Ep 69: Training horses for others vs training your own.

Question: “I was wondering how you keep your motivation for riding your own horses when you are training other people’s horses. I feel like I have to have a lot of motivation for everyone else’s horses to keep them going and keep them working towards their goals. But I have a lot of trouble working my horses.”

Answer: There are many ways too look at this. Here are a few to consider.
Look for similarities or contrasts between your goals with your horse vs your customer’s horses.
1) Do you plan to show in the same discipline with your horse?
2) Do you plan to keep this horse forever or sell?
3) Do you feel judged by ‘others’ if you work your horse before customers horses?
This podcast goes deeper into this subject.

Click for full show notes

[00:00:03] [00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy and successfully train your own horses. Today, I’m answering a well-timed question from Beth. Let’s listen to her question.

[00:00:37] Hey Stacy. I’m a fellow horse trainer in Florida. My name is Beth and I have a nine-year-old gelding named Diesel. And I was wondering how you keep your motivation for riding your own horses when you are training other people’s horses. I feel like I have to have a lot of motivation for everyone else’s horses to keep them going and keep them working towards their goals. But I have a lot of trouble working my horses. I get really tired at the end of the day. I can always get up super early in the morning. I was just wondering what I can do to keep my motivation going from my own horse because I’m really lacking that right now. Thanks for your answer.Love the podcast.

[00:01:25] Thank you for your question, Beth. And I’m experiencing this right now today. So it was a perfectly timed question. And it’s kind of interesting because it sent me off on multiple rabbit trails. So this will be interesting. You’ve got lots of options to pick from as you listen to this podcast. So basically, I’m getting ready to go on a trip and I’ve been doing all of the extra things to get ready. And because of this, I can feel my wrestling match in my mind about working my own horses because Willow bruised her foot and so I haven’t been able to ride her.

[00:02:04] And then I had a couple days that I missed with Presto and Gabby. And now I’m having this. “Do I really want to open up anything with Presto right before I leave? “And that leaves Gabby. And so, yeah, I guess tip number one would be again, I’ve talked about clarity and you’re gonna hear that echoed down through here. But I do know this. I do know the when I get into this mindset that I can feel myself in right now, the danger of it becomes that I am making myself more tired with indecision than I would if I simply picked a decision and then went with it. So if I wanted to give myself a gift earlier today, I could have looked at what I had planned for the day and then decided that I’m not going to ride because then I would take that wrestling match out of my head. And I actually recognize now that I spend a lot of extra energy in indecision all day long, when realistically I probably could make that decision the night before or at least that morning, because I really can see what’s coming. But I think sometimes I put a lot on my plate thinking that that’s gonna be a better thing. And realistically, I’m juggling a few too many things. They’re not all gonna get done.

[00:03:20] And I actually exhaust myself instead of admitting that upfront. But that’s just the beginning of thoughts that I have around this. So when you ask the question, I immediately had two things pop into my mind, which is kind of interesting because they’re not even related. The first one was, “the cobbler’s kids go barefoot” because even as I was listening to your question, I was reliving all my earlier training days and just thinking about, yes, it is. There’s got to be a reason why that saying came into an existence because it is so easy to put your horses on the back burner when you’re professional and ride them at the end of the day. And at the end of the day, you’re tired. And there’s all these things going on depending on what’s in your life. When I flashback, I know that I had little kids and all the stuff. So, by the way, I’m going to answer all of these from versions of my past life. So I’m kind of answering your question by talking to my past self, because you’re going to learn that as I’m answering it. There’s actually a lot more detail, which is probably why the second saying popped into my mind, which is the saying, “the devil is in the details.”

[00:04:32] And as soon as I wrote that down, I thought, what the heck does that even mean? Can I quote that on the podcast if I don’t even understand it? So a Google search revealed the devil is in the details, is a variation of God is in the details. And I thought what variation? The sound opposite. But anyway, thank you, Google, for clarifying this. Apparently it’s a German translation that got mistranslated. I would say yes. That’s the definition of a mistranslation right there anyway. Pause Stacy. Continue reading. So it’s a variation of God is in the detail which interprets that whatever one does should be done thoroughly. And it also means that details are important and no idea exactly why this popped into my head when I heard your question. Except I’m going to have to talk to past versions of myself because the details do matter. And then to try to give this some kind of framework that you can also follow. I broke it into at least three things to consider. One is time.

