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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan. 5, 2013
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    204

    Question Training Plans & Setting Up for Success with a Trainer - Assistance Needed

    Thanks to all for the responses on my other post about my existing trainer and go forward advice. This new post is probably something I should have asked before I got my horse and assumed that the person I was working with could pull off "training" vs. "lessons." Someone once told me you get do overs until you die and to keep learning... pretty good advice, I think.

    In shout out to any trainer or individual who has had a successful relationship with training a younger horse, could you give me some input on any or all of the following questions (further down). I hope I am giving decent background. I type fast, so sorry it is so long...I kept thinking of more questions...

    Horse: Just turned 7 year old Appendix Paint. Great ground manners. Walk, trot, canter. No lead changes. Working over poles. Jumps very lightly to 2". She has a western background, basic hunter focus and the jumping. Not especially supple. Loves to stretch her neck and do a nice Western walk with a long relaxed neck. That is her big reward while training and her relax mode.

    When I bought her, the owner said she needs to be "finished." She has had minimal life experience, mostly brought up on a flat ranch with few distractions. She is curious, but doing great on trail with dogs, joggers, bikers, cars and kids.

    Horses job: My riding partner. I am unsure if I want to turn her into a real hunter. I never plan on showing on a circuit or rated show. I want to take my lessons, go on trail, do a local show - maybe just piles of poles and very tiny jumps. She was never a horse that I worried about as an "investment" or that I would move up. She is 7, so we have a long time together God willing. She has lots of potential as a hunter. I was recently told if I don't finish her as a hunter and show her, it would be a waste and I would ruin the horse... but I digress.

    Questions:

    1) Define finished. Does it also depend on what I want to do and what her job will be when she grows up?

    2) Are there training plans? I am a business person and that's how my brain works. While I know that these are animals with their own schedule, how have you effectively set up goals and communicated with your trainer/student about where the horse is now, what the next set of steps is and how to get there. Should there a be a written training plan or goals? Is there a loose clock for the basics? How should it flow? I am less concerned about sticking to any time schedule. There is no event she needs to get finished for. I just want to know what we are working on, towards and through. I work best with some milestones in mind. I have issues with total ambiguity, especially combined with an open checkbook.

    3) Homework - when I am in my lessons, I am so focused on what I am doing I sort of forget how we got there and I have a hard time remembering some of the exercises. As trainers, how do you give homework? Is it up to your students to ask you the exercises and write them down? Do you give lesson plans of homework for the week? When I ride, I absolutely believe every moment is a training opportunity, ergo, should I not have homework and a plan for my working rides vs. the days we both need a mental break?

    4) Training Rides: I am an owner who wants and is able to ride every day. I bought my horse to ride, plain and simple. How have you had success infusing training rides into your programs for young horses? The suggestion was one lesson a week for me and two training rides. I am honestly not sure I want to give up two days, but I am also not sure how I can quantify any improvement with the training rides. Should there be a defined plan? Should there be a conversation around what the trainer sees as the first 2 - 5 things they see as the starting point? I would assume if they can not articulate a plan of action - I run. What does this look like in a successful program?

    5) Since it is my horse and my $$, how obnoxious is it if I ask that training rides happen periodically when I can watch them. I do mean watch from afar, not at the rail interrupting, asking questions and breaking the flow. That would be rude and no one can work with interruptions like that.

    I have three dogs. One was mine, two were my husbands. When we moved in together, all three had to go away to doggie training camp. I was told what to expect, what the trainer would work on, we had assessments to discuss what she saw and what my husband and I were expecting. There were ten follow up lessons as the dogs came home over a period of three weeks and we had a ton of homework. We knew what we were getting into and have a pack of three great pups. My assumption would be that any horse trainer worth their salt would work in a similar fashion... but, I have been wrong before.

    While I know that people have had bad experiences, I don't want this to turn into a flame the old trainers thread and look at all the drama that can happen. I am looking for positive management and communication strategies for this very important relationship I need to develop. As I will most likely be looking for another trainer, I want to be as educated as possible in the right way to do this. I want to be the best client and keep my side of the street clean in terms of expectations, openness and doing my part of the work I need to pay for.

