Who would have thought Conan O’Brien could provide insight into young horse training faux pas?

Whether you’re a professional trainer or a horse owner trying to connect with your buddy through young horse training efforts, you’re not likely to reach the horse if the methods you use are based on formula approaches. Forget about the lost in translation dilemma when you try to implement step-by-step programs designed by others to accommodate their way of thinking, feeling and seeing. You’ll find even more disconnects if you assume each horse processes the guidance you provide in a similar fashion. Genetic wiring, prior experiences, personality styles and horse proclivities all play a role in designing an effective strategy to build a partnership with the horse. If you’re not keeping your horse in the conversation, you’re losing opportunities to bond on a much deeper level.

Given my prior media experience, I laughed out loud at the Conan O’Brien skit featured below. Often reality is stranger than fiction. As a former daily newspaper sports department staffer (my position involved evening hours wrapping up content for later editions as scores come in after the early versions are put to bed), I’ve witnessed how the staff responsible for culling late night wire service stories operate. This is usually done at breakneck speed as each deadline looms. Stories are culled from national and international feeds. Since the primary role of this department is to select stories provided by others, edit content for space constraints and craft headlines to fit the newspaper column width (which is why you sometimes see some very odd decisions here), errors often get carried across the nation (or globe). Proofing copy and verifying accuracy isn’t usually part of the job description. The distance your newspaper must travel to get to you can dictate how old the news is you read. And you thought everyone received the same paper, didn’t you?

As a former radio program producer and host, I’ve also watched local radio station ‘news anchors’ grab their stories from the local paper headlines, or more often, when laziness strikes, mimic the news relayed by broadcast market competitors who provide news segments earlier in the morning. It reminded me of how some see horse training. Conan’s lampoon isn’t so much a reach as it is a reflection of reporting reality.




How does news reporting relate to young horse training?

Of course, there are two facets to the dilemma associated with this comic illustration as it pertains to reaching your horse. One is the fact that every horse processes information a little bit differently. Perhaps more importantly, if you keep doing the same thing without getting the desired response from your horse, maybe it’s time to change your message. As Albert Einstein quipped ““Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

The next time you blame your young horse for misbehaving during your training, consider what you may be doing to cause misunderstandings. Parroting what someone else designs (or copies) is rarely a good way to connect with your particular equine. If you’re seeking a professional to work with your horse in areas where your expertise is lacking, ask if you can spend some time watching him work with a variety of horses. If you see him putting every student through the exact same regimen, question his talent at reading horses. The best trainers customize their approach to build a responsive rapport with every horse.

If you find yourself challenged with a young horse training issue or even one involving a more seasoned mount, feel free to shoot me an e-mail (or leave a response in the comments below) and I’ll try to help. We also offer e-booklets,  e-coaching, horse issue assessments (at your home for one you own or input on a horse you’re considering for purchase or adoption) and starting under saddle and/or reprogramming services for horses that have issues. 

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