Lessons learned through horses #4: Patience

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The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. That Einstein was a genius with that definition. 

Doing the same thing over and over again can be the difference between making progress and not making progress with just about anything, particularly with horses. Doing the same thing over and over again creates patterns and behavior chains. This is a good thing when the thing done over and over is going to create good patterns and its a bad thing when its used incorrectly.

An example of doing the same thing over and over again that is productive, would be something like achieving a good stop on your horse. In order for a horse to have a great whoa, he needs to have several things working really well first. 1) He needs good, relaxed forward motion 2) he needs to softly yield to the left rein and the right rein independently 3) He needs to yield to your left and right leg independently 4) He needs to give vertically when both reins are picked up on and 5) he needs a good responsive backup without leg pressure. These 5 things when done perfectly with very little pressure from your hands and legs, create a soft, responsive stop. The more systematic you are about perfecting each of the 5 things, the better results you will get, and the quicker you will achieve it. If you get in a hurry, and don’t do the same steps again and again, your stop will be as good as your preparation, poor.

An example of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result would be something like horses that spook. I have learned this lesson hard and well. My gelding, Super Horse was the king of spooking at the same stuff every day in the arena at home. He sees the same objects day after day, and would still jump sideways going past them. Day after day I’d make him go up to the spooky objects to show him that “its just the same stupid barrel” or whatever he spooked at. I did this for a several years before I realized that I was living that definition of insanity.

I began my quest of breaking down why my horse spooked day after day after day at the same crap. Long story short…. it was stress. He was very obedient when ridden or on the ground, but he was never truly comfortable with what he was doing or where we were, so he was always worried under the surface about everything until he was back in his pen with his friends. When I went back and started him over like a young colt, I found so many holes in what I thought was my broke horse, pretty humbling to say the least.

Day after day from there, I changed my routine and I began a new process where I worked on getting him good with his groundwork and good with his basics undersaddle. All the things I struggled on with the riding previously like lead changes, stops, turnarounds, etc were all right there, with hole after hole shining through. My forward wasn’t good, he’d either bolt off and be nervous or he’d be a lazy cow. He was resistant to slight rein pressure because for so long, I MADE him give. He gapped his mouth constantly to avoid the pulling. His back up, flat out sucked because for so long I pulled and kicked to make him do it. Needless to say I apologized to him every day for my ignorance and belligerance towards him and every day he forgave me and tried his best.

The last 2 years of starting over with him have been incredible. I’m nowhere near where I want to be with him, but I am so much further from where I was. He no longer spooks at the stuff in the arena and magically I fixed that not by working on his spookieness but by working on his basics which built his knowledge of what I wanted and ultimately his confidence. The lessons I’ve learned the most out of it was patience. Not patience to put up with the same behavior for years and years like I did, but the patience to work on the same things over and over until you get them right. Basics are boring but they are essential to a happy, well adjusted horse that you can do anything with. Just 2 weeks ago Super Horse started his roping career without a hitch, such a rewarding thing in my book. And it was an easy transition because all the hard work is done!

“Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”
— Joyce Meyer

Lessons learned through horses #3:



I remember watching a Dr. Phil show one day when he talked about this very thing. This thing about having conversations that seemingly don’t matter, that way when it comes time, you can have conversations that do matter. You don’t just build trust by jumping into the big issues.

This has really been a big part of my journey with horses. Most horses I own and train have come with baggage. The baggage where they have big issues, dangerous issues, and quite frankly, most of them belong on Dr. Phil if they were human. I think the common denominator with all these troubled horses as well as the troubled people on his show, is communication. The ability to listen as well as the ability to communicate to keep these big problems from coming to life.

Lately, really in the last 6-8 months, I’ve become more aware of subtle body language that horses give. The subtle signals that indicate stress, fear, anxiety, confusion, etc. All of these subtle signs are the start to the problematic behaviors such as spooking, bucking, rearing, bolting etc.

Most people and trainers want to jump into fixing the problem by going after the problem itself, essentially they are going for the hard questions first. Some horses will surrender and hide their emotions to avoid the pressure. For example, a horse that bucks, some people would just hire a good bronc rider to “buck the horse out”. They are directly going after the buck rather than going back to why does the horse buck to begin with. “bucking a horse out” will work on some horses for a while, but on the ones that can’t hide their fear or worries any longer, “bucking them out” will only make their issues worse. Another one is spooking. A horse that is spooky, most people want to desensitize them to everything because they think that will cure their spooking. The real issue isn’t the spooking…

So, how do you have small, meaningless conversations with a horse? I have been starting by reading the subtle things. Things like a horse avoiding to be caught, a horse avoiding interactions with you, a horse freezing or tensing up when he’s around you, etc. When a horse shows these signs, I do nothing, I just hangout. Its a very hard thing for me to do on a patience level but also on a time level. A person paying for training may not like the idea that I am just hanging out with their horse. My own personal horses, I don’t care how long it takes, it is what it is.

