Compassionate Training

What Kind of Trainer I Want To Be


I started thinking.  What is the common denominator in everything I have learned so far from my horse Dancer?  The answer: COMPASSION.  Compassion allows me to understand better, respond better, and train better.  It’s the one thread that sews its way through all my wants and desires for my horse.  When I think about who and what I want to be, it’s compassionate.

Compassion is defined as sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings of others.  It encompasses so much more though.  Compassion is treating others like you would want to be treated in every aspect of your life.  Compassion embraces patience, kindness, love, empathy, tenderness and tolerance.  So how do we interact and train our horses compassionately?

I will be the first to admit that some days I fail.  I’m tired, frustrated, stressed and I lose the ability to be who I want to be.  But every day, I come to the barn striving to be compassionate and every day I ask myself what I can learn today to be a better trainer.  I/We have to be willing to look at our own short comings and start working on them.


First there has to be a good foundation of training knowledge and a daily striving to make ourselves better.  That’s the knowledge to be good rider… position, biomechanics, learning the aids, timing, executing movements.  There is also education on body language and how to work with horses on the ground to develop better communication.  Then there is education about how horses learn, how horses feel and how to train each horse according to its personality, strengths and weaknesses.  Our current education system for learning how to ride and interact is based on traditions passed down but something has been lost or never covered at all.  Getting an education in really working with horses to better their life without suffering is the hard gem to find.  Adding the layer of understanding the science of learning is even rarer.  This is the goal of Reflections From the Saddle.  To open owners, trainers and handlers eyes to the vast education that has been lost.


Sometimes our issues are all emotional.  Our own emotional problems are unknowingly projected onto our horses.  Whether we realize it or not.  Taking the time and being willing to go deep, find our emotional baggage and deal with it can work wonders for changing our interaction and relationship with our horses.  Just being willing to do this work will open your eyes to emotional reactions you have and will start the path to healing.

Many times we are self-centered.  We don’t always realize it but we are narcissistic by nature.  We think the world revolves around us and that every horse should bend to our will.  News flash!…  Horses give so much more when they are given a choice and a voice.  We don’t have the right to exert our will on animals, other people or even nature.  When we start to realize this, than true connection to one another, our horse and everything around us will change.


Are you sure the horse understands?  Horses don’t consciously choose to be bad!  They either don’t understand what you want (confused), feel threatened or scared, can’t do what you want (painful or impossible) or haven’t learned what you are asking.  In all these situations, it is us that is the problem, not the horse.  I sometimes have to tell myself this everyday.  It doesn’t mean I’m bad, it just means I have to learn how to let my horse succeed at what I am asking.

As we are working on getting our own life together, we can start building a real relationship with our horse.  In the book “Building Our Life Together”, Frederic Pignon states that we should be more concerned that they (horses) are happy rather than that they are obeying our wishes.  He goes on to say that he would rather swallow his pride in front of a large audience than force a horse to do something it is not quite ready for.  Wow, think of the ramifications if we entered the show ring with that perspective.  If we always put the horse first.  If we always trained and rode compassionately.