They say that if you have not been stepped on, or have not fallen off a horse than you are not working with horses. I believe that you do not need a bad encounter with your horse. If you learn to listen to your horse from the beginning then you will have a great journey with your horse.
There are trainers that say they can talk to horses, but they don’t talk to them like we talk to each other. It is all about knowing your individual horse, for example:
My Friesian Sporthorse “Sailor” is the straightest tracking driving horse I have ever seen. If you hold the rein exactly even, he will hold his head straight and drive in an absolute straight line. So when he starts bending his head even the slightest, from center I know that there is another problem. It is his way of telling me there is something wrong. If one knows their horse, they see this as the horse telling them something..
My training philosophy has a lot to do with getting to know your horse. Some times your horse just gives up trying because you have stopped listening to them. This is when one needs to get creative and make a game out of figuring out how to communicate with their horse.
When you come to me as a student with your horse you are both new to me so I need time to get to know both of you. You will find that I will ask you many question to be able to form a picture of what is going on with you and your horse.
One of the most often asked questions I get is, how long will it take to get my horse driving?
Well there is not a time table on how long it will take any individual horse. I work on the horse’s time schedule not on yours or mine. I have trained horses that I have hitched within a month. Then there have been those that have taken six months to get there. The worst thing you can do is to push the horse faster than he is ready to learn.
Over the years I have found that trying to drill a lesson into a horse for hours at a time does not work. If the horse does not get it within a 15-20 minute period, go on to something else. If you come back to it the next day, you will find that he was listening and did get it after all.
Shorter periods of training get better results than longer ones. I don’t know about you, but running a ten mile race, when you have not trained for it, is not all that much fun. So start slow and easy and you will get better results in the end.
All the so called tools (whips, spurs, tie downs, etc.) that many trainers use, are not worth the money you waste on them. Proper training works better and stays around a lot longer.
Round penning that you do with your horse will never make him calm and quiet. Only proper training will do that. There is a time and a place for the round pen but not for calming a horse.
If you want your horse to learn and be a calm and quiet partner with you, then you need to be a calm and quiet partner for him. So when you are around him whether you are on the ground or in the carriage driving him you need to stay calm and quiet. I have seen many drivers who yell at people on the ground while they are attempting to drive their horse, and they wonder why their horse is acting up. Remember that your horse feeds off of you, so if you are upset, yelling or mad, your horse will feel this. Take those deep breaths and let them out all the way down to your toes and relax. The quiet relaxed horse learns faster.
Never leave any holes in your horses training. The carriage horse needs to know all the basics, walk, trot, canter, back, stand, and especially WHOA to be a safe driving horse.
When teaching slow and steady works the best with the horse. Rushing is never the way to go. Remember that all horses do not learn in the same way. Just like with people, so you need to be flexible with how you are teaching at the time.
To learn more and experience my horse and driver instruction first hand,
“Remember training is as much about the horse as it is about the driver!”
“Your coming over to drive Ellie made my day, and turned around my having such a hard time with everything. Your cheerfulness in the lesson, (which you do over and over with me-never getting upset) was very much appreciated. And being in the cart helps your mind forget everything else. And Ellie tried yesterday, as she should of. I fly-sheeted all of them all day; glad you noticed the bumps on their neck, especially Montana. Thanks again for really made a difference.”
Interview with the Trainer
—as seen in Arizona Horse Connection magazine August 2015
1.) Where are you from, how were you introduced to horses and when did you decide to become a professional trainer? Does anyone else in your family help in your training business?
I was born and raised in Southern California and in about 1955 when I was just five years old I started a scrapbook of horse pictures that I cut out of magazines and newspapers, so I guess I have loved horses my whole life. By the way I still have that scrapbook. Then on my 12th birthday my dad took me on a trail ride in Sequoia and as they say the rest is history. I became a professional trainer in 1986 after completing studies at the Berry School of Horsemanship along with many clinics with trainers such as Monty Roberts and Anita Mellott for driving horses.
2.) Do you have a particular breed of horse that you specialize in, and, if so, what breed is that?
I do not specialize in any one breed as they all have their own best qualities, although I have my own favorites which are Arabians and Morgans.
3) What type of training do you do, i.e. performance disciplines (reining, cutting, cowhorse, roping, etc.), rail events (western pleasure, hunter under saddle, trail, western riding), hunter/jumper, all-around, etc.? If you do all-around training, is there a specific type of training that you like the most, i.e., colt starting, futurity prospects, western or English?
I specialize in driving and carriage horses. Combined Driving, Pleasure Driving, and Show Ring Driving are my three major areas. I also do pleasure riding lessons for youth and first time horse owners whatever their age. I feel it is very important for youngsters and first time riders and drivers to have the best skills possible to make their driving or trail riding experiences the best they can be. That way they will continue to enjoy their horses for years to come.
