“If a horse can learn through trust and understanding,
its spirit will work with you, not against you”
Helping horses to learn is a big basis to my philosophy – not just helping them to be better at performance – but helping them to gain confidence in themselves and confidence in people and the ideas that they present to horses. There are so many horses of different breeds within various disciplines that are carrying worry and emotional tension which inevitably spills out into their performance and which causes a disconnection between horse and handler. Much of this tension has been caused by the way people have presented education and guidance to their horses. Gaining and guiding a horse’s calm focus is one of the biggest things that I want people to understand. Without understanding and gaining a horse’s focus, their tension levels constantly go up and down and our guiding aids just become interruptions that end up getting in the way of a horse’s primary intention.
I teach people how to train in a way that allows horses to have the room to search and make decisions for themselves so that when their horses are operating, they are focused on what they are doing and because that is their intention, they become naturally softer and more balanced. Too often, horses are trained to move away from energy/ stimulant when they should be going towards focus/ intention.
Teaching people to become better leaders for their horses is also very important. When we take a horse away from their herd, or their comfortable environment, we have to replace that herd/ stability/ comfort and that comes from the quality of our leadership and the confidence that our horses put in us. If we can’t provide that quality leadership, then we can’t gain a horse’s soft focus and make it feel better when the environment is quite challenging. Leadership comes from being calm and centred and offering a horse clarity. So instead of teaching people to be leaders like an alpha horse or bossy; I like to teach them to be a place where their horse can feel safe and relax.
Over the past 15 years of being a professional horse trainer, I have trained and started thousands of horses. I have been lucky enough to have been sent many wild horses from all parts of Australia; as well as many Arabian horses, a lot of which were un-handled 6-8 year olds. Working with these sensitive, hotter bred horses, taught me very quickly what methods were and were not working. I had to be more accurate in my application; some things just didn’t make the horses feel good and other things clearly did. Their attention to detail taught me how much attention to detail I needed and how the small things in foundation, though for somebody else may seem small, for those horses they were big things and had to be dealt with and nurtured in the right way so that they could progressively develop without carrying emotional baggage that eventually comes out to cause bigger problems. I have thrown away learned methods to take on a general philosophy that allows me to bend, mold and address every moment of what is happening as oppose to getting something done.
These professional years have been filled with training, re-educating and helping troubled horses. Competition hasn’t been a part of who I am. For this I am grateful for, as it has made me hone in and address each horse’s real troubles and needs – not necessarily the needs of ego and winning. So, to gain a good maneuver, I address the path to that maneuver from the very start.
I now travel mostly throughout Australia (NSW, ACT, WA, QLD, VIC, TAS) and also Germany, England, and America working with people and horses on an individual level to help people understand themselves and their horses better so that they can provide a learning environment that promotes calmness, confidence and focus. I help people from beginners to people who lack confidence, to confident people in performance.
There are other trainers whose philosophies have helped me shape my own ideas and my confidence in where I was going and what I was doing (Mark Rashid and Ross Jacobs). However, the way that I work and my technique is guided by my own unique experiences of teaching and training horses.
Principles and philosophies that I think are sound that good trainers share are:
- We are here to help horses. Not train.
- We help horses to feel better about themselves and us.
- Calm, connected leadership as oppose to alpha pushy.
- Guiding a horse, not drive (going towards focus not away from it).
- Understanding and influencing the direction of a horse’s intention (thought).