Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Artificial Training Devices

I'm not planning an assault on all Natural Horsemen, (well, maybe a little one).
I do have some thoughts on the dreaded artificial training devices, so heavily sneered at by many, if not most of the NH proponents out there.
My first thought is this. Since when is ANYTHING we do to these horses natural?
From the minute we yank them off the prairie and toss them into our five acre lil' piece of heaven, the horse's life is no longer natural.
Whether you choose a leather break away halter, a rope halter, or a My Way Or The Highway Training Systems specially approved Loving Mothers Arms Gentle Restraining Device, you are still using an artificial training device.
I have long worked with the philosophy that every horse needs to be given the best chance of survival we can possibly give it.
A good nature, willing attitude, wonderful, respectful ground manners, and an ability to tolerate whatever dumb bunny throws a leg over it, will give even the ugliest mutt of a horse a better chance at living until retirement age.
I have studied, and used a lot of Ray Hunt, and John Lyons, among others. I also have dug my way into the professional show trenches.
When I have the luxury of time, I still take tiny steps in the development of my horses. I carefully craft their behavior and ability with only my legs and hands.
My horses usually stay in a ring snaffle, or hackamore (bosal) until they are six years old.
Then reality comes crashing down on my head.
In my job I routinely get horses in that are a total mess, for thirty to sixty days. I have to perform stinking miracles in an extremely short amount of time.
Half of those horses have owners who simply drop them off, and come pick them up again when their time is up.
They don't take a single lesson, even though they are included with the training.
They pick them up, take them home and ride them, think I'm a genius, screw them up again, and bring them back the next year.
That's what we trainers call job security.
I am guilty of using running martingales, draw reins, and braided mouthpiece snaffles.
I try to only use these things long enough to show the horse what I'm asking.
Draw reins, usually ten minutes on, ten minutes off.
Running martingales, properly adjusted, don't bother me much. I have them long enough that they only catch them if they throw their head.
I'll ride with a braided mouth piece one day on, one day off. The horse gets to pick which one he prefers. It's amazing how quick they decide on the smooth mouth piece.
Remember, the owner created these messes. Or bought them this way. Or didn't research their last trainer well enough. (I rarely recommend the feed store guy's, Aunt Charlottes, second cousin)
I have been given a finite time to fix them.
I do my best. I try to be smart, and safe. I'll use those devices. I'll do whatever it takes to give those horses the best chance I can. They deserve the best I can give, even if it's only thirty days.


  1. I followed you over here from fugly, and now will stalk your blog. I love your attitude toward training. I also believe in a good gallop, even for my WP horses. I posted a confOrmation critique request on fugly's forum. If you get a chance would you look at it? this is the link that I included in the request.

  2. Glad to have you! I'll see if I can find it.

  3. I'm not sure how to find the request.....

  4. Its already disappeared down the food chain :( busy forum. If you get time, would you just go to the link I gave you and see what you think. HORRIBLE "trying to sell a horse" pictures, nearly put me off even going for a look, but the ppl on the forum liked him. hmmmm. It is listed as "smurfette" as author.

    Anyway, your show description was almost poetic. I've had a few barrel runs like that, and a couple of reining runs, where I would be so mezmerized (sp) by the spinning, that I went over, or just sat still savoring a slide. I was riding reiners when slide plates were unusual, rather than the rule.

  5. I think he looks like a pretty handy horse. Maybe a little upright on his rear pasterns, nothing that bothers me though. Be warned, I don't need perfect conformation to be happy. I want to see what they can do, how they go, and how their mind works.I'd take a look at himif it was me.

  6. Thanks. It was the dippy back that had me nervous. If my budget will quit argueing with me, I probably will go have a look, he is not but about 3 hours from me. He is JUST what I was looking for, a retired reiner to pattern on barrels, and I HAD the money, but we bought one last month, a washed out roper (I guess I am a sucker for projects) who coliced, impacted and DIED THREE days after we brought him home. The horse had been cheap, but the vet bill wasn't and then when you add the trauma to me and my daughter.....UGHHH

  7. The back may or may not cause collection issues. It might be harder for him to get underneath himself.
    Once again, I'd ride him before I decide.
    I'm riding a Smart Smoke son with the same build. He's fine.

  8. "A good nature, willing attitude, wonderful, respectful ground manners, and an ability to tolerate whatever dumb bunny throws a leg over it, will give even the ugliest mutt of a horse a better chance at living until retirement age."

    Man, that is SO true. I say all the time, the public is looking for a horse that doesn't require riding skills. If you can breed such a horse, you are on the right track!

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