As many of you know, I had just moved to South Carolina not that long ago, and I had been looking for work as a Riding Instructor/Horse Trainer. Well, I have finally had quite a few clientèle contact me, and I was so jazzed! The first place I went to visit was a lady who needed someone to teach her 4 year old and 8 year old how to ride. When I went to her place, I saw she had a ton of horses and nice big fields. Then, I got to meet the "Trainers" she hired to train her two year olds.
I was absolutely sickened.
--- The first "Trainer" was a barrel racer. She owned two 30 year old horses and a miniature stallion. When they arrived initially on my client's property, they were nothing but bones and fur. My client said she thought that the horses were just old and having trouble maintaining weight.. but when she saw the pony, she had doubts that that's what was going on. After a month in her care, the horses had gained so much weight they were unrecognizable. You can't even tell that they were ever skinny. Anyways. When I talked with this "Trainer" She was bragging about how many bones she has broke, and broke repeatedly after making the same mistakes. Odd, I thought.. why would she brag that she continues to break bones frequently.. from riding her 30 year old horses (shouldn't 30 year old horses that have been owned for 15 years by a TRAINER be.. well... trained?). Then, the final straw with this girl... She was letting in my Client's horses and chasing them all with a bag on a stick. She said she couldn't catch them and that they were all feral. Well, since I was new to this barn, I believed it. Then, when I went out to visit and give the first lesson, I watched my Client's 8 year old child leading the horses to their stalls. My client then told me that this "Trainer" can't catch or control any of her horses in the field.
The horse she is supposed to be training is two, and has yet to be handled even after she was assigned the horse a year ago. Apparently it is "Too Feral" for her to train. Too Feral? You mean a fun challenge right? Well, apparently not. All she does is tell my client that the horse is insane because of its breeding and can't be broke to ride. Yeah. I.E. "I only trained one horse once, and it never gave me any problems, but I'm scared of this one D:!"
--- Next trainer. This time, a guy. Well, to set this up.. let me start from the very beginning. When talking with my client after giving her children their lessons, I see a truck pull up about 10 feet from the round pen, where a little bay colt (1 1/2 year old) is eating quietly. He steps out of his truck with a lunge whip in his hands, opens up the gate to the round pen, and as soon as his first foot crosses the threshold he cracks the whip and sends the horse flying. There was no "Hello" no "Alright buddy, we are going to start working" the horse went from eating, to an instant unrelenting 8 minute gallop without changing sides. Then, the guy drops the whip and yells at the horse to "come here, come here horse, come here" and when the horse sheepishly approaches, he grabs him by the halter and waves his hands in his face, smacks his nose and his eyes. My client told me this is how he "desensitizes" his horses (it looked to me like he was SENSITIZING them). After about 3 minutes of this, the horse's head is sky high and suddenly the "Trainer" picks up the whip again and starts cracking it like crazy. While the horse is running, he leaves the round pen and is done with it.
Then, this guy walks over to me and my client, and just sort of hangs out. I was telling my client how fun my gelding (Skippy!) was, and how he was a real show-boater and power house, and when I would cross the arena at a diagonal on windy days I would watch that neck go up, widen, body tense, and BOOM he would explode into a gallop. I said "Yeah, since I knew he was going to stop at the other side of the arena, and usually I was the only one riding, I just let him do it. He wasn't trying to buck me, he was just full of energy and I should have gotten it out of him before I rode" and the guy looked at me and said "You know, if you pull one rein..." and I cut him off by saying "I'd get crushed, because stopping a nearly 2,000 pound huge clumsy gelding during a break-neck gallop by using one rein would cause him to flip over and possibly roll over me like a person getting thrown by a motorcycle. Pulling one rein works at the trot or canter, but its suicide at the gallop." (Ooooh... OWNED). As I continued to talk with my client, his little "remarks" stopped. I think he knew he could bulls**t me. So he went off to grab one of my client's horses that he should be training.
So, he grabs this 2 year old PMU mare that has very seldom been handled. She drags him around by the lead rope, and he starts smacking her in the cheek. Finally, she stops, and he pulls her into a very tight circle and starts slapping her haunches. Apparently desensitizing her. He then stops her, and like with the colt, gets up in her face, smacking her eyes, nose, pulling her ears. Again, "desensitizing". I asked my client what she wanted to accomplish with this filly, and she said "All I want him to do, is get her to pick up her back feet." You mean.. he was doing all this crap for her back feet? After she said that, about 5 minutes later he began to work on getting to her back feet. Every time she would move, he would begin "desensitizing" her face again. Can we blame her for moving? He just spent some 8 minutes turning her in a tight circle.. she was still stuck in that habit. This repeated itself for about 15 minutes before he shanked the heck out of her halter (pulled the lead rope repeatedly) and let her go -RUN- back to her stall.
I told my client that so long as she paid me the 5 dollar trip charge, I would train this horse for free if she promised me he would -never- touch her again. She laughed, and accepted. Even if I don't get paid, it is still experience. As a trainer, I am not going to shy away at another newish experience. Every horse encounter is different, and the more I handle the better I become.
