Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Confession...and a Question

Ahem. My name is Sarah. I own and ride an OTTB. And I...don't have a trainer.
I know, I know!! It's wrong. It's so wrong.
Here's the thing; the money, it's tight. I want to be able to have a cushion (however small it might be) in case Miles gets hurt, or colics, or...whatever. We also have the aforementioned Herd, a few of whom are geriatric, and I want any extra dollars we might have to be set aside for them. Ugh, I hate money talk, so that's all I'm gonna say about that.
The other thing is...well, things are going well with Miles. Oh sure, I know we may have holes in our training, but we're progressing with no huge issues (omg did I actually write that? We're doomed now:). When I think back to our first rides, and how horribly he would drop his right shoulder, or wiggle and shimmy down the long side of the arena instead of marching in a nice, straight line, we have come So Far. I honestly credit Miles more than myself. Not to mention I've been ecstatic ever since we've been cantering in the outdoor arena...we are a horse and rider pair that can perform all three gaits, whoo hoo! It's the little things:)
Another thing is...I would have to seek out and find a trainer. My last trainer was and is amazing, but she works her butt off out of her barn, and can't travel all the way to mine for one lesson, which I understand. We have no trailer, so I can't go to her. I have a couple of contacts in the area for good dressage instructors, one of whom I adore and have worked with in the past but haven't spoken to in, oh, 10 years or so.
So these are my excuses, which are lame, I know. I KNOW I have position issues to work on...well, everyone does don't they? I'm sure there are things I could be doing to help support Miles more than I am. I do always try to error on the side of caution, and to maintain a soft, quiet position, but I miss those second set of eyes on the ground to help me.
In the beginning with Miles and his horrid ground manners, I summoned and utilized my previous 20 years of experience with horses (give or take;) naturally, but I also sought the advice of my friends at the barn-one of whom is incredibly knowledgeable and generous, and shared with me a TON of her Clinton Anderson information and equipment.
I had never really looked at any of the "Natural Horsemanship" guys before, mostly because they aren't necessarily geared towards the English world (although a horse with good ground manners should be universal in all disciplines!), but also because I had never had a horse who was so damn pushy on the ground before. It was a wakeup call, that's for sure. I honestly had no idea how to deal with this 16.2 hand high blockhead who kept crowding me. I would sort of sigh at him and try to shove him away with my elbow...yeah, THAT was effective (note-it was not effective).
Watching Clinton's DVDs and reading his material was a HUGE help. I'm not going to go into details, but his method WORKED for Miles and me, and definitely brought us closer as I became less exasperated with him and he grew to respect me and trust me.
I will also admit that I thought some of this Natural Horsemanship business (not just Clinton's method) was so much common sense. Weren't Clinton, Parelli, Lyons, Cameron, Cox et al just teaching what everyone knows to beginner horsemen and women? Well, no, not necessarily.
I will say I don't agree with all of Clinton's methods, and do not employ them all. While I love RFD TV just because I will watch any show with a horse in it, I think a LOT of these guys use their air time to hawk their carrot sticks, rope halters, DVDs, etc. Some of their shows are more infomercial than anything else.
Still, I imagine there are a lot of people out there like me, doing this on our own without a trainer. I am lucky to have a background in horses to help me, as well as the awesome people at my barn, but some people don't, or don't have "structured" training (eg taking lessons) in their past to fall back on.
Should that exclude them from horse ownership? In my opinion, not necessarily. In this day and age when soooooo many horses need homes, being a beginner shouldn't stop someone, AS LONG AS they have others around them that are experienced to help, and they are willing to learn. Ugh, it's a complicated subject for another day I suppose.
I also think it's really dumb to ask a question of my audience when I have one (maybe two!) beautiful, awesome readers, but Ima do it anyway. What is your opinion of the Natural Horsemanship trend? Good or bad? Do they do more good than harm, or vise versa? Are some better than others? Are they all selling snake oil? Or are they out there helping Jane and Joe Schmoe in a way that other well-known English trainers do not?
No judgement from me no matter what you say, promise! Unless you're mean to me, then I'll cry.


  1. No crying! lol! I am new to the natural horsemanship as well..but I have to say, I'm excited about SOME of the things that actually do end up working! Laz and I'm sure Miles, are soooooo sensitive, so old school mean cowboy techs do NOT work on these boys, but the new sweet connecting totally does. I take bits and pieces from each trainer (natural or not) and try to see what works for US. I am going to watch Janine and Enzo (see my blog for their new blog) for an upcoming Parelli lesson..maybe in the next few months, to see what I think. I may have someone come out and give us a lesson. But I hear you! Growing up in the English world, its very 'Western' to me ..I'm getting over it though! WhooHoooo on your walk/trot/canter success..that is NOT a little accomplishment on a OTTB! Just leading one, like u said, is HUGGGE victory!

