Compassionate Training

What Kind of Trainer I Want To Be


I start­ed think­ing.  What is the com­mon denom­i­na­tor in every­thing I have learned so far from my horse Dancer?  The answer: COMPASSION.  Com­pas­sion allows me to under­stand bet­ter, respond bet­ter, and train bet­ter.  It’s the one thread that sews its way through all my wants and desires for my horse.  When I think about who and what I want to be, it’s com­pas­sion­ate.

Com­pas­sion is defined as sym­pa­thet­ic pity and con­cern for the suf­fer­ings of oth­ers.  It encom­pass­es so much more though.  Com­pas­sion is treat­ing oth­ers like you would want to be treat­ed in every aspect of your life.  Com­pas­sion embraces patience, kind­ness, love, empa­thy, ten­der­ness and tol­er­ance.  So how do we inter­act and train our hors­es com­pas­sion­ate­ly?

I will be the first to admit that some days I fail.  I’m tired, frus­trat­ed, stressed and I lose the abil­i­ty to be who I want to be.  But every day, I come to the barn striv­ing to be com­pas­sion­ate and every day I ask myself what I can learn today to be a bet­ter train­er.  I/We have to be will­ing to look at our own short com­ings and start work­ing on them.


First there has to be a good foun­da­tion of train­ing knowl­edge and a dai­ly striv­ing to make our­selves bet­ter.  That’s the knowl­edge to be good rid­er… posi­tion, bio­me­chan­ics, learn­ing the aids, tim­ing, exe­cut­ing move­ments.  There is also edu­ca­tion on body lan­guage and how to work with hors­es on the ground to devel­op bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion.  Then there is edu­ca­tion about how hors­es learn, how hors­es feel and how to train each horse accord­ing to its per­son­al­i­ty, strengths and weak­ness­es.  Our cur­rent edu­ca­tion sys­tem for learn­ing how to ride and inter­act is based on tra­di­tions passed down but some­thing has been lost or nev­er cov­ered at all.  Get­ting an edu­ca­tion in real­ly work­ing with hors­es to bet­ter their life with­out suf­fer­ing is the hard gem to find.  Adding the lay­er of under­stand­ing the sci­ence of learn­ing is even rar­er.  This is the goal of Reflec­tions From the Sad­dle.  To open own­ers, train­ers and han­dlers eyes to the vast edu­ca­tion that has been lost.


Some­times our issues are all emo­tion­al.  Our own emo­tion­al prob­lems are unknow­ing­ly pro­ject­ed onto our hors­es.  Whether we real­ize it or not.  Tak­ing the time and being will­ing to go deep, find our emo­tion­al bag­gage and deal with it can work won­ders for chang­ing our inter­ac­tion and rela­tion­ship with our hors­es.  Just being will­ing to do this work will open your eyes to emo­tion­al reac­tions you have and will start the path to heal­ing.

Many times we are self-cen­tered.  We don’t always real­ize it but we are nar­cis­sis­tic by nature.  We think the world revolves around us and that every horse should bend to our will.  News flash!…  Hors­es give so much more when they are giv­en a choice and a voice.  We don’t have the right to exert our will on ani­mals, oth­er peo­ple or even nature.  When we start to real­ize this, than true con­nec­tion to one anoth­er, our horse and every­thing around us will change.


Are you sure the horse under­stands?  Hors­es don’t con­scious­ly choose to be bad!  They either don’t under­stand what you want (con­fused), feel threat­ened or scared, can’t do what you want (painful or impos­si­ble) or haven’t learned what you are ask­ing.  In all these sit­u­a­tions, it is us that is the prob­lem, not the horse.  I some­times have to tell myself this every­day.  It doesn’t mean I’m bad, it just means I have to learn how to let my horse suc­ceed at what I am ask­ing.

As we are work­ing on get­ting our own life togeth­er, we can start build­ing a real rela­tion­ship with our horse.  In the book “Build­ing Our Life Togeth­er”, Fred­er­ic Pignon states that we should be more con­cerned that they (hors­es) are hap­py rather than that they are obey­ing our wish­es.  He goes on to say that he would rather swal­low his pride in front of a large audi­ence than force a horse to do some­thing it is not quite ready for.  Wow, think of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions if we entered the show ring with that per­spec­tive.  If we always put the horse first.  If we always trained and rode com­pas­sion­ate­ly.