horse?" I replied "about 2 yrs". He slurred back "yeah, I figured, definately long enough for the horse to start acting like his owner, you both take things too seriously, try so hard for perfection that you can't get it right. You need to relax and have some fun." I was left speechless. I mean, how dare he say that my horses problems were my problems. After my initial shock, I thought it through and realized that he was right. My horse was a 4 legged version of me. His strong points were my strong points, and his weaknesses were my weaknesses. If thats not a slap in the face...... Everything that bothered me about my horse were the same things that bothered me about myself. Ever since then, whenever I work with a problem horse (coincidently now my profession) I try to use myself as an example, letting the horse do what he does well, and giving him strength in his weaker areas.

Sounds crazy, I know, but I couldn't help but notice how your horse was labeled, and how, in my experience, horses live up to what they are labeled as. Horses that are difficult will always be difficult, where as horses that are misunderstood or simply confused have a great chance of stepping out of their difficult state once they have someone who is communicating. I find it no coincidence that the rider who looks for things to worry about has a horse that is always spooking. Nor do I find it a coincidence that the rider that can't seem to find the right fit has a horse that is showing signs of discomfort.

As far as your questions go..... I could care less if I am carrying a whip, crop, bull whip, or nothing at all. However, if my horse is showing signs of discomfort with any of those things, you can bet that we will be working to overcome them rather than avoid them. Here, we are looking at issues of adaptability and trust. My horses learn that if I am holding it, then it is obviously not something to be fearful of.

You are looking at the symptoms rather than the cause. It isn't the slack in the line that is the problem, but the horse on the other end of it that is confused about the contact. That is what needs to be focused on.

As long as you are having problems with trainers, your horse will have problems with trainers as well. Based on what I read, I am not in the least bit surprised that you are having trouble teaching new things, as there are some pretty big gaps in your foundation. Good riders and trainers have a goal, but they do not have an agenda. As long as you label your horse as something special, he will behave like something special, and not necessarily in a good way.

Good luck, you are young and dedicated and you will get it figured out little by little. Remember, you are hiring a trainer because you are putting faith in the fact that they know something that you don't. However, if you are stuck to what you already know, then it can be very hard for you to change, and very hard for your horse to change.
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post #32 of 36 Old 03-08-2011, 12:10 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Canada
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I really liked what you said! One book I read from a trainer in Denmark says that when you look for a horse(as your own=team partner), you are more looking for yourself in the horse (e.g.why you thought you had your dream horse). You clash in the same areas.

I don't recall naming him difficult...? He's more of what I'd call reactive(from the first time I saw him). I know what you are getting at, but I have to say I'm a little confused and I'd really like to know more about your philosophy.

Let me tell you more about my horse: He's the chillest yet most reactive horse I know. He's sensitive to how you feel, and your "energy". If I'm calm he's calm, if I expect danger, he expects danger. He's quick thinking except for when he stops thinking and then his legs move a thousand times faster than his brain. He has a hidden intelligence and strength that most people don't see. If you restrain him, he flees. If you trap him, he fights. If you force dominance on him, he won't give up. If you you show him the way, if you guide him, if you show him that you are confidant in being you and that you are grounded and balanced then he eagerly follows you. He either respects you or he doesn't. You can't be mistaken with his playfulness as disrespect or misbehavior, if you restrict that then the thick sheet of misunderstanding will separate you and him. I picked him for a reason. I picked him because of his "feeling"-I can't explain it. When I first rode him I felt something in him: I think it must have been his cunning intelligence and power.(not trying to be corny here).

I can label him on his personality, but there is no strict definition of a difficult horse. I did not say "he takes off all the time, he always pulls away from person if they had a whip(as I've said I do also use a whip)", I said "he reacted this way to this, and this way to that". That's completely empirical(no other word I can think of...).

What's the cause of the need for the slack...yes it is the horse on the end. Why does he have the slack? restricting him makes him pull back, it makes him fearful, it stops him from thinking.

