In response to ‘The first horse I refused to train.’ by Stacy Westfall

As I am writing this over 173,000 people have read, and commented on my blog titled: ‘The first horse I refused to train.’

Stacy's boys at the time

Stacy’s oldest boys at the time

Remember that this was very early on, over a decade ago,….I wasn’t famous…and I DID need the money. That is what made the decision so hard. As well as so memorable.

This was also right around the time that it was dawning on me that training horses without training the owners was….pointless. Again, remember this was years ago. I do think there is a point in hiring a trainer. But that is another blog.

This was also the time period where I started figuring out all people weren’t telling me the whole truth. I stopped accepting horses that were dropped off by friends, etc. The owner had to demonstrate what could be done with the horse.

2013 Basket ball Hall of Fame

Stacy’s boys now with Nene and Aunt

For example; One person just wanted 30 days of training to teach the horse to spin. They told me the horse was already broke to ride and had a solid foundation. I like to teach the spin and I can have a pretty cute spin in 30 days. I accepted the horse.

When they arrived I reminded them they needed to ride the horse for me, as they said it was already broke. They said they didn’t have time…

………I said I would start from the beginning then. Or they could show me.

Then they ‘fessed-up’ that he sometimes rears….I’m not making this up.

*    *    *

In later years, when I could afford to, there were actually problem horses that I bought, purchased myself, to help out an owner who didn’t know how to get out and had a horse that they couldn’t afford to train. Back then I was too broke. Which is also why I didn’t own Roxy… but again, that is another blog.

I would have worked with the horse if the owner and I could have agreed…but we couldn’t get past that first step.

Stacy's youngest at the time.

Stacy’s youngest at the time.

I did feel bad for the horse. I do feel bad for the horse. I believe in educating horses to give them a future. I also felt for the son. I had three small children at the time…so the risk he was taking with his child was especially painful.

I was at a horse show during a fair where someone said, “Yeah, it’s been a good year. We haven’t even had the ambulance here once all week.” They were serious…

*     *     *

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ~ Confucius



  1. mtkestrel on December 8, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    I can train a horse to be bomb proof…but be danged if I can make one fool proof! I decided a long time ago to only take in a horse for training if it came with a trainable human. I learned that the hard way, retrained an outlaw and then sent him back to the same situation that created the outlaw in the first place. If i had left the situation the way it was, the horse just wouldn’t have known about a better way of life. The horse learned to be a good horse, and was smart enough to resent unfairness, and really really resented the owner…

    • Gena on February 14, 2018 at 10:16 pm

      Yep, makes me feel like I have lied to the horse by teaching him to listen to his human… and then his human lets him down. Instead ofnbeing a band-aid to the wound, some folks need to feel the struggle i they arent willing to listen. Im not willing to be the bandaid ot their crash test dummy.

  2. nina on December 7, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    I just dont get it. Not only are you putting another person’s life in jeopardy, but your horse’s as well by lying.
    I’m overly honest when it comes to my boys. I’m hiring someone to help me as well, so everything needs to be brought up.

  3. Sharon Hill on December 7, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Advice is a very dangerous thing to give. Because so many only act on bits of it and then say, ‘she told me to do that.’ Stacy, if you were taking a horse to a trainer, What would you ask the trainer as to determine if they were right for your horse and you?

  4. Kristina on December 7, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Stacy you are a wonderful person and trainer. I have loved horses since I was born. When I was three I got my cowboy hat, six shooters and a black and white paint jumping horse, I rode that horse all day and most of the night, I could not walk or sit down the next day I was so sore. I have had real life horses since I was seven and let me tell you some of them were almost dangerous but I did learn a lot at from them. I lived on a large dairy farm, there was no use for horses and quite honestly I didn’t even know “trainers” existed. This will date me to be sure! I am not a trainer, don’t pretend to be and don’t play one on TV but ever since I found out trainers existed I have sent my horses to them. Sometimes to break them out, or just to tune them up. I ride because I love to ride, I don’t pretend to know things I don’t. I do know if you find a great trainer like you it makes someone like me get to appreciate and enjoy my horse. There are many of us out there. We just want someone like you to be there to do what we can’t and do not have any desire to do. Keep doing what you do, you have a ton of supporters out there!

  5. Carroll on December 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    As an older rider it has taken me decades to figure out that when a problem occurs I have to look to the rider first. What am I doing to create this? The ability to analyze a situation makes a huge difference. A trainer cannot change the rider unless he/she is right there in the arena. Love your blog.

