What to Look For When Choosing A Trainer For Your Mustang.
A horse's entire future can be shaped by the training receives. Mustangs come in as "blank canvases" with no bad habits, but also no positive habits either, the training it receives will form all of the mustang's opinions and manners towards all the humans it meets. Bad training can lead to bad manners and vices that could possibly lead to the horse being passed on from one home to the next. Where as good training will shape a horse into a valuable partner with positive habits that will make the horse valued by everyone that comes in contact with it. Seeing how important training is to a horse's well being it is vital to choose the right trainer and techniques for both you and your horse.
To some extent everyone who has a horse must be a trainer, because your horse is learning from you every moment you are in its presence you want your horse to be forming good habits and reflexes rather than negative ones. Some people have been blessed with being personally mentored by excellent horsemen and therefore have the experience and skills to do their own training, but most of us haven't been so lucky, we need some guidance when it comes to teaching our horses, especially when working with a mustang that has had little or no training.
We live in an age of information, the internet, videos and books on horsemanship are easily accessible and there are a large number of "celebrity" clinicians who offer correspondence course support for training. All of these sources can be of great help when trying to find training techniques that fit you and your horse. If you choose to do your own training with books and videos as your main source of support and information be aware that you will have to invest far more time and dedication to your training efforts and your progress is likely to be slow. You will experience many setbacks in your self education journey, it is vital that you view setbacks as an opportunity to advance your learning and continue to search for information to keep you progressing. There are no quick fixes or short-cuts to having and maintaining a well-adjusted, respectful, willing, equine partner and using pre-recorded information to train your horse on your own is NOT the easiest way to achieve your horsemanship goals, but it can be immensely rewarding. In the long run though, nothing can compare to hands-on instruction and help from an expert who is there to see how you and your horse interact with each other.
Who 'Ya Gonna Call?
It may not be the same in every area, but here in Northern New Mexico, there is a large population of horse trainers, and horse trainer wannabees. How do you find well qualified trainers who can handle the important task of teaching a wild mustang? And then, how do you decide who uses methods that you will be able to reinforce when you are on your own with your equine partner?
* Locating Good Trainers.
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find a trainer. Ask around, other horse people will know who is a reputable trainer in your area. Specifically ask for someone who has previous experience with un-gentled horses especially if you are adopting a mustang that has not had any ground work done with it. If you see someone who owns a horse that has the kind of manners and training you desire, ask who started the horse, and how the training has been maintained for the owner. Sometimes there may be advertisements in local agricultural journals, before going to an advertised trainer it is probably a good idea to find people who have had experience dealing with the trainer personally.
* Look For A Stable Stable
It is important to choose someone who takes the career training seriously and displays a high level of professionalism. Someone who has really dedicated themselves to the art of training is not likely to suddenly quit training, leaving you without support when you need help continuing your horse's education. It can be valuable to visit their facility, by looking at the grounds and equipment you can get an idea of how well established the trainer is. A well established trainer will have horse safe fences, well maintained equipment and a comfortably inviting facility they operate from. A mustang that has not lived in captivity for an extended amount of time may need higher fences and special accommodations, be sure to discuss this with the trainer before bringing your mustang to their facility.
* It's All In The Technique
Before taking your horse to a particular trainer, make an effort to be present at one of the trainer's clinics. If the trainer does not regularly do public clinics, ask if you can watch either a riding lesson, or a training session with someone else's horse. Doing this will give you a good idea of the style of training and techniques the trainer uses. Obviously gentle and consistent techniques are a must for your horse to learn properly. Horses that have been taught with a gentle hand are calmer and therefore safer to be around than horses that have learned to be dubious of humans because of rough, inconsistent handling. Also any techniques the trainer employs you will have to understand and be comfortable with yourself in order to implement them at home with your horse.
* Someone YOU Can Learn From
All great horsemen are excellent at communicating with horses, but it is vital that the trainer also have excellent human teaching skills to impart what you need to know to maintain the training once you take your horse home. A good trainer will also be patient with you as you are learning new horsemanship skills and will take the time to help you and your horse begin working well together as a team.
In summary the trainer who assists you in starting your mustang on the road to domestication will be helping you shape your future partnership with your horse. Take plenty of time getting to know this person and only leave your horse with someone you feel completely comfortable with. Having someone who will continue to collaborate with you, giving you continued assistance as problems may arise, is an invaluable asset.
Horses that have been taught good manners are often considered as more intelligent and sensitive and will have every chance of being treated better later in life, ... Manners are not at all difficult to instill in your horse; all you need to do is gain his or her trust and respect using considerate and consistent techniques. As with children, horses need educating as to what the rules of good manners are; ... Also remember manners work both ways. ...If the desired mutual manners are established early on in the horse/owner relationship, many of the more serious problems that can develop can be avoided.
- Kelly Marks
"The question is, how do we get our horses to want to choose us as a leader? It has been my observation that before a horse(or person) can even be considered as a passive leader, it must first exhibit the qualities that make it desirable for it to be chosen. Those qualities are quiet confidence, dependability, consistency, and a willingness not to use force. ... I have found that tools and techniques don't matter all that much unless they are applied with the right attitude."
- Mark Rashid
You need to appreciate that horses are not born "bad." They are the "mirror" of their training - and therefore their handler. To be at all successful...you need to know what your horse is "saying"
- Vanessa Bee
Horses like to play... work is most acceptable when it takes the form of play. If (training) is presented as play, and if the relationship between horse and human is that of herd leader and herd subordinate, and if the human creates a willingness in the horse to preform the desired task, the horse should want to do it. ...They(horses) can be slaves and usually have been throughout history. But they can also be partners, members of out team. It's all in how they are taught. The method used and the choice
are up to us.
-R.M. Miller DVM