[00:05:37] And that’s obviously going to be right up there. It’s in your question, running out of time at the end of the day, running out of energy at the time of day. So time is going to be one thing we’re going to talk about and consider similar goals. So you talked about how to motivate yourself to work your own horses. I’m going to talk about similar goals and contrast and stand alone. Words like that don’t make any sense. So let’s just jump in.

[00:06:02] So when I look back at my past self and I think about my view of time, one of the things that I heard you say in there that I’m kind of curious to see if this might touch anything. So there was a time in my life and really there still is a time right now. It’s really easy at times to put myself on the backburner. And what that means to me is I can choose work projects instead of exercise or rest. And I can choose helping other people instead of rest or exercise or working my own horses. And then when I look back, you know, I try to answer your question. I think I can hear you say that you’re motivated to work with other people’s horses. And so I thought, well, maybe there’s something in there that you can tease out, because when I look back, I had that same or at least a similar experience that I did also find it easier to work with the horses that were in training. And I actually have said, you know, Can Can Lean my first bridleless horse was a horse owned by other people and in training and so was Roxy. So sometimes when people would say to me, don’t you wish you own them? I would actually say a lot. I’m like, no, it worked really well that I didn’t own them because this way they got trained. So in case you’re wondering, this is how deeply this runs. So it’s been there all the time. And so when I look back and I have a similar feeling to like, why did I put those horses above my own eye? The first two that popped into my mind there, I’m sure I could actually make a list of 10. But the first two that popped into my mind were money to pay the bills and a desire to help the customer. And I don’t think one of those is any better or worse than the other. And so the interesting thing is you might be able to take pieces of whatever your answers are, what’s motivating you to work with your customers horses.

[00:08:05] You might be able to find pieces that you can actually carry over and put onto your horse. So, for example, when Jesse and I were training horses, when we were young trainers, we typically would own one horse between us or one horse each. Like when I was pregnant, I didn’t own one. Jesse owned, we had the one that Jesse was riding. And then I was still doing some groundwork. But I didn’t own one of my own at that point because I wasn’t doing as much. Then later on, I would own one. He would own one. But we pretty clearly owned those horses as we I used to call it, like the show flip that house. We used to be popular at the time and it was like, flip that horse. Not literally, but training wise. We were training the horse so that we could then sell the horse.

[00:08:51] And because of that, it actually made it pretty easy for us to stay on top of training those horses because they kind of fit into that number one money to pay the bills. So even though that horse didn’t bring in money on a monthly basis, they actually there was a little time and money count were going. It was like, okay, if I bought this horse for X amount of dollars, let’s just say I bought the horse for a thousand dollars. And I my training at the time was, let’s just say five hundred dollars a month. Then mathematically, you know, five hundred a month is not the profit. So let’s take out the board. So this horse to mathematically work out needs to do one of two things. It needs to appreciate faster than the amount that I would be training for somebody else. Because if I can train for somebody else, I maybe I should just replace that. If this horse if this horse is only going to increase in value a thousand dollars over the next year, this is a bad bet. But if this thousand dollar horse can increase to a $10000 horse in, you know, in a year, then now this starts to look like more of a profit margin than the horse and training.

[00:10:04] So there was actually a fair bit of math that went into that, but it also kind of held it accountable because it meant that you didn’t necessarily keep one around for, you know, three years because mathematically it was going the other direction. So it made it actually easier to keep those horses in really steady training because in a way you can look at it like it is money motivated. And it was because we seriously were on the edge of like starving. We were using Christmas money to pay our bills, like it was pretty tight. But the other thing it did was in a way I was riding that horse for somebody I didn’t know yet. I knew the horse was going to be for sale. And nine times out of ten we sold to a customer in our barn. So I might have had, you know, eight or ten customers at the time. And I knew there were new people that could come in. I didn’t know who I was riding for, but I knew I was training this horse for a future customer. That was very motivating because it kind of falls into number two. You said you have a desire to help the customers that are, you know, advance and reach their goals. So in a way, it was easy for me if my horse was one that was going to be sold to a customer, you know, that was my goal. It was pretty easy to keep that horse like in that training path, because then what happened was the customer saw them. I was essentially training. So that desire to help the customer, I could apply to my own horse because I knew my intended goal was to sell that horse to one of my customers. So you see and how I did that little twist on my mind there to help myself stay motivated. And I’m telling you, those were some of the most consistently ridden horses that I’ve had.

