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You Are a T.R.A.I.N.E.R!

Everything I know about myself, and other people, I learned from my horse.  Well, if I didn’t learn it directly from a horse, working with horses helps me refine what I know and sinks that knowledge deep in my heart. I’ve worked in the corporate world at a few organizations in executive roles such as HR, quality assurance and training.  I’ve gained knowledge and experience through the years, but if I have a real human problem, I tend to work it out by thinking about what I would do if the person were a horse.  Seems a little crazy, doesn’t it?  But it works.  For example, I’ve used the stress/recovery methodology to improve team performance and our horse color tool (What Color is Your Horse, Really?) to develop team cohesion. And as we were explaining to our MM Training interns the other day, having the mentality of a trainer sets us up for success in the workplace.  Trainers are thinkers.  They are problem solvers.  They learn to rein in their emotions and respond in a way that will create positive change, even under stress. Trainers ask powerful questions and look for feedback to improve.  Trainers are good listeners, as they listen to other people and to the horse.  They are educators and are excellent at adjusting to a personality or situation in order to move things forward.   These skills are highly valued in the workplace.  Heck, they are highly valued anywhere. If you are working with a horse you are a trainer! For example, trail obstacles present many opportunities to be a trainer of your horse.  There are several elements involved in this discussion, so we developed an acronym to explain our philosophy. 


Trainers are:


Thinkers.  Training horses requires problem-solving skills.  For our teen interns, developing these skills now will set them head and shoulders above their competition when it comes time for them to get in the job market. Problem-solving skills are fairly rare, so there is always a need for people with these skills.  Trainers use these skills all the time.  Every horse is different and will present an entirely new set of problems.  It takes creativity, a willingness to try something new and different, and a mindset that is able to break down a problem into smaller parts that can be solved.  It also requires thinking through problems, rather than reacting with emotion, which brings us to….

Rational.  Trainers are able to rein in their emotions.  Training can be very frustrating.  It’s easy to get bogged down and react out of anger or think you will never advance this horse.  It is also easy to blame the horse for problems.  Trainers are able to step back and see the situation from a perspective outside of their feelings.  They can take their emotions out of the equation and focus in on the horse’s strengths and what the horse is doing well and work forward from that point.  Responding in the way that the horse needs you to respond, rather in the way that you feel like responding, is a sign of maturity.  Like a good parent, trainers give their charges what they need, not always what they feel like they deserve.


Ask questions of themselves, others and the horse.  This is one of the most powerful tools in a trainer’s toolbox.  One of my employers had an edict of “Ask “why?” five times”.  The idea was that by the time you answered “why?” the fifth time you had probably found a real solution and not just a band-aid fix for the problem.  In addition, asking questions helps others learn by stimulating critical thinking and promoting deeper understanding. Asking questions of the horse helps you realize where the horse is in their development and attitude.  If you ask your horse to do a maneuver and their answer is “no” then you have work to do, either in their mind and heart or in their skill level. 

Improve.  Trainers willingly receive feedback from others and most importantly, receive feedback from their horse.  The horse has many ways of telling us the state of their being, and trainers recognize and respond to this input appropriately.  Trainers are in a continual learning mode.  They attend clinics, go to lessons, read articles, and apply what they learn. We love that when you ride in Cowboy Dressage you receive detailed feedback on your test and in such a timely manner that sometimes you can apply the feedback before your next test! Trainers are also exceptional listeners.  They hear not just what is being said, but how it’s being said and even hear what’s not being said. How powerful would it be if we applied the tool of listening that intently to all of our relationships? 

Notice.  Trainers read a situation and most importantly, read their horse.  They can often avert a harmful or dangerous situation.  They know when a horse is being optimally stressed for improvement, and can back off and give recovery time to a horse that has been overstressed. As our friend, Jenni Grimmett, said in her article, Manana Principle, “There are no short cuts in good horsemanship.”  A good trainer notices and believes in what is good for the horse, not just what is good for people, and they are always looking for the win/win. They have discernment and insight into behaviors based in principle, compared to behaviors based in expediency or convenience, and can make good judgments about what might be right or wrong. They make decisions based on principle, which takes the guesswork and anxiety out of decision-making.  Decisions are easier when made by following tenets of belief that were made objectively and with wise input, rather than in the moment.  

Educate.  Trainers are teachers.  They are teaching their horse what to do or what not to do every moment they are with them.  We believe professional trainers should be trying to work their way out of a job.  Like a good counselor, trainers teach others the skills they need to be successful rather than keeping someone tied to their apron strings.  How many have seen the owner whose trainer has not done a good job of educating them?  They are perched on a horse they do not know and the horse doesn’t know them.  The instant anything out of the norm happens, the situation disintegrates to catastrophe.  There is no connection or understanding between owner and horse and nothing they can fall back on in times of stress.  Good trainers teach people to be more than owners.  They teach people about relationship. 

Reach.  Trainers stretch themselves.   They are willing to adjust to what is needed at that moment.  They try new things, step out of their comfort zone and they are continually learning and growing.  Sometimes what they try doesn’t work, so they reach out and get input or find a new solution.  They set big, audacious goals and then work hard to achieve them.  They discipline themselves to be better than they were yesterday.  They keep themselves in training, along with their horse. 

If you would like to know more about becoming a trainer of your horse, or how learning to be a trainer of your horse relates to and will improve your human relationships, please contact us.  We offer lessons, workshops, and clinics and look forward to helping you develop these skills! Our upcoming Trail Obstacles workshop addresses training specifically to develop the emotional and mental stability needed for a horse to handle those scary trail challenges.   Please contact us for more details at www.mm-horsetraining.com or on Facebook at MM Training and Consulting.

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