Friday, November 03, 2006

Three Hour Training Revisited

I received the following e-mail from Steve Smith, the very talented clinician and trainer I wrote about on Wednesday. He pointed out that though I had opened up that post for comments, I hadn't turned off the password requirement. (Oooops!) Though that has since been remedied, I thought his comments on the Colt Starting Demos, and on training and education in general, deserved their own post:

Hi Ami,

I would like to comment a little about three hour colt starting demonstrations and competitions. First, I would like to thank you for your comments about my abilities as a horse trainer. It means a lot to me, and I thank you. Secondly, I feel the three hour colt starting competitions are primarily for demonstrating trainer’s techniques and styles of training and their ability to read a horse. Colt starting demonstrations are purely for entertainment. I believe some people hope to see a wreck while others, such as me, look at it as a learning opportunity. As I watch, I learn, and therefore my training ability increases.

I do agree with you on the amount a horse can learn in a single training session. The Road to the Horse has the training broken into two day sessions, which I think is really better for each horse. It allows the horse to absorb the training a little at a time. This reduces the risk of mental and physical stress on the horse. At our training facility in Kaufman, Texas, we start many colts each year. We break the lessons down for the colts, making sure they understand what we are asking them to do before we add additional lessons.

Colt starting demonstrations can be misleading to those who don’t understand horses well. There are those who have the misconception that a colt is broke and can be ridden the next day as though it is well trained, but to say a colt is broke after three hours of training is crazy. It takes time to train a horse well.

When I start a colt at a demonstration, I always tell the owner of the horse at the end of the day to realize the horse is not broke and should not be ridden the next day as though he is. I make sure the owner understands that although the horse has done well and come a long way in the training session, he can’t be considered well-trained. I encourage the owner to go back and break the training down for the horse with plenty of repetition to get the horse really solid at each exercise as his training progresses.

The most important thing to remember is to always put the horse first ahead of the competition. I really haven’t found evidence that a three hour colt starting hinders in any way the future training of a horse as long as you go back later and break the training down incrementally with a good step by step lesson plan. I recently did a three hour colt starting demo using a two year old quarter horse stallion in Missouri. Three weeks later, I was told by the person who coordinated the demo that the horse was doing very well. The owner had received several compliments from the stallion’s handlers mentioning how much better behaved and well- mannered the horse was.

In summation, three hour colt starting demos are fun, entertaining, and educational. I have learned a lot from the demos and trainers I have studied and apprenticed under. I pray that I am blessed with the opportunity to some day be a clinician at Road to the Horse.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this topic. If you have any questions or would like further information about our training, demos, or products, please call us at (903)498-4724, or email us at: You can also learn more about our business and facility at

Steve Smith