Picture this: You’re out of shape. You go out on the road and run two miles. You come back from running those two miles, sit down in the classroom covered in sweat, and then try to learn Geometry. How well do you think that you’re going to learn and absorb that knowledge? The answer is not very well.
It has become an equine industry standard to lunge a horse before riding. The one thing that most people don’t understand is why they are lunging their horse. Are they doing it to wear the horse out? Warm the horse up? Or maybe even to get the buck out of it? Now, ask yourself the following questions: How much more athletic would that horse be doing their job if they didn’t waste two hours lunging before the show to wear them down or warm them up? How much clearer could we make our initial training process to not allow for bucking as an option, therefore preventing it from happening on a regular basis?
Unlike any of the other world-renowned clinicians, I didn’t come from cold horses. What I mean by the term cold horses are breeds such as quarter horses, draft horses, and other horses breeds that are more calm-mannered by nature. I came from the world of Paso Finos, a very hot breed. Unfortunately, horse breeds that fall into the hot horses category are often written-off as hard to train, too hot, too strong-willed, etc. All that means is that people don’t understand how to train them. If you would try to lunge a hot horse to get them to look for submission, you would be lunging your horse for years and years. Every day that you lunge them, they are going to get stronger and more in shape. By the end of the week, the horse would wear YOU out.
Now, why does this matter? Since I come from this hot horse background, I’ve had to learn to develop a training program that works for any breed, any age, any background, and any discipline. This all starts with working the horse from cold. By cold, I mean that the horse is not going to get lunged first, it’s not going to get worked first, and it’s fresh out of the stall or pasture. How much better would you learn if you weren’t sweating or breathing hard?
My goal is to start every horse from the very beginning, regardless of how advanced they are. As they pass each grade level, they are able to move on to the next. Some horses will fly through this process while others will struggle with Kindergarten and that’s okay. If a horse sweats at all during this grade school process, it’s because they are putting mental pressure on themselves. Although there is not much exercise movement involved in the grade school process, the 1stgrade “Lunging For Attention” level is about getting the horse to bend their head and look at you while moving forward so it may seem more physical if the horse is resistant. As long as the horse can do it freely, they may only go a couple laps each direction doing the movement correctly to prove they can do it.
The huge benefit to working a horse from cold is that they are sensitive and willing to listen to what you are asking. When a horse hasn’t been lunged or worn out, they are much more sensitive and attentive in their face. This makes it much easier and clearer to ask for specific answers. I also have found that it is very effective to take breaks in between getting the desired response and moving to the next thing. This allows the horse to relax their head and let it drop below their withers. This releases an endorphin that repels adrenaline. Every time that their adrenaline drops, they lick their lips, and then they relax, the horse also becomes sensitive again and is ready for the next learning experience. There is no comparison to the learning capabilities that this concept allows any horse to have, even if they are already nervous or sensitive in nature.
For those of you that don’t already know my background, I am a 5th generation horse trainer. I’ve been blessed to grow up with some of the best and most amazing horse trainers in the world at my fingertips. With all of that knowledge, one of the most helpful things that I have learned was from my grandfather on my mother’s side. I was working a horse one day on the ranch early on in my career and I was getting frustrated and so was the horse. He looked at me and said, “Son, K.I.S.S.” As I sat their confused he said it again, “K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple Stupid.” And from that point forward it was like a light bulb went off. The simpler you can make things to a horse, the more clearly they can understand what you are asking, the better the results that you will get. Now, my family was able to make that connection to the horse world in regard to training, but when I first decided to set my goals for becoming the best equine clinician and colt starter in the world, I ran into a new problem.
As a kid, I spent hours upon hours watching my dad train horses and teach people all around the world to compete at a national and international level. I also spent hours upon hours as a kid, being the translator for my father. When people wouldn’t understand what he was saying, he would get frustrated that they didn’t understand and just say it louder. I learned from an early age that being able to clearly communicate to humans is equally as important as clear communication to horses. The method of K.I.S.S also applies to equestrians.
Early on in my research of deciding to become a world-renown clinician, I found that many of the industry leaders in the equestrian world are amazing top-notch horse trainers but can’t talk in front of people. They make things so complex and use big words that often times either confuse, take away the rider’s confidence in their abilities, or both. It doesn’t have to be difficult to understand. It doesn’t have to be difficult to get results. If you can simplify the process to where you are only asking for and looking for one thing at a time, your results will be so much quicker. Finished results and finished horses are result of many small things put together over time. That being said, you should be seeing immediate results if you are asking correctly and simply. How much easier would it be for you to feel confident as a rider working with your own horse if you knew that it was okay to look for one thing at a time and be able to see immediate results?
