Tag: education

How Much Does Your Instructor Really Know?

How Much Does Your Instructor Really Know?

It seems that everybody in the horse world thinks they’re a trainer or instructor. (For trainers, please refer to an earlier post So Many Trainers … Which One Is Right For My Horse? ). Just how much does your instructor really know?

Although there is a certification for riding instructors, it’s not required (in my opinion it should be) in order to give lessons so anybody that thinks they have knowledge can advertise themselves as a riding instructor.

  1. First and foremost, is your instructor safe? If you’re riding a lesson horse, does the horse match your skill level or do you feel like you’re constantly being “over horsed”?  If you’re taking lessons on your own horse, are you being asked to do things that are new and somewhat challenging to you and/ or your horse or are you being taught well above the skills of you and/or your horse?

A good instructor should know the horses in their lesson program and be able to match the horse’s level to the ability of the rider. The rider should feel safe and under control. He/she should also be able to asses your skill level and the training level of your horse if you take lessons on your own horse. Lessons should be informative and slightly challenging to you and your horse. They should not be so far above your skill level and your horse’s training that you either don’t understand or don’t feel safe.

2.     Are you progressing? It doesn’t matter if you take lessons several times a week or once a month, new lessons should be a review of what was learned in the last lesson and something new. The review is to make sure the lesson was learned and understood. Something new doesn’t need to be huge – just something to progress you toward your goal of becoming a better rider. If lessons are the same thing every time and you’re stagnating as a rider, you may be above your instructor’s skill level and it’s time to start looking for a new instructor. After all, you’re not paying to ride, you’re paying to be taught.

3.     Does your instructor ride and how well?  No longer and don’t are two very different things. No longer could be due to an accident or injury that prevents them from riding. The old adage “Those who can do and those who can’t teach” is far too prevalent in the horse world. Good riders have the potential to be good instructors, only limiting them by their ability (or lack of) to teach. Bad riders or “I don’t” riders have absolutely no business giving lessons. If you lack the skills to do, what makes you think you can teach? Beware of the person that calls themselves an instructor because they spent years watching their child’s lessons, but don’t ride well or at all. These people put your life in danger because of their lack of knowledge and just take your money so you can ride a horse.  How can you safely teach someone to canter and jump if you can’t do it yourself?

4.     Is he/she knowledgable? Can they offer solutions that work to a problem you might be having?  If your instructor is offended by or blows off questions, chances are they’re covering for their own lack of knowledge. How can you learn if you don’t ask questions? Good instructors should welcome questions and be able to give an informative and correct answer. If they don’t know, they should tell you they’ll find out and answer the question next time.

5.    Are their lessons really their lessons? Maybe …. or maybe not. If lessons are planned and you can’t deviate chances are it falls into the maybe not category. At some point in time you’ll read, hear or see something that you’d like to learn. A legit instructor shouldn’t have a problem teaching that “something” if you ask and postponing what was planned for the following lesson. Unless it’s going to be far above your skill level, if it’s an issue, it should be a warning sign. If it is above your skill level, the instructor should tell you it’s well above your skill level, but something you can work towards. They either don’t know it and won’t tell you, have a set plan that they recently learned from someone else or had to study to come up with your lesson. Another one for the maybe not category is if you’re always hearing references to another instructor. It’s fine for an instructor to be a student, but not a parrot. They should be taking what they learned and making it their own before teaching it. References to another instructor should tell you that you’re really paying for the other instructor’s lessons. You might be able to learn more if cut out the middle man and taking lessons directly from the other instructor.

Follow your potential instructor on Social Media. Do they write their own articles or just repost articles that other people have written? Using Social Media to promote your knowledge is a great way to attract potential students. Why wouldn’t you share some of your knowledge for free in order to increase your client base?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do you ride? If so, at what level? How long have you been riding? How long have you been teaching? May I come watch a few lessons (someone close to the same riding level as you)?  If simple questions are offensive, you should probably continue your search for an instructor. It’s your hard earned money that you’re paying these people for their knowledge – you have a right to know the answers.



What Is Your Horse Telling You?

What Is Your Horse Telling You?

Do you listen to what your horse has to say? Horses can’t keep secrets and are more that willing to tell you their entire life story if you’re willing to listen. I know, I’m being silly ….. but am I really?

I didn’t have a horse when I met my husband and rode his. We reached a spot of the trail 20132and I asked him if he normally let her run there.  He’d look at me funny and said yes.  We’d get to another place in the trail and I’d ask again. The answer was the same. Later I just shortened it to “your horse is telling on you”.



