Stacy Westfall, a horse trainer, shares her thoughts on the relationship between faith and horse training in a recent podcast episode. The episode was triggered by a listener’s question about why well-trained horses sometimes exhibit aggressive behavior towards their handlers.
Stacy reflects on her journey as a horse trainer and the importance of balancing faith and training when working with horses. She draws parallels between faith in a horse’s nature and faith in other drivers when on the road. Just as people learn to drive with caution and defensive skills, horse training requires a structured approach to ensure safety.
She emphasizes that good-natured horses can still pose risks if they lack proper training. Horses, like people, may become irritated or frustrated, but their communication is often non-verbal. Stacy encourages listeners to observe the body language of both horses and people to gauge their mood.
Throughout her travels and interactions with strangers, Stacy has found that most people are inherently kind, just as she believes most horses are good-natured. She challenges her audience to recognize the many aspects of life in which faith plays a role, from mundane daily activities to more profound beliefs.
Stacy expresses gratitude to the listener who prompted this exploration of faith and horse training, emphasizing the importance of asking questions and seeking deeper understanding. She concludes by thanking her audience and announces the next episode, scheduled for Christmas Day.
Click Here For The Full Show Notes
[00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.
[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.
[00:00:31] Do you ever have an idea that just grabbed hold of you and won’t let go? Okay. That’s what happened to me with last week’s podcast episode. I recorded it and I told you that I was getting ready to go on a trip. And what happened to me was that although I conveyed my thoughts as clearly as I could at the time, my mind would not let go of one particular question. In case you haven’t heard last week’s episode, it was a Q and A, and one of the questions basically boiled down to I’m going to read a section of it. “My question for you is what prevents a well-trained horse from kicking out or striking at its handler?” And while I answered the question one way last week, I want to add to that this week. I mentioned last week that my husband and I were going to be driving down to the USDF dressage awards ceremony. And that turned out to be a 12 hour drive each way. Yeah, that was my idea. Not quite sure I would choose that again, but I’m always a toss up between, driving or flying. I’m not really a fan of either one. I think personally, I was created to move at the pace of a horse and not anymore. But anyway, maybe all that time in the car played into my mind chewing on this, but I just couldn’t put it down.
[00:02:01] And I think it’s because basically what it boils down to is this play between faith and training. And especially for me, the thought between faith and horse training is something that I think about a lot. If you guys have ever got an email from me, you’ll notice that I sign them “Ride with Faith” because faith on all levels is a big part of my life. And many of you may have seen my bridle this ride on Roxy. And just in case you haven’t, I’ll put a link to it in the show notes. But that ride where I was bareback and riderless doing freestyle training moves in front of thousands of people not too long after my father had passed away. It took faith on all kinds of different levels. And so I think the question that was asked anonymously, which was very genuine and very valid, triggered me to look around the world for an even better way to answer it. And that very long, very long car drive proved a lot of evidence, because when we get into a car a lot of times and in this case for the majority of it, my husband was driving. So basically, I have to have faith in his ability to drive. And then we drive down the road with other drivers, which also takes a lot of faith. But it’s interesting because this kind of faith also involves training.
[00:03:35] So most of the time when people are learning to drive a car, they don’t do it on a winding road, right beside the Grand Canyon, they go into a big flat parking lot, preferably an empty one, and they get some slow basic training. And then that training leads to more experience and then it leads to a driver that we have more faith in. And I had the pleasure of helping to teach my three sons how to drive. And I can tell you that at the very beginning of that, there is not a lot of faith. There is a lot of that’s why they have those brakes before the official driver’s ed teacher so that they can stop the car because they’re like not willing to go on faith alone. They’re gonna reach in and they’re going to change something. And I think that this is where the idea of faith in something big like God is kind of different than faith and the other driver going down the road. But I’ll love to hear your feedback on it. But when we look at the instructor and the student in that driving car, you know, it’s like you can have faith that the student has a good heart and that they’re coming from a good place. But you also can recognize that their lack of experience operating this could also lead to something disastrous.
[00:05:04] And so I think that sometimes when I use the word faith around the horses and the horse industry, a lot of times when I’m signing the covers of the DVD. I’ll write, “Ride with Faith!” and I realize sometimes that that can be taken to an extreme, which I also realize the idea that it is an extreme is also my opinion. But when I think about it, my the extreme, in my opinion, would be that people might just put their faith and I’m doing little air quotes here in their horse and go bridle is on faith alone. And I personally know this kind of faith because I gave it a try as a teenager and it resulted in me riding my mare with a halter and basically getting run away with for a very long stretch of a dirt road while riding bareback. And keep in mind that this was a horse that I had a great type of a relationship with. She was a good natured type of a horse. And now, looking back, I would have been more accurate to say that I had faith in her being good natured or faith in that that she didn’t intend to do me harm. But the problem is, her view of what I could ride and handle was not the same as my reality. And she in reality needed a lot more training to be ridden in a halter, and she hadn’t received that training.