[00:11:44] Now, these days, when I don’t do that, I am way more inconsistent like I have. It’s a much bigger wrestling match in my head when my horses are forever horses. But we’re gonna talk about that in a minute, too, because that falls in later. So my question to you, is there a part of what you’re doing for your customers that can be carried over onto this horse? That’ll be pretty easy. If this horse has a future of being sold to to a great home, producing money for you, helping a customer, doing all that stuff. And then sometimes I’ve even motivated myself and I do this a lot more now with horses that might not be for sale, which is sometimes I’ll motivate myself simply by saying that it’s my job right now to show the world what this horse is capable of. So like, maybe that’s what I’m doing right now with a little Presto. You know, it’s like he doesn’t have the greatest backstory. He doesn’t have crazy good bloodlines. He doesn’t have like all these things. He doesn’t even have teeth in some places. He’s got some things working against him at the moment. But it’s my job to show the world what he’s capable of. So that could be motivation, although maybe I should give it a better spin than the fact is that teeth problems right now. But anyway, so you can see, though, what I’m going for here is that you can find something that you already are latching on to in your customers horses. If you can apply that over here, that’ll help you. Now jumping to another idea. Another idea is that if your horse.

[00:13:22] So for Diesel, if you have similar goals with him as the horses, your training, then this would be. I’ll give you this advice. So, for example, I jump back to past me and a lot of the horses. We had a barn where we did general training and I did a lot of 30, 60, 90 day horses. And in my opinion, in the first 30, 60, 90 days or horses that come in for a tune up, it doesn’t really matter what you want them for. Like it doesn’t matter to me if you want them to be a Western pleasure horse or a reining horse or a trail horse in that time period. I’m just working on really solid foundational stuff. So I did about now let’s say that 50 percent were horses like that and 50 percent were more like specific reining horses. So the majority of our show horses, when we got more established anyway, were reining horses. If you have goals with Diesel that are similar to a lot of your other horse goals with your customers. So if one of the horses I was training had the goal of becoming a trainer, then it was much easier for me to put that horse right straight into the string. So it was like I was going to ride. If I was going to ride eight horses that day, then it was going to when one of them was gonna be mine, then he just kind of was like, right. Part of that schedule and even back when I used to ride a mix of reining horses and the 30, 60, 90 day the short term horses, I would stack those.

[00:14:50] And what that means is that I would ride like all of my reining horses in the morning and all of my non reiing horses in the afternoon or flip it around. But they were kind of grouped in those similar groups because it’s way easier. On your muscle memory, if you can kind of stack them like that. And so in that case, I would stick Diesel right onto the training schedule. We had a dry erase board that was very satisfying for me. Apparently, I’m very much a checklist kind of person. So I had a dry erase board and you could check off and you could make little notes. And that was incredibly motivating. And so I just put my horses right on the list just like that. And then I sandwiched them wherever they belonged, but not and never at the end because you are dead, right? It is so easy if they’re at the end of the day to let them slip through the cracks and not do it. So don’t do that. You know, my relationship with exercise has been a lot like this. Meaning that if I put it off to the end of the day, it’s not going to happen. But, you know, if you squeeze it out of somewhere else, if whether that’s in the morning or whether that’s 15 minutes at lunchtime, it’s amazing. And as a professional trainer, you can get a lot done in a short amount of time with the horse, 15, 20, 30 minutes with a horse.

