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The 90 Day Wonder Horse and the Ignorant, Blissful Owner

The 90 Day Wonder Horse and the Ignorant, Blissful Owner

Let me make one thing clear here at the beginning. As a horse trainer, we don’t get GOOD horses in training. A good horse doesn’t need training. We get horses with potential, a bit or a bunch, but it’s a trainer’s lot in life to bring forth that potential—sometimes against the horse’s will! grin If a horse refuses to be good, then our job is to train the owner to handle their bad horse safely.

But then when we get that good horse going well after months, sometimes YEARS of hard work, we get that horse so we think something and the horse responds, the owner then either takes the horse out of training or sells it or runs out of money or __(fill in the blank). And the sad thing is, a good trainer feels the loss of a good horse, not in his pocketbook, but in his soul.

Sadly, what we normally get is—


“‘Ol Blaze is the perfect horse.”


“Then why are you putting him in training?”


“WeeEELL,‘Ol Blaze sometimes bucks when I ask for canter, and rears when I ride him away from the barn, and sometimes, he’ll bite me if I’m not fast enough to feed him, or when I cinch him, and he doesn’t really like the wash rack, or baths, or clippers, or plastic bags… oh, and I can’t get him to cross the puddle of water to get out on trail. I haven’t been out on trail in two years because of that. Other than that, he’s PERFECT!”


Good Gawd! And you still want THIS horse?! WHY??? LOL (Oh, all this was muttered under the breath by trainer or in head.)

We also get—


“You have 90 days to make my horse perfectly broke to ride, with walk, trot, canter transitions, leg-yield, open gates, go down the trail and be absolutely safe for my 3yr. old child to crawl under. And by the way, could you teach ‘em how to rear, bow and that there Spanish Walk while you’re at it?”


“Suuuure, no problem. I bet you wanna cherry on top, too, right?” (Also, muttered under breath or in head because owners tend to take offence at trainer humor. LOL)

Ah… owners. They say ignorance is bliss but I beg to differ. Certainly not for the owner shelling out the big bucks and wondering why she STILL can’t ride ol’ Blaze. You can tell I feel sympathy for the owner in this situation. And yet, I’m still firmly entrenched on the trainer’s side of the fence and how to shove, squeeze, push and squish the most amount of training into the time we are given with a horse without blowing a horse’s mental fuse.

Uh, and why only 90 days? What makes 90 days magic? Heck, if I know. Really it’s only about 60 hours of work spread over 3 months. A week and a half of the average working man’s livelihood. What can be accomplished in that little time? A narrow foundation and not much else. And yet we trainer’s feet are still put to the fire to “make” a horse do something in that defined amount of time

Now mind you, 90 Day Wonders do exist, but that’s just a time frame, not actual work put in. The 100 Day Extreme Mustang Makeover competitions prove their existence. High ranking competitors of the contest take wild mustangs (not halter broke, uncatchable and basically willing to kill themselves by squeezing through pipe openings between which they cannot possibly fit!) and train them to walk, trot, canter, flying changes, bridleless spins, sliding stops, rear, bow, lay down, have someone stand on their back while laying down while shooting a gun overhead, pull a cart, and all manner of other extreme riding, all in 100 days.

No, that extra 10 days doesn’t count for the difference. It was the fact that those trainers were LIVING in those horse’s stalls for 100 days.

How much is that worth? Depends. Some people are willing to do a lot for personal glory. The winners of that competition get quite the accolades for all that personal sacrifice. And beyond the high praise, some people would be willing to do a lot for lots of money. How much is lots? Let’s look at the logistics of Work for Money.

At your personal job, you Work for Money, don’t you? You don’t work for free do you? It’d be nice to be all Buddhist monkish and say, “I don’t NEED money,” but it’s how the world turns nowadays. That lovely paycheck at the end of the week that says you did something and you are appreciated and you get this (money) in exchange for that (work). At your job, do you tell your boss, “Hey, boss, I don’t value my time, energy or well-being (or need to eat or pay rent… LOL) so you don’t have to pay for this week of work.” Just because a horse trainer doesn’t work in a corner office doesn’t mean he or she is going to, or should have to, work for free. At $50.00 an hour for, let’s not go overboard here (!), not all day but for even only ten hours is $500.00 a day. Multiply that by a hundred days, you would owe that trainer $50,000.00!!!