    The floor is now yours.... THANK YOU IN ADVANCE



  2. #2
    Join Date
    May. 5, 2006
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    I am not a trainer. At all. But, I am an adult rider who has addressed a couple of your questions myself, so I thought I would jump in with my .02 cents relating to my experience.

    I have a horrible memory. Even things that make a huge impression on me in the moment tend to become garbled after the fact. I was getting wonderful "homework" from my lessons, and then forgetting it before I had even left the barn. So I explained to my instructor that I needed to take about five minutes at the end of the lesson to write down the bullet points from the lesson and what I needed to work on when I rode on my own for the next week. She was more than happy to do that, and it helped me to A) remember what the homework was and, B) it help clarify what I needed to do, since I was able to ask questions and she was able to check for my understanding in the moment.

    Regarding being able to watch training rides: I think you should be able to do so whenever you want, as long as you're not doing anything disruptive while doing it. The thing to remember is that it isn't a lesson, and the structure might be different than you're use to. Your instructor/trainer may not have the time before hand or afterward to chat or answer questions. So be prepared to watch quietly, write down any questions you have in the moment and then e-mail them later, or set aside a time to chat. The training ride isn't your time, it is your horse's time. Keeping that in mind has helped me when I have watched my horse in training.
    Sheilah



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov. 12, 2001
    Location
    Dry Ridge, KY USA
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    The trainer/instructor that you find through word of mouth and watching training sessions/lessons should be willing to work with goals for the horse and you in mind. First, ask the potential instructor if they would care if you watch a lesson or even give you a lesson to see if you work well together. The instructor should be open to doing this.

    Make a list of the short term, medium term and long term goals that you would like to achieve. Ask the new instructor how they would go about helping you to achieve them.

    As far as the trainer who told you that you would be wasting a good horse if you did not let her train him (I see mucho dinero here $$$), please run away fast? The trainer should be there to help you achieve YOUR goals, not train a horse that they can take to big horse shows. Your horse does not know or care if they go to any show, ever. It is your decision, as the owner and rider, what if anything, your horse is going to do or be! If you want to ride 3 or 4 days/week and have the trainer ride once or twice, then it is your choice.

    Good trainers/instructors, who are not just trying to take your money, are out there. They may be difficult to find, but they are there. Maybe you could go to a show and watch the end gate or the warm up ring. See if you can find someone who might fit your style of riding. Get their number and call them.

    I always carry a notebook and write down the exercises from a lesson immediately after the lesson. My DH videotapes my lessons, too. It is very helpful to go back and watch what I was feeling from my horse.

    Good luck! I hope that you find someone to help you reach your goals.
    When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


    2 members found this post helpful.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun. 24, 2004
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    South Park
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    To me, a horse is never "finished" but I digress.
    Yes to training plan, yes to adjusting it to fit the horse as you progress (allowing more time for certain things if necessary.)
    Don't feel like you need to have someone else ride your horse if you have both the time and skill necessary to help her and progress on your journey together. I would rather take lessons together.
    Keep a lesson journal. Write down what you have worked on during your lesson. Detailed exercises with diagrams if necessary as a reference for when you are riding on your own.
    Go audit clinics and take notes.
    Have someone videotape you while you ride. Review the video either on your own, with your trainer, or with a knowledgeable friend.
    Take your horse to local schooling shows. Have fun and create a positive experience for your horse.
    Expose her to new things - trails, shows, cows, etc
    A friend told me I was delusional. I almost fell off my unicorn.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec. 21, 2008
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    Longing to be where I once was.....
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    2,190

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    I am not a professional trainer, nor have I ever paid a trainer for lessons or to ride my horses. I have always raised and trained my own and I have trained quite a few horses for others. I don't see why you can't write down what YOU want to accomplish and do with your horse and take it to a trainer and they follow it? In my mind any trainer worth paying would follow my goals for my horse? I think I would also want to be there to see any trainer ride my horse. I think your current trainer just doesn't get on well with your horse and the next one may be a wonderful match.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan. 18, 2007
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    Heaven on Earth--Sonoma County, CA
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    I'll try to answer, I am a trainer, and we do a lot youngsters, though we are eventing and dressage focused, rather than hunters, so keep that in mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sfbayequine View Post
    Questions:

    1) Define finished. Does it also depend on what I want to do and what her job will be when she grows up?
    Absolutely. As someone mentioned, I don't believe a horse is ever totally finished in the sense of there never being more to learn, but yes, finished as a dressage show horse, is different than finished as a reined cow horse, or finished as a trail horse. In a general sense, I think of a finished amateur sport horse to be one capable of doing what ever it's intended job (in your case, low hunters and trails) without needing constant tuning by the pro, and is capable of thriving without perfect consistency from the rider (as in you can go on abusiness trip, the horse can have a week off, and it's not the national finals rodeo on your first ride back).

    Quote Originally Posted by Sfbayequine View Post
    2) Are there training plans? I am a business person and that's how my brain works. While I know that these are animals with their own schedule, how have you effectively set up goals and communicated with your trainer/student about where the horse is now, what the next set of steps is and how to get there. Should there a be a written training plan or goals? Is there a loose clock for the basics? How should it flow? I am less concerned about sticking to any time schedule. There is no event she needs to get finished for. I just want to know what we are working on, towards and through. I work best with some milestones in mind. I have issues with total ambiguity, especially combined with an open checkbook.
    When I take in a new horse, I usually have a lengthy conversation (on the phone or in person) with the owner about their goals, their concerns and the horse's history. We then discuss a very loose timetable (more like a progression, I'm not a fan of putting time limits on horse training) which usually involves me outlining the process I plan to do to to get from point a to point b. However, I ALWAYS finish these conversations by saying, "Of course, please realize everything I'm telling is before I have ever laid eyes or hand on your horse." I generally tell people after I've had the horse for two weeks, I will regroup on the phone or over email, and discuss my findings about the horse, and make any adjustments to the previously discussed plan. I don't do written plans--every horse is an individual, and the cookie cutter model is terrible when working with horses.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sfbayequine View Post
    3) Homework - when I am in my lessons, I am so focused on what I am doing I sort of forget how we got there and I have a hard time remembering some of the exercises. As trainers, how do you give homework? Is it up to your students to ask you the exercises and write them down? Do you give lesson plans of homework for the week? When I ride, I absolutely believe every moment is a training opportunity, ergo, should I not have homework and a plan for my working rides vs. the days we both need a mental break?
    Depends on the horse and the student. I always conclude my lessons by saying, "Do you have any questions?" which would be the place where a student could ask me about what to work on, how to plan exercises, or the riding plan (hack vs, ringwork, etc.) between now and the next time I see them. Some of my students are capable of complex work on their own, some are not, and so I would tailor any guidance and instructions about to work on to what I believe will cause the most successful outcome between lessons. I'm also not a fan of overdrilling in the ring, especially with youngsters, so I like to have a say as to how much they do in between.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sfbayequine View Post
    4) Training Rides: I am an owner who wants and is able to ride every day. I bought my horse to ride, plain and simple. How have you had success infusing training rides into your programs for young horses? The suggestion was one lesson a week for me and two training rides. I am honestly not sure I want to give up two days, but I am also not sure how I can quantify any improvement with the training rides. Should there be a defined plan? Should there be a conversation around what the trainer sees as the first 2 - 5 things they see as the starting point? I would assume if they can not articulate a plan of action - I run. What does this look like in a successful program?
    This is a little complicated for me to answer, because honestly, I don't believe any horse should be ridden 7 days a week, and our youngsters (by which I mean 3 and 4 you) are ridden 4 days a week, max. However, though you refer to your horse as young, she's 7, so not quite the same as a true baby. Honestly, by reading this question, it sounds to me like you'd be more suited to program that is generally focused on progressing you and your horse together in a lesson setting, rather than true "training," whereby the pro is progressing your horse. You can always supplement in the occaisional training ride if you guys get "stuck" on a concept. You could also consider a situation where on training ride days, you lesson on a school horse if such a thing is available and within the budget. I have both types of clients here--where we are the primary riders, and where they are the primary riders. Different folks with different needs, though the ultimate goal is always to get the owner riding their horse. Its really just a matter of you figuring out what you really want (not what you SHOULD do, but what you really WANT), and finding a program that can provide it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sfbayequine View Post
    5) Since it is my horse and my $$, how obnoxious is it if I ask that training rides happen periodically when I can watch them. I do mean watch from afar, not at the rail interrupting, asking questions and breaking the flow. That would be rude and no one can work with interruptions like that.
    We always encourage owners to watch training rides, though the reality of our schedule is that we cannot always accommodate every owner's schedule. Training rides are generally done between 8 and 2, and lessons generally run from 2 till dark. We can always do our best to make wiggle room in either direction (a morning lesson, or an afternoon ride) but it's not always possible, and can rarely be done on short notice (such as, hey its noon now and I'd like to come at 1 and watch my horse be ridden).