[00:16:05] And the one thing about horse training that doesn’t work like a lot of other subjects will. Is that there’s always a fitness level. And I remember trying to explain this to people, even when I had a really finished horse like Roxy and people would be like, can’t you just come and do a demo? And it was like, yeah. No, there’s a fitness level that’s needed and you have to work to a certain level for some of these goals. So again, this kind of circles back around to some of your goals and how specific they are because some of them really do require a level of fitness that is not developed in a certain amount of time. So you have to you have to fit that in. So you can’t. That’s why I’m always advising like nonprofessionals that they can’t just take the equivalent of 30 minutes a day and then sandwich it all onto the weekend because that would be like a sandwiching your workouts all onto one day and that would just cripple you. You probably already know that just saying this out loud so that I don’t, you know, don’t miss anything here for everybody who’s listening. So make sure there is a level of consistency this important. If you’ve got similar goals with Diesal sandwich him right in the middle and keep on going.

[00:17:11] And at the very end of the podcast, I’ll bring up another thing that this might bring up in you. But let’s keep moving. Popcorn, for example, is a horse that I’ve owned for 14 years and my goals with him changed. And so this is an example of a horse that I didn’t plan on selling. So if you’ve got a horse like Popcorn and I didn’t plan on selling him right off the bat, that was always the plan to keep him. When I had competitive goals, I put him on the schedule and sandwiched him just like I’m talking to. But later on, when his competitive goals in those areas were done, he kind of slipped off into this next category because the next category that I have for you to consider with Diesel, because I don’t know your exact goals would be contrast. So it’s almost the opposite of having a similar goal with Diesel as the rest of your horses you’re training. I notice when I look back, I did a lot of what I would call contrasting goals. And so a lot of times my personal horses have served as a contrast to my regular work and I’ve called them hobbies before when I was doing that. And so when I took up, I remember taking up mounted shooting. And people are like, what, you’re gonna become a mounted shooter? I’m like, yeah, it’s a hobby.

[00:18:22] And they’re like, what? You’re a professional? And like, I can be a professional on one side in the horse industry and a hobbyist in the horse industry. You know, I don’t see that as a contrast. It does take you know, you have to explain it a little bit because they’re like, are you hanging out a shingle for training DVD or what? You would you what do you do in here? I’m like, I’m just having fun. And I’ve done it quite a bit. When I look back, my mini’s that I’ve made some videos of on YouTube and obviously I talk about loving Mini’s all the time. But Minis were awesome for this because I’m not suggesting that you have to try to shrink Diesel. But what I’m what I’m illustrating is that minis were perfect for me because there was like zero chance that anybody could be like. And when will this one be winning the freestyle reining at the Congress? So it took that pressure off and the minis turned into a contrast of what I was doing. And so that was oddly motivating because what it did when I’m doing a lot of the contrast stuff, I notice that that is really important for me when I feel like I’m losing the magic of the of the horses.

[00:19:26] And I was just talking to someone the other day who I remember early on in some of these podcasts very early on, I think I talked about like the Disney stage and then getting hurt and then like learning more of the nuts and bolts and that kind of stuff. Well, I was just talking to somebody who was like, but are you sure?

[00:19:42] Do you really still like horses as much now that you know all this stuff or. And what I can hear in that question is the fear of losing the magic. And I’m here to tell you, I have found both. I totally believe it’s possible to have both. So for professionals, you’ve already found a lot of ‘Nuts and bolts’ like your job is to be a mechanic and deal with the nuts and bolts. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission, or at least I have in the past, I’ve needed to give myself permission to remember the magic. And that’s why those little minis were so good. But I did it with Popcorn. I did it with trick training. I did it with mounted shooting. I did it with carriage driving. And I will continue to do it. I mean, that’s just part of what keeps me happy and alive. And I’m not giving up the Disney stage. I’m not giving up the dream of what is possible with horses, even though I’m also going to do a lot of the regular work. So the lot of that depends on your long term goals with him. But what is really interesting to me in this. And they think this might be why? Because I’m really in love with this contrast one. By the way, what I think I was going for when I when the when the quote popped up in my mind, the devil is in the details. I notice that I’m way more okay with going really deep into detail when I’m in this particular stage.