What I don't like is being labeled as a certain type rider/horse "trainer"(I don't consider myself a trainer). This happens at every barn, and it happens to my horse too. They label him as dangerous or difficult and they apply their restricted, close-minded methods and expect him to react as a certain way since he is a horse. I don't see how you can force one single method on a horse and expect it to work! They label him as a horse that fights, so they go at him saying "I just won't let him get away with anything!; I'll stop him!; He'll have to give in!; I won't let him win!". Well when they go at him trying to win a horse, my horse actually doesn't want to fight. He's independent, he fears "giving himself" to a human and when a person goes, restrains him and fights him he flees like the wind. He does not want to fight, he wants peace(something I really love about this horse). He will only fight to protect himself. When a person comes at him to fight, that is when he ends up at the other end of the arena with the rope dragging on the ground. After all his training, the whip has been used in fights, so he flees.

I hope this made things more clear. When I am around horses, I become more grounded, calm, confidant, strong, happy and present than any time else.

I am not trying to defend myself or my horse. I'm making things more clear. I'd really like it if you could explain more of your philosophy and point out any other things you see wrong with anything I have done. Any advice for the future would be nice. I agree 100% with your philosophy.

I've been with this horse before his training and after. I've seen the changes, I've seen the reactions and I have not labeled him differently than from the start. I've only understood him more. As for trainers, I really want to learn more, but I don't like close-minded trainers, and I don't like trainers that "fight" or "force" and most of all, kind of like what you said, I don't like trainers that label.
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post #33 of 36 Old 03-08-2011, 03:50 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
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I really like Flitterbug's post. There is a lot of truth in there. I have had to learn as well that my horse can do more when I have learned how to carry her through situations without losing confidence myself.

It is an important philosophy to blame yourself, not your horse for the horse's shortcomings and to realize that the more experience and knowledge you have the more the horse will be able to learn.

But, and this is a big BUT, it can still be more challenging to work with a very reactive horse. SP sounds like she really understands her horse, and her horse sounds similar to my horse Amore and the horse DiDi owned by another person on this forum. While I don't believe in making excuses for horses to a point, I KNOW that no matter how confident or understanding or experienced I am, I can't stop my horse from being trigger-hair reactive.

These horse are often labeled, and I only ever had one trainer who understood enough to give me lessons on this horse. This was most emphatically not me holding myself back, but simply being realistic about my horse's personality. I have had her for ten years and she is well trained, but her personality is never going to change. Just like SP, I really love this horse because you cannot find a horse more sensitive than she is. You could put your whole hand inside her mouth with a carrot and she wouldn't bite you because she thinks about things like that, things that other horses don't. But from the moment I bought her people have told me constantly, "She is lucky to have you."

It is hard for people to understand these horses, and I believe that many of these horses are not ridden and are called "crazy" by trainers or "untrainable." The reason I do make excuses for my horse in a lot of things is because I have worked with many other horses. I have desensitized horses to many things and trained them systematically. But no system will work on Amore. She is unique and special. I spent a lot of time trying to desensitize her to everything under the sun: giant balls, tarps, cars, guns, water, farm animals, etc. Any other horse would be completely bomb proof, and other horses I've worked with ARE. However, this horse can see something five days in a row, and every day it will seem different to her. I can get her used to something and feel she is completely accepting of it. But it is only until the next time. Every time I turn on the clippers she is going to jump. Every time I turn on a hose she is going to jump.

This does not stop me from doing anything I want with my horse. I just had to become a very confident person. I behave like I don't expect my horse to react to anything. I treat her like a normal, well-trained horse and I clip her, bathe her, and ride and trailer her places. On some days it feels like she reads my thoughts because she is so light. If I think about where I want to go, she is there. She dances around me on the lead or the lunge, soft like a feather. I could ride her with a piece of yarn.

On other days she spooks at the grass, a piece of gravel that shifts under her feet, even her own halter. And if she becomes too frightened or if you fight her or get too harsh, her brain flies away to some other place and you cannot get her back for a long time.
SP, you are right. You have to be extremely open-minded about a reactive horse. He will never fit into a box. There is no label to put on him.
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post #34 of 36 Old 03-08-2011, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2010
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Gottatrot I loved your post! My horse is very similar to the horse you were talking about but is still different in a way, I can't put my finger on it. I think my horse is a little more grounded and confidant in himself and isn't quite as light when riding(that may be from his heavy-handed and spur happy dressage trainer). He reacts more to his own inner feelings than little noises around outside. I think he's reactive in a different way. What was the shape of Amore's head? ( I know it's a weird question, but it's just a thing from a trainer in Denmark about characterizing horses).

