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We Ask Trainers – What’s the Best Training Advice You Ever Received?

There is a reason some of the elite trainers in the horse industry are successful year-after-year. They have developed a training philosophy that has worked and kept them at the top of their game. So what is their secret?

We asked some of the leading trainers in the business if there is any training advice that has stood out during their career that they still follow today. Although “work ethic” is surely a common denominator in helping them develop a successful training operation, let’s find out what else they have learned.

Kelly McDowall – Don’t spend all of your time trying to fix the bad ones when you could be concentrating on the good ones.





Brad Jewett – Be fair; in other words, whatever you ask a horse to do, be fair. Do they even have a clue what you’re asking?





Brad Ost – I think the most important advice I’ve gathered from some of my mentors is that you have to find what the horse is good at. Sometimes it’s not about what you think or want the horse to be successful at, but finding what is easy for them. Just because it may not be an open pleasure or western riding horse, that doesn’t mean it can’t succeed in showmanship or horsemanship.

Margaux Tucker – Listen to the horse. They will tell you what they need.







Brent Maxwell – If you’ve thought you learned everything there is to know about training horses, you may as well quit because you’re done anyway. You learn something new every day.






Leonard Berryhill – No one can do the work for you. Get a job if you don’t want to start early and stay late. Horse-related; A very good living can be made from this industry if you manage your money. We don’t have to have the newest and biggest. No judge had ever asked me when or where I bought my saddle, nor have I ever seen a class placed based on what truck and trailer you drive. Learn from the best of what disciplines you want to compete in. Watch the best, and in particular, watch the ones that have been highly competitive for a long time.

Nancy Sue Ryan – Think the way a horse thinks.






Kellie Egan-Hinely – The best advice I’ve gotten (as a horse trainer) is to train each horse for its owner’s needs, not for my expectations or desires of the horse. It’s been an enormous help to me. Some owners need their horse to be safe, not a fancy show horse. Others need their horse to be at the top of their game all year long.



Steve Heckaman – Larry Sullivant always used to say, “Everything hangs from the top,” meaning the topline was the first consideration when evaluating conformation. It’s the precursor to all of the angles below, and if it’s not correct, it can manifest itself in many different areas.



Jimmy Daurio – The best training advice or horse-related advice I had ever received, when I was a very young horse trainer, was “always let the horse tell you what it is capable of. Never try to make it something it’s not or ever going to be.”  I also had a great friend of mine (wife of a trainer) tell me all clients have an expiration date. Some leave because they aren’t happy and need something else, some leave for financial reasons, and with some, life happens (college, starting families, retirement, or moving away).

Jenn Wheeler – I guess I would say work hard, have patience, and know when to stop.





Tami Thurston
– I’ve been given a lot, but one that sticks out, “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken crap.” Paul and I would always joke “more mayonnaise!” when watching each other riding not-so-great horses. It’s funny but true. You can only be as good as the horse you are riding. Also, whenever you have your hands on your horse, you are constantly training or un-training. So, even the littlest, most seemingly inconsequential things you do can affect your horse’s training, good or bad.


Beth Clemons – I think for me it’s a tie between, “you can learn something from everyone and sometimes it will be how not to do it” and “when in doubt, ride your best horse first and work all day to make everything ride like that one.”




Stacy Lane – Don’t overanalyze and overthink.  Stay out of their way and let them do their job. Stick with a program.







Chelsea Carlson – A horse training quote that always stuck with me was, “We’re not out here curing cancer” as told to me by Saul Sliss. At the moment he said that to me, I was having difficulty training one of my prospects. Remembering to be clear with what you’re asking and simplify it all down is always a great reminder. Horse training can be specific, technical, and challenging at times, but it should never be so complicated that the horse (or another rider) can’t understand it. Keeping some humility never hurts.

Jessica Grace Sunday – The best piece of training advice that I have gotten is to ride the horse you have today, not the one you had yesterday or the one you will have tomorrow, but the one you have today. To me, what that means is that you cannot show the horse that you had yesterday because today’s horse may be in a different mindset, so show what you have today to have the best ride that you can have in the show pen. Don’t ask for more than what that horse is capable of doing on that day.



Julian Harris – Reestablish the basics whenever you get into a bind with a horse.




Alyse Roberts – Work with/train each horse as an individual, not as a group. Each horse is different with different personalities, differences in talent, etc. so, always listen to each horse.





Karen Graham – Never think you are unbeatable.









Tessa Dalton – The best advice I’ve ever received has to be from Christie Showerman. She taught me that you always have to release a horse, give them a chance. I see this a lot giving lessons to DIY or even our customers. They always want to hold their horse instead of letting them try to figure it out or trusting them. The release is their reward. I think this is hard for many of us as we are perfectionists. Another thing…starting at the walk, bending your horse, teach it the basics of framing and a true spur stop walking, before you expect these horses to learn trotting or loping (again from Christie.) And some days, it’s okay to come out and walk your horse, or trot your horse. As far as training, we have to keep in mind all these horses are different. I’m a firm believer in tweaking your program to fit what that horse needs best. Don’t expect them all to fit in just how you want them.


What’s the best training advice you’ve ever received? Let us know in the comments.