Selecting the right horse trainer to emulate can be a daunting task for newcomers to the world of horse training. As with nearly any occupation or hobby, there are many authorities within the field willing to offer advice, some good, some not so good. Before spending an investment in time and money newcomers will often ask... which trainer should I follow? The answer may surprise you:
No one and everyone.
Let's look at this seemingly oxymoron a bit closer. You should not attempt to duplicate the style of any one particular horse trainer, yet you should try to study as many different horse trainers as possible during your horse career. I realize a far more convenient answer would be to point out one supreme trainer in the horse world and suggest focusing on him or her, but the fact of the matter such a magic bullet just doesn't exist for two reasons:
There are many talented horse trainers, each with their different styles and advice. Judging one as being better than all others is simply not possible or reasonable.
Whereas one trainer may practice a style that is perfect for me, you may find the style to be somewhat incompatible to you – or vice versa!
An old adage states that "all roads lead to Rome" and a similar context can be applied towards horse training. Whereas there are false paths that will lead to an unproductive or miserable relationship with a horse, the fact of the matter is many paths lead to success. As long as the trainer believes in understanding a horse and his language rather than dominating a horse through violence or fear, chances are his path is one of those that will lead to success.
Training is not an exact science or emulation – it's a natural flow that should bring out the highest level of comfort and confidence between you and your horse. Back about 50 years ago left-handed writing was deemed improper, so some schools would require left-handed students to write with their right hand, regardless of the fact that it's not a natural instinct or comfort zone for left-handers. Could such students learn to go against their instincts? Absolutely. Left-handed people have always been forced to live in a right-handed world. Was it an ideal scenario for them? No – it disregarded their inherent skills and instincts and forced them to adopt someone else's natural ways.
You should look upon horse training in the same context. Although you can follow one trainer's style to the letter, you may later find that had you tweaked a few things here or there you would have been even more efficient or confident. A horse trainer should possess confidence in his own actions and ability before attempting to guide an untrained horse, for an integral part of the training process is lending that confidence to the horse to reassure the horse that the foreign stimuli and behaviors introduced to him are nothing to worry about. If you're uncomfortable with your requests, you can bet your horse will probably pick up on your hesitation or awkwardness.
Any master of any trade becomes a master only because they realize that life is a constant learning experience – one should never rest on their laurels or be complacent with what they currently know. The same should hold true for all of us who enjoy and work with horses. Each time you read about or witness techniques from various natural horsemen you will often pick up an intriguing idea or two to try out yourself. Experiment! See how they work for you. At the same time you should not attempt to clone any specific horse trainer no matter how skilled he or she may be. Use the knowledge you are gathering and combine it with your natural instincts and flow. Create your own overall technique that blends the best of all worlds and you will be well on your way to success.