WHAT SHOULD YOU ASK OF YOUR TRAINER
When you send a horse to a professional what do you expect, and what should the professional expect from you? This is a subject I spend a great deal of time thinking about. As someone who makes their living working with horses and with their owners I am continually surprised by the questions I am not asked. I start un-ridden horses and re-start horses of all ages and breeds that have developed problems. I ride and work with horses that are intended for every discipline imaginable, but regardless of the age, breed or intended discipline every horse needs a solid foundation and every owner needs to be able to continue the work when they take their horse home to keep that solid foundation in place.
Lets begin with an un-started horse of any age (re-starting problem horses would be another post altogether). I do not take un-started horses for 30 days. 60 to 90 is my minimum in fairness to the horse. I encourage everyone who sends a horse to a professional to ask what can be expected at each stage, and I put a lot of effort into educating my clients as to what they can expect at each stage of the process. Here is what I expect your horse to be doing at 45 to 60 days in:
. Ground work is solid and the horse is responsive, respectful and soft. . Your horse should stand quietly and put their head down to be haltered or bridled
. Your horse should stand quietly while hobbled or while tied
. I can mount your horse from the ground, from an object or from the fence, from either side, and I can dismount the same way. I expect your horse to stand quietly during this process and not move off until I ask them to
. Your horse should be riding at all 3 gaits with smooth transitions up and down. They should also be able to do so on a loose rein.
. Your horse should be counter bending, backing circles and leg yielding.
. Your horse should be well on it's way to vertical and lateral flexion and softness in the face.
. Your horse should be able to work a gate from either direction, opening and closing it without being bothered.
. Your horse should be accustomed to having a rope down around them while ridden, to having it thrown and to dragging objects such as a tire. You may not think your future dressage horse or jumper needs this, but your professional should educate you as to why every horse needs this.
. If the opportunity is available your horse should be introduced to cattle. Again, you may not see the importance so ask your professional what this can do for your horse and how important it is.
. Your horse should ride out comfortably.
. Your horse should load and travel well. Horses that spend any amount of time with me will be hauled and exposed to a variety of environments and situations.
. Above all else your horse should feel good about themselves and be a willing partner.
. I also have expectations of you, the owner. There will come a point during your horses time with me that I will encourage and expect you to work with me and your horse on a regular basis. That is one of the most critical parts of the journey if you are to continue forward when your horse goes home.
I have learned that each horse and each human that I have had the privilege to work with is an individual with different personalities. I by no means intend this post to be a statement implying that I know everything about teaching a horse. I learn every day, and the horses I work with are my greatest teachers. This post comes from my concern for the horses and their owners that I work with, and my strong desire for each and every one of them to get better and to continue in their journey just as I continue in mine.