In horse training, success doesn’t come simply from practicing something over and over again; it comes from doing it correctly over and over again. How can you be confident that you are doing it correctly. The best way is to get another professional opinion. Trainers all agree that it takes more than one of us to train a horse. When you see a great horse, it’s unlikely that one trainer was singlehandedly responsible. That doesn’t mean every trainer has to actually get on the horse; it just means that each one has something special to contribute. Consulting with other trainers helps to ensure that you are working a horse properly. I may ask another trainer, “Watch this horse stop right here,” or “Watch this horse’s left turn on this cow. What would you do?” Sometimes a fresh viewpoint can solve a problem. If you ever become close-minded, believing that you know everything there is to know about a horse, you will pay a penalty that will show up in your career.
Fresh viewpoints can provide you with new methods, and although you want to practice the correct hing, there is room for some experimentation. I believe it was the baseball player Lou Brock who said, “Show ma guy who is afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.” You won’t ruin a horse by trying something new that doesn’t work out ““ if you do, it wasn’t a very good horse to start with. There is always room to relax and try different methods without being uptight about making a mistake. Horses are amazingly forgiving of your mistakes. Of course, if you make a horse do something wrong repeatedly, especially in his impressionable days, it will be difficult to change.
It’s always good to get another opinion if you’re unsure about a method, but much of what you must rely on is your own feel for horses and, specifically, for the horse you are working with. The average horse owner has a difficult time recognizing a flaw that is irreparable or something a horse is mentally or physically incapable of. You must become an expert horseman to recognize what can be changed in a horse and what you must let go of and accept.
There isn’t any perfect horse, just as there isn’t any perfect human. Even the best horse will have some imperfections, and to make that horse all it can be requires focusing on his strong points. This can pay off in competition. You may have a run in cutting with a horse that performs “just okay” overall, but suddenly you score big because of a couple of moves the horse makes that are really spectacular. A horse’s strong points often counterbalance his weaknesses.
You can let a good horse make some decisions. Let’s use reining as an example. It’s considered a “˜cool’ move for reiners to run and then stop without pulling on the reins, but in very few big reining competitions do the riders trust their horses enough to do so. It’s okay to pull, but what I’m saying is that, because the riders don’t want to make any mistakes with money on the line, they won’t allow the window of opportunity for the horse to show off his extraordinary abilities. Instead, they keep a little more control. Sometimes it’s worth taking the risk of trusting the horse. The stakes are high, but the payoff can be big as well.
Learn more about Al and his programs at www.teamadinternational.com a membership website featuring the training methods and best practices of World Champion Al Dunning.