059I had a young trainer at the barn break Rawhide for me. I don’t bounce anymore and had too many responsibilities to be riding unbroke colts. We went down one evening to watch. Rawhide had been under saddle for several weeks and had always been very good. That evening he was bucking. When he was reprimanded for bucking, he’d rear. this went on for a few minutes and the trainer wasn’t taking the (horse’s) hint. I asked him when was the last time my horse gave him any trouble. The answer was never. I told him to get off my horse. I started to examine Rawhide and found the worn cinch rubbed a hole in Rawhide and the horse was rebelling because he hurt. I told him if he had listened to the horse, he’d still have a job.

TJ told me quite a few things in the year I owned him (see my blog TJS The Bomb, from

IMG_1865show horse to kills sale & beyond). Not all were good, but he told me because I was willing to listen. I learned he was scared to death to be ridden Western in the ring. He told me he was much happier English when he relaxed and started having fun. I knew he didn’t have trail experience, but he was better when we rode form the barn instead of trailering out. He told me he was scared of the trailer.




Wyatt has no problem telling me loud and clear if he doesn’t like something. He hates groundwork. He’s told me several times. I don’t listen because he needs the groundwork he didn’t get before he was broken. He’s only 2 and thinks he knows everything. the last time we did groundwork I asked him to back & tapped him on the chest with the lead. He thew a front hoof in my direction. I asked him to move his hind end left & he cow kicked in my direction. After discussing his crappy stud colt attitude, he did what I asked.

I had a young horse that was an angel until something bothered him. If it was near or on his head, he’d rear. If it was on his body he’d buck. Once I figured out what the problem was and corrected it, he was fine.

Most horses are very quiet when they talk to you. Subtle body language, posturing and behavior. The hints will get stronger if ignored. Listen carefully and they’ll tell you.

So what have your horses been telling you over the years that you haven’t heard?


Not All Farriers Are Created Equal

Not All Farriers Are Created Equal

I’m absolutely amazed at the amount of people that use their farrier because he’s cheap, shows up on time or they’ve been using him/her for years. You’ll find the same answers from both novices and experienced horse people. Do people ever stop to ask themselves “does my farrier do a good job?”. Do people even know what to look for to be able to answer that question?

Cheap and shows up aren’t necessarily good qualities in a farrier. Being dependable is great, but why is your farrier always on time? Is it because he/she is very good at time management or because of lack of clients and plenty of time? We use an excellent farrier. As dependable as he is and as good as he is at scheduling, he’s not always on time. Horse and human clients aren’t as worried about your schedule as you are. Let’s face it, when you work with horses for a living, they’re bound to throw off your schedule. If your farrier is always on time, it may be time to rethink your farrier.

How do you know if your farrier is doing a good job? What do you look for?

From what I’ve seen over the past 45+ years, the #1 problem is too much toe and not enough heel. Cutting the heel off strains the tendons and muscles, which can lead to a variety of lameness issues in the future. Some of theses include navicular and contracted heels. The angle of the back of the hoof should match the front. Some farriers trim all horses at a 45 degree angle, which isn’t correct either. The angle of the hoof should mirror the angle of the shoulder. The angle of the front of the hoof should match the angle of the back of the hoof.

Types of trims should be different. If you farrier trims a barefoot horse the same way as a shod horse, you may want to rethink who you’re using. Barefoot trims should never be flat. The hoof wall thickens and develops  a mustang roll. The sole will eventually start to dish and the horse will have a nice, deep sole.

Editors note – None of these photos are of a fresh trim. She was trimmed 3 1/2 weeks ago.

If your horse is shod, does your farrier shape the shoe to the hoof or the other way around?  Is there more time spent reshaping the shoe, checking for fit and reshaping agin until the shoe fits the hoof?  Or is the shoe close enough & the hoof is filed until they match? All good, knowledgeable farriers will fit the shoe to the hoof. The angles of the trim are the same, but the sole needs to be flat so the shoe will fit flat.

So how does your farrier stack up?

So Many Horse Trainers … Which One Is Right For My Horse?

So Many Horse Trainers … Which One Is Right For My Horse?

Is seems like everybody that can stick to a horse clams to be a horse trainer these days. Are they? Probably not. Just because they’re “somebody certified” doesn’t mean they’re a good trainer. Anyone can pay money to attend a course and get a certificate. Anyone can put up a website and write whatever they want. Are you sending your horse to someone that can do what you need or someone that can scar your horse for life? How do you know?