  2. Thanks Kristin!
    Yeah, it's funny that you pointed out that the harsher techniques (I suppose Clinton would call it "increased pressure",lol) are not good for these sensitive boys, and you're absolutely right. I found that Miles did not need the "be as firm as necessary" part of his method...he totally got backing up, yeilding the hindquarters, lunging for respect, etc. without me having to be very firm at all. I rarely had to do things like whack his lead rope with a stick, or bump him repeatedly in the nose with his rope halter to give me two eyes-of course, I also refused to do much work with him until he was settled into his environment. I think because the NH guys work with so many quarter horses and other stock breeds, they often have to work a little harder to get their attention. We are lucky that way:)

  3. Eeehh speaking as a woman who accidentally insulted Monty Roberts' fashion sense the other day (WTF was he reading my Twitter? Shouldn't he have been training horses? LOL) it's almost entirely common sense put into a marketing package. That being said, you don't necessarily just HAVE common sense. Sometimes someone has to show you and you think - Oh, of course!

    That's how I feel about Join-up, which I use on my babies and I used when I first started Final Call. It's a duh moment. It's also a goosebumps moment when the horse turns to you and puts his nose on your back.

    The most useful book I've got is called "The Fearless Horse" and I wrote about it in my blog a long time ago. A lot of the principles of NH are in it - but minus the brand-name stick and halter. It's just good British Horse Society common sense.

    I worked without a trainer for years. The result - I ride like an exercise rider, but my horses go great. Learn to ride by feel. You'll be fine.

  4. Hi Sarah, I just stumbled onto your blog from Kristen's. I saw that you live right near where I do, so I decided to read along :). I look forward to more!!

  5. My suggestion for you would be to look into insurance. I insured Denali, and I decided to not insure ALL medical, but honestly that was a huge mistake. I wish I would have insured her because that would have saved me thousands of dollars.

    OTTB are the best, but they are just so different than other breeds.

  6. Well, I will say that of all the methods I've tried Clinton's were by far the best. I took what I could from his shows (I didn't have the money to buy any of his stuff) and got as far as I could with it. I had no formal training to fall back on, tho I was raised with horses, and eventually sought out a trainer fluent in his method. Best decision I ever made. She is now a happy relaxed willing mount and I enjoy every moment we spend together. Much of her training was chronicled on my blog-thanks for being my newest follower btw!! I look forward to your future posts here =)

    I will also say that I'm not much of a parelli fan- mostly because of his disposition used car salesman attitude. Just rubs me the wrong way, but it works well for some. I vote CA and Cris Cox all the way.

    The one trainer I see on RFD-TV (I too will watch just about any show with horses in it) the I do NOT care for at all is Ryan Gingerich. Don't like his method and don't care for his personality either.


  7. Wheeee, I have commenters!
    Natalie, it's funny you mentioned Monty Roberts-I just watched two shows on RFD back to back featuring his method, one with backing a colt and one with loading a "bad loader" horse onto a trailer. His voice is hypnotizing to me:) It's interesting how he gets similar results to the other guys I mentioned without using any pressure whatsoever-his whole point is that he couldn't get the horses to do what they do for him if he used any force at all.

    Thanks JJ! I look forward to reading you as well! Yay Mid Michigan!

    Denali's Mom-I've actually just started researching insurance, although I really am wary of the industry as a whole. He is young enough where it would make sense though-the jury is out still:) I know you've had just about everything thrown at you and your lovely mare since you've had her. I feel sure that your luck has to turn around soon...she's so lucky to have you.

    Karla-UGH Ryan Gingerich. I signed up to get his newsletter or something awhile ago...ever since then it has been a non-stop bombardment of emails to buy dvds for issues we've never had, lol. Marketing fail. For all Clinton Anderson's slick marketing, I do think he's got one of the most user friendly methods out there. I agree about Parelli-I know lots of folks have been helped by that method (which is GREAT), but I just can't buy into it. "Horsenality"?? Come ON. :)

  8. Hey, trainerless people unite! I don't plan to show, I have a great leg and workable hands, good kinesthetic sense, and I know what the horse SHOULD feel like. I figure--I rode from age 6 to age 21, I rode a wide variety of horses including an OTTB (with a lot more screws loose than this one has), I have access to a trailer but even though it's a Brenderup my car is still too small to haul it, and money doesn't grow on trees. I'm probably not the prettiest rider on the face of the earth, but he's going and getting better at it. And hey, for questions, there is always the intrawebs. Someone out there likely knows something!