The Five Characteristics of a Great Horseman April 13 2015 2 Comments

Albert Einstein famously said that “genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work.” The same is true for today’s great horsemen and women, who take their natural ability, and through perseverance and personal development, work to bring this industry the renown it deserves.  We are lucky enough to witness a number of incredible trainers today, having learned their trade from some of those original greats, but what are the specific characteristics that make them such great horespeople?


Some horses take a lot of time to develop or learn.  But any trainer that gives up at the first sign of resistance is selling their horse (and themselves) short. Great horsemanship means repetition, repetition, repetition.  And yes, it can get INCREDIBLY boring at times to do the same old thing, day in and day out, but sometimes, that’s what that particular horse may need.

Meanwhile, unfortunate horses who have had bad experiences in the past can hold onto that trauma and may need an incredible amount of patience to overcome their feelings of fear and learn to trust again, so BE PATIENT!

Thinking outside the box

Sometimes it takes an “Aha!” moment to really understand what is going on in a horse’s mind. Sure, there may be occasions where you’ll never figure it out, but if you never try other options to see what you get, you’ll have a hard time figuring it out. Just as repetition is key, knowing when repetition isn’t cutting it is equally important. Some of the greatest trainers in our history have done some pretty unorthodox things, just to figure out how to help a horse that needs a little extra help.

Positive thinking

Some horses frustrate you to the point where you want to just give up on them for the sake of your own sanity. But great trainers will often give the horse the benefit of the doubt.  Now that does NOT mean that they aren’t incredibly careful when dealing with a horse that they know is a challenge (or a horse they don’t know at all), it just means they give a horse more than one chance to do the right thing before correcting them in a major way.

Calculated corrections

Everyone needs correcting at times, but great trainers know the right moment, the right type and the right degree of correction. While this is a controversial and hotly debated topic, by “corrections”, we mean the use of an extra strong leg, a flick with a crop, or slightly stronger bridle use to counteract bad behavior.

The point here is that great trainers keep their emotions OUT of their corrections. No matter how frustrated they may be with a horse’s progress, or lack thereof, they never take that frustration out on an animal. They correct what is needed, when it’s needed, rather than disciplining a horse to make themselves feel better.


Perhaps the most obvious of characteristics, if you aren’t hard working and disciplined enough to get up early, and do what needs to be done for horse care and training EVEN when you’re tired, sick, or just plain don’t feel like it today, you’re never going to make it through show season, let alone be able to grow your training farm beyond a certain point. Discipline is the key to being great at anything and the discipline it takes to be a horse trainer rivals any other of athletic endeavor.

Have you witnessed other impressive characteristics of a great horseman or woman?  Let us know what we missed in the comments down below!