By Coti Hausman
 
Being a good rider is so much more than the few great runs and top finishes that briefly bring attention to you. Being a good trainer is so much more than taking a quality, talented horse to the top of a division. Being a good horseman goes beyond any big win that is added to a resume. I have always wanted to be a good rider, trainer, and horseman for as long as I can remember. I grew up on my families farm around various horses with different backgrounds and "baggage" who all needed a little help to move on with a productive and positive life. Quite a few were labeled 'problem horses' and some even came labeled 'dangerous' , but basically all of them left the farm with a new understanding of how to behave in an appropriate manner. It didn't happen over night and it wasn't like magic, it was hours of repetitive cues with positive releases. Some horses were lazy and needed their responses sharpened, others were over reactive and had to learn that quiet responses were an easier option.  A large part of being a good horseman is being able to sense WHEN a horse needs WHAT. Good timing with an appropriate cue places you ahead of the game and allows the horse more understanding of whatever the task is at hand, from ground work to flat work to jumping. At some point every trainer will encounter a horse exceeds all expectations, a horse so smart and in tune with you that each milestone is hit quickly and easily without any fuss. On the other end of the spectrum you will, without a doubt, come across a horse that takes the slowest possible journey to each milestone; a horse that needs triple the positive reinforcement to do a simple task without anxiety. 
 
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It would be easy to pass the second type of horse along quickly... to just try to find as many of the easy smart ones as possible. It would, after all, look better to train and compete the A+ honor role student type horses. But does it truly show the scope of someone's training ability if they only ever pick the easier horses? And how can someone be considered a true horseman if they pass along the horses that actually NEED the quiet positive consistency? I have been thinking this through for the past couple weeks as I have sat on a few young/green horses of varying abilities and mentalities. One of them is my own that I recently acquired via a network of friends. He's so cool in many ways but obviously caries certain anxieties from whatever his past life held. I wanted to be a quick stepping stone in his life, to add a few helpful things to his tool box of knowledge then let someone else enjoy him as their own... but as I have gotten to know him and been apart of his steadily improving but sometimes anxiety filled days I realized that to pass him along before he is ready would be to send on a horse with an uncertain future. I could not guarantee that his obvious talents and positive attributes would not be overshadowed by a nervousness that would progress in the wrong hands. It will take me a bit longer to get him going in consistently quiet manner but it is my duty as trainer to put in the hours towards him becoming a pleasant and enjoyable equine partner. 
 
This isn't a bad or dangerous horse, it's a horse that has not had the most consistent guidance from the time he was born. He has not had enough positive reinforcement to his own personal achievements. I recently have taken him to a couple schooling shows for fun and been absolutely thrilled with him. His attitude at both was inquisitive and understanding, though he won't stand still at the trailer so he needs to walk almost continuously he has been relaxed and responsive under saddle and has NEVER said NO when I ask him for something. Both flat work and his jumping have steadily improved, the more guidance and direction you give him the happier he is to do the task. I have basically begun to think that he has hung the moon; his own personal moon that is. Did he bring home a blue ribbon at either schooling show? Nope! Was I still THRILLED with how he went out and competed? You can bet your butt I was. 
 
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He deserves to never be compared to those A+ horses that find their training easy and relaxing, he only deserves to be softly expected to improve on his own personal best. Not every horse is made to go out and win win win (he may one day) but the opportunity for winning is only there after someone puts in the quiet hours that chip the anxieties down to nothing.