The Importance of an Educated Horse written by Jesse Westfall

Stacy and I have been to two events recently that I’ve been thinking about. One was a sale held weekly here in Ohio where most of the horses are sent to Canada for slaughter. The other was the Quarter Horse Congress, the biggest single breed horse show in the world.

I know some people don’t agree with training and competing on horses but Stacy and I have been training horses together now for 16 years and I don’t know of any horses that came through our program that ended up in a slaughter sale.

When I’m training a horse I feel like I’m giving it an education to take into its future so it will have a future.

——Jesse Westfall


  1. Terrie Bertrand on May 23, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    These are the very reasons my daughter is pursuing a dual-degree in Equine Management and Companion Animal Care. Her goal is to get her education, then intern with a good trainer, and then eventually take in one horse at a time to train well and give a good start in life. While we can’t afford to simply take in horses and keep them for life, at least giving them really good foundation training gives them a much higher chance.

    Stacy, because of your bringing the Nurse Mare foals’ plight to our attention, she is determined that within her lifetime she will be able to take at least one of these foals to raise and train; if she’s blessed with the facility and resources, she will undoubtedly help many more.

  2. Mary Belle Hutchison on April 2, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    I interited a “pasture pet” when my brother died. Although he was sweet and friendly, he knew nothing and was very pushy. Had I not been able to take him, he would definitely have gone to auction and slaughter as he was 15yrs old and couldn’t even be walked on a lead much less ridden. After having my front teeth knocked out and a head injury my husband wanted me to get rid of him. I would have euthanized him before letting him be slaughtered, but God sent me a young horseman who spent every morning for three months training my horse and me from the ground up. It was the greatest and most fun experience of my life and saved both of us. That horse turned out to be the bravest, most willing, and kindest little trail horse anyone could imagine. For five years I had a wonderful time going places,doing things,and meeting people I could never have imagined before him. Everywhere we went people always loved and admired him. Tragically, he died suddenly and unexpectedly last December 31st of a ruptured sleen and I am heart broken. But the point is, without training, had I not taken him, this great horse would have been killed and a giant heart wasted. I encourage everyone I know now to be sure their horse is trained so that if something happens to them, it will have a future. (I also happen to think horse owners need to have a back up plan if something happens to them.)

    Thanks for your wisdom and blog. You and your wife are very inspiring.

  3. RACHAEL.LARA@YMAIL.COM on December 30, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Both my gorgeous girls were “free” and unwanted. My mustang had been passed around to almost every person at one stable and was deemed “spooky”, I was told she did not retain training. I have found almost the exact ob-set. She is incredible smart, and learns almost on the first try. She is extremely aware of her surroundings being a mustang caught as a yearling she learned that. I ride her two miles on busy city streets almost every month for her gymkhana shows, which she is very good at. If you work with your horse they will learn and be worth something. Rieta will never be a “free” horse again.

    My registered appaloosa was also “free”….and “loaded perfectly in a trailer”. Even if the animal is free people still find reasons to lie about them. I have had Josette for five years now and would not trade her for the best trained horse out there. What we have is more special than any amount of training. She bucks(rarely now), and rears(also rare)…she is assertive about her opinion and would be considered dangerous to ride by almost any trainer. I have sometimes thought it would be fun to take her to a trainer and see how long they would last(she bucks with other people…with the exception of when I give kids rides on her). I ride her in trail classes and do halter shows with her and have recently started working her in dressage…she is also harness broke. Even with all the training I have given her…she would still have almost no sale value. She has ingrained issues likely from a combination of the stubborn attitude she was born with and the way she was saddle broke as a 5 year old. I love everything about her. No other horse that I’ve met has the kind of personality she does. How many horses would buck when you called them a “lazy piglet”…she totally knew what I said!! The relationship I have with her makes me wonder how many other “problem horses” just need someone to listen and understand them instead of labeling them.

    People need to take a closer look before giving up. A 1/4 mile ride interspersed with 17 bucks and balks is sometimes worth it.

  4. […] 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 […]

  5. Rachel Buszka on November 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Well said. And please educate the broodmares as well, so they have options after leaving breeding programs.

  6. Katie Trosclair on February 15, 2012 at 9:40 am

    So true! My current grade half Arab mare is a by product of some backyard breeding project gone wrong- or so I think. She came from an auction, and she was sold to my friend as a 6 year old green broke, trail mare. After being bucked off twice, my friend gave her to me as a last ditch effort before being cast off.

    After 3 weeks of boot camp (roundpenning, groundwork- colt starting 101), I could ride her around without a hitch. fast forward to today (6 months later), she is my personal horse. She has had almost 100 rides put on her, numerous trail miles, and she has the most pleasing attitude- we are working on our lead changes and sliding stops. I will never sell this horse- she will be passed down to my kids when i outgrow her, as she is the most laid back special horse Ive ever owned.

