Let's face it. the excitement and exhilaration of a "horse of your own" can soon wear off when you realize, "Wow, I don't know what to do next." Sadly, more often than not, an accident of some sort precipitates this thought process. We naturally start to question our ability, and this shakes our confidence when we realize we could be in over our head.
While horses are majestic creatures, they are also unpredictable and can be dangerous. Recognizing the warning signs that you're in a situation beyond your ability level, and turning for help, is the quickest way to solve a problem before it becomes out of control.
All major problems with our horses usually start out as minor problems, or can go unrecognized until they become major issues. Cute nibbles or kisses can turn into biting that hurts! A horse that pulls back may not seem like a big deal because he does it only once in a while. But if the halter breaks and someone is standing within striking range, a severe accident can occur.
Seek a Trainer if.
- Your horse's behavior makes you feel scared or apprehensive.
- You don't feel you have the horsemanship skills or experience to safely modify the horse's behavior on your own.
- The horse you are working with is aggressive or unpredictable.
- You don't have the facilities to work with your horse in a safe environment.
- Dangerous behaviors such as kicking, biting, bucking, rearing, bolting or striking have become ingrained problems.
Are any of these thoughts going through your head? "I love my horse, but we are afraid of one another." "My horse loves me, but has started pinning his ears when I go into his pen." "My horse was abused and I wanted to help, but now he is scaring me." These are all signs that perhaps you should enlist the help of a reputable trainer who is willing to work with you and your horse.
Becoming aware of the small signs can help you deal with them before they turn into big wrecks. Remember the three basic Lyons rules: You cannot get hurt. Your horse cannot get hurt. Your horse must be calmer when you are finished with a lesson than he was when you started.
When you or your horse displays unsafe behavior, always stop and reevaluate what you are doing. If you are uncomfortable working through the correction process, you may want to seek the help of a reputable professional. Some behaviors that require a professional would include: biting, bucking, rearing, ear-pinning, running away, kicking, striking, teeth-baring, pulling back, aggression, and spooking. Even a horse that freezes can be dangerous.
There are different degrees of the aforementioned behaviors. A horse that shows tendencies toward a behavior is different than a horse that is aggressive and consistent with bad behavior. Any time is a perfect time to call in a trainer, preferably sooner than later. The longer a bad behavior is allowed to continue, the longer it can take to permanently break the behavior for good.
Look for a trainer that will work with both you and your horse and will show you how to be consistent with the horse to reaffirm correct behavior. Work with the trainer to be sure you are not contributing to, or in some way condoning, the bad behavior. You'll need to be open to suggestion, rather than being defensive. Changing an unwanted behavior takes consistency and discipline, and being able to recognize your own role in what's happening.
However, there are other good reasons to hire a trainer besides just problem-solving.
Maybe you're ready for a lifestyle change. Additional family members may be demanding more of your time. Rather than focusing on training your own horse, you may want a trainer to continue with your horse's education so you have more "quality time" when you do ride. Perhaps you are ready to ride as a family and a trainer can help give lessons and evaluate new horse and tack purchases.
Perhaps you're ready to try a new discipline. Finding a trainer who specializes in that particular discipline will definitely be beneficial. A trainer can be your tool to reaching your riding goals by taking a methodical approach that will help you short-cut your learning curve. There's nothing wrong with being self-taught, but working with a pro can accelerate the strides you make.
Ready for the Next Step?
If you are ready to do something different, a trainer can help you and your horse solidify your training foundation and develop skills so you progress together. Perhaps you are ready to go out on the trail but need a confidence booster and the support of someone whose expertise you respect to help you take that next step.
If you find yourself over your head with your horse, do not be frustrated or embarrassed. If you need help, there are excellent trainers who can take the pressure off and turn the situation around. The main objective is to be safe and give yourself permission to ask for help. Trainers are there for you. Chances are you will not only deal with the issue at hand, but make a new friend as well.