The appeal of a trainer - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 12-12-2019, 08:38 PM Thread Starter
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The appeal of a trainer

I was wondering about Natural Horsemanship trainers. I know a lot of time is spent on the forums rating them but I am wondering if maybe it is our needs as potential students that determines how effective a training method is as opposed to the trainer themselves.

16 or so years ago my first foray into Natural Horsemanship was via Pat Parelli. Maybe a big part of this was simply because in NZ he was kind of the first really commercial, relatively easily accessible trainer in the field of NH. Regardless of how I found him, at that stage of my life I really resonated with his teachings (I bought the box set - but not the carrot stick lol). Looking back at myself I realize how terrified I was of training a horse. I was breaking in my first young horse and was so lacking in confidence that the Parelli push button, step by step method felt like a life line. I learned a lot, but ultimately I experienced more failure than success. For some reason my young head strong colt refused to respond in quite the same way as the well schooled horse demonstrated in the PP video's lol.

I moved on.

My next attempt at breaking in a horse went so much better - so many early failures had helped me no end. I had matured a lot and no longer felt like it was a disaster if I didn't get the instant results sold by PP. I started broadening my reading and ended up stumbling across Buck Brannaman. At this time I really resonated with Buck's calm manner, his easy, soft ways really inspired me - I too wanted to make handling a horse look effortless. Interestingly, a few months after finding my way to Buck (yes, I did by his box set - but not his flag stick lol) I was able to attend his clinic here in NZ. I was so excited! He was my guru. I had an absolutely miserable time. As much as I loved his ability with horses, the whole time he was with people you could see that he didn't actually like us. At lunch time, which was a group barbecue, he went to the far side of the arena, as far away from us as was possible and sat at a little folding table with a book, radiating a "do not talk to me" energy. Even though I had paid a lot of money for a 3 day clinic I never went back after the first day.

I learned a lot from BB methods but I was left feeling like, if you have no interest in helping the people then how can you help the horses? I needed to feel important and neither Buck nor Pat, could meet my needs in the end.

Now, several years later I stumbled upon Warwick Schiller and I find myself really enjoying his lessons. The part of Warwick's teaching that strikes a chord for me is not his horse skills so much. Don't get me wrong, he has mad skills and I want to be just like him but what works for me is his emphasis on how our behaviour will determine how we interact with our horses.

Over the last, nearly 2 decades I have lived a life. I have experienced joy, sorrow, bore a child, lost a child, bore another child, raised a child, built a business, dealt with long term chronic illness, loved, feared, fallen and got back up again. I have moments of incredible wisdom and moments of incredible ignorance. Through all of this life I too have come to the conclusion that my position of power is my ability to choose how I react to the things that happen around me. Like Warwick, I have come to the realization that for success with horses the most important training I can do is train myself. I have learned that no one outside of myself can give me what I need, I have to do that myself and the more care and consideration I give myself then the more care and consideration I have to share with, not just my horse but other people as well.

Maybe the trainers we gravitate toward have less to do with the actual trainer and his methods and more to do with our state of mind and the place where we are at in our lives. Just a thought.

PS Does Warwick have a box set?

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.D Adams

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post #2 of 27 Old 12-13-2019, 01:40 AM
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Very well said.

Maybe the trainers we gravitate toward have less to do with the actual trainer and his methods and more to do with our state of mind and the place where we are at in our lives. Just a thought.
Absolutely agree! Different strokes... and for the same folks at different times.

Different people's personalities, preconceived attitudes, etc will govern who they do & don't like, regardless of the subject's skill & attitude. Thinking of people like CA here, who I'm sure has a lot of good stuff to say, but as he is so aggressive & arrogant & his voice grates on me, IMO, he seriously gets on my nerves & I've never found I'm willing to watch enough to maybe find that good stuff.

Then there's basic skill & understanding that you 'bring to the party' - I remember being relatively new on this 'journey' & being so excited that I'd bought the (new at the time) book 'True Unity', sat down to learn a lot from one of the true masters... and persevered doggedly through the first... maybe quarter, before giving it up as it was a lot of gobbledigook to me. Though I picked it up a decade or so later & was struck by the immense common sense of it & wondered how on earth I'd found it so unintelligible when I first got it.

Interesting that, given all our different skill levels, attitudes, personalities, WS is the first 'guru' I can remember since Tom & Bill, who seems to be universally loved, so far as I've seen. He seems to strike that chord with all.
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post #3 of 27 Old 12-13-2019, 02:23 AM
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I agree with what both of the above have said.

When I was learning at a riding school, I watched and listened, a naughty horse/pony was ridden with determination and force. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. One remedial pony the regular helpers were told to keep riding it until it stopped bucking. I wasn't allowed to try. After quite some time they gave up and let me have a go.

Now my wise old Mother had always said, "There's more than one way to skin a cat." So, when this pony dropped me, I didn't get angry, I just got back on. Time and time again. In the end he just gave up. I could walk trot and canter him in the arena and later out on rides, with no attempt to buck or drop me.

I was lucky after that because I was the one used to back youngsters, ride the remedials and learned so much from them.

The most important lesson I learned was that although determination was needed a big stick was rarely the answer. There were times when it was needed but most answers came from the attitude of me, the rider./handler.

I attended a Monty Roberts clinic when he first came to the UK. It was interesting but I wasn't terribly impressed. The second time he came over and was dealing with a fearful unrideable horse, I was impressed - greatly.

