Thursday, August 21, 2008

Once upon a time there was a cross horse trainer...

So I don't know if you know this or not, but I earn my living as a horse trainer. I don't earn much of a living - enough to eat and keep from going into debt. I really enjoy my work and I've got this funny idea that by not making a successful business my priority I can totally focus on my work.

Today I was riding Splodge in the school and I was thinking to myself, jeez, what do I know about horses - not much really, and yet I have been teaching horsemanship for nearly ten years now. Does anyone else feel like this about what they do? I learn so much every day and yet I still feel like I don't know much - It's a big subject.

Anyway, the other day I got sucked into contributing to a thread on a Discussion Group. I've been on there before and it's always been very friendly, so I guess maybe I let my guard down. We were having a very nice, and imformative discussion about various training methods, and as I always try to be about everything, I was being very open and honest about how I work.

Yep, you've guessed it - before long I was being cast as the devil trainer who is cruel to horses, admittedly by some people who don't know me and have never watched me work, but somehow it got to me a bit. On the great spectrum of what happens to horses in this world I promise you I am not by any means the worst. If these guys are so concerned about horses why don't they focus their efforts on the REALLY BAD stuff that goes on out there. Actually horses really like me and are generally pretty happy with the dealings they have with me, and actually from my perspective I am far from a bad trainer.

The thread got closed before I could answer the allegations, but anyway, here are a couple of things people said about me.
Sorry but Good luck to the horses is all I can say.
by Rachel

'The one picture that absolutely rocked me was of the poor black horse having to cope with someone dealing in such a way with his mouth....and the reason supplied? To unlock a brace in his poll. There are other ways to do it. Thats all. Hmmmm.....Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't it the practitioner who said he didn't use gadgets to exert pressure? Just some food for thought......please take as that.
by Apachepony
I also see that fundamentally, myself, and a few others, are a million miles away from this way of handling horses. There have been many points raised that I would once have debated on and on. But then it becomes about ego , and ego has no place with the horse. So, in the interests of peace, I will say thank you very much, I have learned an awful lot from this thread, and sadly not much of it was about the horse
by Apachepony
For what it's worth I may as well add my piece while I'm here.....For me it is all about perception. The HORSES perception not ours. It's about HOW they learn what it is we want them to learn. Clearly horses do learn their lessons with you Tom but it's the HOW that is important to me and the horses. Tom, you say your not pulling, the horse is and whereas this may be true, the result for the horse is still pain in the mouth untill he has learnt what is required of him. You also say you don't use pressure halters... there seemed to be a lot of thin rope halters in the photos. Whether they tighten round the head or not, when you put pressure on any thing made of thin rope, they hurt a d**n site more than ordinary head collars....thats how they work so quickly. They may make us look like great horsemen that we can solve long duration behaviours in an afternoon, but all the horse learns is " Jesus!! unless I do X, I'm gonna get a searing pain behind the ears, right where a host of optical nerves lie!!" And Kas....snap shot, moment in time, it may be but it's still very harsh and when there are better and kinder ways this sort of stuff, in my opinion, is unneccasary
by Julie
Thanks for your comments you guys. I absolutely respect your right to say and do whatever you like, but I really don't like your rudeness - I hope you don't take that to your horses.


  1. Tom. Don't get upset by people who don't know you very well being rude to you, it isn't worth it. Next time that you feel in danger of this happening, give me a call. I will be happy to slag you off in an informed and professional manner.

  2. And vicus would be able to do it with aplomb and with the use of large words, probably not understood by half of us.

    Tommy dear, don't let it get you down. I know what you mean when you say you feel you don't know anything about what you've been doing for years. I feel that way all the time with my writing. I'll be outed as a fraud and sent packing soon becuase I do feel like a fraud. It's odd.

    Don't let other people get to you like that. You're a good soul and have mostly good taste in friends. :) HUGS

  3. I don't intend to sound solemn but Tom, it's a sign of wisdom to admit you learn a lot every day and never stop learning. And it's a sign of extreme ignorance to judge others, not even knowing them or what they do. One never has the necessary elements of knowledge to do that.

    And most times it's not what people say, but the way they say it what makes a comment rude or offensive. You can say almost everything in a nice way.

    When I finished school -not so long ago, lol- one of my teachers wrote for me this quote from Rabindranath Tagore's book "Stray birds". Make it yours, please:

    "The learned say that your lights will one day be no more." said the firefly to the stars.

    The stars made no answer."

    You know you're doing it right, so
    just ignore them. Or turn to Vicus and let him slaughter them for you, lol.


