Exercising Versus Training

“If we are to call ourselves trainers then we carry the responsibility to move everyone to a higher status in the industry. That is how every industry on this planet survives.”

Most of the barns I travel to breed horses, and keep a trainer and several exercise riders. I am always struck by the concept of riding just for riding sake: to keep a horse in shape and not deteriorate from 23 hours in a stall and paddock.

Most exercise riders move in a constant state of riding the rail around and around. In my world we call this the loser’s loop, where riders have no goals or desire to achieve anything but exercise. Sometimes, if there are jumps or obstacles in the arena, they will move around them, but otherwise, there is not a shred of training in any of this.

My question is, what is the point? And it is the very reason every horse on my farm has a field to run freely and self-exercise as he needs to.

And every ride has a purpose.

Knowing what it’s like to take those horses from the field and actually put something useful into them every day leads me to really question why we don’t work more with the riders we have available?

I watch 7 and 8 year old horses moving without any daily improvement. Many start to go backwards. They grind down into their transitions, throwing heads and making the same mistakes over and over. The owners continue to believe that somehow this has no overall effect on the horse.

This, like it or not, is still training. Just not the kind you should want to put into your horses.

I too, have riders come and work my horses, but every one of those riders is a student, and knows how to put something of value into each ride. I either ride with them or coach them. I benefit and the student benefits as they learn from every horse they work, as every horse is different. And every student improves.

As a trainer, we are responsible for each client horse that comes in, to ensure it reaches its maximum potential in ability, performance and health. We need to evaluate whether or not we are doing that, and we need to evaluate it daily.

If you use exercise riders, do you watch them, teach them and help them achieve more? I have asked many trainers this question, and the same answer is that they do not give away information for free. Why not? You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Yes, those riders will improve and likely leave one day, but where is the pride in being that one trainer that helped those riders? Think of what you gain by being the barn and trainer where you not only develop great horses every day but also great riders? To me, that is a reputation you can bank on.

I see no reason to rise to mediocrity, yet I see it done in too many barns. Horses are work, and you need a strong work ethic to accomplish anything with them. You need to study every day, learn one thing you didn’t know the day before. The learning is endless, yet you still persist because this is what you want to do and you cannot see yourself not doing it.

If we are to call ourselves trainers then we carry the responsibility to move everyone to a higher status in the industry. That is how every industry on this planet survives.

What are your thoughts on this? As a trainer? An an exercise rider?


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