I got started training horses when I was sixteen. That was when I got my first job, training gaited horses. I started out just training yearlings, training them to do basic groundwork. Up until the previous year, I had virtually no contact with horses at all. Once I started working with the yearlings, I realized that I could train horses and I got very excited about it. I started reading as many horse training books as I could get my hands on. From there, I progressed to training my own horses and other people’s horses.
I have always been interested in the dressage movements, but didn’t like how the dressage horses appeared to be ridden. I didn’t like the reins always held tightly, with the riders appearing to lean back in order to pull harder on the horse’s mouth. However, it wasn’t until I was twenty-one years old that I learned that there were other ways to train dressage. At that time, I came across a wonderful website: The Art of Natural Dressage. The forum there had a wealth of information on how to train your horse to do dressage, but in a lightest possible manner and without bits.
That same year, I had also started spending a lot of time with my Quarter Horse/Paint cross gelding. I started to train him to do tricks. I found this to be so much fun! It really made me want to spend more time trick training, as you can see results so quickly.
I became involved with clicker training after I read Karen Pryor’s book Reaching the Animal Mind. After I read the book, I immediately started using it to train my horses and dogs. The results were fantastic! I couldn’t believe how quickly my horses started to learn the tricks and movements I was teaching them. I used the clicker to help with both the trick training and the dressage training.
I have competed in the Two as One Horsemanship: Wind Rider Challenge and the Next Level Horsemanship: Equine Masters Championship. In the first competition, I came in first. In the second one, I came in second place, competing against other well-known clinicians.
I now combine trick training, natural dressage, and clicker training to work with my horses. The tricks are fun to teach and they help develop your relationship with your horse. The dressage methods can help strengthen, supple, and improve your horse’s movement and balance. Clicker training has made it so much fun for me and the horses to go out and work together.