Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Trainers and Clinicians - Not Ready for Prime Time Players

Something has been bugging me lately. It's been bugging me a lot. It started with this kid.

His name is Carson James. He keeps showing up on my FB page.
First off, I want  to be clear, he does a lot of things right.
His basic knowledge is okay.
Thing is, his execution is pretty shaky. In the video below, all I can see is his hands, picking, picking picking. He is making a video on creating a quiet horse, yet his fidgeting sends his horse constant messages asking for movement. When the horse responds, he receives a correction.
I recognize this, because K spent FOREVER kicking my butt over this very same habit. Eventually, I learned when to cue, when to fix and when to leave my horse the hell alone.
Then I was ready to spend the next eight years or so learning how to build a bridle horse.
In the mean time, I didn't start making videos.

This kid needs to spend some time with a quality horse trainer. It didn't really matter to me until I saw the video below.
My big fat huge problem is he is representing himself as a trainer of bridle horses.
Dude, you're not even close.
Not only that, but this is the kind of stuff that makes riders from other disciplines make fun of us.

Carson's video is a mish-mash of horse whispery stuff and some pretty rough riding.

The video below shows a World Champion run by a horse I'm quite fond of. He's still in the two-rein here, which means he's still not considered finished.
His trainer, Kevin Stallings, does not spend a bunch of time riding bridleless, or desensitizing his youngsters with a flag. He does however, create horses like the one you see below.
Watch how Kevin rides, watch how the horse carries himself, then go back and watch Carson again.

This kid is trying to scrape together a living, a very tough thing to do as a young trainer, so I understand what he's doing, even if I wish he wasn't.

If you want to see one that actually pisses me goes.

In a recent interview in Western Horseman, Clinton Anderson said he was stepping out of the clinic gig so he could become proficient in the show pen.
He was very up front about knowing he couldn't advance in cow horse and reining unless he took the time to live breathe and ride the events.
He felt that in order to be taken seriously by someone other than beginning horse folks he needed to prove himself as an NRHA, NRCHA and NCHA competitor.
I thought...Great! Good for him!

It's an argument I have had many, many times.
Natural Horsemanship is shaped around the basic training put on many good western horses in the first thirty days of their training - while they're learning other stuff, like being ridden.
In order to keep making money and continue drawing crowds these very basic concepts are turned into smoke and mirrors, piddly little tasks, and lots of reasons to not actually get out and ride.

This approach has its appeal, but, when taken too far, it tends to create stiff dull horses who don't ride well and definitely don't cut in the show pen.

The worst part of this methodology is creating a bunch of horse owners never growing into the advanced (fun) levels of horses because they're still going to clinics to perfect game 72 part c/224.

Needless to say, I was very interested to see how Anderson's training program changed as he got deeper into the pro show circuit.

Then...what pops up on FB?


How is he qualified to start selling videos on training performance horses? By his own admission, he just started riding in open shows. He hasn't won anything! Trust me--I know, hauling to a frigging show does not a competitor make.

This isn't the first time Ol' Clint has played this game. Several years ago Horse and Rider magazine followed Clinton Anderson as he started two reining prospects, preparing them the Down Under Way before sending them off to a competitive reining trainer. If I remember right, he planned on riding whichever came out the best in the Snaffle Bit Futurity.

First one washed out, then the other.

There was no follow up. Both Horse and Rider Magazine and Anderson became verrrrry quiet. I was dying to know some details. My personal guess was both prospects were so dull by the time the poor reining guy got them he couldn't get anything done. I'll never know, nobody was talking.

There is an enormous difference between the approach to training a top level competitor and creating a calm, friendly, trail riding companion.

This kind of crap can only degrade the beauty of a well trained horse.

Finally, I have posted four photos of trainers teaching a young horse to spin. Take your time, look at hands, body position, weight...then look at the horses. Check out the legs, the bend, the shoulders...

Carson -

Sandy Collier -

Clinton -

Pete Kyle -
There is an on-going argument that clinicians are the only affordable way for people to learn. Some of the trainers I featured on this post are pretty pricey, but Sandy Collier has an amazing set of videos out that actually teach stuff beyond jiggling ropes and following you around a round pen.

None of the featured trainers cost as much as Clinton. I checked out his website and the prices he slaps on his horses. Do me a favor. Check out this site.

