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Different training methods

Hi Franklin,

You gave me some good advice a while back about getting my horse to be less fearful of whips. It's worked really well. We've been moving along in our training, and I have a "political" question for you. Over the last year I have worked with several trainers - one consistently, the other two in brief clinics. Each one has a different method, and each one is disdainful of the methods of the others. However, what I have experienced is that all of these trainers' methods "work", if they are applied properly. It seems to me that no matter how or what you are teaching the horse, the key is the timing of the pressure and release during the teaching.

Just as an example:

Trainer 1:
teach the horse to move off the leg and bend by riding straight, a few steps away from the rail, then laying the leg steadily on the inside, releasing each time the horse steps away from the leg. Over time, increase the demand, so that the horse moves away from the inside leg in the corner, then on the circle. Never increase the pressure with the leg (by kicking harder), just leave the same steady pressure there until the horse responds, then release it. In her opinion this should only be done slowly and incrementally, with the reins never applied until later, as the horse becomes more proficient. My horse caught on to this real quick. It seems to be a very slow method, but she learns it fine. This is my current main trainer's method.

Trainer 2:
Ride straight, then set the inside rein back just a little, so the horse has to bend his neck inside. Hold it like that until the horse stops sticking his nose up and resisting, and bends the neck. Then straighten slightly, but continue to maintain a neck bend to the inside at all times. Never ride the horse perfectly straight, or he will become inflexible and resistant. Keep flexing and releasing the neck while working, so the horse is always soft. My horse can do that, too. Trainer 1 thinks that's too much fussing with the bit, and the horse needs to learn to bend the body more than the neck.

Trainer 3:
Ride straight. If the horse doesn't go in a frame, or is distracted, or set against the bit, immediately do a cowboy turn, pushing the hindquarters around in a tight circle. The moment the horse releases and arches the neck, straight out and continue straight until you feel any loss of correctness, at which point immediately push the hindquarters around again. My horse got real good at this in two days of practice. (In fact, I think it was the most effective of the four.) She fussed a lot the first day, but the second day she went straight from a nice walk into a perfect trot, best she's ever done, and I only had to turn her a dozen times in the whole hour, instead of every minute or two. My trainer would say this is too harsh, and makes the horse worried and worked up, and everything should be done very quietly without "getting after" the horse if it fails to be correct.)

So if all these things work, one way or another, can I just pick the bits that work for me and my horse, and go with that? Each trainer thinks the other methods are too harsh, or too soft, or will create resistance or faults in the horse's movement. I am inclined to go with whatever is working for us, and not worry about who I'm impressing or offending. Although I'm obviously asking you, because I can't figure out why any of this offends anybody!! I'm inclined to just work on my own for a while, as I am tired of everyone being so political about training methods! I just want a relaxed, obedient, attentive horse that enjoys her work.

What do you think? -Thank you, Ona

Hi Ona,

This one is easy. What you are experiencing with the different trainers is called 'EGO!' Pat Parelli's has some very good training techniques. He also has an ego the size of California. So do these trainers you are experiencing. They all have something to offer that works and, at least, seems to not be abusing your horse. The trainers and just plain folks I tend to admire the most are the ones who do not make others wrong so they can appear right. They do not belittle others to make themselves look big. The ones I tend to admire most are only here to be kind and helpful to all. They suspend judgment. They suspend criticism. Consider only to offer help and suggestions for others to act on or not. Never give with thoughts of how your gifts are to be received or used. The gift for you will be in the giving.

Allow your horse to show you the way. Seems as though you are doing that. Your horse knows it all anyway. You are looking for the best way to express your desires to your horse. It will communicate to you the best way. You need but to listen very carefully.

Best wishes, Franklin

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