Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Horse Training for Free or Cheap: Three Methods

Free and cheap are both excellent words that make me sit up and listen in this economy, especially when those words relate to horse training. I'm not the best horse trainer in the world, but I do love to school my own horses and learn more about horse training if I can.

So, it being a totally cruddy economy, I've been stretching my brain as to how to get more horse training for less money. Here are three ideas I've come up with.

#1: Auditing Lessons and Clinics

I can't claim credit for this one because my friend Karen started it, but this one is great. When I'd drive up for lessons with a local reining trainer (about 50 miles away), my buddy Karen would come along and watch the lesson. Since I went up every couple of weeks or so, Karen got to watch lessons every couple of weeks or so. And since my horse was definitely a beginner reiner, Karen learned a lot of the basic techniques "from the ground up," so to speak, that she could use on her own horse.

Now the reining trainer could have gotten testy if he wanted to, but Karen had two things going for her that kept her in his good graces. First, Karen attended a couple of his weekend clinics, which were not very expensive but did give her a "feel" for the techniques she was learning by watching.

Second, by saying she wanted to come watch me in my lesson she was able to justify her continued presence at my lessons. It works great for her, and I've since started doing that here and there with a few of my buddies. I ask permission from the trainer, and have never been told "no." I also try to give back to the trainer by recommending him or her to people I meet who are interested in their discipline.

#2: For Kids 4-H Works Great
Now you definitely can't do 4-H if you are an adult because it's for kids only, but if you have a kid interested in horse training or riding, 4-H is definitely one inexpensive and useful way to go. My neighbor just started taking her son to the local 4-H club and, because she sits with him the whole time, is learning a lot about horsemanship and horses, in general. Her son is learning tons, too.

So far the club is only doing bookwork, since it is winter, but come spring her son will get riding lessons as well. 4-H is a great part of any horse community, and if you have a local club and a kid interested in riding, I'd definitely suggest participating in this group!

#3: Have a Trainer Sit on Your Horse
This doesn't always work, but sometimes it can be an inexpensive horse training technique. I had my reining trainer sit on my jumper mare, just once, and it did wonder for her. The mare, Valentine, is a well-broke mustang but she was stiff to the left. I couldn't work out that "kink" by myself, so I had the reining trainer sit on her. In just one session, he was able to loosen up her left side and put some new gears on her.

As I said, this won't work for every horse, but sometimes having a horse trainer sit on your horse once every 6 months can advance you and your horse by leaps and bounds. In this case, it was worth spending the $45. Not every horse trainer will sit on a horse just once, but if you have a relationship with that trainer, chances are good that he or she will be willing to do so. Might be something to think about!

Do you have any ideas for free or cheap horse training? Care to share?

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Photo credit: Free Digital Photos

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