toolbox training

Because I’ve been a bit testy lately in the blog, I think I will review some of the Big Name Trainers and how I personally use them (if I do) in my toolbox. Yes, I do sometimes have a Cafeteria Plan when I train, ride and school.

This isn’t appropriate for someone who is just starting out but if you are an Intermediate Rider with some history working with horses, don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons, especially if you are working a horse that doesn’t fit the same box as all the others you’ve worked. If you are new to horses, I recommend doing a lot of reading about riding such as position, common faults and how to improve as well as horse behavior.

Klaus Hempfling. Nope, haven’t met him. I have his two books, Dancing with Horses and What Horses Reveal. I want to get the third but will wait upon the budget. I have viewed his current dvds’ through rental. And I have also viewed his online videos which are very helpful when slowed down to view body language.

From reading the onboard message forums, it sounds like Hempfling can be pretty rough and tell it like it is to people in clinics. I don’t know personally as I haven’t had the fortune to be at a clinic, but I can only imagine the self-delusional people who bring a horse to a clinic expecting to win only praise from a Big Name Trainer, only to be disappointed when told that the owner is 99 percent of the problem! LOL! I am sure that goes over like a lead balloon.

I have personally seen this when people bring their 4th level dressage horse to an Olympic level clinician only to have their egotistical balloon popped when the said clinician informs them that their expensive Warmblood is 2nd level on a good day. ROFL! These types of encounters are just not that unusual.

Hempflings’ work I use during my leading training and I rely heavily on his Zone 1,2,3 system. I also do a lot of walking with my horse and in reviewing some recent posts, think I will get back to the neckrope (which is far more difficult then it appears).

To use Hempfling’s system you have to be very honest about yourself and who you are. I think this is one reason why he is not as popular in the states as perhaps he is in Europe. For the beginner, I would recommend Dancing, but realize it is NOT a cookbook with recipes to treat problem horses. It is a philosophy first. I would also spend ALOT of time viewing his videos.

Linda Tellington-Jones (TTeam). Unfortunately, Linda has not received the acclaim in the horse world I think she deserves. Take it as you will, but I think this is because she is a woman. Men have dominated the training field and she seems to get lost in the background. I guess she needs to start walking bowlegged and spitting her chew in a can for the US horse riding world to take her seriously!

The Ultimate Horse Behavior and Training Book is highly recommended when combined with her videos. My favorite videos are the ones on riding such as Riding with Awareness and Solving Problems from the Saddle. Many of these you can now rent through a service.

I have attended a weeklong seminar in TTeam and I have mixed thoughts about it. The upside is the method is very easy to learn, easy to apply, and hard to screw up. The downside is that the clinic (like most clinics) was dominated by a problem child that sucked up all the attention; and a bit of didactic teaching that I thought was too inflexible.

This inflexibility of an instructor was mentioned to me by a local dressage trainer who had her horse in one of the TTeam clinics long ago. She felt they acted like they knew her horse, when they didn’t and interpreted some things incorrectly. I can see how that might happen in a clinic atmosphere because there is a bit of a push to learn a lot of material and people can get carried away with teaching rather then doing what the moment demands.

One thing I LOVE about Linda is that she is very open about people taking her work and running with it! Linda’s method concentrates on enabling the horse to perform so it is slanted more towards horse training then it is about how to ride. Linda also has a book and clinic that specifically teaches you to train a green horse from start to saddle, with a lot of good info on ground driving.

Linda’s methods work well with Centered Riding (Sally Swift), Wendy Murdoch (Murdoch Method) and Peggy Cummings (Connected Groundwork/Riding).

Clicker Training. What I LOVE about clicker training is that it accelerates learning in your horse. Horses are definitely food motivated and PROPERLY using treats can garner really great results.

Also, what I love about clicker training is that NO ONE owns it! You can do it and not run the risk of someone contacting you about infringing their copyright!

I use it a lot in conjunction with my liberty, leading and ground work – compatible with Hempfling, Mark Russell, Carolyn Resnick (though she hates Clicker training LOL!), and roundpen work. I don’t use it so much in the saddle as I find it inconvenient and distracting.

