"I believe that the fear and behavior of horses can be simply described as rational or irrational; when a horse experiences rational fear of a human, such as when a trainer of handler loses their temper and strikes the horse for disobedience, it can take them months or even years to recover. Horses can experience a rational fear when a trainer uses excessive force even to obtain what seems to be a reasonable goal. My worst fear is that a horse would find my behaviors unfair, unpredictable, or erratic, and therefor experience a rational fear of me. I want to be viewed as a benevolent leader and am mindful not to be viewed as a predator or bully and I strive to work my horses without ever provoking fear (either rational or irrational) by gaining their trust and respect at each stage of training before advancing to the next. I think my training is best described as classical and I shy away from the words “natural horsemanship” to describe my methods.
Meanwhile, I am an avid reader of any literature on horse training philosophies regardless of the author or date of publication and incorporate those ideas and methods that seem most kind and sensible into my daily work; my philosophy is not concrete but, continues to evolve with new information and new interactions. I place less emphasis on “natural horsemanship” because I feel that this movement draws individuals who believe in magic rather than working toward the strong bond and lasting training achieved through regular practice. I also believe that "natural horsemanship" places too little emphasis on the vast differences between domestic and wild horses. Unlike wild horses, domestic horses are bred, raised, and (most individuals in each breed) express an inherent desire and ability to work with humans. I believe that overcoming the negative personality traits of the domesticated horse’s wild ancestors is the smallest challenge in training and as a result I work primarily to achieve a horse that is hard-working, noble, honest, and even heroic rather than "joined-up" or whichever other patented phrase some may prefer. To me a horse is a hero when it could hurt you but goes out of its way to avoid it; such as jumping a long distance to a jump rather than refusing or running out, or even when they come running past you in the pasture and choose not to kick up at your head! I spend little time concerning myself with trendy phrases, methods, or equipment and prefer to make a custom training plan for each horse refering frequently to the time-tested methods and equipment that have been in continuous use by past and present competitive leaders of the hunter-jumper or eventing disciplines. Meanwhile, although I respect and admire success, I have great sympathy for any horse who spends too much time showing and training and traveling to shows and too little time playing and grazing. I often wonder if some people have forgotten that they love horses. My love of horses does not involve excessive showing or restricting their leisure time to avoid the potential for injury for the sake of plastering the stall with ribbons.
Typically, I start my rehabilitation work with a full check waterford, standing martingale, and thick half-pad because I believe these encourage proper carriage while allowing the horse the freedom and comfort to develop his own way of going. A rehabilitated horse may suffer various aches and pains especially at the start of retraining and often throughout the remainder of his life; we must keep that in mind as we ask the horse to perform increasingly difficult athletic activities. If a trainer is rushing and places too much pressure when the horse is not mentally or physically ready or capable, and is experiencing pain, the trainer has a high likelihood of causing a rational fear in that animal that will work against any training efforts.
When I am working with a colt it is usually following its happy youthful period of 1.5-2 years when the colt has experienced daily care and handling and genuinely enjoys his time with me. Usually my colts are excited to start the work they have seen from the sidelines. My goal is usually that my colts are ready for their first ground poles class at a show at 2.5-3 years of age.
I train through rewards rather than punishment, giving each horse a big “good boy/girl” rub on the neck and a lap off following each successfully completed task. In all aspects of handling, my horses are treated with the kindness, patience, and respect they need and deserve to remain calm and supple throughout the training to build trust and respect. I believe that if your horse does not respect you or is fearful of you, he will never fully trust or obey you. I am firm with my horses in order to elicit their respect, cooperation, and honest attempts at each task presented but my horses are only ever physically punished in proportion to behaviors that are irrational, unkind, or dangerous to me or to themselves.
A key part of my training is providing personal care to my horses every day. I spend hours with them outside of their training sessions to ensure that when I take a horse to the arena for a training session I am working with a happy, healthy animal who is ready and willing to make an effort.
During winter months my daily care consists of 3-4 small meals of custom mixed high-protein porridge (hot), unlimited hay, at least 8 hours of daytime turnout, twice daily stall cleaning, blanket check, and grooming. During summer months my horses have 12-14 hours night turnout, 3-4 small meals of custom mixed high-protein porridge (cold), unlimited hay, and twice daily stall cleaning.
Because my horses have plenty of time outdoors to play together and frequent small meals, they are never hyper or anxious to return to their stall for their next meal; they are usually eager to learn, and make great efforts in each training session. When they are truly focused their undivided attention is rewarded with shorter training sessions - typically they work for just 25-40 minutes and lungeing is rarely required. I have learned that my horses become heros after they have formed a bond based on love, fairness, and trust that comes from patience and diligence in all aspects of horse ownership. My horses know that they are loved, they see how hard I work for them, and usually they express their love and work for me in return."