[00:06:39] So through no fault of her own, she greatly endangered the both of us because, go figure, horses are not actually really good at making great decisions around roads or cars or different things because they don’t understand it, which kind of brings up a really good point, which is that a lot of people are injured on good natured horses. And when I look at it, sometimes I think there’s a piece and I remember having this piece of me be very prominent. I think that sometimes we want to believe that only like a mean, evil, bad horse would hurt people. So, you know, you picture something really aggressive or in pain or whatever. But what I see a lot more often is good natured horses who don’t have the training that they need to know how to interact. And simply treating a human like another horse can lead to broken bones and hospitalization, because without knowing it, the horses don’t understand that they’re big and we are squishy. And so compared to their horsey friends, when they treat us in a way that they perceive as completely fine, it can literally hospitalize people. And that’s a problem. But it’s not a good natured problem. It’s it’s not because they were mean. It was just because they lack the training. So I think it’s kind of interesting to play around with the idea of the good natured.
[00:08:13] You can have kind of a faith, this kind of judging something different than the training level, which is interesting because I think that’s where it’s a little bit more like the drivers on the road like you want to have. Faith in the drivers on the other side of the road when you’re driving. But I also suggest that you have like a highly developed set of defensive driving skills too, especially nowadays as you’re driving and you see lots of other people swerving and texting. I don’t know about you, but I’m a hawk eyes looking for these erratic movements in these other vehicles so that I can turn up my defensive driving skills. And, you know, that’s just a fact of what’s going on right now. And I still have enough faith to get in a car and spend 24 hours driving. And I think the good news about horses is that they are generally good natured, which is also something that I thought about a lot as we traveled all of those miles. Because when you travel that much, you get to look at a lot of different people that you interact with. And I think when we’re in our own routine, daily, weekly, monthly, maybe there’s not as high of an awareness of the people that you interact with. And maybe that just depends on your lifestyle and your job. But. For me, I know that I interact with a lot more when I’m traveling, and I’d be willing to bet that a lot of them are irritated.
[00:09:48] And one of the questions from last week was, “Why don’t horses strike out of there if they’re irritated?” And what’s interesting is, you know, you can kind of ask the same question of people, because there’s a lot of irritated people, but it doesn’t come down overall as physical as as well as what you could fear. You know, because most of the time it’s funny when I travel. I don’t know if you do this, but definitely after being around horses for this many years. When I see somebody that’s in a really bad mood or I’ll even joke about it myself when I’m in a bad mood, and I’ll say to my husband, can’t you see my ears are pinned because, you know, people will speak sharply or they’ll give off a lot of body language that makes it clear that they’re in a bad mood, which is so much like our horses. And for the most part and I’m talking about perfect strangers for the most part, the majority of people that you interact with are nice. And I’ll tell you a little secret, I’m not actually super fond of traveling. Just kind of funny when you look at how much traveling I do in a year, but I’m not really fond of it.
[00:11:04] And the one thing I do know for sure that I have learned from traveling as much as I do is that from coast to coast, we’ve traveled to Canada, Australia, Germany. Traveling really highlights how many nice people there are out there because you’re out of your comfort zone, you’re out of your regular people that you know, and you’re just out there. And for a huge portion of it, when you do that much traveling, you’re relying on perfect strangers to get you around. And it makes you feel vulnerable. But it also makes you really aware of how many nice people are out there. So I have a challenge for you as you go about this next week. I would like you to look at all the different things you have faith in. And I’m talking the little things like the floor that you stand on without questioning it. Or the food that someone serves you at one of those Christmas parties. Or the fact that you’re going to take another breath right after this one. Because faith is a really interesting thing to think about on all levels. And it’s actually amazing how much faith we exhibit on a daily basis. Thanks again to the anonymous person who left last week’s voicemail is my guest that most people would easily have talked themselves out of asking something that others could perceive as a simple question.
[00:12:36] But personally, I’ve gotten a ton of enjoyment out of pondering it. And I really, truly want to thank you for daring to ask.
[00:12:45] And I want to thank all of you for listening. I’ll talk to you again in the next episode, which happens to be on Christmas Day.
[00:12:58] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit StacyWestfall,com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Bareback and Bridleless Freestyle ride on Roxy