Mark Russell (Riding with Lightness/Natural Dressage). I came across his work this year and then found out Molly had taken a clinic with him. I hope to audit a clinic with him two weeks from now, and when I do I’ll report back.

For me, his riding book is providing the next step up from Hempflings leading work. I can see the building relaxedness and building the body before asking, as being important in both methods. Would synch well with TTeam and Connected Riding. I also find his methodology compatible with the French school of dressage taught by Philippe Karl, though on the surface they may seem completely different.

Peggy Cummings (Connected Riding). I’m just starting to experiment with her work. I am especially interested in using it to help Z’s lopsidedness. If you have a trained horse who is not performing well, definitely check out Peggy and Linda’s work as they offer ideas and solutions to problems that other trainers just don’t deal with.

I have seen Peggy’s dvd’s and they were okay. The problem with horse training dvd’s is that there is alot of information to convey and sometimes that info is better given in person (handson) or in printed materials. I do look forward to her having more materials available as she expands her teaching. 

Her methods work well with Linda Tellington Jones (Linda was Peggy’s mentor), Centered Riding (Sally Swift), Mark Russell (Natural Dressage) and Carolyn Resnick.

Carolyn Resnick (Waterhole Rituals). Her method at this time is limited and most of her ideas are covered by other trainers such as Monty Roberts (“the wild horses taught me everything”) and Klaus Hempfling who I personally favor more as Klaus doesn’t romantize it and goes straight for the jugular.

I have watched all her available dvds, seen her Youtube videos and read all published material.I also participated in the Insider Circle program. For me personally, while she has some interesting ideas, I found it a very limited program. You will need to combine her ideas with someone else, preferably someone who has a traditional riding program (JMO but bridleless riding is only for someone who is an accomplished rider – it borders into dangerous territory).

For those who like Parellis’ work, Carolyn would synch well. The Waterhole Rituals can also be done with many other programs (TTeam, Hempfling, Connected etc…) as it is more about spending time with your horse and forming a relationship. Interestingly, enough Carolyn seems to discourage people from doing so, very reminiescent of how Parelli behaves (“my path is the only truth”).

Bill Dorrance. Primarily from his book True Horsemanship through Feel. I’m not impressed with the work I’ve seen his companion, Leslie Desmond, do; the horses seem heavy on the forehand in the videos I’ve seen, and someone who attended one of her clinics was not impressed. However, I know nothing about her personally so make your own judgement call there.

Back to Dorrance: like Dancing, True Horsemanship can be a difficult read. It is NOT a cookbook to solve problems. It is a review of Dorrance’s life and philosophy about how he interacts and trains horses. It is one of those books that as you advance in your knowledge you will harvest more gems. It is written in a Cowboy-easy-talk way that is so longwinded that some people (that I have discussed this book with) have found it irritating.

This book would be helpful for the rider/trainer who needs to slow down and get a better connection (or feel) with the horse’s movement; it is not about training the rider how to ride, but about connecting with the horse physically. Bill is now deceased so unfortunately, this one volume has to speak for his lifetime with horses.

Methodologies I sometimes use, but mostly don’t…

Just to clarify I was born in the Western United States, and have lived much of my life here. The Cowboy BS seems to really woo people who haven’t had to deal with Cowboys. ROFLMAO!!

GaWaNi PonyBoy. The easiest Roundpen training ideas that I know of. I can’t speak of anything else that he has done as I don’t follow him that closely. However, if you want an easy to use system for roundpenning (John Lyons is NOT that), check him out.

Some people find the “Native American” aspect a bit over the top and too sentimental/romanticized though I was okay with it. His book Horse, Follow Closely is really just a coffee book of pretty pictures.  He seems to have moved towards catering to women, and considering his physical appearance I am sure he is making quite the wave.

John Lyons. Just doesn’t float my boat. I find his method too complicated though I had a very good online friend who worshipped him. Some of his older books definitely have an antiquated idea of working with horses (such as tying them up) so he’s just not for me.

JMO but Lyons is really just an old Cowboy who is trying to soften his image to be more accepting of the Natural Horsemanship movement that is more lovey-dovey, touchey-feeley. Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes he does not.

