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The Advantage of a Balanced Approach

Sometimes I ride a horse like a Dressage horse, sometimes I ride them like a Reiner. Sometimes I ride them like a Polo horse, sometimes I ride them like a Ranch horse. Sometimes I ride them like a Gaming horse, sometimes I ride them like a Pleasure horse. Sometimes I work them on the ground for functionality, and sometimes I'm aiming for Liberty. Sometimes I use conventional methodology, and other times I use natural horsemanship methodology.

It just all depends...

Ranch Horse Style: Visual, partnership mentality required

Riding, training and working a horse are both a mental and physical exercise on the horse's side, and on the human's side. And repetition of expectations during training is your and the horse's friend...that is until that repetition becomes mundane; which is mind numbing and physically destructive. There are cracks in every system, there are holes in every method, there are pitfalls in every job. To have a balanced horse training approach, one should always ask one's self; For everything we've gained, what was it that we've lost?

The only way to steer clear of stagnation, is to remain fluid in your approach to the horse. In my career I have learned this by way of experience. I have not dominated any sport or discipline, I don't have buckles and ribbons to prove my accomplishments, what I do is very much under the radar. Rather what I do have, is the invaluable working knowledge from the experience of "rejiggering" the minds of hundreds of horses, from all walks of the equine industry. I've made it my job to learn the ins and outs of different disciplines so I can better understand where the horse is coming from in his perspective and knowledge base, so when I begin the process of teaching him new or different ways of thinking and doing things, it is as streamlined and stress free as possible. From retraining the ex-race horse, to figuring out what a "sale barn" horse knows (both good and bad), to relaxing the conventionally trained horse or tightening up the natural horsemanship trained horse, to fixing the Problem horse, and finally to handling the new born foal, I've learned a lot and continue to add to my knowledge. In the end though, the biggest thing I have learned is to always seek balance in mental and physical exercises we teach the horse. This is not only the pathway to fixing issues, but steering clear of them in the first place.

Gaming Style: Visual, proper physical functionality required to succeed

Every discipline has its tricks of the trade, the more trades you invest the time in learning, the more tricks you learn (...and I say this in a positive way). And the more tricks you learn, the better teacher or coach you become for your equine partner. That being said, this is not an open invitation to become scattered or chaotic in your training approach, that is as unproductive as being too narrow in your approach. It is about finding out what other discipline in the industry is the "Yin" to your "Yang." I have invested a lot of time in a lot of different disciplines because "fixing" is the majority of what I do, so my knowledge base has to be very broad. My encouragement here, is to simply seek out another approach that is opposite, or almost opposite, of your current pathway. If you are following an inward focusing discipline that is predominantly collection work, look into something that has more of a visual component for the horse to engage in. On the contrary, if you are engaged in something that largely requires the horse to be visual, look into a discipline that causes the horse to focus back on you and your small movements and signals, such as a discipline or sport that involves collection.

A balanced horse training approach is always what's best for the horse, and luckily, there are nearly limitless things to do with your horse whether you are interested in riding, driving, or doing ground work. They key is to force YOURSELF into to learning something new. I have watched over and over again, the same issues come up in horses, and the problem is always because the human is lacking in depth and breadth of knowledge, or worse yet, lacking the desire to gain new knowledge or a new perspective. It is very easy for us to get stuck in a rut on a particular path, sometimes righteously so, and the horse is the one that ends up paying the price. So, the ball is in your court, help your horse reach its potential by broadening your own horizons...and you just never know, it might even be a fun new journey to be on ;-)

Stay Balanced,


Reining Style: loose rein, using topline, while maintaining focus on rider; note ears of horse in this image

Dressage Style: collected rein, upright posture, requires horse to focus intently on rider's positoin and movemets

Polo Style: upright, visual, emotional stability required, true 51:49 partnership also required

Liberty Style: Visual, requires horse and human to have a "bond" of respect and trust
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