  6. Terrie Heid-Brazier on December 7, 2014 at 11:51 am

    When I was training in Italy many years ago, I too needed the money and would take any horse offered to me in training, and I managed to do a good job with anything and everything: Thoroughbreds, half-breeds, Arabs, Trotters, Warmbloods, Eastern European everything, stallions, hysterical horses, rearers, buckers, whatever. It took a very hard lesson for me to decide to draw the line at a certain point: I took on a half-breed, big horse with a huge head, and this thing was supposed to have been gelded before it came to me–which didn’t happen. I saw him dragging around the man who owned him when he arrived, so the next day I took him in the round pen to teach him some ground manners, the first being to back up and respect a human’s space without walking over them. I was standing to the side of him, asked him to back with the lead, got no response, tapped him firmly but not that hard with a crop on the chest to encourage him to back off, at which point he got ANGRY and came after me, half rearing and flailing at me with both front feet. A hoof passed half an inch from my head on both sides before he came over the top of me, knocked me down, twisting my knee and tearing my MCL in the process, then he proceeded to try to trample on me before I managed to roll out of the round pen. Had my leg in a cast from hip to ankle for 6 weeks, then lots of rehab (kept working with horses the whole time of course!) End result: the next time I was offered a horse that appeared as if he wouldn’t back off or respond even if you hit him between the eyes with a baseball hit, because of the owner having taught the horse no manners and no discipline, I declined. If we horse trainers get seriously hurt, we can’t make a living, and our lives and health are worth a lot more than what we get paid for training someone’s unruly horse, who will only revert back to form with his owner once he goes home.

  7. MarkJernigan on December 7, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Wow did I learn this the hard way. I took on a horse that the owner had just purchased when she was 8 months pregnant. (The rider, not the horse. ) The horse needed to be kept “fresh” for the barrels. She was absolutely wonderful in her ground handling. And riding was nice too, except for the occasional, “I’m tired or bored and want to do something else” crow hop. (Subject for another day is when a horse acts up like this, it is usually physical, in my experience…) Discovered a bit later was how she dealt with not wanting someone on her back at all. I mounted up one day all nice, quiet and confident. Reached down to pick up the reins and boom… backflip in place! I do think the saddle saved my life, or at least paralysis, as I rotated sideways just in time for the mare to roll over me at a 90 degree angle. And crazy me… I got up with two fractured vertebrae and a fractured hip, and got right back on her. Of course gently and quietly. The moral is when taking a horse to train, dig until you get all your questions answered. Look at the horse for a long time. Then listen to that little voice in the back of your mind! And then if you do take the horse, start where you think it needs to be started. Not where the owner says to start it. If they are one and the same place, you have a great owner!

  8. marilynkrzus on April 8, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I agree with all your fans. People that don’t want to know the truth shouldn’t be going to someone who speaks it. I’m nearly 63 and need to ride my daughter’s horse while she is in college, so I’m taking lessons to keep him physically active. My instructor is cool, calm & collected, while I am not. She is constantly trying to help ME, which is probably a bigger horse training job than training a horse! I started off quite frightened of these humongous creatures. Now I give my daughter’s horse kisses any time he lowers his head. My instructor is very positive, but it’s her honesty that is most important to REALLY learn. You have to hear the facts, no matter what. On the side, I watch your videos with Jac. I can’t afford to travel to a clinic, but I look forward to every one of your “lessons.” People who want to learn will accept cold, hard facts; people who have no intention of learning will not. If there are imperfect moments with Jac, most people understand that it’s because they are still, basically, wild animals. You cannot always know what they will do in a situation. So (Jac’s) flaws and all, we love what you do, Stacy. In fact, in showing flaws, it only makes most of us even more eager to learn from you; it’s how you handle the horse’s fears that can educate us. Years ago (we’ve had our horse for over 9 years), my daughter was starting to fear riding her horse, who was then about 3 years old. He would do mini pop ups off his front feet. We newbies decided we would simply get him retrained. The owner of our barn would re-train him. One day we came to watch, and what we saw horrified us! She had just ridden one horse, and both of them ended up on the ground! Then she got on our horse to show some spectators a “bad” horse. He started walking nearly sideways, and she screamed that he was trying to kill her!! Even as newbies we could see that was not what he was doing. But something was wrong. We took him out of that barn and set him up with another trainer. The very first lesson, she told us that he seemed sick, and she called in the vet. Sure enough! He had EPM! Apparently, the first trainer had no idea of the difference between an “evil” horse and a sick one! Thankfully, he is fine now, and I think most intelligent people CAN tell the difference between someone who really doesn’t understand horses and those trainers who not only understand horses, but understand people as well. Please keep posting! I cannot tell you how much I learn from your very open and honest teaching methods! (Maybe some day you could start posts on how you train riders!) Thank you, Stacy.