    Quote Originally Posted by Sfbayequine View Post
    I have three dogs. One was mine, two were my husbands. When we moved in together, all three had to go away to doggie training camp. I was told what to expect, what the trainer would work on, we had assessments to discuss what she saw and what my husband and I were expecting. There were ten follow up lessons as the dogs came home over a period of three weeks and we had a ton of homework. We knew what we were getting into and have a pack of three great pups. My assumption would be that any horse trainer worth their salt would work in a similar fashion... but, I have been wrong before.
    With all due respect, I think training horses is signifcantly more complex--if for no other reason than you don't take your horse home with you. I DO think you have every right to set goals, understand how you are going to achieve the goals, and have open and frank discussions about why goals are not being met. However, you also need to understand that horses are individuals, and that unanticipated changes or holes can be uncovered that can change plans, timelines, etc. This is not a quantifiable science, unfortunately (it'd be SO much easier if it was, LOL), and so I know for myself, I do the best I can to anticipate how things will go, and offer timelines etc, based on my experiences, but there is always a horse that will make you a liar, and make you have to take a step back and try something different. It is my duty to discuss these issues with you, the owner, and keep you informed about any problems.

    Last year I had a pony sent to me to train. I was told it had bucked off it's child rider several times and scared her, and the way the story was shared with me, I was expecting your typical pony just needing a minor come-to-jesus manners installation, and all would be well. Imagine my surprise to discover pony had a signficant number of physical problems that needed addressing, and was in fact quite a dedicated and skilled bucker for any rider (the kind that takes one step away from the block and tries to unload you). I must have exchanged 30 phone calls with the owners as we unravelled the layers of problems, and another ten when I came to the conclusion that while we eventually had her going well under saddle and comfortable, she now had a fun new skill (bucking), and was never going to suitable for a tiny, timid child. Pony needed a new home. Certainly a disspointing outcome for the owners, but we did our job to the best of our ability, and kept the lines of communication open when things were not going according to plan.

    Again, I think the key is to decide what you need from a trainer, and then be upfront about it, and if a given trainer isn't willing to give you the answers you want, keep looking. Not every trainer is a match for every client, and that's OK. A trainer that has been a miracle worker for a friend, may not be the right type of communicator for you. Just search all the threads on here about different learning and teaching styles. It's a big wide world out there, you'll find your match.

    Good luck.
    Phoenix Farm ~ Breeding-Training-Sales
    Eventing, Dressage, Young Horses
    www.phoenixsporthorses.com
    Check out my new blog: http://califcountrymom.blogspot.com


    3 members found this post helpful.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2011
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    I am a trainer, and specialize in starting / training / retraining young or problem horses. Although I work in dressage now, I have a solid background showing hunters and jumpers. Here's my take on things:

    1) As a dressage rider I don't subscribe to the idea of finished. However, in my h/j experience, my understanding of "finished" means the horse can pack reliably around a 2'6" or 3' course, knows distances, and has auto changes, and behaves reliably in the hack.

    2) Every horse is an individual, and although I devise a training program with a series of short and long-term goals, I'm flexible on a daily basis. Every workday begins with a refresher of the training pyramid, and we only move on to the next step once those basics are confirmed. Time frames vary from horse to horse, and I'm loathe to impose an arbitrary time frame that might interfere with the horse's development. For example, I'm being very careful with one of my youngsters who (in my coach's words), "wants to dance before he can walk" -- he has a natural piaffe and passage that he wants to give ALL the time. Therefore, his training program currently avoids those those expressions in favor of developing the basics.