4.) Do you train just open horses, or do you have a program for youth and non-pro riders?
I really like working with youth and first time owners because they will be the ones that keep horses an equitable business for all of us trainers. There are more pleasure and trail riders and drivers than there are drivers or riders showing.
5.) If you show, what is your favorite event to show in, your favorite show to attend and how many shows do you exhibit at during the year?
When I show I do Combined Driving which is a two or three day event with carriage horses. I don’t have one favorite show to attend because there is only one sanctioned event in Arizona so I do a lot of traveling. In a normal year I will compete in four to six events across the country.
6.) Can you tell us your training philosophy or philosophies?
I think the biggest mistake that a trainer or owner of a horse does is to drill over and over in one lesson the same thing. I believe that you get more, from less, when you are training a horse. Say you are working on getting your horse to do an extended trot and after twenty minutes you finally get six or eight strides that are perfect then you stop and praise the horse so he knows he got it. Then you stop and go on to something else. When you come back the next day you will get a better response in less time. It is amazing what the mind of a horse can do.
I know as a human drilling something over and over in an hours time can be very frustrating, so to a horse it would be super frustrating.
My second training philosophy is that you cannot push the horse farther than he chooses to go. So you start your lesson and twenty minutes later your horse is still not with you than it is time to stop, because pushing harder will get you nowhere. My new students always ask “How long is a lesson” and my answer is that I do not run on a clock because it all depends on the horse and what we are working on. It could be a good day and the horse is doing very well so we will go 45-90 minutes, or the horse is having a day when his attention span is short and we would stop after 30 minutes.
7.) Do you have a favorite training tool or piece of equipment?
My favorite training tack is the Pessoa Training System which helps to teach your horse how to carry himself in a balanced manner. For young horses they first learn to go long and low and as they become comfortable you can build up to an advanced frame. This is all done without you pulling on the reins which teaches the horse to find that comfortable spot himself. You can drive your horse in a circle or work with them in an arena and travel up and down it. You can work them at a walk, trot or canter so they become comfortable and balanced at all three gaits.
8.) Is there a grooming tool or product that you can’t live without?
There are lot of tools and products out there and there are always new item being thought of that are good or just remakes of old standards. I am still a fan of ShowSheen because it does work.
9.) In your “free time,” what other activities do you enjoy doing?
I’m not sure that a person that has horses really has any spare time, but in the little that I find I like to fly fish along a river or stream. I also like to travel and camp with my husband in our national forests and parks.
10.) If you weren’t training horses, what do you think you would be doing as a profession?
Actually in some of that spare time I do work at my husbands and my Tax and Financial Services office.
11.) What would be your best advice to someone thinking about becoming a professional horse trainer?
If your going to get into the horse business in whatever area, and there are many, then you need to have a business plan and run your business like a business. Many trainers, boarding stable owners, etc., do it because they love horses but without running it as a business they do not succeed.
12.) Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t covered in these questions?
Owning horses is a great responsibility that brings much joy to many people. My hope is that anyone starting any type of horse related business remembers, that like any business, it takes money and many long hours of work to do. Get the education both in horse training and business courses and have the experience needed to run your business for both the horses sake and yours.
- 1993-Present – Own and operates Davis Ranch Combined Driving Center
- 2008-2015 – Friesian Sport Horse: Combined Driving 1st Place with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy
- 2009-2015 – Friesian Heritage Horse: Combined Driving Open Award Champion with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy
- 2011 – Earned International High Performance points with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy
- 2009 – FEIT Certificate of Inspection: Sport Horse Standard High Merit Award 7.909 with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy
- 2009 – FEIT Certificate of Inspection: Dressage Driving Ster Test 7.816 with Pinegrove’s Sailor Boy
- 2005 & 2006 – USEF Long List for Single Horse Drivers with Daniel Dawson
- 2005 & 2006 – Earned International High Performance points with Daniel Dawson
- 2005 & 2006 – USEF Long List for Single Horse Drivers with Daniel Dawson
- 2004 – Reserve Champion Singles Driving with Daniel Dawson
- 2002 – Adjunct teacher at Yavapai College in Equine Studies Program
- 1999 – Invited guest speaker and demonstrator at Equitana USA in Louisville, KY
- 1994 & 1995 – Arizona Driving Festival High Point Four Wheel Division with Silver Wampum
- 1992 – Television commercial for Barbara Michaels Boutique with Silver Wampum
- 1992 – Visual Aid for Petsmart horse products seminar with Silver Wampum
- 1985-1994 – Davis Equestrian Center Owner/Operator Breed and Train Thoroughbred and Running Quarters for the track
- Author of seven equine related books including “Harnessing & Saddling A Step By Step Guide”
- 1982 – Berry School of Horsemanship
- 1972-1973 – La Salle University/AA Degree in Interior Decorating
- 1968-1971 – United States Air Force/AA Degree in Computer Science