[00:21:14] And so let me give you an example. So last year, I very publicly set a lot of show goals. So I did the whole trail to the world’s show video series on YouTube. And I said right out of the gate, I’m going to show a lot and I’m gonna go to shows. Now, it’s kind of interesting because this is it’s to. This is gonna sound backward to probably what the first impression would be. But when I go and do show stuff, there is a level of detail there. But to me, it’s not nearly as detailed as what I’m talking about when I kind of pull away and let this be more of… A playtime type thing. Let’s just use let’s use the minis, for example, because that really puts it out there. But it really was there with the mounted shooting and everything else. So when I’ve got to show pressure of going and showing the horses, there’s a level of detail there. But it’s dictated by the class or the show or what they’re doing. When I’m talking about this other kind of detail, when I turn the horses into like this fun thing, the level of detail changes to really weird things. What I mean by that is like like I’ll pay attention to like where they place their hoof on the ground after I clean it out.

[00:22:33] Like I pay attention to the strangest little, little tiny things that you could notice. And I allow myself to kind of like run down these rabbit trails with my mind. And this worked really well with the minis because again, there was like no chance they were going to be going and doing anything. But I can even feel how I shifted once I got through the World Show last year at the Western Dressage Roadshow. I felt the shift when I picked up riding again. And I’ve even considered taking shows completely off the table for this year. And at the moment I have got them like their way on the back burner for this year. Maybe I’ll show, maybe I won’t. I kind of think I will a little, but I know for sure it won’t be at the level of intensity that it did last year because I want to give myself the freedom to play around with them. And sometimes that looks like trick training, like actual trick training. But that can just be like going into super detail about let’s make it something that you might see in a show horse. It might be like, I’m going to overthink how horses mechanically spin and I’m gonna explore it from on the ground and on their back and slow and medium and fast. And I’m going to explore. So it gives me this permission to go like crazy in detail in something that isn’t so possible if I’ve actually got a show to go to because when I’m doing the show, I have to keep things more balanced.

[00:24:00] So I notice what I really like about this phase when I do it is that it really turns up my curiosity a lot. And my power of observation and my willingness to experiment all go up. And those can all be really fun things. And then actually one of the reasons I gave myself the assignment of showing so much last year was because everything that whole teeter-totter idea like you can you can teeter-totter to either extreme. And so I rocked myself to the show extreme last year. And I might give myself permission to go like full blown curiosity and experimentation this year with no showing or maybe all rock back and forth a little bit. But these are some ideas. So it depends a lot on what your goals with Diesel are. So this experimenting one is is a different way to observe the horses. And I don’t know, it really works for my mind. Those kind of were the three that I outlined. But the more I talked and wrote and things, I want to throw a few more at you. So there might be some hidden reasons that you’re not. Suspicious of so I suspect you might be able to tease some other things out of this feeling tired and putting your horse, you know, on the backburner now again. Obviously, there’s like the whole saying ‘cobbler’s kids go barefoot’.

[00:25:29] It’s because it’s a big thing. It happens in the world. But, for example, some of the questions you could ask yourself that I can remember having experienced when I was in that situation would be. “Do you feel guilty putting your horse before a customers?” Like if you physically rode your horse first in the morning, would you have a reaction to that? Would you feel guilty? Would you feel like you had to, like, sneak out there and ride before the customers caught you? Because somebody would judge you for riding your own horse first. And then a cousin to that would be like if you went and showed your horse and you won with your horse. Would that set up some weird dynamic? And these are things that if you don’t pull it out and think about it, you can accidentally be like shooting yourself in the foot. There’s an expression to consider. You could actually be causing some of this because of an unexplored thought that your customers might judge you, you might judge yourself or people that you don’t even know, like your customers might be super excited for you, but you’re afraid that, you know, other people at the show would be judging you because you know, they could say you should’ve been riding your customers horse more or whatever. So consider some of those things because they can. Those things can sneak into your mind and undetected. You’ll be like, oh, my gosh, I feel like I’m trying to roll a boulder up a hill.

