Are you interested in training your own horses? Terrific! If you are able to invest roughly an hour a day, five days a week, for approximately 18 – 24 months, and have learned proper timing and truly understand the nature of the horse, you should be able to train effectively.
Here we’ve come up with eight easy questions that you must be able to answer in the affirmative (that means “yes”) before you begin:
1. Do you understand that the horse is a prey animal and comprehend all the instincts that go with that fact?
2. Are you both willing and able to be a concise, firm, benevolent leader every single second that you’re interacting with your horse?
3. Have you honed your handling and physical communication skills to the point that your spot-on reactions and corrections can be made instantaneously, without squandering even half of a second on thought?
4. Are you an exceptionally balanced rider so that, when you do eventually get to the place where you can climb safely in the saddle, your weight will aid and not hinder or disrupt the horse in any way?
5. Do you have a reasonable tolerance for pain?
6. Are you willing to give up all vacations and a majority of any “free” time so that you can devote the necessary hours to consistent training over the next two years (give or take a few months)?
7. Are you truly prepared to eat a little dirt, and maybe some crow, during the training process?
8. Do you have good medical insurance?
If an emphatic and honest “YES!” was not your reply to even one of the questions above, you should either abandon the idea of training on your own or purchase life insurance and write up a comprehensive will before you forge ahead. Don’t forget to list a beneficiary for the horse; Alpo or Purina may be good choices, as your newbie efforts are quite likely to ruin it to the extent that the poor animal won’t be safe for anyone else to handle or ride after your experimental training.
For those who have answered “YES!” to each and every question, it’s always a good idea (if you’ve trained fewer than a dozen horses on your own) to follow a program and be willing to hire some professional help when you run into a tough spot.
Have you been reading books and articles about how to train? If yes, stop that right now. If you think you can learn anything about training by reading, you have no business even thinking about training. Book knowledge is no substitute for experience. Training a horse requires physical reaction and impeccable physical timing, all of which are built over time via significant, consistent, hands-on experience. Generally you’ll need at least 8 – 10 years of experience in order to train well, unless you’re an exceptionally talented freak of nature, in which case it’s probably unnecessary for you to continue reading this.
Okay, you’re still reading and still planning to proceed with your own training. We can assume you’ve been riding and handling horses for close to a decade (or more) and have had reasonable success (or at least understand the necessary lessons that explain why you’ve had less than reasonable success).
Following a program that’s clearly laid out step by step (Clinton Anderson’s method, for example) can be very beneficial. The method’s initial focus on ground work allows horse owners to build on a solid and reliable foundation, as long as you’re willing to take each step in its prescribed order and put in the time needed for your horse to absorb and understand each lesson. If you’re not going to do it right, don’t bother doing it at all.
If you want to work directly with a local Utah trainer and get hands-on assistance, we highly recommend Jim Montgomery (Montgomery Performance Horses, West Bountiful, UT) or Joe Ruiz (Joe Ruiz Reining, Taylorsville, UT). Even if you’re not a Reiner, these skilled, accomplished and truly experienced horsemen have proven their ability to put a reliable handle on any horse over time.
Keep in mind that quality training is not cheap and it’s not fast.
You’re either going to invest your time or you’ll need to invest your money (usually both). Any backyard trainer who claims they can get your horse going well in 30 days or less is either dishonest or delusional.
If you’re unwilling to invest in getting the job done correctly, you’ll be better off to convert your training dollars into quarters, sell your horse and go park your hind-end on the coin-op horsey in front of the supermarket. That’s the only way you’ll be safe in the saddle. And safety (your own, the safety of the horse, and the safety of anyone around or on that horse) should always be your number one priority.
Training can be a great deal of fun and enormously rewarding when it’s done well. Be honest with yourself about your abilities, dedication and skill level, and be generous with your training time and dollars, and you’ll no doubt create a quality experience with constructive results.