5 things good horse trainers do before they give the horse back to it's owner.
After training, any trainer worth his or her salt should be able to perform simple tasks that demonstrate basic manners. These tasks include leading without the horse barging forward or lagging behind, grooming while standing still, saddling while standing still, picking out feet while acting calm, and trailer loading.
Those same basic manners should be tested by applying less than expert communication. In other words, just because I can get your horse to do what I want, doesn't mean you can. A good trainer will test for basic manners by using inappropriate timing and techniques to prove that yes, this horse, does indeed have the qualities of a trained horse.
Interestingly enough, horses revert to old behaviors often. If you have a bucking horse, for instance, you can cure that problem in a week or two with good training, but if you really want the truth, you'll need to give that horse a week of no training after and/or between lessons to test if he truly remembers not to buck. Giving time off tests the horses memory for what's been trained. A well trained horse can go for months or even years without much warm-up and still perform well on basic tasks. Trainers who don't do the time off test may not understand the value of the test or their hiding something by making it seem like the horse is trained because he acts trained at the end of a training day.
Any great trainer knows that training at home in the same safe environment doesn't mean anything compared to training in tough, stressful environments. Sure, we all know that horses need a safe place to learn basic stuff, but once they learn it, it needs to be tested in less safe places. A great trainer will teach a horse to lead, or ride at home, then do the same in several different, challenging places, to ensure the horse can remember how to act in spite of the environment. It's no good saying a horse is trained only to find out he can only do what you ask when the wind isn't blowing and the other horses aren't running around in the field next door.
Last, but not least, is the compatibility test between owner and horse. Great trainers don't send the horse home without this last test. The owner must get to know the horse under the guidance of the trainer. There may be subtle communication efforts that would need to be tweaked or simple preparedness efforts that need to be remembered and practiced. The last thing a good trainer wants is the owner to start having trouble with their "trained" horse. If subtle shifts can be made in the owners behavior, through the eyes of the trainer, the owner can learn how to win and keep winning that horses heart and mind in an elegant and masterful way.
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