I attended several clinics and several things came to the fore. First, his stories changed, he made himself to be the 'hero' and saviour of all horses. Secondly his promotion of how he spoke the language equs.

At another clinic he had a remedial, a big solid lovely looking warmblood whose problem was napping. This horse was determined not to move forward, his reaction was to rear. His owner, a slight young woman rode with determination, spurs and a big stick. In the round pen the animal did a good performance of airs above the ground.

I had seen the horse in the stable. I looked at him and thought 'WOW' what a lovely animal. Nothing gave me the vibe he was bad. Then, when I saw his feet which would have been more suited to a 14 hand pony, I realised that he probably had navicular.

Watching him move in the round pen he had a short stride and to me he looked lame on both front feet. MR did get the horse moving forward by placing an eye shield on him so he could only see the ground in front of him.

All the time he was talking and giving reasons for the horse napping non I can recall! Me, being me asked that did he not think the horse was lame on both fronts and that rather than talking to the horse would it not be better to listen to what the horsemwas trying to say? That went down like a ton of bricks.

The owner did take the horse to be Xrayed and it had fairly advanced navicular.

I say that animals can talk, it is up to us to learn their language.
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post #4 of 27 Old 12-13-2019, 04:58 AM
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^ I bet Monty loved you for that! A friend audited a clinic of his over here a few years ago & he spent the first 10 minutes(or whatever) doing 100 push ups & getting the audience to all count him. Then bragging about how many push ups he could do at his age.

And 'more than one way to skin a cat' is a family saying of mine(maybe my pommy heritage...) that I usually get funny looks or comments for saying - good to hear someone else use it!
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post #5 of 27 Old 12-13-2019, 06:24 AM
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Some people just love clinics, and clinicians. I know people who do a dozen a year or more. Some are disciples of one clinician in practically the religious sense of the word, others just go to anything within a drivable radius.

As a novice I kept going to clinics, at the urging of my friends, until I realized that I was wasting my money, as I never brought home anything useful; I don't learn in that kind of setting. Everyone's different.

What I've found is that while a good teacher can give you helpful pointers and observations, the main thing that is going to further your progress is just continually learning to listen to your horse and what he is trying to tell you. Moment by moment. There is no technique a human can impart to another that is going to be more helpful than that. Trying to force your horse into a diagnostic box or lesson plan is just going to keep you from reading your horse and being appropriate. Is he afraid, angry, confused, bored, distracted? Right now? How can you help him right now? How can you tell you are helping him?

Your attitude of calm leadership, your attentiveness and sensitivity, your ability to be both flexible and focused, those are the things which you can build, and which make the difference in your training. And those only come with patient hours of work. Endless hours, really. I am neither an excellent rider nor a particularly good trainer, but I know that all my progress has been accumulated grain by grain, mistake by mistake. I never have huge breakthrough moments and neither does my horse -- unless those breakthroughs are immediately followed by sliding back to almost where we were before.

That kind of infinitesimal progression doesn't keep clinicians in silver-toed boots though. Everyone wants a god-like mentor who knows exactly how to help you and your horse, but that person, I truly believe, does not exist.

Short horse lover

Last edited by Avna; 12-13-2019 at 06:30 AM.
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post #6 of 27 Old 12-13-2019, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Foxhunter View Post
I say that animals can talk, it is up to us to learn their language.

Just my personal opinion...MR is mostly interested in MR (loved the push-ups story LOL. That mental image is going to keep me entertained for days.) and sort of the same feeling towards PP.
I have actually picked up a lot of very useful information from various well-known clinicians. The availability of information today is amazing. I'm just thankful I have had enough experience to take what I needed and leave a lot of it. A video by a California trainer was pure salvation when faced with a serious trailer loading issue years ago. I can always learn something. Sometimes it just takes a lot of sifting to find the good stuff that works for horse and handler.
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If you ever find yourself in a fair fight, it's because your tactics suck. ~ Marine 1SGT J. Reifinger
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post #7 of 27 Old 12-13-2019, 01:02 PM
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It is like an onion. You get to one level, feel good - and then realized there is another level. Or you meet a horse who says, "Nope. Not that way. Not willing at all." And then you have to SEARCH for another level.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #8 of 27 Old 12-13-2019, 01:04 PM
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@Foxhunter what a fascinating story on MR! I remember reading his book at age 12 and just being in love with him and his techniques. As an adult I don't have much respect for him...
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post #9 of 27 Old 12-13-2019, 01:22 PM
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Try getting a copy of Horse Whisperers and Lies. That will make you think!
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post #10 of 27 Old 12-13-2019, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Foxhunter View Post
Try getting a copy of Horse Whisperers and Lies. That will make you think!
I don't need to read that book - I got to witness first hand MR's methods at a small clinic hosted by a farm I worked at a million years ago. It was my first taste of 'commercial' natural horsemanship and was certainly eye-opening, as what he presented was stretching the truth at best..

I have always tried to use every experience as a learning one, be that something I would repeat in the future or stay well away from. Always fascinating to look back and see how my techniques have changed over the years (whether that is because I learned a better way or because now I don't bounce as well). I have much greater respect for someone like Warwick Schiller who admits his methods have evolved with time than I do those who claim to know it all (which means they have stopped learning). At the end of the day, the horse is the best teacher.

There is no joy equal to that found on the back of a horse.
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