I'm often asked how many sessions it will take to 'cure' a horse of this or that problem. The answer is that I don't know. There are many situations where I can make a real and significant difference in just one session and if the owner is able to carry on in the same way then the issue is resolved without a further visit. However, I can't actually perform miracles, nor do I want to provide a quick fix as that's just not fair on the horse; you may have to change too.
If a horse has had a very bad fright or has been allowed to practice his 'no' for a very long time then it is little wonder that it takes a bit longer to undo a problem than just a one or two hour session. It would be great if there was some sort of formula which multiplied the number of times the horse has said 'no' by the number of ways in which he has said 'no' multiplied by the number of people who have tried different strategies and failed to get anywhere. This could then be multiplied by the number of years the horse has been like that and by a further factor of three if the behaviour that has resulted could be described as instinctive. It's amazing in fact that it can sometimes take such a short time to put all of that right.
How can you make the most of the sessions that you have?
1. This is going to sound big-headed, but do it the way that I do it. Don't just watch the session, get involved, try it for yourself and try to really imitate what you see and to really get it. Read the notes afterwards.
2. BE the way that I am. Do everything you do with the horse with love and an absence of negative emotions. Leave those at the gate. Smile and have a sense of humour around your horse. Try not to care too much. Slow down, turn your volume down and make sure you touch your horse in the best way.
3. Don't lament the past or the future. Your horse is what he is at this moment and you can only work with that.
4. Stick with the plan. Be patient and don't go off track if everything isn't working within five minutes. Make sure you do your homework and practice, practice, practice. This is called compliance.
5. Be realistic - sometimes the journey can be a long one and you may need further help as you go along.
6. Be logical - calm, consistent, incremental training is far more likely to work than emotional, erratic, over-ambitious and rushed non-training.
Remember than I am cheaper than a vet
If you have to routinely sedate your horse to get regular jobs done such as clipping and farriery, it would be much cheaper and far healthier for the horse to be taught not to fear the clippers or the farrier.
Book me before the job becomes urgent
I lose count of the number of people who contact me for help with loading a week before the show season starts. I can work with a horse then but it does mean that the training could be undermined very quickly by the pressure of actually having to go somewhere, and I may have limited availability. Practice things that you need to practice well before you need them too.