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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

November 14, 2011

Who is your favorite natural horsemanship trainer and why?

There are a basket full of trainers that I like.  It would be hard to decide who I'd want to work with if I had a magic ticket to the trainer of my choice.  I like Clinton Anderson's no nonsense approach to horses, Parelli's thoughtful approach to building trust and communication, I'd love to see some Buck Brannaman videos (on my wish list).  But if I could choose a trainer I'd probably choose Chris Cox ( because I like how quiet though still responsive) his horses look when he is done with them.  I do however feel that a person's initial approach to a horse does depend on how a horse thinks and reacts.  A cookie cutter approach doesn't always work.  A horse's past history matters in how that animal will react to a situation.  My old mare who was in your pocket sweet would go ballistic at the sight of a training stick.  Her mind would spiral into rushing fractiousness.  Put the stick down and direct and drive with your hands, and she was great.   Phebes was a horse that tested, tested, tested. Warm and fuzzy didn't work too well unless you wanted kicked, bit, or bodily mashed. She is a more respectful horse these days, but still she is what she is.  Cree is a laid-back lazy horse.  Show him some work, and you show him the way, it is as simple as that.   There is a lot of value in watching the various experts out there.  Sometimes it makes you think of a different approach to problem solving, and sometimes like the Horsenality Chart, it is fun to think of your horse in a different way, though there is nothing magical about all that, just a thoughtful process and the chart is kind of fun.  The worst thing a person can do is become so blinded by "one way" of doing something that they close out the other options, or ridicule those who don't do it their way.  Probably the best trainer you can follow religiously is the one you have.  If you aren't willing to follow their process from start to finish, then don't waste your money.   I feel the same way about all those special rope halters, magic training sticks, bits, hacks, nose bands, high dollar saddle pads, and $3000 saddles.  They are only as good as the hands that use them, or the butt that is sitting in them.  In the end, unless you send your horse off to a trainer, ultimately you become the trainer.    Especially those of us who do not start out with an already trained horse.  Maybe we do or do not have the resources to do it another way, and maybe we just enjoy the journey.        ~ E.G.


  1. I can't name a NH trainer that I like because I stay away from trainers who are selling crap, marketing themselves and telling everyone how easy it is (just buy the video). The best trainers I know understand horses without a lot of psychobabble, make things simple instead of inventing new vocabularies and encourage horses to be willing, happy hard working partners. None of these trainers advertise at all. Word of mouth has people standing in line to work with them.

  2. That is where finding someone you like is so nice. The hardest guy for to follow was not on this list, my poor brain would just roll over in surrender. But sometimes, the babble aside, something will click. Maybe not all of it, but something will give me an aha! moment. Then sometimes not. Finding a really good (live) person you can work with is like finding gold!

  3. I agree with you about finding something good from each of them, and then thoughtfully using what you think is best for the horse you have. I have a couple of Clinton Anderson books that I like to read occasionally, as well as John Lyons books. And when I'm trying to solve a particular problem, I'll also ask my barn owner because she has years of experience and practical suggestions. I agree with you about the dangers of following any one trainer religiously-not a good idea.

  4. Excellent post! And so very true!

    "My old mare who was in your pocket sweet would go ballistic at the sight of a training stick."

    This is my mare. The place she was kept before I bought her was beside a school where kids would walk by and throw rocks and sticks at her and her pasture mate. The kids thought it was fun to watch the horses freak out and run.
    So, now I've got a horse that freaks out and loses her mind whenever she sees someone with a whip, carrot stick, crop or branch off the ground. She's even stressed if you pick up a rock and begin to toss it.

    When I ride her in an ACTHA CTC often times one of the obstacles is a hat pick up...using what else? Yeah, a Stick. Nope, not going to happen. As soon as I get close to the stick, she freaks and wants to run away.

    My previous trainer thought it would be useful to train my mare to side-pass using a whip....with me on her back. I warned my trainer that my mare is terrified of sticks, whips, and crops, but she insisted. Yeah, my mare freaked out and couldn't get her mind off the whip long enough to figure out that we wanted to teach her out to side pass. All I could do was to hang on and try to keep her from bolting. Not fun!

    Yeah, there is more than one way to work with a horse. Just like humans, each horse is different, and especially the older horses (and humans, too) that carry extra baggage, they all deserve a specialized way of training.


  5. Oh and I forgot to say that if I had to choose someone as someone I really respect as a Natural Horse Trainer, it would have to be Mark Rashid. I saw him in Santa Fe last year and he has a quiet confidence about himself and isn't a salesman. He is all about the horse.


  6. Lisa: Yes! Mark Rashid would definitely be on my list of people to watch if I had the opportunity. Have you read his books? Wonderful down to earth books. I know one of them had an episode of hooking a horse up to a cart and I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe! If you haven't read his series on how he got started with horses, it is a must read.

    Jan: I need to check out Lyon's haven't seen a lot of him either. A few shows on RFD but his horses are always so soft and quiet. If you look and listen to these people there is always "something" that will resonate, and maybe that something will take you one step closer to the goal. The real live trainer I'm working with is having me do the pre-ride exercises as a way to just bond, build trust, and have a working connection. I've seen a big change in Journey over the past few weeks. I'm able to turn her herd-separation anxiety thing off much more quickly. She starts thinking about "me" instead of "them". I know a lot of people think this type of horse training is "foo foo". To each his own I say! ~ E.G.