The thing with most horses is they will put up with tons of mistakes(way more than you probably ever though balance and feeling wise). If you move the whip the wrong way as you step in the direction of the horse then they'll compensate, and do what they think is correct. They may also just be a little more "dull" to those mistakes or movements(not in a bad way!!!). Also, if you are a little jittery off of cafine, it probably won't make as much of a difference as with a reactive horse like my horse or Amore. My horse would not usually react to something like a wrong step, or a slouched back but he also will-usually if he doesn't trust you, then he becomes more alert and aware. And that is if you are balanced mentally and physically(hard to explain). The worst thing is, as I've said, is going at him to fight. That is what he reacts to the most: a fight, restraint, restriction, force, fear, anger, frustration: also something that shouldn't be present with any horse. I'm not saying he pulls against the bit, I'm saying that a person feeling that way walks up to him and he takes off. If a trainer goes up to him and treats him like any horse, it just doesn't work. He is labeled pretty quickly and the "fight" or "chaos" starts. My horse really has no choice, because being him, he can not be close to conflict; it's like he repels it.

As has been told, he took off to the other end of the arena multiple times at my fist session(haven't had the second one yet but it will be this week). Well, I had brought him into the arena a few days before when there was nobody else in the arena(just me and him); no one to tell me what to do. I walked him around on a very loose lunge line, I let him free to run around and buck, and I lunged him. I lunged him down at the "scary" end of the arena without a whip, under the heater. As I was lunging him, the heater turned on. If I had a whip, he would have been fine too. He reacted to the long lunge whip because it was going along with a fight. It's the total distinct difference of a situation(mainly the person) that affects whether or not he will react to the whip. Usually with me the whip is for communication. There is slack in the lunge line, and I am grounded. During this certain situation(first session), the whip was introduced with the lunge line being tight, him being forced to the scary end, and the worst thing: me being confused, angry and frustrated with the people. Then the trainer went at him pulling on the lunge line and when my horse needed just a little space to be able to move away and look, or just bend, he was restricted. He pulled back, saw the whip and to him the fight was on. He's reactive to feeling more than anything, less of the physical things.

Last edited by SPhorsemanship; 03-08-2011 at 06:25 PM. Reason: additional info
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post #35 of 36 Old 03-08-2011, 06:37 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2010
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Sorry for the double post! I had more to add.

Having a reactive horse, or to me really most horses, I don't like having big jumpy whips or super long, tangles lunge lines. Everything has to come from me, and quickly, as part of me. It has to be closer to me.

I used to break two or three-year-old ponies during summers. When I brought them in they'd be fresh and reactive. That was when there was the biggest communication block between them and me. They relied more on their instinct and less on me. When they relied on their instinct they were more reactive. Once they understood me, and relied more on understanding me, they became less "reactive". I think(but I'm not sure) that many trainers don't 'get' my horse, there is an invisible barrier between them. They can't communicate, and when they repress my horse it only makes things worse.

No one will take me serious with my horse, I'm forced to use trainers(by my mom). My mom believes anything the trainers say over me so I don't know what to do! I don't even know what my horse feels like under saddle anymore since he was ridden only by his trainer and I'm expected to get on and ride him perfectly. These things frustrate me. I am misunderstood, I am labeled; My horse is misunderstood, my horse is labeled.

Last edited by SPhorsemanship; 03-08-2011 at 06:37 PM. Reason: sorry for the double post!
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post #36 of 36 Old 03-08-2011, 07:12 PM
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Perhaps the reason some horses stay reactive (the way wild or untrained horses usually are) is because they for some reason stay in a more instinctive state instead of moving toward a more domesticated state.

It does seem instinctive to react before thinking and to go into "fight or flight" when frightened or challenged.

I agree that it comes down most to what person is working with the horse. Like you said, the horse senses many things about a person, more than we can tell. For my horse it is not just anger in the person but fear also that makes her tense. She has had confident farriers that work well with her and they can do what they need to do. But a farrier that is nervous about her or comes in with an attitude to make her submit will not be able to work on her feet. Not that I "let" her misbehave, but it is just impossible to get her mind back when she loses it. I can do anything with her feet myself, hammer on them, etc.

Same with riders...if they are nervous she will be tense and spooky. It is too bad your mom doesn't let you have more freedom with your horse. I doubt trainers will get very far unless they have the right attitude and understanding of him.
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