Look at his horses, their bloodlines, the services he offers and his experience. He shows and wins on what he breeds. So do his clients. Devin is a friend, a local guy and highly accessible. I can guarantee if you haul out to him and invest the same amount of money in lessons as you would on The Four Savvy's you'll have a whole new insight to what a partnership with a good horse can be.


  1. I'll go with Sandy Collier any day. Her horse doesn't appear to be falling over nor does it appear that she is leaning away from her horse.

    A question I have about the Shining Lil Nic video. Why do horses seem to have such a difficult time changing leads on the figure 8's. Both directions he needs a lot of leg to switch.

    I have so much to learn

    Emily in NC

  2. I'd say the Sandy Collier way too. Although the last photo isn't terrible. Is his weight in the right place?

    I still am pretty weak in the spin but I was taught long and low. Relaxed. Opening rein, plenty of leg. It's not something that can be yanked! No way you'd get a nice shape from that first photo.

  3. I can't believe all this is considered ok for two year olds. Surely their joints will be completely wrecked?

  4. Ongoing discussion around my house...teaching the horse to give/flex/bend versus the overabundance of would-be trainers who OVERflex and OVERbend their poor colts until feel and softness aren't even in the playbook. That's what I see in 3 of the 4 stills. On the other hand, Sandy's horse is straight and low.

  5. Emily -- I don't see too much leg or the horse having trouble with his changes.... It's how we do it. We don't ride with constant contact, rein or leg, so you will see a leg move in to signal a change. As far as the horse...he changed back to front in a single stride, straight between the reins and's all we look for.

  6. The last photo is correct also.

  7. Anon - The horse in the World Show Video is five. The only other horses with an age posted were Clinton's...clearly this is not a discussion about when to start a horse.

  8. My horse Shining Lil Nic is the best lead changer I have ever had the privilege to ride! Not sure what the lady above is referring to? This is a great article!! I always say "everybody's a horse trainer"
    Janiejill Tointon

  9. Excellent discussion. I always want to respect reiners, but I keep getting exposed to people like Carson and it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. They was nothing pleasant or balanced or even useful looking about tearing around on an unbalanced horse like that.

    I get the young, struggling pro thing and I get the wanting publicity from making vidos thing too, but maybe make videos about something you're good at first? :-/

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I just wanna buy some liniment and some fly spray for that poor kid's horses.

    Seriously though, both of Carson's horses are tail twitching/wringing like nobody's business. Either he's got the worst luck on ending up with tail wringers, or those horses aren't happy. I'm guessing it's more the latter case.

    I want a trainer who shows me quiet, centered, happy horses and a smooth, controlled ride. All this kid is showing me is that I don't want him near any of my animals.

  12. Ha! I can't believe you didn't pull this video Mugs. Here's Clinton at the Snaffle Bit here in Reno in 2013. He has been trying to hit the circuit for a while now:

    He's scheduled to show in Rancho Murrieta at a fairly good sized one next weekend. NCHA he's still at $0 but it looks like he's almost to $10K on the NRCHA circuit.

  13. Where are you finding NRCHA earnings for him? He's not in the standings.

  14. I didn't pull the futurity video for obvious reasons.

  15. Hey mugs....somehow your video of the good little barrel racer jumped ship and wound up under Clinton's video.... that, or my phone is being stupid.

    Oh, and I want to ride cow horse....wonder if I can do it on a Peruvian...

  16. Veronica - the awesome barrel racer is in the post below...any breed can compete in the NRCHA.

  17. CA's earnings:

  18. Shoot that didn't work! He's member # 3496

    Stephenville, TX
    Lifetime Earnings ($9,840.28)
    LAE Open ($9,840.28)
    LAE Int. Open ($9,840.28)
    LAE Ltd Open ($9,840.28)
    Lvl 1 Ltd Open ($9,840.28)
    LAE Non Pro ($0.00)
    LAE Int. NP ($0.00)
    LAE Nov NP ($0.00)
    LAE Amt ($0.00)
    LAE Non Pro Ltd ($0.00)
    HS Ltd Open ($9,840.28)
    HS Int. NP Bridle ($0.00)
    HS Novice NP ($0.00)
    HS 5K NPL ($0.00)
    HS 1K NPL ($0.00)
    HS NPL ($0.00)
    HS Youth Ltd ($0.00)

  19. Love to hear your take on Warwick Schiller?

  20. Quite honestly, the flapping legs on the Shining Lil Nic video bother me. Why do so many reiners do that? Granted, I'm nowhere near that level of performance and it took me years to get where we are, but my little mare doesn't need the flapping legs to cue spins or anything like that. I weight stirrups, push down with the appropriate seatbone three times then use leg...that just seems like way too much leg cue. I know that would drive my girl nuts (yeah, the sensitive one who gets ginched up by a big piece of pleather under her cinch rings but doesn't like string cinches).