    3) Homework. I always give my students homework -- always. Sometimes it's bookwork Like memorizing the rein effects, researching in-hand training methods, etc. My coach still gives me homework, and when I began riding (30+ years ago), my trainer gave me a workbook and textbooks that I had to work through each week, in addition to my longe lessons and practicum.

    4) If I have a horse in full training, I do the bulk of riding, and the owner takes between one and three lessons with me per week. Sometimes, especially if I'm taking on a green horse AND a green rider, I'll request that the first one to two months are spent with me training the young horse, while the green rider takes lessons (longe or otherwise) on a schoolmaster.

    5) It's my expectation that my clients would and should watch training rides. Part of learning to be a good rider and good trainer means watching horses be trained. When I train, I talk to the owner, tell them what I'm doing, and why it's important. I explain what the horse is doing as well -- if they're resistant, weak, crooked, or forward and swinging. It's part of developing the client's eye. In fact, this has become such a habit with me, that when my friends or mother come watch me ride my young horses, I talk the whole time, explaining the exercises, methodology, etc

    IMO - Open and honest dialogue between trainers and clients is essential. I want my clients to become competent trainers in their own right. I still recall my first trainer's response when (as a 6 yo beginner) I said I hoped to be as good a rider as her one day. She said, "My dear, I want you to be better than me."


    2 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun. 7, 2008
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    now in KCMO, and plan to stay there
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    Wow, PhoenixFarm, you just impressed the daylights out of me! If I needed a trainer, and was in your neighborhood, horsey and I would be heading over to you tout de suite.
    Jeanie
    RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 5, 2013
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    Sdlbredfan - I pm'd my everlasting gratitude. PhoenixFarm is wonderful. :-)



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan. 18, 2007
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    Heaven on Earth--Sonoma County, CA
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    You guys are making me blush, but really, I'm nothing more than a product of the excellent professionals I had the privalege (sp?) of working with. And I suppose if I'm honest, also somewhat the product of the bad ones too (cuz you learn from all of them, even if it's what NOT to do, LOL).

    But really, the take away is to be clear with what you want, and be upfront when talking with trainers. The right one is out there, and it may be a big name, or a smaller one.

    Years ago a friend of mine started taking dressage lessons with someone, and the positive changes in her riding were striking! This person really, really, helped her, with her position, and her horses. So, when I was stuck with something with one of mine, I decided to go for a lesson myself. It was by far, the WORST dressage lesson I have had in my life. I almost walked out twice, and it ended with the trainer walking out and making a snarky comment about dumb people who buy psychotic horses.

    I can't deny that this person was incredibly helpful for my friend, so I can't say she was a bad trainer--I saw the improvements in them with my own eyes. However, she was absolutely the wrong trainer for me and my horse. So, I didn't go back, and eventually worked through the stuck place just fine.

    So take recommendations, talk to friends, etc. But just know that someone's perfect match may or may not be yours. So take your time, take some test lessons, and don't let anyone dictate what it should look like.
    Phoenix Farm ~ Breeding-Training-Sales
    Eventing, Dressage, Young Horses
    www.phoenixsporthorses.com
    Check out my new blog: http://califcountrymom.blogspot.com



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul. 31, 2007
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    I'm not a pro but I have worked for them and made up my own horses.

    OP, lots of this depends on how well you ride-- how much timing and feel you have or how much you can get while your horse is being trained.

    To me, a finished horse means several things-- you can mix and match several of them.

    1. The horse can do a job. That can mean show in a division, trail ride or the like. IMO, that's the crudest definition of "finished."

    2. It means the horse can used his hind end and you "can put him where ever you want." He is light in the bridle, light to your legs and seat, supple and symmetrical. My goal with every horse is to make him go off my body with leg--and especially hand-- being rather extra. You can spend a horse's whole life getting him broke to fewer and lighter aids.