--- Another "Trainer" that I heard about in Alabama (never met) told a client of mine that her daughters horse was completely out of control and a poor example of a TWH. It only trotted, it did not gate, and it was very spooky. The daughter was 13, and scared because her trusted trainer told her the horse was something to be afraid of. The trainer offered to train the horse for 500 dollars a month, but they couldn't afford it... so they called me. I came out, and heard about the last trainer and asked if I could get on the horse. I walked out to get the horse, put his halter on, and walked up. His owners had their mouths wide open. I asked if something was wrong, and they said "You just walked up and caught him.. how did you do that?" *blinks* apparently the horse was hard to catch? O_o; I saddled up the horse without a problem and hopped on his back. I walked him in a 20 meter circle in their field two times to get a feel for him. Then, I asked for a trot. I was prepared to post, but instead was surprised to feel that he gaited. I looked at the mother and she said "He has NEVER done that before! How did you do that?!" I said "Well, I asked him to go.. and he went!" lol! After 15 minutes of gaiting I walked over to the gate and asked if he had ever been out of the pasture and left his friends. They said he never had. So, I asked if it was ok if I could walk down their 1/4 of a mile driveway, over the cement portion of the driveway, and to the open hay field. She said "If you think you can, go for it, just don't get killed" I laughed and walked him through the fence. I had the 13 year old walk right beside me. The horse was walking just as calm as he was when he was in the pasture. We walked for a while until we approached the cement. He had never seen pavement before. I asked the 13 year old to step back. The horse eyed the cement and really didnt want to go over it. He kept looking at it, and without getting tense, I just kept asking, and saying "Its just pavement, its nothing you can't handle" in a very calm voice. He took his first step big, but the other 3 feet followed very calmly. I was now in the open hay field. I walked him around, then gated, then asked for a canter, and finally a gallop. As an act of good faith because the horse had been so good, I let go of the reins, put them on the horn, and rode with my arms straight out. I asked for a walk, picked up the reins and told them that this horse was PERFECT for her. And there is nothing to be afraid of. They kept the horse and I gave them lessons for about a year before I moved to SC. The 13 year old was not afraid of him anymore, and she was finally able to ride him on her own. Something she never thought she would have happen. Now.. why on earth would their trainer say this horse was horrible? I spent 15 minutes with him on my first encounter.. and in the first 5 saw he was a very NORMAL horse. Why? One thought I had.. was -money-. He wanted them to pay him to train a horse that didn't need training. All he would have to do is hop on it excercize it and get paid as if he was training it.
I am so appauled at how it seems that anymore, someone can read a book, and/or train one or two horses, and be a certified horse trainer. I remember back when I was still a real newbie to horses all these horror stories about sending your horse off to trainers just to have them beaten by bats, or come back with absolutely no training on them and/or 10 times spookier than they were when they left. I thought this was all just over-reaction or something.. but I really don't think it was.
For every sincere horse trainer, there are 5 posers.
In my opinion, a sincere trainer is one that has trained a multitude of different horses and has figured out what works, and what doesn't. A Poser is someone who, like I said, bought a book and trained their moms horse once.
I honestly never thought myself a trainer. I have handled over 200 horses of varying ages, breeds, sanity (lol), etc. And I never shy away from handling another. I worked with these little wiley buggers on the ground for 10 years, and in that process trained 50 different horses under saddle for english and western. After 8 years with horses, I noticed people asking me to ride their horse for them, people asking me for advice on how to correct vices or what not, people asking my opinion on how they ride... then it turned into people asking me to break their horse to ride for them, Riding Instructors asking me to teach my lessons for them when they were ill, and even judge flatwork english/western classes at horse-shows. It didnt hit me until one day someone approached me and said "Hey, I hear from _______ you are a good trainer, can you green break my horse for me?"
I tell every single one of my clients that I have never bought a book on training. I did not get a degree in horse training. And I tell them my general experience with horses (the same stuff I said in the paragraph above) and I have never had a client turn me down, or ask me to stop training, or say they weren't interested.
What qualifies a person as a trainer to you? In my opinion:
---Honesty: Someone who isn't afraid to admit they don't know, and will never know everything. Someone who will not make tall tales of the "wild horses" they trained, when it ends up that the only horse they trained was their moms 4 year old, and all they trained it to do was set its head). Someone who will tell you exactly why they think they are a qualified trainer and why they think they can help you.
---Experience: Someone who has handled many different horses in their horse-career and handled them all with the mentality of "I can fix this". People who have "been there, done that" and seen a lot. I don't want someone to green break my horse, have the horse buck, and have them say "This has never happened before!" Unless it is something really spectacular and off the wall, I don't ever want to hear that phrase.
---Horsemanship: THIS IS KEY. A good trainer MUST understand all aspects of the horse. They must understand that a horse is a prey animal, and to handle it accordingly. To know when a horse is going to bolt if you are leading it, and know how to anticipate and prevent this. To see when a horse is about to bite, and prevent it. Good horse people can anticipate and prevent things from happening if they have had a lot of experience, People with good horsemanship often understand the body language of a horse completely and can see an accident before it happens.
---Dedication: Someone who will do the job even if they are fearful of getting injured (to a point.. if it is too dangerous they DEFINITELY have the right to refuse to train). People who will come out routinely and stick to their training methods and goals they set for themselves.
I just wanted to post this thread half to vent... and half to state my opinions on what makes a trainer, and see what you guys think a real trainer is. I think this thread can be a good resource to aspiring trainers to see what clientèle want in a trainer, and the things they should not do.
Im sorry for such a long-winded post, I have been writing this for nearly an hour, I think I started this at around 5:30 in the morning, LOL! I have a lot more to add to it, but for right now, I think I covered most of it. That last section in what I believe makes a trainer isn't completed yet, I think there was more I needed to add.
So... what do you guys think? What makes a trainer to you? Have you had bad experience with "trainers" like my little "friends" I met above?