By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
One of the great aspects of social media is how many ideas and thoughts get shared. We are now able to chat with people all around the globe and find how similar in thought many people are …. even if the thoughts might just be wrong.
Some of the comments I have read recently that I think are just wrong include the following:
1) I trained my horse to make a flying lead change.
2) I trained my horse to pick up its feet.
3) I trained my horse to walk, trot and canter (lope).
4) I trained my horse to back up.
These are only a few of the comments from people about how they “trained” their horse. This actually got me thinking about how much the person actual “trained” the horse. Three definitions I found in the dictionary for the word “training” include 1) the education, instruction, or discipline of a person or thing, and 2) the process of bringing a person, etc., to an agreed standard of proficiency, and 3) The action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior.
Now step away from the reading for a moment and think about a horse or horses in the pasture that have never been handled. Have you seen a horse such as this make a flying lead change all on its own in the pasture (I have), have you seen a horse pick up its feet in the pasture (I have), have you seen a horse back, walk, trot and lope along (I have).
So in reality we have seen a horse do all the things we claim that we train them to do. Wow — quite arrogant of us people to claim we trained a horse to do something that its own natural talent allows it to do just as easily as it breathes.
Well as I thought about this I realized I need to change some things in my life and my thought process. I do not train horses. I do not want to train horses. I do not want to be known as a horse trainer. I want to coach myself to work with my horses to achieve success. I want to coach others to work with their horses to achieve success. I want to choreograph the dance that is inside each horse and rider.
I shared this with a friend who asked me what the difference was between being a coach and a trainer. Well since I am a coach — I sure need to define what that means. A coach is 100% committed to the outcome of the student’s results. The coach is prepared with a philosophy and a series of principles that guide the process. With a coach you have a person who brings everything he or she has to the meeting or time together and finds solutions and enhances the communication and helps those connections grow. The trainer is a person that works around a set schedule and current commitment to a program. A trainer provides a service that works for the participant and brings them closer to their goals but may or may not achieve the level of success that is possible. The trainer is often a person who brings a level of accountability to the process. Trainers set lesson times at 45 minutes and sets horse “training times” based on a wall chart. Sure those all work — but in my opinion they limit the potential of the horse or rider.
The strongest differentiator between the two is more one of faith and desire than actual training principles. A coach and the person or animal he/she is coaching meet on an equal level with the desire for a specific outcome. With a trainer — the goals may be set by both participants but it is the heart of the trainer that helps push the person towards the goals. Life situations creep into the final outcome between a trainer and a horse or rider – big project at work, family vacation, nagging injury – all legitimate reasons for taking it easy in a training program and the trainer actually helps you validate your excuse. These excuses do not work when you have a coach.
Definitions of training have words like “Action,” “Process,” “Standard,” and “Discipline.” Coaching is like a marriage between souls – a coach will absorb every new technique and implement all tactics to make the horse or rider better. Coaches spend hours outside of the “lesson times” to make himself better or improve what he knows. I watch my horses in the pens. From day 1 of life to now — wow have they improved their athletic abilities — I must come to this partnership with the same dedication to improving as my horse brings.
My horses have taught me that I should not be a trainer. Since I get up each day that I am home and feed them, clean stalls, work with them and spend time with them — my horses are coaching me to be better in many things. They are not training me….the horse brings what she knows and I arrive wanting to achieve success so we coach each other.
So I am a horsemanship coach and a horse coach … not a trainer. There is nothing wrong with being a trainer and for people to want a trainer. For some people that is what will help them achieve their goals. For me — I want to achieve that marriage of souls so that my horse and I and people I have the privilege of coaching and their horses all do so much more than they ever thought possible.
I want to choreograph the dance that is inside each horse and rider. I want to coach myself and my horses to achieve so much more. I want to ride…I want to live….I want to listen to the horse coach with four legs who asks me to listen so that we can find this partnership that leads to magic. It has taken years but now I understand what my horse started sharing with me years ago.
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).