    Hey, dressage riders shouldn't need that much leg. Should be the same for reiners.

  21. It was nice to see the buckskin horse's reining pattern....soft, in the bridle, NOT behind the vertical or on a ridiculously loose rein.

  22. Joyce Reynolds Ward- I don't see leg flapping anywhere.
    Nor do I see bumping with a spur. I see bumping with his leg, which is how it works.

  23. cdncowgirl - thanks...I have to stick with my original point. He hasn't won anything that will justify being considered an expert.
    I can't tell you how easy it is to earn your way over your head and never actually win anything (ahem).

  24. Shining Lil Nic looks like a sweet ride. Janiejill you're a lucky lady! I love how he carries himself, and the way he's built. His lope looks as smooth as silk.

    My favourite colour too, but that's just icing :)

  25. Knowing precisely zip about the discipline, no 1 looks like he's about 6 inches from tipping his horse over and no 3 looks more like he's asking for a pirouette than a spin. And they both have too much neck bend whatever the discipline.
    Don't know enough to pick between 2 and 4, they both look low and neat and balanced in the centre of their horse. Both have light rein and just enough flex to open the shoulder. And although they're at different phases, it looks like they're both crossing in front. That exhausts the extent of my knowledge here, although if I had to pin one on the basis of these photos I'd go for 2, just because she looks squarer in the saddle.

  26. My favourite part of the Carson video is when he finally got off that poor horse. How can that be considered balanced? It wasn't fluid at all. If I had a horse he wouldn't be coming any where near it!

  27. Thank you for calling out Carson James. I too keep seeing his stuff on Facebook. When I watched one of his videos, he was really nagging the horse, and by the end there was absolutely zero improvement in the behavior he was supposedly fixing. He mainly seems good at self-promotion.

  28. So everything has been said that should be said, so I'm just going to add my little peeves:
    Why do they try and sound like Buck Brannaman? THe long drawling speech methods are irritating, not "wise" or "mysterious".
    Tapaderos, are we deep in the heart of Texas here?
    That jumping manic spin is created by A LOT of spur and A LOT of heavy hands on the bit. Can we even call it a spin?
    The thing is, basic foundations are needed, therefore I have very little use or patience for this kind of person. He ISN'T a trainer, so why is he promoting himself as one? He is not helping anyone with this kind of stuff, especially horses. He should not be making money in this field when his product is so so poor. WyoFaith

  29. Ok, and one more thing- to me, the difference is all about where the balance is in the horse. A horse who is trained correctly will balance himself correctly in his body- he will know how to use his own body correctly. A poorly trained horse will show himself using his body poorly- it pops up in where he is trying to balance himself. I only watched the first bit of the Clinton video- but the horses in the snippets of video appeared to me to be balancing incorrectly- the weight of his body is never carried in his big old butt/ hind end- they aren't using that LS joint, or whatever you want to call it. There is stiff resistance somewhere- neck poll, etc. as that horse tries to carry himself somewhere other than where he should. A well trained horse doesn't do this. My area of passion is barrel racing, but it all is the same. WyoFaith

  30. I’m late to this thread. However, I really liked what you posted here. Your assessment was both fair and accurate. I see a lot of bad riding being sold by certain clinicians. That inexperience would definitely tell on them in the show pen. I come from a strong dressage
    Background. I initially began Western and after some years have recently purchased another great quarter Horse. Western riding has always been close to my heart and I’m now again doing what I love. My point, I learned dressage from a highly accomplished trainer because I could not find a western trainer in my area who rode well. The methods were often cruel. Rough hands, head in the air, zero rear impulsion, and a generally unhappy horse. There are very few trainers who are true horseman. I have to hand it to these guys on the business end of things. They figured out how to take people’s money. Do your research before handing over your horse to people like this. It takes a long time to undo the damage bad training creates. Sometimes it blows a horses mind so bad it cannot be undone! Thanks for posting.