The importance of making an educated decision in choosing a trainer or riding instructor

What are the signs of a good method of training horses and riding instructions? What should one look for in a trainer’s philosophy and methods? What questions should I ask myself when choosing a trainer or riding instructor?

There are an endless number of possibilities in terms of answers to these questions, I suppose. However, the best answers to these questions can be distilled down to a short checklist when looking into any method of training or riding instruction to determine the suitability of a trainer to your specific goals and needs. Here are the specific questions I recommend when looking for an answer to these questions.

Are the trainer’s methods rational?

In other words, do they make sense and are they logical? Sound methods involve the rational principle that above all else, the methods and philosophy should be ethical and that the main intent of the methods be the education of the horse and the rider. As such, any excessive methods should be avoided under all circumstances. And what is considered ‘excessive’? Anything that can be considered abusive, unethical. If it doesn’t feel right to you, then chances are you are right in your assessment.

Do these methods put the welfare and well being of the horse and rider first?

This item actually might fall under the previous question, but there is one item here that needs to be addressed. No sound method or philosophy involved asking horses or riders to do things they are not yet capable of, or forcing either horse or rider to do anything that is dangerous or unethical.

Does the trainer have a working code of ethics? -See: The Ethical Horseman

Does the trainer apply his system with consistency?

That is, does the trainer develop a program of work and instruction that is applied with regularity in a consistent fashion? Is progress made or are you and your horse being subjected to a never ending repetition of the first lesson without progress? An appropriately applied system of training and riding instruction should produce progress, otherwise the scope of the method or system is neither affective for a specific case due to a possible inflexibility of the method or system.

Do the trainer’s overall methods and basic philosophy involve flexibility?

Flexibility is one of the most important qualities in any horse training method or program of riding instruction. Any good training system or system riding instruction, regardless of discipline, should be flexible enough to cover a sufficiently wide range of horses and riders. Any system should be concerned with the instruction and education of each individual horse and rider, taking into account the conformation and abilities of both rider and horse.

If a trainer has the philosophy that they have a set method of training and if a horse doesn’t fit his ‘methods’ he sends the horse ‘down the line’ to someone else, he is not a flexible trainer. In general, a trainer in any discipline should have proper flexibility in his methods or system to cover a wide range of horses, riders and situations and not be ‘stuck’ in the process.

Be an ‘educated’ horseman.

Being ‘educated’ means learning as much academically, so to speak, about horsemanship. Read the works of great trainers of the present and the past and understand the methods and which ones are valid and which ones are obsolete.  – See “The Horseman as historian – Advice to Young and Old Riders”

I could probably add another 100 items to this list, which I may do at a later time.

Only you can make the proper choice as to which trainer or riding instructor is best for you and which one will best suit your needs and goals. But most important, actually interview a prospective trainer or riding instructor yourself. Find out exactly what they are all about. See how they interact with you and especially with the horses. Invite them over to see how interact with your horse, especially. In other words, do your own investigation, see for yourself and make the best decision you can based upon what you find out first hand.


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