Horse First

I really liked Lauren’s post the other day about putting the horse first, and I’d like to chime in on that.

I’ve said several times how fortunate it is that I have a trainer/barn owner who is such a strong advocate for good horsemanship. But that’s not quite right. Calling it “fortunate” implies that I randomly picked a trainer and *phew* lucky me, they’re a good egg. It implies that good horsemanship is a nice perk rather than the reason I chose my trainer.

In reality, choosing my trainer was based almost entirely on her demonstrated dedication to the welfare of all horses in her barn. I certainly have competitive goals and am constantly striving to be the best rider I can be, but I knew that I wanted a trainer who puts her horses first every time.

It’s not just the basics: of course she makes sure all the horses have proper nutrition, and will adjust their feed based on workload, show schedule, turnout time, etc. She ensures they all have clean stalls, free access to water, plenty to eat, warm blankets, and gentle handling. She emphasizes proper grooming, cool downs, and tack fitting to her students.

More than that though, she has a stable full of happy horses who genuinely like their jobs. That’s no accident. That’s the result of careful, consistent training.

Under her guidance, we offer lots of praise when the horses offer good work. We take lots of breaks when horse and rider need a mental break. We gently but firmly correct bad behavior the first time so we don’t create bad habits. We push our abilities slowly and methodically, not rushing up the levels just to qualify for something. We focus on creating a good experience for the horse, THEN a good experience for the rider, and THEN getting the ribbons. We do lots of homework at home, so at the shows we’re not worried about schooling our horses.

Based on her guidance, we do not drug our horses. We do not punish them when they are confused or frightened. We do not overwork them into submission to make them too tired to misbehave. We do not use extreme bits or tack to substitute for gaps in training.

There is a reason that my trainer has my patronage. I trust her to always put Frankie’s needs first and to demand that same dedication from her staff and riders. This is not a fortunate benefit to riding and boarding with her, it is the REASON I ride and board with her.

So I’ll echo what Lauren said: there are plenty of shady characters out there, but my way of battling that is by choosing to give my business to the people who share the philosophy of “horse first.” Always.

17 thoughts on “Horse First

  1. T. A. Eyo ¥ 07/26/2016 / 8:20 am

    It honestly pains me when I see horses get punished for not understanding.


  2. Monica V 07/26/2016 / 9:37 am

    Agreed. Too many shitty people out there, I’ll stick with the ones who do right by the ponies


    • hellomylivia 07/26/2016 / 10:24 am

      Luckily there are good ones out there too that we can throw our money at 😉


  3. Lauren 07/26/2016 / 9:46 am

    You know I agree with you 🙂


  4. Micaylah 07/26/2016 / 10:07 am

    I love this. It reminds me of an incident I had last week. I needed to swap pastures for baby horses and Z just isn’t halter trained yet. Even though he was scared and avoiding the pressure of haltering, I worked slowly and methodically to get what I needed. I definitely could see other options such as making him run around to tire him or something equally as useless. Instead I reminded him he knows how to be haltered and if my hands are safe on his head I won’t let anything unsafe touch his head. It only took about five minutes to get him haltered but I could have easily seen others work for longer and give up, leaving a negative memory in his mind.


    • hellomylivia 07/26/2016 / 10:25 am

      This is such a good example of taking the time to do things right! That’s exactly the kind of horsemanship that makes happy horses 🙂


  5. Hillary H. 07/26/2016 / 10:13 am

    I feel the same. It helps to also know a trainers reputation and be familiar with them at horse shows etc so you are aware how they act. I think a lot of people just assume trainers have the best interest of horse and rider at heart and there are times when that is simply not the case.

    We are the voices for our horses so it’s important that we make good decisions for them 🙂


    • hellomylivia 07/26/2016 / 10:26 am

      Well said! It’s our duty to be their advocate in all ways


  6. CallyJumps 07/26/2016 / 10:58 am

    Bravo! There are so many shady characters and sketchy skill levels out there today calling themselves “trainers” that sometimes it’s easy to overlook the actually skilled, talented, good people out there doing it right. Because often those are the ones out there crowing the loudest, they’re just out there working hard and improving their riders and horses week by week. And they are out there, if you look. I think we’ve both got them 🙂


    • CallyJumps 07/26/2016 / 11:00 am

      *not crowing loudest. Darn trying to type two things at once!


    • hellomylivia 07/27/2016 / 10:18 am

      Agreed totally, so often the people who are taking the time and working hard aren’t flashy or out there- their energies are more focused inwards on their clients and their horses.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Susan 07/26/2016 / 1:26 pm

    You know, it’s surprising hard to find such incredible care these days! You’re very fortunate!


    • hellomylivia 07/27/2016 / 10:18 am

      It is hard! Glad to live in an area with so many options so I could find someone who offered everything I was looking for 🙂


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