Find out if it’s time to hit the road with tips from today’s pros.
By Delores Kuhlwein
The sound of horses softly munching their hay reaches your ears like sweet music; as you finally enter the barn, your harried, hectic day melts away and you stop to finally take a deep breath, inhaling the sweet smell of shavings and the calming scent of horses. Immersing yourself in the respite of your barn, your worries melt away with each brushstroke against your Paint’s coat in a way only a horse lover understands.
Having Paint Horses as your companions defines the very essence of who you are, and it’s a lifestyle you can’t imagine not living. Your Paints are your therapy when you need a friend, with a mane ready to catch tears of joy and sorrow, and soft breath that tickles your ear and warms your soul.
You know full well the magic of working out a problem while cleaning a stall, and you understand somehow the hours of hard work and elbow grease, and sometimes heartbreak, are worth it in the end.
Horses, however, inherently have personalities of their own, and you’ve also learned that handling and riding them takes skill, determination and lots of patience. When it comes to working with horses, everyone can use a helping hand now and then, so how do you know when it’s time to ask for one? Read on for tips from APHA professionals to determine whether you can work through a problem on your own, when it’s best to seek some help and how to find the right path and trainer for you.
Into Your Own Hands
Savvy Paint Horse enthusiasts (like you) love to learn, and that’s a good thing, says APHA Professional Horseman Mark Sheridan of Cave Creek, Arizona.
“Everyone should always be in search of further knowledge to constantly improve their skills and abilities whether they show or not,” he said.
For the do-it-yourselfer, the Internet provides a smorgasbord of information on how to improve your riding and training at home. Educational tools like HorseIQ, an online education platform produced by APHA, allow competitive horsemen access to information taught to carded APHA judges at their seminars. The innovative program is the next best thing to having a professional watch you from the ground.
The concept is simple: You watch video examples for one discipline at a time, learning penalties and maneuver scores, and you can judge sample classes online, comparing your scores to official APHA World Show judges’ scorecards.
“This is a one-of-a-kind delivery system for anyone wanting to become a better exhibitor or judge,” APHA Director of Judges Dave Dellin said.
Another handy DIY method is to video yourself to determine where to improve, says Brendan Brown, a carded APHA judge from Cave Creek, Arizona. In his 30-year term as trainer, he’s learned it’s just as important to combine your strategy of choice with an obtainable goal. Dream big and small, seeking inspiration from a task you’re determined to master or realization of a long-held aspiration.
“Most people have long-term goals, but they definitely need to set some short term goals to be able to move forward,” he said.
Time for Help
If you’ve been working on your own for some time and realize you still haven’t reached your goals, think about getting help. That can be as simple asking for another set of eyes on the ground from an experienced friend.
Kathryn “Kit” Kope of Cocoa Beach, Florida, a multiple-carded judge with 25 years of experience, combines her lifelong training career with skills gleaned as a public school educator.
“Find somebody that can watch the horse or you from the ground to validate what you’re thinking and determine a program,” she said. “Some behaviors can be caused by physical problems, too, and a good horseman can suggest the horse be evaluated by a vet.”
If you’re still not sure if you need professional assistance, Mark says to carefully assess your situation.
“You’ll know when it’s time to seek help if you’re getting the same results repeatedly,” he advised. “Get your horse evaluated by a professional who specializes in your area of interest, and let his natural talents dictate where to go.”
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.