Here's last weeks column...
What the Horses Taught the Horse Trainer
By Janet Huntington
I spent roughly 15 years training horses. For about 10 of those years horse training was the only occupation on my tax return.
I started out my years as a trainer thinking I knew how to train a horse. I ended my career with the understanding I would never know enough. I rode some nice horses and some rank ones and started more youngsters than I like to think about.
I met people who shouldn’t be allowed in a barn and people who were born to be on a horse. Most, including myself, came in somewhere in the middle.
Training horses trained me more than my entire education in the traditional school system. Sorry Mom. Sorry Dad. It’s true. Most of the lessons I learned apply directly to the rest of my life.
Here’s some of the biggest lessons I learned.
* If I can just shut up and wait, most problems will work themselves out.
* Sometimes a quick kick in the rear can solve a lot of arguments.
* Every year I get older it hurts a little more to hit the ground.
* When your horse bucks you off, you don’t have to get back on right away. The problem will be waiting for you the next time you ride.
* Sometimes you need to walk away and let a youngster sort things out on his own.
* If your mind isn’t on your horse, his won’t be on you.
* Some of the best riders I know shouldn’t be allowed near a horse.
* Some of the kindest intentions are the hardest on horses.
* A horse is your best friend until somebody else starts feeding them.
* If you yell at a horse for kicking his stall door, he’ll kick harder. If you ignore him and pass by without feeding him he’ll keep his feet where they belong in no time.
* When a horse has a vice like playing with her tongue, if you tie her mouth shut she’ll just find another vice.
* A horse knows exactly where her tail is all the time. There is no such thing as an accidental swat in the face.
* The more a person tells you how much he knows about horses, the less he actually does.
* The people who will argue the hardest about a horse’s stupidity are usually the ones who got scraped off on a tree.
* Training a horse without training the rider will not convince people you are any good.
* Finding holes in your training is the best thing that can happen to you. Once you go back and fill them in your program can only improve.
* When your horse gets stuck, go back to the last place he understood. The next step is where you confused him.
* Horses will forgive incredibly huge mistakes.
* If all you get done today is to catch your horse and lead him around the barn, it’s still more than leaving him standing in his stall.
* If a client’s horse is going down the tubes with a bad run, I would rather zero a maneuver and shoulder the blame than have the owner be angry with his horse.
* A horse will only rise to his rider’s level. He’ll sink to it too.
* Horse shows help you see where you stand.
* Trail riding teaches you and your horse to deal with the unexpected.
* Riding bareback shows how balanced you are.
* A horse who sniffs your coat sleeve is curious and friendly. A horse who sticks his nose in your back and pushes is dominant and rude.
* If the horse really, really screws up it always ends up being rider error.
* The definition of a gentle horse is a horse nobody has made mad yet.
* We need a horse to walk, trot, canter, stop, turn left, turn right and back. Everything that follows is a variation of the same theme.
* Teaching a horse lateral work before he can lope is like teaching a toddler to skateboard before he can walk.
* Horses have no guile. If he’s dishonest it’s because his trainer set the standard.
Learning these facts, most of them the hard way, has made me a kinder, more patient person in all of my dealings, with horses and the people I meet along the way. I think everybody can benefit from some time with a horse.
Of course horse training is really pretty simple. I mean, it’s not rocket science. The man who taught me to train reined cow horses summed it up in one neat phrase.
*If it sticks out, poke it.