You’re trying to fix your horse in the wrong place. This is like trying to put a new coat of paint on a car with a broken engine. No matter what color you paint it, the dang thing still won’t run. Where your horse needs the attention and work the most is on the inside! The horse needs to feel confident and at ease with everything around him. Don’t get me wrong. We should always provide excellent care for our horses, but that’s not enough. Horses need to be comfortable on the inside. This can only be achieved by getting the horse confident in, and respectful of, his environment and the human. That’s my goal.
“My horse doesn’t have any problems. What could I gain from your program?”
How relieved I feel when someone brings me a horse truly without any problems. Rather than work 30 to 60 days to get back to “square one,” we can immediately begin to work on some areas that’ll get the horse better at his job—whether that be trail riding, or dressage, or anywhere in between.
“I ride English/Dressage (or, “I ride jumper.”) What could I possibly find helpful from someone in a cowboy hat and western saddle?”
My answer to that is that your horse doesn’t care how you dress. He only cares if you can meet his needs. He needs are to feel confident and relaxed within the herd, in the stall, and at work. Believe it or not, but dressage can be performed in a western saddle.
“I only trail ride. Why would I need all that horsemanship stuff?”
I prefer to look at riding as an art form. I try to make each ride closer to perfection than the last ride, knowing full well that I’ll never achieve a perfect ride. An interesting by-product is that I get a horse that’s more safe, predictable, and calm in all phases of horse ownership, whether that be shoeing, veterinary care, trailering, or riding. Regardless of what you use your horse for, a more thorough understanding of your horse will pay dividends for that horse and every horse you interact with during your lifetime.
“My horse rarely acts up, but once in a while for no reason at all I have troubles.”
With horses, there’s no such thing as “for no reason at all.” With a greater understanding of the horse, one finds out that what was once considered something happening for no reason at all was really the end result of a problem that had been festering for some time. By gaining a better understanding of the horse, we begin to recognize these problems in their microscopic stage and can make the necessary changes to nip them in the bud before they grow into big problems.
“How could my older, ‘broke’ horse benefit from going through a foundation clinic?”
The term “broke” implies in need of fixing. Many times we are guilty of asking a horse to perform at what might be considered a high-school level when they haven’t yet finished kindergarten or grade school. This is like asking children to spell complex words before they’ve learned their ABCs. A vast majority of horses lack many of the basic skills necessary to helping them excel.
“I was taught to ride with contact. Greg talks about riding on a slack rein. Who’s right?”
I don’t see this as a matter of who’s right, but I ask myself what would I like if I were the horse. Contact is a relative term. Contact can be 50 pounds or literally the weight of a feather, all depending on the hands running the reins. I ride my horses with contact when I’m asking for something specific with their feet, but the contact I’m striving for could be maintained with a piece of thread. This isn’t attained by fear, but, rather, ultimately, by respect for the rider. I also use my legs differently that most people. Rather than constantly driving my horses with intense leg pressure or constant use of a spur, I, ultimately, desire that my horses respect my legs enough to respond to a slight change in a relaxed seat and legs. All these skills are the result of a self-disciplined and meticulous approach seasoned with a good deal of patience.
“If Greg could only fix my horse my problems would be gone.”
It’s important to understand that unless I can fix both the horse and the rider, the horse will regress to some degree to his former self. Horses are a product of their environment. We may not always be the person responsible for causing the horse problems, but we are responsible for fixing the problem.