You might say, “I don’t pay MY trainer $50.00 an hour!” If you had a good enough trainer to do that job, you very well should be! For goodness sake, it’s a 1000 hours of specialized work, not some minimum wage type of grunt work. A horse that does all that work and does all those tricks and performs on command like a little machine on automatic, can and does sell for $50,000.00. In fact, the first year’s “technically” disqualified horse (turned left instead of right on the obstacle course) did, in fact, sell for $50,000.00. The money went to charity so the trainer didn’t become suddenly affluent from his 1000 hours of work but he did get “paid” in tons of acknowledgement which leads to money down the road from people willing to put their horses in training with him because of these previous accomplishments.

My point is, you get what you pay for. A $15.00 an hour trainer isn’t going to accomplish that particular job no matter how many hours are put into it unless he/she is a good trainer doing a special “charity” case for reasons other than money. At $15.00 an hour, an owner feels more magnanimous and willing to pay for hours and hours and hours of work, but the only thing accomplished is the foundation of time in the saddle. Which is a good thing for any horse and tends to quiet a horse’s mind, but it is not “forward” progress. Forward progress is the learning of new things, not just the quietness of going over and over the same thing… over and over again. THAT should really be done by the owner. Let the trainer teach the new things and let the owner ride and ride for hours, tactfully, to get the horse’s head in the right spot. Paying a $50.00 an hour trainer to do that sort of grunt work is not the most cost effective use of money or time!

LOL But in the real world, I rarely get what I want… sigh… LOL

What I normally get is the owner who’s used the $15/hour trainer to screw up the horse’s mind by hurrying the horse beyond either’s capabilities (horse or cheap trainer) and now I have to “fix” the problems. Go figure. Penny-wise, pound foolish.

So, now at least we’ve established a guideline. It takes 1000 hours to accomplish all the above work out of a horse. Furthermore, it is an established industry standard that most trainers get a horse out for an hour a day for maybe five days in a row equaling about 20 hours a month of work. (That’s where my 60 hour for 90 days came in above.) Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.

Now here are the astounding figures. At that rate, it will take around four years for the average working trainer to have a horse able to perform all of the above movements. (1000 hours divided by 20 hours per month of work equals 50 months of work. 50 months divided by 12 months for the year equals 4 years and 2 months.) Will most trainers who at least have some skill and tact at training these movements and tricks be able to accomplish this quicker? Certainly. But this exercise is for guesstimation purposes anyways, so just go with the flow here. :) And now, how much will 4 years of training cost? The same $50K of our original 90 Day Wonder Horse (with the full 1000 hours in 90 days) only now it was done over 4 years with the smatterings of possible random accidents, colics, and potential death by unknown causes.

Good Grief, you say! No matter what, you still say you can’t pay $50K to train your horse to be that special Wonder Horse! You say, “I’ll just get lessons from my wonderful trainer and do most of the work myself! I’ll save MILLL-YYYONS!”

LOL :) LOL Dream on, grasshopper, dream on… Not to say that you, the owner, can’t train your horse to do wonderful things… eee-ventually,… LOL… but to get your trainer to train you to train your horse is an even longer, MORE drawn out process than to just let the trainer train the horse exclusively. Maybe the lifetime of that horse because most owners actually have to work for a living and have families and can’t “live” in a horse’s stall. (I’ll get into the “trickle” effect of training by proxy in a different article.)

That said, I mostly work with owners who are willing to do most of the training themselves. I ENJOY that process. I LOVE guiding horse and rider towards the light switch and seeing little light bulbs go off over their heads. :) I tend to train for “understanding” as opposed to “competition.” Some trainers work the other way and would rather train the horse instead of the rider which is okay because some owners just don’t want to ride that much. They want to say they “own” THAT horse but have no real desire to learn how to ride it.

So, unless you get that special special (a little touched in the head, I mean :P ) trainer that has no life and is willing to live in your horse’s stall for free, you are not going to get a 90 Day Wonder Horse. (You can always try bribes, though… some of us are easier than others! wink wink  I work well for diet coke and cinnamon crumb cakes from Starbucks! ;) ) But no matter which way you go, it’s either time or money and time IS money for someone in this equation (yours or the trainer’s) with 1000 hours of specialized work the timeline and “Wonder Horse” the goal.

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