The first time I asked a respected trainer what he thought the most important thing to know or do as a horse trainer was, I was really disappointed in his answer. “Train every horse as an individual,” he told me. I was expecting manna from heaven, something profound I’d never thought of or heard before. What I got was something I thought was so obvious that surely everyone knew it.
After that initial question, I took notice every time I asked that question because every quality horse handler mimicked that same sentiment. From grooms, shoers, farm managers as well as trainers- teach each, as an individual was their mantra. Why? Because one size does not fit all.
Then I experienced the other side of the question. I attended a clinic where the trainer was teaching his system. Every horse he worked with, he ran through the exact same drills regardless of the temperament, personality, breed, age or confirmation. Some horses did well, some- those generous souls who’ll put up with anything- figured out what was expected of them and did what was required. Others got annoyed, frustrated, and/or angry and offended.
For the horses who came away with a less than positive experience, those horses lost ground in their training and required damage control. The worst-case scenario is when a less than optimum horse owner adopts a program or method of training that does not work for a particular horse. Yet the human tries to force the horse to fit the program.
It’s like forcing your foot into a shoe that is too small. It does nothing but cause pain and agony resulting in problems and poor performance: A waste of time, money and a ruined horse.
On the other hand, if you approach each horse as an individual, asking each Who Are you? How can I help you achieve your potential? If you make each and every horse think they are the most important being in you life, well, just think how you perform when someone makes you think you are the most important person in their life?
One horse might like to be the first one out in the morning, where as another might prefer to wait. A horse might like a light, quiet ride and another might want more of the rider’s participation. Some horses love to be brushed and some are very skin sensitive where it would be better to use a towel on them.
Knowing and paying attention to these details could well be the difference between a horse trying his or her hardest to win or not caring, just as their human did not care. We are all looking for the optimum success with our horses. By knowing each horse individually gives us the best chance of providing the horse with everything that she or he needs to perform at the optimum potential!