  4. I feel a little bit responsible here, but I was absolutely gobsmacked by that response. Especially as I thought that if people would be upset they would be upset about William the furious cob, not Zorro working on the bit.

    There is a class of person who can only be happy when they belong to an elite of one and who really can't accept that sometimes they might be mistaken. Often they also have a worldview that just seems absolutely skewed to me.

    For example, some people might consider it unfair to allow a horse to remain very troubled for eight years just sort of waiting for it to come right when maybe by being prepared to give it a job to do and offer a little more firmness where necessary they could have worked it through a whole lot quicker and sorted things out for that horse. To me that is cruel, which is clearly where I differ from the lady who is so anxious about the use of the bit.

    It seems to me like a lot of people get a bit caught up on the untouched grandeur of the wild animal that exists in their head and ignore the work ethic and the enjoyment of human interaction bred over generations into the domesticated animal in front of them. I mean, I don't have any problem with people who feel that way, but maybe they should go and look at some zebras or something rather than owning horses.

    The poor and sorry horse in question ( and I couldn't help thinking "my god, I honestly believe my horse would actually kill you" after reading that post ) is going really nicely at the moment, you'll be glad to hear. He apparently has absolutely no idea of the trauma he has been through and indeed still tries to grab the bit off me the moment I pick up his bridle. Obviously it was so traumatic he has repressed the whole experience very deeply.

  5. Vicus - I know you are quite right - how have I let this get to me. And yes, if I ever need some constructive insults I'll give you a call.

    Pamela - I know what you mean about writing too. I wonder if all the other people who have written books and so on know as little as us. Thank you for being a kind and supportive friend XXXX.

    Leni - I know what you say is true my sweet little Catalan. I just thought, sod it, I can't just let this one go without saying something. Thank you sweet Leni for your support and wisdom. I love the Tagore saying too.

    Glenatron - I totally concur with everything you say. I guess I wrote this post for you really, as you are the catalyst that sparked things off.
    And no way is it a bad thing that I got savaged by some plus Rrs. It has made me think long and hard about my horsemanship, and has actually clarified even more to me why I do things the way I do.
    There is something about Plus Rrs -
    I'm wondering why they are such violent and aggressive people - I got savaged by some about five years ago too. Anyway, I survived then and I will now.
    Thanks for your support Glenatron, and great to hear Zorro isn't in too much suffering.

  6. Unfortunatly it seems as though you've been beat upon by the extremists of the 'intelligent' horse world, these are people who don't believe in boundary's or limitations and most certainly wouldn't show the horse a consequence for a negative action - shame there isn't a supernanny programme for these people, God only knows what their kids are like!
    Trouble with em is that in their quest to become open minded they become far more narrow minded than any stereotypical BHS type.
    This is the time to have faith in what you know and do and take a look at the things you've achieved!
    Love ya!

  7. Tom- I have to butt in, this has made me very cross too!

    I was actually going to ask if I could leave you my horses in my will (I have nothing else to leave, other than an overdraft and some ropey LP's). Considering I won't let anyone else even pick out their feet-well you get the picture...

    There are a lot of people in the horse world that sadden me very much-it's the same attitude that put me off horse people years ago, just dressed differently. I think it's the holier than thou thing...

    If it's any consilation, I expect my p45 to be on my desk with a 'Ooooh, we actually thought you were someone else' letter to accompany it, on a daily basis.

  8. Also, I hear it's all about the cross-training these days.

    It made me steal someone else's words as part of my ongoing campaign to avoid being original at any cost.

  9. Lisa - thank you for your support. i agree with all you say.
    Do you know what I like best about all this? It's all the really sensible comments I am getting - it really helps.

    Kate - so what LPs have you got then, and do they go with the horses?
    Actually you are right - it's the self-righteousness of them that grates with me too. I would be fine discussing and trying to learn from them if they weren't so damn arrogant. Can their horsemanship really be any good when their human communication skills are so lacking?

    Glenatron - great quote even though it's not yours. See they've pulled the thread now - i guess that's the best thing, but still they won't go away - it feels like I am being stalked by nutters. Again I say this - I would be happy to listen and learn if they could find a polite way of presenting their case.

  10. Anyone who posts on forums deserves everything they get in return. Forum posters are even lower on the intellectual ladder than bloggers.

  11. I'd let you loose on my ponies and know they'd be better for it.

  12. Get all your favorite spirits and wines at Duty Free Depot!

    All the highest quality brand name drinks for unbeatable discounted price tags.