  9. Janie Elson on December 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Your honesty is just one of your traits I admire. Never feel you have to explain your actions because we are not your final judge. Your horse training abilities are reflected in your finished products!! Which is why I wish I could get my mare in your barn for finishing!! Stay strong!!

  10. Bridget Goldsmith on December 18, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Stacey, bless you for your integrity. We need more people in the world like you. You did the right thing. Never give up your principles.

  11. Rhonda Stock on December 18, 2013 at 12:15 am

    It’s a really hard lesson to learn when you discover that people aren’t inherently honest and truthful with you. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so this story really resonates with me. Thank you for openly sharing things like this! It really helps people like me who are learning to train their own horses and struggling to find a place in the horse world.

    P.S. I have learned a ton from your Jac videos! Thanks for sharing those with us.

  12. Darlene on December 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Stacy, I think you did the right thing. It is sad the man was so ignorant of horses, but
    my thought is there is a lot of wanna-be cowboys/horse riders out there that have no
    clue as to proper training and how much better it is for both them and the horse.
    My daughter trained for awhile, then she changed jobs and had to give it up, but she
    still has some of the best behaved horses anywhere, and the happiest horses anywhere.
    Fact is, year before last, we lost our 25 year old Arabian and a roping quarter that was

  13. Terri Anderson on December 17, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Stacy this brings to mind the rescue horse you had in the round pen at your Colorado clinic I attended….That horse seemed not a very good match for that 10 yr old girl, and even seemed a bit dangerous….but she did make amazing progress by the end of the clinic…..but I wondered several times how that ended up long term. You made your point, but were extremely tactful…well done! BTW that clinic was a monumental turning point for my relationship with my mare….I love reading your blogs and all the comments….everyday is a learning experience!

  14. Vickey Blaisdell on December 17, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    The world is a critic. I love how you teach a horse and I also love to watch the horse “thinking”. Wish I had access to you 24/7..or atleast access to your wisdom. I believe you are making better horses and better horse owners…I know I will be from now on learning from you 🙂

  15. Suzi Sturgell on December 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Stacy, Thank you again. aI train horses because it is something I do well, and CAN still do (I’m 52). I train because I need the money, and I use that said money to keep my OWN horses without being a burden on my family. I don’t show (too expensive from every aspect and often political), plus because I take money to train horses it would put me in a category I am in no way ready to compete in. So, I too, take in way too many of my share of “bad” horses and “bad” horse owners. Its frustrating to find out that many people are only coming to me because I don’t charge near as much as “professional” Joe Trainer in the next county does, and they also figure since I’m a woman, they can swindle me easier– and they have. Live and learn. I have great clients also who are ready to stand by me and my principals and be my references when asked. These are the ones who wanted to know What I was doing with their horses, then learn HOW to keep it up after Im finished with them! I commented on your first blog about (you) being a “pro,” trainer, not meaning you were born with the knowledge, but because as ALL trainers do, Ive come up against walls I hadn’t ready answers to and would write to one of my ‘fav’ trainers only to have them blow me off, or tell me I was the problem to the world of training– like they never worked through problems before? Rarely do I get something back that says, “hey Sue, try this! Good luck!’ No, you get the ego and the pompous remarks from showmen and women telling the ones like me who never made it to the reining classics or have a recognizable name to “bug off.” One particular trainer I subscribe to is daily “downing” back yard trainers as myself. Yes, I’m in that category, I don’t show, but I DO have many credentials and expertise to offer the person who needs a good trainer but can’t send their horses to the reining/show trainer. Not everyone wants a show horse!! I’m ok with that. Its what I do. I was very glad to hear you say you refuse a horse now and then, whether you still do or not– the lie is that you all perform magic and can perform miracles on any horse tossed your way. I am very proud that I have successfully “fixed” many a terrible horse, but it is not what I enjoy doing (I love starting 2 yr olds right), mainly because I know they are only going back to their same situation and when they resume being terrible again, guess who gets the blame as a “bad trainer?” yep, me. Thank you for being so open and frank with your blogs. It is truly appreciated by those who are willing to read and listen and learn. I am always willing to listen if I feel it is going to further my abilities and goals– thank you for the follow up!

