When it comes to the equine industry is it a lot of work, not a lot of pay, and long hours. So what is it about the industry that makes people stay? The love of the horses and the love of the sport. Now we know a general reason why people stay with it. But what truly makes a great Professional in the industry.
Albert Einstein famously said that “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” The same is true for today’s great horsemen and women, who take their natural ability, and through perseverance and personal development, work to bring this industry the renown it deserves. We are lucky enough to witness a number of incredible trainers today, having learned their trade from some of those original greats, but what are the specific characteristics that make them such great Professionals?
Some horses take a lot of time to develop or learn. But any trainer that gives up at the first sign of resistance is selling their horse (and themselves) short. Great horsemanship means repetition, repetition, repetition. Not only do horses take an extreme amount of repetition at times but students learning to ride do as well. These are the children that may one day become a talent Junior rider but you didn’t have the patients to teach them basics.
Thinking outside the box
Sometimes it takes an “Aha!” moment to really understand what is going on in a horse’s mind. Just as repetition is key, knowing when repetition isn’t cutting it is equally important. Some of the greatest trainers in our history have done some pretty unorthodox things, just to figure out how to help a horse or rider that needed a little extra help. Students need a little out of the box thinking. If a student isn’t learning the skill as necessary or becomes bored then it is time to whip out an out of the box way to keep the lesson going in a positive manner.
Some horses frustrate you to the point where you want to just give up on them for the sake of your own sanity. But great trainers will often give the horse the benefit of the doubt. Now that does NOT mean that they aren’t incredibly careful when dealing with a horse that they know is a challenge (or a horse they don’t know at all), it just means they give a horse more than one chance to do the right thing before correcting them in a major way. When it comes to lessons it is crucial to be positive with your students. It can be frustrating for lesson students if they can’t master a skill (such as posting) and the instructor isn’t being positive about the little achievements.
Everyone needs correcting at times, but great trainers know the right moment, the right type and the right degree of correction. While this is a controversial and hotly debated topic, by “corrections”, we mean the use of an extra strong leg, a flick with a crop, or slightly stronger bridle use to counteract bad behavior.
The point here is that great trainers keep their emotions OUT of their corrections. They correct what is needed, when it’s needed, rather than disciplining a horse to make themselves feel better. This concept also is correct with students. Students can be frustration especially younger ones who want to goof off and hang out with friends. Lessons can be ruined by and overly corrective trainer.
The most hidden talent of great Professionals is timing. Knowing exactly when something needs to happen and making it happen at the best time. Things such as corrections to horses, or when a student is ready to move onto the next level of their riding. Timing can be learned but often it is a hidden talent much like perfect soft hands, or that rider that can relax almost any horse.
A great Professional is always learning new things. Always going out and doing the research and getting the experience. A reputable professional will have a vast knowledge base as well as experience both working and watching others. Great horse professionals are those you look up to because of the knowledge and growth they can provide you. A great example is George Morris.
Perhaps the most obvious of characteristics, if you aren’t hard working and disciplined enough to get up early, and do what needs to be done for horse care and training EVEN when you’re tired, sick, or just plain don’t feel like it today, you’re never going to make it through show season, let alone be able to grow your training farm beyond a certain point. Discipline is the key to being great at anything and the discipline it takes to be a horse trainer rivals any other of athletic endeavor. It takes a lot to want to put the horses and barn tasks even the littlest things above your own wants outside of the barn. Not only is discipline important but doing the little extra things that no one asked of you because you know it will better the barn or the care of the horses.
As Gordon Wright said over and over, “Give me attitude over aptitude any day.”