Above a Whisper - Viewer Discretion is Advised.
The new wave of natural training is a welcome one, and the lives of horses and riders are improving daily because of it - for the most part, that is. Some of the "whisperers" have a good grasp of what it takes to relate with the horse and to establish a working relationship without the use of force or pain. Some, however, in an effort to be so kind to the horse, may be doing more harm than good - to themselves, to the clients who have employed them, and ultimately to the horse as well, when it can't be handled by the owner.
It is admirable that people want to do right by the horse. It is commendable that people want to be kind and gentle to the horse. But, as with children, there must be boundaries established and rules that must be followed. The mere size of a horse makes it a necessity to stress safety at all times, for the person and the horse. "Be nice to the little horsey and he will be nice to you" could get you killed. Safe and sensible training builds a much better relationship. Whether you or someone else trains your horse, certain rules should apply.
The phrase "viewer discretion is advised" seems to apply here, because the "training" that is portrayed by some trainers should come with that label. Still quite clear in my mind is the vision of one renowned trainer, in a feature on TV, who erected gates, used special equipment and more, all to re-teach the horse to enter a starting gate. I still remember the narrator saying, "watch as xxxx puts life and limb at stake as he tries to get this horse to."! NOT a good example. They should have said "Now don't watch while xxxxx puts his life and limb at stake." The horse was terrified, and struggled to avoid going in the gate; he practically sat down.
During the struggling, the narrator explained that the trainer just figured out that the horse's hind legs must have been whipped previously inside the gates. It horrified me seeing the horse squirm in fear and sit to protect himself in expectation of a repeat of that. It also surprised me that it was not discovered earlier that the horse had such a sensitivity to the hind legs being touched. There are other trainers who would have had that figured out, way before that, by going through some steps that they routinely use while working with a problem horse. First things first; it should never have gotten that far with this horse, in my opinion.
In Training in this issue focuses in on what a horse owner should look for in a horse trainer and why. Whether your horse is an untrained youngster or an unruly oldster, a good trainer is a must. Putting a little common sense and a lot of effort into finding the right one will assure the best chance for a great working relationship with any horse. And keep in mind that the showmanship aspect of some trainers should always be viewed with discretion.