    3. The horse knows how to take correction and, equally important, how to learn new things. The finished horse is the one who has seen a lot, but also knows how to keep thinking when he's in new, scary situations. No reason, for example, that the made show hunter can't learn to neck rein and go in a western "signal" bit. He has been taught how to use his body the way any horseman would want, but he has been taught, too, how to listen for whatever new set of rules someone decides.

    4. The uber-finished horse is one who can also teach other people to ride. He can tolerate their mistakes, respond correctly when they ask correctly and easily be "tuned up" or perform much better for a better rider without too much discussion about the need to step his game back up to the top of what he has been taught to do.

    When I make horses, I know what I want them to feel like. All of the horses I make feel more or less the same in the end-- light, supple, symmetrical, waiting to the jumps. I also want them to be thinking when we go outside the ring, so while they might be more or less high energy as trail horses, none is stupid or flighty and each *will* accept direction from me while we are out there.

    With that end goal in mind, I can make a 5 year plan, a 1 year plan, a this-month plan, a in-the-next-hour plan. But really, I just polish rough edges and on any given day, the horse chooses which edge we'll polish. This works the best. It works because I know where I want the horse to be years later and I have seen lots of ways to get there, one day at a time.

    You and the horse trainer:

    The hard part about making a business plan for training a horse is the way the horse or events on the farm dictate what training you'll do on any given day. So if someone sent me a baby to start, the plan was to ride him. But if he doesn't tie well, we might "pull over" one day and work on that. If he's always ridden alone and others are in the arena, I might change my plan to have that day be about paying attention to me when other horses are around. If the weather is good and he is kind of rideable, he might learn to go on the trail. If I have my trailer around, maybe we take advantage of that and work on loading or unloading. A bath means we might go slowly while he learns to accept water n his face. Because all these things fit into my definition of a finished horse, no time is wasted if I work on any of them.

    Then there is the fallacy of talking about just producing a horse for a given division. You *can* jump a 2'6" course with a relatively unbalanced horse, but I don't want to. So I tend to give horses a much more sophisticated training on the flat than that division requires.

    I think they all should have flying changes, go patiently in company or be taken away from other horses, go through water, long line and let me clip them where ever, tie, go through gates, work around cattle (at least slowly). But if you were going to event or fox hunt or wanted a cutting horse, I'd need to add special training for those things.

    Like the pros here, I want an owner or regular rider to watch me ride and give me "orders" about what they'd like in the end. IMO, they should understand what I'm doing. Ideally, they can recreate it when they ride. And part of my job, too, is making sure that the horse can go for the owner or rider, not just for me. If I'm making a horse for someone who doesn't ride well, I'll periodically give that horse some bad riding-- followed by a correction-- so that I can be sure that the horse doesn't depend on having a perfect ride all the time. Heck, I'll practice using stumps or the bumper of my truck as a mounting block so that I know a shortie riding in "battle conditions" can always get back on.

    I think any good trainer can explain to anyone what they are doing and why. I can "narrate" the conversation I am having with a horse as I'm riding him. If I can't do that, or you don't follow it, something is really, really wrong. I don't know if many pros explicitly make this "transparency" thing a goal. But I think you want to have a trainer who can explain in terms you understand, even if that doesn't work for everyone. Another reason to have this, even from an instructor only, is because they are essentially riding the horse through you, by remote control (if they are helping you to learn to ride better). At some point, you should be able to give or release an aid faster than they can say it. That's because you can feel what they do.

    Besides watching the trainer until you can predict what they will do next and why, your best bet is to ride a horse they have made. You need to gain a sense of what your trainer looks for in a finished horse and ride for that feel on your own. That is what makes training shared by a pro and an ammy work. It will be a little slower than having the pro do all the riding, but you'll learn a lot, enjoy your horse and have one that is very, very rideable by you. "Rideable" means that you get just about the best performance from the horse that anyone can and also that you can teach the horse things yourself or keep it tuned up.

    If your pro has a finished horse you can take lessons on while your horse is getting trained, take her up on the opportunity. Certainly take lessons on your greener horse from time to time, trying to do what you think your trainer would do. That will make you a better rider faster, and help you take up the training project your pro is doing.

    I hope you guys have fun!
    Last edited by mvp; Mar. 19, 2013 at 10:31 PM.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


    2 members found this post helpful.

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