How do you know the trainer/mentor is right for you and your horse? Who is your favorite and why?

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Hi Marti,
Through the years I have worked with a numer of different trainers and have moved to someone different once I was at a stage when I needed a new level of expertise or fresh input.
I am fortunate that the people I currently work with are comfortable if I take a lesson or go to a clinic with another trainer. Some coaches feel threatened and then you start to stir up a whole mess.
I'm a big believer that you can learn something from everyone and I like to get ideas from different sources.
How about you?
Hey Marti

I have trained with loads of people over the years and learned different things from each of them. None of my trainers have ever taken it personally if I've had to move to another barn, they know people come and go, its the nature of the sport.

I have one trainer at the moment, but I have a few mentors who are old friends that I can ask for advice in a pinch. As Barbara mentioned, my trainer often invited people in to do clinics, and it's a nice treat for the students.

I knew the trainer I have now was a good match for us because we have the same philosophy about riding which is its better to go three good steps than a thousand bad ones... if an exercise is not giving desired results, we don't rattle on with it we switch to something else to achieve our end goal. She is also first and foremost an animal person, she knows that my horse did not have an ideal upbrining and is acutely aware of his stressors and buttons.

She also apprenticed at a WB breeding farm where all of my horse's brothers, sisters, dam and sire are from and spent many of her formative years breaking and training them.. so she really knows the family well! I did not know that when she became my instructor!

As an added bonus, we share a lot of the same values in life and are in a similar age range. I spent quite a few years working on my day job career, early on she decided to do horses exclusively and has a lot of experience doing grand prix.

If I had loads of bucks and I could pick any trainer in the world... probably Jim Wofford or Beezie Madden.

Hi Marti, interesting question.

For me, it's Chris Irwin - absolutely no question and I'm afraid no alternatives.

That doesn't mean I'm not open minded to other people's ideas or suggestions, but ultimately Chris is the only person who has spoken a truth that resonates with mine. This may well make me sound like some kind of cult member or 'groupie', but I was brought up on 'traditional' horsemanship methods (strong bits and pulling on the head) and I never knew any different until I got a horse that didn't believe in any of that rubbish and tested me to the limits. I saw how stronger bits and more aggression only made things worse. So ... I tried Parelli, and that helped me hugely to understand predator/prey relationships and to gain a relationship on the ground with my horse, but it somehow left me feeling there was still something missing - and also that I'd not really addressed my horse's problems, but instead created a horse that although he now respected me and didn't jump on me in a crisis (very big improvement - a 'crisis' could mean a bird fluttering out of the hedge), was actually afraid of me.

When I found Chris Irwin, I found what I'd been missing for all those years (sounds corny hey?). He takes an uncompromising approach to truly seeing what is really going on with horses and people. He has taken a true understanding of horse/human behaviour to a level that no other clinician I've ever seen has done (in my opinion) and while he may not leave people feeling fluffy and comfortable with what he says sometimes, he knows what he knows and he shares it - and if people choose not to 'see' it, then that is up to them. He uses similar techniques to others such as round penning, lungeing, long lining, etc, but it's the subtlety to the way body language is used to enable the horse to feel relaxed (or stressed if done wrongly) when working with these things that sets Chris apart from others. When you see a horse go inverted and braced simply because of the position of the belly button of the person at the other end of the lunge line, you simply cannot argue with this!

Also he doesn't advocate the need for special tack or equipment, and he isn't threatened by opposition or being challenged. Ultimately he has the horse's wellbeing at the heart of what he does, but that doesn't mean he will allow them to behave like bullies and sometimes having their best interests at heart means being a tough leader and earning their respect by 'being the better horse'.

I guess at the end of the day people find the person who works for them and their view of the world and some people just 'click' with a particular trainer/mentor and some don't. I've met other trainers whose approach I have really got on well with over the years and some who I wouldn't give the time of day - and usually it comes down to their attitude to the horses...