    • Stacy on December 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      Suzi- you are welcome. It is hard at times sticking my neck out there and showing video or writing blogs because nothing is ever perfect. And like my husband asked the other day, “How’s it feel to have 95,000 critics?” Lol. But knowing that there are people out there who are benefiting from the blogs or the videos like the Jac series, makes it worth it. I remember the problems I had with my horses when I was a teen and (pre-internet) I had no idea where to look for advice. If I help anyone then I guess I need to learn to look past the critics….right?

      • Jackie on December 17, 2013 at 7:07 pm

        Stacy and Suzi … If you have 95,000 critics then you have 195,000 supporters and we all say thank you.

        • Stacy on December 18, 2013 at 9:05 am

          LOL! 🙂

  16. Janette on December 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Dear Stracy, this follow up is greatly appreciated, just like the first. Although, I get a sense of a need to justify your actions. You don’t need to justify anything (rich or pore). It bothers me to think you feel a need to justify your actions. You continually prove your heart is in the right place, by your actions ( giving and caring). If people can’t see that, they are not going to hear you correctly either.

  17. Alexander Vickers on December 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Interesting that Clinton Anderson did a horse training show with a lady that was trying to train a horse in roundpenning and it was attacking her and chasing her from the roundpen. While they were able to get that horse working in the pen when Clinton was there for the TV program, afterwards that lady came to the same decision as you Stacy and sent the horse away. Perhaps if that horse had gone with Clinton to be trained it may have been a success but then if it had that learned behaviour still hidden away in his mind it would only take the right circumstance and a less capable owner for that behaviour to resurface and the horse to potentially seriously injure or kill someone and no horse, in my opinion, is worth that. Having seen you and your beautifil family down here in Australia. I consider you made a wise decision and the only sensible decision. I do not consider what the owner of that horse has done to be in anyway justifiable or smart thinking but foolish and dangerous to the child who had to ride it. Why risk the life of a child to try and prove a point and to save money. Money won’t buy the child back or Stacy back if the horse were to kill you but God knows our heart and he gives us his spirit to guide us and make wise choices thankfully!

  18. Erin on December 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    I tried to comment yesterday, but my computer ate it… I once refused to sell a problem gelding I owned to a lady who I knew did not have the skills or experience to handle him. She showed up to ride him in shorts and sneakers, and though I reluctantly let her get on after I’d ridden him, it became clear that they were not what each other needed. She called me two days later with an offer to buy him, and when I told her, kindly but honestly, that I didn’t think she could handle him and that I would worry she would get hurt with him, she turned on me and told me I had no idea what her abilities were and that I had done a terrible job of starting him and that I couldn’t ride worth a damn. I had the skill and ability to train him, but not the time, and I knew it, which was why I was offering him for sale. But only to somebody who could offer him more than I could. My family thought I was crazy for not selling him to her because everyone wanted him “gone”, but I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I’d done that, for his sake and for her’s.

  19. johanna on December 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    that situation really sucks. owners like that are the saddest and most disgraceful part of the human race. you made the best choice with that owner.
    i think the biggest heartbreak is that the horse was the loser in all of this. what a great life he could have had and have given to anyone who rode him, had he been allowed to work with you under the right terms.
    i see this so often in the dog world as well–where the dogs (often challenging and brilliant under that bad behavior) just end up in shelters and euthanized.

  20. lavenderlady1957 on December 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Tried to leave a comment a moment ago but it didn’t show up; my apologies if this shows up twice. Stacy, thanks for both the original post and now this follow-up. Your perspectives, insight, and kind but honest no-nonsense posts are terrific.

  21. Gretchen Ruffin on December 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Bottom line….it’s your ass so it has to be your decision. If the owner isn’t interested in doing what’s best for their horse, they should get a motorcycle instead.

  22. lavenderlady1957 on December 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for the original post, first, and now for the follow-up! Your kind but honest, no-nonsense, perspectives are much appreciated!

  23. Lisa Cook on December 17, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Stacy… I respect you for deciding to NOT train this horse. Obviously, the horse needed a new owner. I don’t blame the horse for its behavior… it somehow decided that was the most effective way to “communicate” based upon poor communication it received from it’s owner(s). I feel sad for the horse… it can’t choose it’s owner… but the unfortunate reality is that we can’t always save every creature when it crosses our path. More owners should take their responsibility of caring for God’s creatures given to us more seriously. I love how practical you are when approaching a “problem” and your love and ability shine through your work/relationships. Blessings ~

  24. Debra Spannuth-Gouker on December 17, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    It’s amazing how people hold back serious issues about their horses even when it comes to even boarding. That’s why I no longer board other peoples horses, not because if the horse but because of the owner

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