I am finding however that the time I spend hanging out with them, is like having conversations that don’t matter. Its like talking about the weather, or what you did over the weekend or something like that, its sounds like nothing, but to the horse it means something, it means that not everything we do is going to require action from them.

This is also where ground work comes in. To most, ground work isn’t essential because they want to trail ride, show or have a working horse, they don’t have time to do ground work and most people don’t “need” groundwork because their horse isn’t dangerous. But groundwork is again another avenue that allows for small talk. With groundwork, you chip away at the small things like direction and speed which creates a level of communication. The more you communicate, the bigger and more important talks you can have later on.

So this weekend, is the last obstacle clinic of the year. In the past I have found that the obstacle clinics are the quickest to fill up. People want to bring their horse that spooks or hates obstacles or is generally unruly because of his “issues”… My goal during the obstacle clinics is to help people better communicate with their horses so its not a fight. Most horses that resist obstacles are horses that have been pushed to do the obstacle or horses that have built up negative emotions in the way they have been trained or handled. But when we break our training down to address the emotional aspect as well as the physical teaching of things, our horses will be better balanced. A better balanced horse will allow us to help him through the hard stuff. When the situations get hard, that’s when you know how good your relationship is with your horse. Does the horse look to you for help or does he take care of himself. Ultimately we want our horses to look to us to help him. We need to not let our horse down….

Lessons learned through horses #1:

As a kid, I got my first horse when I was 8, Gypsy. Gypsy was a 12 year old Polo Pony from Argentina. Needless to say, she probably wasn’t an ideal first horse for a timid, beginner kid. Gypsy is 36 this year and is happily retiring right outside my window ❤️. Things with Gypsy were tough looking back. I remember not being able to ride down to the arena because we’d get to a certain spot and she’d spin around and go home. No matter how quick I thought I was going to be, Gypsy was always quicker, so I basically just rode her in her paddock to avoid the drama. When it came to obstacles, forget it! She was excellent at locking up and refusing to go anywhere near anything that bothered her. I hate jumping to this day because of Gypsy! I can’t tell you how many jumps she ran out on or stopped at that I went over it and she didn’t. But I’m thankful for everything that horse did for me….

The whole I wish I would have known then what I know now, is so true. To know why Gypsy did what she did, to understand her point of view and to have the tools to help her through that would have been so much less frustrating.

My revelations lately have been a game changer for me. I have come to realize that being good with horses (I’m not claiming to be good with horses), isn’t about the horse, it isn’t about the trainer, and it isn’t about the sport you ride, but its about the person/horse relationship. There’s a saying “the horse is a mirror to your soul” is such a true thing to me and it has helped change how I look at working with horses. Our true selves come out in our horses and in order to improve the horse, we must work on improving ourselves first.

The majority of my day is spent rehabilitating problem cases that have been dangerous to people in the past. And its funny because I am not a dare devil, I hate when a horse spooks, bucks, rears and bolts undersaddle, it gives me a knot it my stomach knowing that I have to ride these dangerous creatures. But its not like that. The problem horses are lost, they are confused, they are scared and they need help navigating the world again. Every horse I work with, I develop a relationship with it, not intentionally, but it something that happens when you put yourself in the animals shoes and try to understand where they come from.

People that have gotten help from me KNOW I’m all about groundwork. Ground work, groundwork, groundwork and guess what, more groundwork. To be perfectly honest, groundwork is boring, groundwork is not very fulfilling given how much work it is but groundwork has saved my ass more times than I can say in this little blog. I’ve tracked my steps when doing ground work… there was one day that I walked 8 miles just doing groundwork with the horses in training. That’s insane!!!

Groundwork is vital in my program to stay safe. The horses I get, are usually at the end of the road for the owner. The owners are scared, frustrated and at the end of their patience with their horse. Groundwork safely works out the majority of issues with horses, problem cases or not. Once I started to understand the power of groundwork, every horse has and education in groundwork whether they “need” it or not. I won’t go into all the benefits, but groundwork saved a horses life a few years ago when she got her leg wedged in a fence, the vet was shocked that she didn’t pull her foot off. But the 2 year old mare was educated in the groundwork and did exactly as she was taught and stayed out of trouble until she could be cut out.

Groundwork is the learning of a language as well as the beginning to life’s important lessons. The handler learns how to communicate with a horse in the way that is the easiest for the horse. Its not the horse’s responsibility to get along with us, it is our job to get along with them. Body language, principles, timing, feel and discipline are paramount skills to learn with horses. The most important of those 5 things is discipline. Discipline is our ability to be consistent and thorough every time we work with a horse. The most common mistake I see with people, is they get bored with groundwork and they choose to go do what they want to do instead. Good training is boring, good training lasts a lifetime and good training makes the journey with your horse a lot more fulfilling.