I wanted to create a program that I could present in a way that is simple and easy to understand for both horse and rider. One of my favorite parts of teaching a clinic is the after effect when non-horsey husbands approach me and say that they learned so much and were actually engaged and paying attention. Being a great clinician is like being a great teacher, if you can’t engage your audience or your students, you will not be able to teach them properly and effectively. In my clinics I teach all levels from brand new horse owners to professional horse trainers. It doesn’t matter who is in my audience, I teach things in a way that EVERYONE can understand or relate to in order to make it simple. What I have found is that the general public can relate to at least one of four different categories: driving a car, raising a kid, training an obedience dog, or joining the military. All of these analogies can be broken down into what you should want and expect from your horse. What is simpler than relating horses to parts of life that you already understand or are familiar with?
Confidence and simplicity are the keys to success with training horses. Having the tools in your toolbox, in a manner that is easy to understand, will make it where you can start reaching your equine goals today. A training program for you and your horse SHOULD NOT take 6 months’ worth of dvds and videos to start seeing any results. Join our Team MG Membership Club that offers unlimited access to videos 24/7 and the ability to suggest video topics to be made to help you and other equestrians like you who may be having the same issue. And above all, remember, keep it SIMPLE!
At every one of my clinics, the first question that I ask my participants when it is their turn is to please introduce themselves, their horse, and what their equine goal is. What I really mean by that is for the participant to tell me their name, their horse’s name, and what their desired goal is for that particular horse. I want them to tell me their hopes, their wants, and their dreams for that horse to make it into the horse that they want it to be. However, what I usually get is the person’s name, the horse’s ENTIRE history from day one of its birth including, but not limited to, age, breed, rescue status, past owners, past injuries, list of sensitivities and vices, etc., and then one small goal for that horse.
Do you guys want to know a secret??? I don’t care about the horse’s past. I don’t care about what the horse does or doesn’t like, what they are afraid of, or how many people that they have hurt during previous training. I don’t care if the horse bucks, bites, kicks, rears, strikes, etc. The horse tells me everything that I need to know as soon as I start working on them. And most importantly, I don’t treat the horse like the horse that they are. Treat a horse like the horse they are, and they will forever be that horse. I treat the horse like the horse that I want it to be! If you automatically start working a horse with the preconceived notion that they are going to do all of these horrible things or that they aren’t going to like it, you are subconsciously affecting that horse already from the very beginning of training and setting them up for failure. You have to set that horse up for success! As a trainer or rider, you must go into each and every training session being calm and confident that you are going to make positive progress with that horse each and every day.
The progress with every horse is going to vary, even though they all speak the same language. I’m not breed racist and by that, I mean I don’t care if your horses is a Paso, Arabian, Quarter Horse, wild Mustang, draft horse, pony, or any other breed. I’m going to take every breed of horse that comes to a clinic or into my training program through the same process. The amount of pressure needed to get the desired results will vary between horses whether they are hot or “sensitive”, cold or “dull”. My goal is to see progress in every session, even if it’s only one percent. Putting that in perspective, at the end of working a horse 100 days, that’s going to give you a 100% better horse than what you had, making the bare minimum progress each day. If you are having training sessions and not making any progress, you are doing something wrong. The more clearly you can present what you’re teaching to the horse, the quicker they are going to understand, learn from it, and then be able to move forward. The difference between three different trainers, one who gets the job done in 1 month, 6 months, or 2 years, is the clarity in which they present the information to that horse for them to understand. None of these systems are wrong, the first trainer has just been able to create crystal clear communication with their horse.
All too often I see that the trainer or rider is the horse’s biggest limit to their success. Society has put the standard that you must do this for 10 days, you must do that for 30 days, etc. This is my biggest problem with today’s society even outside of the horse world. Why should a student who can pass a grade on day #1, spend any ENTIRE year of their life wasted in that grade? I’m not going to limit a horse. If they can pass each of my grade levels, starting in Preschool, then I immediately move to the next level. When I’m working 10 different horses at a clinic, this could mean that one horse may spend a half an hour just learning how to have respect in Kindergarten versus another horse that may pass through all of the grades and be under saddle working on advanced maneuvers after only 10 minutes. If they can pass the test, I’m ready to let them reach their full potential with each and every step of my program towards the rider’s goal and becoming the horse that we want them to be!