“I need more money.”
“I need to be able to buy a better horse.”
“I can’t afford something that looks like that.”
What do all of these horses/ponies in the picture have in common? There’s someone out there looking for a horse just like one of these. Someone who is juggling between what they want and what they can afford. If you know me you likely already know the common thread. All of these horses were $400 or less, most of them were free. Its marketing suicide to admit that, especially when trying to sell several of them to a good new home but I’m admitting it anyway. Its something some of you need to hear. Why do I get these horses for very cheap or free? Usually because people know that I can work with most any horse and find a way to get along. I can get to know them, hopefully make time to work on any behavior issues, and then find them a home or a job that suits them. Of course I sometimes get horses that nobody wants, but I try to take in those that I think I can place so that there’s a spot open for the next one that comes along. I am not a rescue, I try to recoup costs in the sale price if I can but that doesn’t always happen. That’s okay, if it means a horse that had nobody to understand them or work with them finds a great home in the end I’m okay with it.
What’s the single greatest factor that allowed me to take in each of these horses with confidence that I could work with the horse and make it a little bit better and a little more wanted?
I am a horse trainer. I don’t like to think of myself as a trainer in the way most folks think of a horse trainer, because I’m not trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole and I’m not going to take your money every week to tell you to sit up straight and quiet your leg in a lesson nor am I going to take your horse to the big show for you to win a big ribbon. I’m more about getting to know each horse on an individual level, figuring out what behaviors would make it hard for that horse to find a home, working on those behaviors to modify them whenever possible, and placing each horse with a person who can continue to modify the behavior in a positive fashion or at least someone who appreciates the horse for his positive qualities and can overlook or work with any flaws. I’d rather be an equine’s therapist, life coach, teacher and matchmaker than the head of a program that resembles schedules of inhumane conversion therapy for our equine friends. Granted, when a cranky aged horse tried to run me over 20 times in a row because they don’t understand that’s not acceptable I will do what it takes to protect my space and get the point across that those things are NOT okay. I’m not here to coddle them and make excuses for their behavior, I’m here to let them know what is not acceptable and what is acceptable behavior so that they can go through life with more open doors to more good homes than if they continued to be “that rude cranky horse”. I will work with a horse keeping in mind that many behaviors have a physical cause or at least started with a physical cause, and sometimes a “bad horse” is just a horse remembering or feeling pain and trying to avoid that. Bad teeth, a sore back, ulcers, poor riders, and confusing requests can train a horse to avoid people, avoid being ridden, and avoid the good homes that would be waiting for them. We have to work smarter when possible to understand the horse. I don’t consider myself a teacher to other people nearly so much as I consider myself a lifetime student of the horse. The horse doesn’t have the ability to lie to us with his behavior for the sake of lying. Each behavior has a cause. Find it, fix it up so that he can be better. Make the right choices the easier ones for him. They want to take the path of least resistance so try to make success the easiest path.
Make yourself a student of the horse every chance you get. Learn from many sources, follow no person’s teachings blindly, nobody is a better teacher than the horse and none of us will ever learn all there is to learn from him. Don’t turn off your peripheral vision, be willing to admit fault and imperfections within yourself to become better and to change what you are doing when its not working for either of you. Become a better rider, owner and steward of the horse and you will find that you don’t need a horse priced at $10,000 or more to succeed. You just need to become a better owner, rider, and horse-person. More doors will open for you in the equine business. You don’t need a better horse, you need to be a better student of the horse, as do I. There have been a handful of horses I couldn’t understand entirely in all my years since growing up on a horse farm and training since I was 9 or 10. I don’t keep learning for all the things I think could be won, I keep learning in honor of the ones I didn’t help enough along the way, so that I may be better for the next one that comes along.
Before you deserve a “better horse” first you need to learn how to make one, and you’ll find he may fall in your lap one day… looking at first like a big project. You’ll be better for it than the person with poor horsemanship riding the very expensive horse they are “untraining” with every ride.
We here at HOP are so thankful that quality trainers like Olivia Dixon believe in our mission and join us as they are able to contribute in some manner to the work that we do.
Heart of Phoenix is on a Mission, with the RIGHT HORSE Initiative, to improve the lives of horses in transition + massively increase horse adoption in the United States. We are Good People for Good Horses. As partners of the #RIGHTHORSE, we want to spread the word about equine adoption through growing good partnerships. Our goal is to massively increase the number of successful horse adoptions in the United States by equipping potential adopters and horse owners with the knowledge they need to have a successful relationship with their equine friends. By working together we can do much to re-frame the conversations about ADOPTABLE horses in transition!