My epiphany recently has been that life is a journey. The journey is the destination. There is only 1 end point and that is when we are no longer living on Earth. There is no endpoint to anything else, you can always do more, learn more, try harder, and dig deeper no matter what you set out to do. My path is my path, and my path is not everyone’s path. But my path is my journey, its my passion and its what helps me be the best version of myself everyday. And groundwork is just a small piece of my journey with horses, I’ll share more soon for those who want to read about it 

Lessons learned through horses #2: Opening doors


Several years back I was given a piece of advice that I’ll never forget. I can’t recall exact wording but it went something like, “you have to do the things you really don’t want to do, to get to where you want to go, and sometimes you have to do it for free.” This does not mean doing illegal things or busting your ass for someone else for free just because. This advice for me has opened a lot of doors both mentally and professionally.

Mentally, this advice impacted me greatly because it changed how I view certain work to be done. Some of that work to be done was uncomfortable, mainly because it pushed my boundaries of what was comfortable for me. Whether it was working with a tough horse, putting myself in the spotlight, or taking a risk and expanding my business. No one wants to feel uncomfortable, but those who strive for it, know that there is reward on the other side if you just keep going. Being uncomfortable doesn’t last forever.

I have a fear of getting hurt, duh, not too many people can say they don’t… I have a fear of mainly getting hurt horseback, when it is “out of the blue”. Out of the blue accidents are happening less and less it seems but now and then I learn a new sign that occurs before the “out of the blue” things happens. Humbling moments so to speak, lol. Make sense? I am always dreading the first rides on a new horse, whether a green colt, older horse, or problem case. Especially when I have to ride a horse that I’ve never seen anyone else ride. I have been bucked off enough times to know how much it freaks me out and how it really hurts when you land. Its that innate fear that still pops up every time. But…. and I say but…. because “I need to learn to trust my training” as my good friend Warwick Schiller reminds me quite often. The preparation is the key to success. Having a methodical process you go through to prepare both you and the horse for they journey.

Most people I tend to interact with when it comes to training, lessons and clinics, are people with fear/insecurity when working with their horse. Their fear comes from that same fear I experience, the fear of the unknown or the fear of the known doom awaiting them. I am not trained to help people with fear, but I am trained in helping horses through their fears. So… I teach people how to help their horses through fear. The magic happens during that process more with the people than the horse. Its not about the horse, its about the person sticking to the process, expanding comfort zones and reaching their lifelong goals. You can take a hold of your fears by having creating a step by step safety check list for preparing your horse for the thing you want to do. The person benefits because they get to learn the patterns of their horse. And the horse benefits because he learns the patterns of the person. Patterns are predictable. Predictable behavior creates trust.

Now from a business stand point, you also have to open your own doors, do the work you don’t want to do and sometimes take it as a loss. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a job for free or even lost money because I know it opens the next door. To most people that would seem crazy, I’ve had people tell me to charge more, don’t give things away, blah blah blah. And yes, I get that, but at the same time, you have to give to get. Taking the extra time with someone and not charging extra means the world to that person and they’ll keep coming back. Spending the extra time on a horse in need helps that horse when he goes on to the next chapter.

A couple events have really sparked the opening of doors. Ive taken a ton of opportunities, these two have created the most impact. The first was the Extreme Mustang Makeover Competition back in 2009. Looking back, that was the biggest job I’ve ever done. I had 100 days to take a wild horse, gentle it, train it, then show it in front of thousands of people. I worked with that horses every day, several hours a day. As a result, I won the event, and I won about $2500, a great pay day right?. Now you stretch that $2500 out between time, feed, fuel, hotels, etc. I made about $2/hr. to train the horse. That’s crazy from a business stand point! But the doors that opened were huge!

My most recent big door opening was working with Bundy. Warwick is crazy busy with his clinic schedule and he needed someone to help him out while he was gone. He felt confident in my ability and trusts me enough to let me work with his funny little horse. But Warwick didn’t have time to bring him to me. Most of the time when someone doesn’t have time to bring me their horse, I figure they won’t have time to follow up with the work I do, so I just leave it be. To me when someone wants something bad enough, they make it work. But with this case, I knew that wasn’t the case. I got up at 3am to drive 5 hours down to the Pamona Horse Expo to pick up Bundy on the last day of the Expo, hang out all day, then drive another 5 hours home making it almost a 24 hour day. That was the best decision I’ve made! That day, we met Mary Kitzmiller, a clicker training genius. That day, so many doors opened and that day is the day the world also changed for me. The clicker work with Bundy was so much fun, but it also catapulted my knowledge and understanding with different training principles. I learned a much deeper understanding of how to break down complex tasks. Had I not gotten up at 3am, driven 10 hours, I’d still be where I was 2 years ago!

So when it comes to achieving goals and dreams, you have to do what you don’t want to do, you have to do what is uncomfortable, and you have to be willing to invest your heart and soul. Those who are out there living the dream, they are successful and HAPPY, do all these things. Don’t let discomfort stop you, don’t let the ticking clock stop you, you will get there and it’ll be better than you ever thought. Keep opening the doors!!!