[00:26:57] And you are because you’re not actually admitting what’s going on in your own mind. I’m really trying to wrap up, but basically when I look at it again, there’s this idea of mental limits, which is what I’m talking about. There’s some mental things you can look at and then there’s physical limits. And I know that when I look back, I’ve done both. And I also recognize that I have more often set myself up to hit physical limits of exhaustion. Which is actually really interesting, if I look back over a 20 year career and I can be like, wow, I am apparently not afraid to run myself into the ground physically. But I also have learned this. I have learned that a lot of times when I’m willing to run myself into the ground, physically exhausting myself like legitimate tiredness. I can look back and a lot of times I actually can recognize that I was avoiding mental work. And there’s so many directions this can go. But I’m gonna give you one illustration. I’m going to try to stick to one. But one illustration of this would be I specifically remember in 2004 attending three lectures over three days and it was about equine business taught by a professor at a college. And I took tons of notes because I was early enough in my career and things were really starting to take off the year before I’d done the first brought ride on Can-Can Lena taking tons of notes and he kept saying over and over again, horse people spent too much time in their business instead of on their business.

[00:28:36] It took me, I think the first two lectures to even figure out what he was talking about. And then I think after I finally heard him, it took me about another six years to understand what he actually meant. Not a joke seriously. So I know now and I look back for sure I can see it. There were a lot of days when I would rather run out to the barn and get physically exhausted than make business decisions. And I would actually have at a lady that did books for me and I and we would do some trading where I would ride with Jesse and I would ride horses for her and she’d take lessons and stuff. And I would be in the office in our house with her and I would actually feel something close to the beginning of a panic attack. And I would literally run out of the house and go ride a horse and then come back in. It was like it was like an allergic reaction to the office work. And I know that there have been so many years in my life when if I had a choice choose between a 14 or 16 hour day in the barn or writing a business plan for the next two years with an outlook of like five years from now, I would be like, pass me the shovel, get me the heck out the door.

[00:29:49] I am running away from this mental work. But you know, what’s interesting is you can’t quite drop it. Those are the things that keep you up at night because you can run yourself physically into the ground. And then you go to bed and your brain is like, I’m still with you. And I guess what I’m saying is it is worth taking a peek at the other thoughts that might be going on in the picture, because you know, that really tired feeling it can come from physical stuff. I mean, I’m really good at running myself into the ground. I have to say, I’m way nicer to my horses. I’m way more aware of like staggering their risks. Did I tell you this already on the podcast? This is kind of funny. When I went to the Western Dressage World Show, this is how my mind when I went, oh, if I show Gabby in these two levels and Willow and these two levels, it will stack out that I’ll ride Willow twice the first day and Gabby once, and then Gabby twice the second day and Willow once. And I’ll do this for all four days. This is really good for my horses. No joke. It wasn’t until the end of day one that I went. Maybe issues considered my energy level a little bit. So I am to this day still really good at like totally overlooking the actual fact that I have some physical limits.

[00:31:15] So I’m not saying that you can’t be physically tired, but take a look at the mental tired because what’s interesting you can solve for both of these. You can solve for what you might be doing physically. And some of those ideas that I gave you with putting your horse into the middle and teasing out the ideas of why or using your horse as that contrast. Time is there. But a lot of times when you stop and really look at what’s going on with time, you can get surprisingly creative with time. When you figure out why you might be going down some of these past, because the other thing I have to mention is that when I’m saying that there were times that my horses have been hobby’s for me when I said it was a hobby with Popcorn to go do mounted shooting. The great thing about having a horse of your own if you plan on owning that horse forever, like I do with Popcorn. There are times when I put him on the list and I really worked with him. And there were other times that I’m like, you know, I own him as a hobby. And I tell people all day long. There are seasons of life. And in some seasons, sometimes the best thing you can do is pet them and feed them and love them and walk away because there’s a lot of other stuff.

[00:32:31] And maybe we do have physical or mental limits we have to consider. I’ll consider that this year.

[00:32:36] But the other side of the quote, “the devil is in the details” ends with, “but so is salvation.” I like it. So thanks for listening. I hope this helps. And I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.


Links mentioned in podcast:


  1. Sindy on March 14, 2020 at 4:44 am

    Hi Stacy, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your podcasts. It’s always food for thought and I keep thinking about things you said days and weeks after hearing the podcast. Totally love it.

Leave a Comment

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest content and updates by email.