If you like multi-layered systems, round pen work, and prefer a Cowboy-centric method of training you might want to check him out. This is a system that is based upon moving hips and shoulders to achieve training (not a teach how to ride system). I especially liked his book Bringing up Baby as it is a great blend of photos and text on this particular subject. His Perfect Horse magazine is also GREAT for all sorts of information on horse management as well as riding and training.

Monty Roberts. If you want to read a LOT of horse gossip, then just google Monty’s name! He’s the first who came out big time with the “worked with the wild horses and learned all I know from them” showmanship schtick. He IS a showman – make no doubt about that and for that reason alone I have a huge skeptical attitude about his work. It’s also why I don’t buy into the Extreme Mustang Makeover show.

I have read extremely negative things about horses who have gone through his clinics (see the rec.equestrian bulletin board files for specifics). Yet, he’s built a huge empire from training trainers. On the good side, his join up series is very interesting to watch and learn about horse behavior; the bad side? I think this can be done in other ways that suit my personal philosophy better (aka Hempfling, TTeam or Cavalia).

Clinton Anderson. To Clintonize a horse is a term to describe a pretty rough and aggressive method of training. He’s got his Aussie Cowboy-schtick going in his propaganda. And the website is over the top drama that I’m sure sucks the marks right in. Upshot? Not hard to train a horse using force and intimidation. JMO.

Parelli – I have no interest in joining a Cult. Those who follow message boards know exactly what I’m talking about.

Parelli has a lot of followers because he and his wife offer cookbook training. The training materials are extremely well organized and sequential based but it tends to be overused by his followers, and the riding component is only for “high levels” of his training system. A lot of this stuff demands very high prices! – look on ebay and buy it used if you must check him out.

I’m sure I’ve skipped some folks… probably because I’m not as familiar with their work or that I simply don’t find their path interesting. The real fact of the matter is that you will find a trainer who speaks to you personally – their approach makes sense to you and you feel it is in harmony with your moral and ethical belief system.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these trainers – all I caution you to do is keep your head screwed on straight and don’t be snowed by the illusion, the smoke and mirrors, the pretty pictures and their romantic history. Always judge what you see a trainer do by how the HORSE BEHAVES…the horses are the real teachers.

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7 Responses to toolbox training

  1. Muhammad Rohan Sheikh says:

    Thank you for such an informative post!

  2. I boarded at a barn, a few years ago when I still had the Very Tall Arab. They were Clinton-ites. In the same vein, the people also boarding there (including the one trainer boarding there) were all pretty anti-Arab. I had to listen almost daily to people’s opinions that my Arab had “fire in his eyes”. Um, no. He was a pretty sweet boy. Young, but sweet. It got so bad that I’d come home from the barn crying because I just couldn’t catch a break with all these cow horse people. We eventually moved. But, I’ve not been Clinton’s biggest fan since that happened.

    • horseideology says:

      Most barn owners and boarding barns are so full of dumbasses that there are too many to shake a stick at!

      It’s why my attitude is now *shrug*eyeroll* bugger off! pretty much to the on-the-rail trainers. Full of advice and just as full of baloney.

  3. Pingback: Exploring (2) « Horse Ideology

  4. Patricia says:

    Thanks for your Toolbox training post! I enjoyed and appreciated your reviews and perspective. I recently have been viewing training by “Karen Rohlf” and wonder if you have heard of her or have any experience with her methods and if so what do you think of her methods? She uses an approach called “Dressage Natural”. Any opinions would be appreciated by you or your readers. Thanks!

    • horseideology says:

      Hi Patricia
      Sorry for not responding immediately – I’ve been out of town.

      Hm I don’t know anything about her but visiting her website, I think it’s a stretch that she is the forefront of “Natural” dressage. Many folks have been using that term across the internet for over 2 decades.

      I’d also be a little concern with the Parelli connection, however, I really don’t know anything about her. Just be careful of being sucked into an expensive, mulit-tiered, expensive education which the Parelli’s made into a financial art form.

      • Patricia says:

        Thanks for your thoughts! I too wondered about the Parelli connection. I am interested in her understanding of collection and how to achieve this through a “Natural” dressage technique. I’m not at this point yet with my horse but may have to look into this more later. Thanks again for your posts.

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