Hi, Marti:

I have one mentor (same person for the past 30 years), and 2 coaches, both Dutch. One of them, Bert Rutten, trained the other, Hub Houben, so I don't run into problems with differences in philosophy. They approach the horses slightly differently, but I find that between them they cover all the bases, and no one, best of all my horses, is confused.

My mentor, and one of my very best friends, is Jacqui Oldham, a GP trainer and rider, coach, and EC and USEF Senior Dressage Judge. She is my sounding board, my "go to" person when I need to check something out, and always is the person I most want to share my trials and my triumphs with. Her approval of what I do matters more to me than anyone else's in this game, even Hub's and Bert's.

Between Jacqui, Bert and Hub I get everything I need. That's not to say that I haven't learned from others, I certainly have, and continue to, but these are the people I work with.

As a coach, I encourage my clients to work with others. I don't believe any one person has all the answers (sorry, Fiona, but there's just too much to know and learn for one lifetime), and that includes myself. However, I do try to keep them working along the same philosophical path, so that the work remains coherent. Occasionally I have a philosophical difference (I'm a dyed in the wool classicist) with a client, but we usually part ways amicably and remain friends.
Why are you sorry, Jan? I have already figured that one out!! :-)
and Marti, what is your take on this???? I'm at a crossroad right now so I'm not answering.. and I have a headache from fire and smoke in Los Angeles and I can't even think straight... but what say YOU?
Hi, Jenn, I like various trainers at various times. Right now I like Chris Irwin, John Lyons and Clinton Anderson. I also think Mike and Gretchen McDaniel are enormously talented.
Fiona, I agree with you re: Chris Irwin. I too have done Parelli - several workshops - and learned lots of good things, but was always bothered by the way he gets in the horse's face. I use some Parelli, but always feel I've learned the most about communication, giving and receiving messages, from Chris Irwin. And it's a great pleasure to go to his workshops and not have expensive product shoved down your throat! I think we can learn from all sorts of people. You just have to figure out what bits and pieces work for you and your horse.
Well, i'll give you my two pennies on the matter i suppose.
no single person has all the answers in my humblest o' humble opinions. So to me, to follow just one, you'd be missing out. I do not think you should follow the methods of anyone you can't sit down and chat with, or meet. I think its dangerous to only follow a clinician with no real live person involved on a regular basis.
I take lessons from Monty, JL, Ponyboy, Sally Swift, Podjasky, my trainer, Georgie, my mom, about of 50 or so others along the way, and of course lessons from every horse i've had the pleasure of knowing.

no one has all the answers yet, that's why we study the lessons of dead men.
Growing up I never had any instruction, It was there I just did'nt want it. Now I find any little bit that I can Absorb is extremely useful.

I dont like to go to those clinics Like the Parellis and the Clinton Andersons where the person shows off and makes everything look so easy, but unless you're actually riding in the clinic you dont really get that much real learning in. I like Olympic level English riders style of hosting a clinic, it is more explanatory to the audience. I watch the clinicians on TV sometimes, in my neck of the woods we only get RFD and mostly it's western but I dont mind.

Most of the real-life professionals I know are Western too
I'm big on listening to all ideas and finding ones that fit for me and shows results in my horse. I now have a trainer that I really respect and who has a keen eye and a good understanding of both my horse's and my needs. But I don't take lessons too often and I have a young horse, so I am always looking for ideas.
I discovered Jane Savoie (via blogs, videos, book and an audited clinic) this year and really appreciate her teaching style and ability to break down learning into basic skills. I also am a fan of Chris Irwin.

I think we can always learn from someone new, even in other disciplines and I find that the more I learn the more I am able to distinguish good advice from the not-so-good. Sometimes I reject an approach altogether but more often I find something that really fits and if I'm lucky, a new mentor.
Yes, sometimes it can be difficult to separate the good advice from the bs,..But sooner or later it becomes apparent, when the other person steps in it, lol.


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