I see it all the time – the horse with the personality of a fileted fish that comes in for training. This is the horse (like so many others) that has been passed from trainer to trainer and from barn to barn. It is the horse that has never been given the opportunity to actually form any bond with any particular human being (other than perhaps the occasional groom or handler that actually cares enough about horses to do so). This is the horse that has been treated as a means to an end rather than an end unto itself.
All too many horses are never given the opportunity to become anything more than a machine for the control freak, a fashion statement for the egotistical, or a commodity for those who are simply into horses for no other reason than to make money. This type of approach to training and handling horses is a shame because it denies a horse its true potential. It also denies the rider the chance to actually develop anything even resembling a bond between horse and human which is the basis of any cooperative effort between a horse and human.
Over the years, I have run into any number of “trainers” who will openly and quite proudly say that if a horse doesn’t immediately respond to their peculiar or particular training techniques, they will send it down the line to whomever they can pawn the horse. This, in my humble opinion, is absolutely disgusting. Rather than questioning their own methods and techniques and expanding their knowledge, skill and ability to be able to work with a horse that doesn’t fit their ideal mold, they simply choose to stick to their narrow and deficient little paradigm and pass on the horse to whomever might wish to take a chance on it. After all, the type of person who only sees the opportunity to make money has become all too common. Hopefully, the horse will eventually find himself in the hands of someone who actually like a horse and will treat the horse as more than simply a means to end.
Of course, there are economic considerations, some trainers will contend. Then again, that’s why there are more horses than people who are willing or able to take on such horses. To a certain class of trainer, it’s all a “numbers game” conducted in hopes of eventually stumbling upon one horse that has enough natural talent that such a trainer doesn’t have to do any real work to train the horse, or develop that horse’s abilities and natural talents. Some people actually want a horse that functions like a machine. My advice to them is get a motor cycle to ride if you want a machine to ride.
I prefer a different approach. I often find myself working with horses that other trainers or owners have absolutely given up on. It’s the rare horse that doesn’t deserve a chance. In fact, I have never run into a horse that doesn’t deserve a chance to have a good, useful and productive life. Oh, there is the occasional horse that is an absolute tough nut to crack but giving up is not an option in my book. For me a horse is not a means to an end – a horse is an end unto itself. A horse is not an “it” – a horse is a “thou.”