A couple weeks ago I saw another post from someone lamenting that their horses would never be shown because they couldn’t justify the cost of a professional trainer. It’s such a shame that people feel that way, that showing a Miniature Horse is a professionals game only, but it’s easy to see where they get the idea.
You’ve all seen the posts on Facebook and Instagram. Someone you know is showing off their latest show ring accomplishment, and accompanying ribbons/trophies/buckles … but you know that they didn’t a) raise the horse, b) train the horse, or even c) show the horse.
For me, the only way a win means anything is if I was involved in at least one of those three things – walking in there with a horse someone has prepared for me in every way? Yeah, that’s not really my win at all.
But, that’s me – if you’re into Miniature Horses just because you like to win, then yeah, that’s probably the way you want to do it. Spend some bucks, let someone else do the real work, and then you can smile in the winner circle. If that’s what makes you happy, great! You do you!
This article is for the rest of us. Those who enjoy the daily chores, even when it’s months away from show season. Who revel in the daily routine of working our horses, and find joy in every accomplishment, whether it’s marked by a fancy title or the satisfaction of a new skill that has been earned through lots of time and patience.
Sense of Accomplishment
You can buy a proven winner, put it with the best trainer, who can then tell you which buttons to push, but absolutely nothing compares to the satisfaction of winning with a horse you trained yourself.
The hours of time spent, the overcoming of challenges, the relationship built along the way – all of it adds up to make your accomplishments significantly more rewarding.
You’ll have more to celebrate along the way – your first show, your first ribbon, and your first championship.
And when you do get that big title or award you’ve been dreaming of? There is no one you have to share it with – it isn’t a trainer’s win that you get to take credit for because you paid the bills. It’s your win, without an asterisk in anyone’s mind.
I’ve shown other people’s horses to some big wins. I’d much rather show my horse, who I trained, and groomed, and fitted, even if it wasn’t as big a win. Fourth place with my own horse means a lot more than a championship with someone else’s – and even if my name is on the papers, it’s not MY horse unless I’m the one that’s put in all the time, energy, knowledge and love!
When you spend the time to train your own horse, it’s never “just a horse.” You have the opportunity to get to know your horse as an individual, what they like and don’t like, what makes them tick.
You can build a level of trust and communication that you never will if you only spend time with them at a show, or a few short lessons to teach you the right buttons to push. That trust works both ways; not only will your horse perform better because they trust you, but you’ll have more confidence in them and be less nervous when you know the miles it took to get there. You’re not going to be uncertain how they’ll react, because you’ll know how they deal with new things.
Building that relationship, working together, with your horse, as a team – I’ve learned that is the reward that I value the most. Those moments of partnership mean a whole lot more than any championship I’ve ever won. And that strong partnership? Is one of the very best tools you can have on your side in the show ring.
Doing Right By Your Horse
If you’re a true horse lover, then your primary concern is always to do right by your horses. You want them to have everything they need to be healthy and happy – that means space to run, lots of forage, and friends to play with, both human and horse.
It’s tough to have control over the well being of your horse when they’re not in your care, and that’s what having them away at a trainer’s entails. Before you entrust your horse to someone else, make sure you know that their management systems align with your expectations. Take a tour, ask lots of questions, and visit your horse frequently.
Show ring trainers are under a lot of pressure get results, and that’s not the environment I want for my horse. Horse’s don’t do well on a deadline. They need to be approached as individuals, learning things at their own pace and in their own way. The benefits of taking it slow will pay off in the long run, but that’s not a luxury afforded to someone who is being paid to deliver championships.
Yes You Can
I know it can seem daunting, and lots of people think they can’t do it on their own. But yes you can!
New to Miniature Horses? First look for your local club. That’ll be the best place to stay in the loop on any educational events, to find out about shows where you can meet new people and watch and learn.
No local club? Don’t limit your horse learning to Miniature Horse specifics. Despite what many people seem to think, a Miniature Horse is still a horse, and the same care, feeding and training concepts apply … just appropriately scaled down. Your local veterinary clinic, tack store, or ag society could be hosting a learning event – just because it doesn’t say “Miniature” in the title, doesn’t mean you won’t find lots of valuable information.
Read, attend clinics, and learn in every way you can.
This was my primary motivation in creating this website and the online classroom. Here, you can learn about Miniature Horses from the comfort of your own home, even if you aren’t close to instructors or clinics you can access in real life. The collaborative community is growing every day, and I am working hard to add more educational content to both the online courses and the weekly newsletter.
A Moment vs A Lifetime
Winning in the show ring with a “made” horse is fun, sure. But when you’ve spend the time, built a relationship, and have a full, rich partnership with your horse, then than same win will be even sweeter.
And if you don’t win, you’ll still have the journey. If there is anything I’ve learned in over 30 years of showing, it’s that the journey is what you remember. The wins are just the icing on the cake.
7 thoughts on “The Value of Doing It Yourself”
Kendra…Every time I talk to you..or read something you have written..I come away with a new appreciation of miniature horses.
Your love for the breed shows through…and inspires the rest of us to be better.
True words! I had a wonderful time years ago watching my young QH being shown by a top notch trainer. I raised and started that horse myself. The trainer took him to the top! Years later, when I cleared out my clutter, I tossed his ribbons away. Did keep a trophy that I hardly glance at anymore. But I kept the 4th place ribbon that my unregistered QH won at a fun show. He came to me because he was considered aggressive and untrainable. He became my heart horse for 21 years and the best horse friend I ever had….Well, Bucky is closing in that title. Also loved and trained by me. No ribbons to speak of, but lots of letters from kids who he has played with.
There’s a lot to what you say here…I think both ways can be rewarding but the difference is it’s more meaningful and deeper when you’re involved in the day-to-day training personally. I’ve had trainers help me but have always taken part in the process. I love the bonding with your horse! even if it’s just grooming them.
Reaching middle age with arthritic knees makes me realize I can no longer handle, care for, and ride like I used to.
I bought a mini to slowly transition over to smaller equines and eventually phase out full size horses. It is a hard step for me since it all started many years ago with a pony and I have pretty much had horses ever since. Having a mini still gives me the opportunity to have horses in my life, just in a smaller more manageable package.
I have only driven a mini once and have much to learn. I enjoy reading your posts and this one speaks to me in my heart. I am fully capable of learning what ever it takes to best care for my little mare and drive her with the hopes of one day showing. I am looking forward to reading your book. Pre-ordering it now.
I have always wanted a horse however I grew up in town. We purchased an acreage 6 years ago and have been getting our yard established and this past year we made a paddock! As I get older I have become more and more intimidated by larger horses. I wanted to start somewhere where I could have condfidence and due to size chose to go the mini route. This is all new too me, but I am enjoying my dream 100%. I am reading, watching videos and learning so much! I still need to learn so much and was referred to your site which has already been a wealth of knowledge! I am looking forward to taking some of your courses!
I agree completely! I have learned to enjoy the whole process of training Paige! I can’t wait to see what our bond will achieve in the ring this year! Although, in halter braking her, I have already achieved so much!
Awesome, love it! My first I bought as well broke, two months later I got given a pair unbroken, so my journey began. It’s incredible! Not sure I got it all right however they are well grounded boyz that are now in my therapeutic program! My youngest is three and we are a very slow process.. I’m excited to see what you put out as he is the new project and he tries so hard to be good! Saying that he is a red head! I want to learn more and hope he gets even better and keep refining the other ones. Always so much to learn! Love the fact you say they are individual s..so bang on!! You’ve got me excited to get better to continue this crazy journey I am on! Finding support is so important to help learn!