You don’t until you’ve done your homework. Be diligent about your research …. your horse is depending on it. Choosing the wrong trainer can take years to correct problems the trainer has caused. I know – I made this mistake. Over 5 years later my horse & I are still paying for my mistake. I took the word of a friend and didn’t do my research. Unfortunately I didn’t know the extent of the damage until I got my horse back after 3 weeks and started riding him.

Ask knowledgable horse people who they recommend. If you have someone in mind, ask around about them. Has anyone ever heard of them?

Get references. Not from friends or family, but from clients. Names & email or phone numbers of several clients. Call the references, explain the situation and see what they say about the potential trainer. Be suspicious if the trainer has no references or is unwilling to give any.

Ask your prospective trainer questions. Can you visit your horse anytime you’d like? Do you get to ride your horse during training? Can you got to their barn & watch them work with other horses that are in training? A response of no to any of these questions would cause me to look for another trainer. To me, no means they have something to hide. A trainer should have no problem with you visiting and watching them work or stopping in to see your horse. They should also give you lessons so you know how to ride the horse when it’s finished it’s training. How long have you been riding? How long have you been making a living at training horses?

Other questions to ask: Are you from this area? The last could really be key to the trainer’s reputation. If they aren’t training in their own area, why? It could be they had an good offer at a barn that cause them to move or any number of valid reasons. Be weary of too many changes of address. Moving from barn to barn could mean he or she has created a bad reputation for themselves and has to move to a totally different area where nobody knows them in order to get work.

Take time to do you homework, choose wisely and visit often.

How To Choose The Right Boarding Stable

How To Choose The Right Boarding Stable

Whether you’re looking for a place to board your new horse, or a new home for your best friend, the first thing to consider is the well being of your horse. Look beyond the beautiful facilities or the ring full of jumps or the cows in the next pasture. You’ll have to depend on knowing what to look for and what questions to ask.

What to look for – Are the horses well fed and well cared for? If all of the horses seem “fat & happy” you can check that off your list. If they seem to be different weights, there may be a problem. Thinner horses could be hard keepers that aren’t being fed enough or it could be a horse that, regardless of how much food it gets, never puts on weight. Is there grass in the pasture? Don’t mistake green weeds for grass. Look at all of the pastures. If there isn’t much grass, are the remnants of hay? Horses are hind gut fermenters, which means they need to have forage in their hind gut most of the time. If there isn’t much grass and no remnants of hay, chances are the horses aren’t being fed enough. Are the stalls clean and well bedded? Are the water buckets clean and filled? Is the ring footing well maintained or is it hard packed and rutted? Unmaintained footing can be very hard on horse’s legs and over time cause lameness issues. Are the fences in good repair and safe for horses? Are horses turned out in a large group or are there a few horses per pasture? There are pros and cons for both, but be aware that larger herds usually have more squabbles and a greater chance for horses to get injured.

Questions to ask – How often are they fed? What type of grain and how much? How much hay is fed and how often? If either of these answers are standard for all horses, chances are they’re not being fed properly. Hay and grain should be tailored to each horse’s individual needs. How often are they turned out and for how long? Horses should be out every day for as long as possible. Their mental and physical health can be jeopardized by too much stall time. The answer should always end with weather permitting. You certainly don’t want your horse out all day in -10 or an ice storm or on 90 day. How often are the stalls cleaned? The answer should be daily. During the summer are they turned out during the day or at night? Be leery of the barn that turns out during the day in the summer. Are there additional charges, above and beyond the boarding fee? Some barns charge for blanketing/unblanketing, holding the horse for the vet or farrier, etc. Know all of the charges before you commit. Who is the barn vet and farrier? This can be a very good key as to a knowledgeable barn owner and one that puts up a good front to make you think they know what they’re doing. Jot the names down and ask around of you’re not familiar with them. If the vet and farrier are no good, chances are the barn owner doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing. Let the barn owner talk as much as they want, but pay attention to what’s being said.

For example, we were looking a a boarding barn several years back. The barn owner was very nice and seemed knowledgeable …. at first. The more she talked, the more I realized what she didn’t know. When she mentioned all of her colics happened in the middle of the night, the red flags started to fly. Later in the conversation she mentioned they get their hay from an auction. It’s safe to say we continued to look for boarding barns.