Training Horses with Denny Emerson
Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release January, 2010
Maturity provides insight
“I think this is something that comes with getting older,” Denny admits. “There are two ways of addressing ‘my horse won’t do what I want.’ The mature, quiet, classical horseman will say, ‘this horse won’t do what I want, therefore, I am not asking him in a way he understands, or I’m overfacing him with tasks he’s not emotionally prepared to handle.’ But, the impatient person will say, ‘this horse won’t do what I want, therefore, the horse is being bad and I have permission to get on his case and punish him.’ I am now 67 years old, and I need to figure out a quieter or more consistent way to ask him. If you could get the younger ones (riders) to have that more mature attitude toward the training principles, I think you’d have a lot less trouble with horses. If it doesn’t happen in a week, or two weeks, or three months, then that’s OK. But you don’t start to ratchet up the intensity just because it isn’t happening fast enough.
“One of the things that I really do believe is that there can be a very significant difference between someone who is primarily a competitor and someone who is primarily a trainer. Let’s say you’re going to a particular event in two weeks. Your goal is to win the horse trials. If your horse isn’t going well then there’s a funny psychological switch that says ‘my horse is an impediment to my goal’ and you tend to lose patience with your horse.
“If your primary role is a trainer, the objective is to have the horse go well. The event in two weeks is not the priority,” Denny explains. Instead, he says a trainer’s sights are set on finding the right time and place to ensure the horse is able to shine. Patient tolerance and an understanding of equine needs with a schedule designed for the highest-level performance is the focus. “There’s a very different mindset,” he asserts.
“The best horseman is the person that can do both — to be both is really good. I think it’s better to be a good trainer than to be a good competitor. I’ve known a lot of really good competitors where others say ‘that person can really ride, but God forbid that you be his young horse,’ because he doesn’t have the patience to create a young horse. They’re too much in a hurry and they want what they want when they want it,” he notes.
About Denny Emerson:
Denny is currently at his 48th consecutive year of competing at the Preliminary eventing level or higher. He has been honored with the USEA’s Wofford Cup for lifetime service to eventing, the American Riding Instructor Certification Program (ARICP) Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted in 2006 into the USEA Hall of Fame.
In addition to his eventing career, Denny has been involved in numerous other horse sports during his 56 years of competing. He rode in his first one-hundred-mile trail ride at GMHA in 1956. Forty-eight years later, in 2004, Denny won a Tevis Cup buckle in endurance, for completing the 50th Anniversary of the Western States Trail Ride, the most famous and arduous 100-mile endurance race in the world. Denny has compiled 2,250 miles in American Endurance Ride Conference races, and was long listed for the 2005 USA East team for the North American Championships.
Denny will be hosting a clinic, festival and show weekend at his facility September 5-7, 2009 at his Vermont facilities featuring Irish Draught and Irish sport horses. Auditors are welcome at $15/day.