    However, her story might have ended much differently if no one was willing to take the time to teach her. Once worth nothing, she is now a sought after kids horse.

  7. Johanna on November 6, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    This is true for the dog world as well–much as many disagree with setting limits and training and working dogs.
    A well-trained dog is a dog who will be actively involved in someone’s life, and builds the kinds of bonds and relationships with the owner and animal that are unlikely to be broken.
    The dogs I see in shelters are all previously owned–very few, if any, are trained. There would be very few domestic animals in shelters if owners trained and developed mutual, trusting, respectful relationships with their animals.
    I personally feel, and see training and including your animal in your life, as a responsibility we humans have to the domestic animals that we have taken on.

  8. sonia cochrane on October 25, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    how true is that. i think less horses would go for slaughter if they didn’t get into the wrong hands and become dangerous.

  9. Ida Marie Carlough on October 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I don’t believe in disposable horses but unfortunately not all horse owners think like I do. Many people will spend years trail riding a horse and then get rid of it when it gets too old because they don’t want to put money into a horse they can’t ride anymore. I think responsible horse owners take care of their horses until they die or retire their horses to a place they can live until they die. The current economy has made horses even more disposable. I could never go to a sale where horses might end up in a slaughter. I am a bleeding heart and would want to buy all of them. However my husband states that we have enough horses to say grace over and don’t need anymore. We are blessed that God has provided the resources to take care of our herd of 24 horses. My husband farms hay and our neighbors give us extra fields to hay and we always have enough hay for the horses. I wonder how many people who have been blessed to own a horse thank the Creator for creating the horse. Thank you God for creating such a beautiful animal and thank you for letting us own them!

  10. Bill Blaylock on October 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I have basically rescued three horses in the last 5 years. All of them have been trained but most of all they are welcomed now and a big part of our family. They will have a home for life.

  11. sybil on October 21, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Thank you Jesse and Stacy — no horse should go to slaughter, lots do even if they are well trained, but just don’t serve the owner’s purpose anymore. About twenty percent of horses slaughtered come off the racetrack; about half are quarter horses. Hope you will let the AQHA know that you don’t support horse slaughter, and encourage more responsible breeding, training, and just plain horse ownership. I own an OTTB, wouldn’t trade him for the world.

  12. Jeanine LaSalle on October 20, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Most common sense thing I have read or heard yet on horse slaughter.
    Humans are famous for blaming our problems on someone or something else. There is a lot of horses because people breed them. There are a lot of uneducated horses because people assume 30 days = a broke horse. Those horses get sold as problem horses when it was the problem owners and “trainers” that created the situation. Horses are not trained in a round pen in 2 hours yet we constantly see books, movies, clinics and trade shows promoting this. How about a year long Trainers Challange. That makes way more sense to me. I bet the horse wouldn’t mind either. If that horse looks like it might be a good stud prospect, geld it and ride it. Chances are 1/2 the brrod mares out there would be just great riding horses. And thats ok.
    The horse world needs to take a lot more responsibility and take ownership of the problem that we have created. Canada just has a place for those horses to go. Its not good or bad, it just is, and will be until people stop breeding the horses that are selling to the meat buyers.

    But after all that said, a good, honest,broke horse will always be a good,honest,broke horse, and will die in a pasture, loved and cherished rather then at the end of a chute at the slaughter house. We get to make that choice when we get involved with horses.
    Thanks for the discussion and the topic to think on.

  13. Nikki on October 20, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    An educated horse has a better future. Its important, that horses get to learn some things too!
    like –
    respect, to listen, accept a two legged….

    my little paint didnt know much, when i bought him from a breeder with age 6 almost 7.
    i tought him and well, he tought me…..

    both of us are still learning.

    he is 10 now and he was one of my best decisions in life – even if out there some people thought i was crazy getting a raw one aged and wild like him!

    with patience you can go quite far but education, training is really important.

    as for showing – i hate how some people treat their horses during competitione ( they probably dont handle their horses any differently at home… ) but i do believe, that it can be challenging, an awesome training for both horse and rider and lots of fun!!!

    keep it up girls…. !!!!

  14. Lisa on October 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Ya know that is so true! I refuse to sell a horse from my place unless it is trained. For that very reason. I have held on to horses that I know need training because most people don’t want to, or don’t know how to train so the horse is the one that pays the price for the lack of human interaction in their lives.

  15. Leah on October 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Well said…an educated horse is so important for their longivity. Education for our horses is one of the most important things we can do for our horses as owners and breeders.

  16. Janet on October 20, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Very well said Jesse, although there are still a few slaughter houses here in Canada, the regulations are changing, and the one that were shut down in Saskatchewan really needed to be closed. The problem that I see in my area here in Alberta is the fact that there are way to many as you put once “Mctrainers.” and the amount of people per horse is outragous. With in a mile radious of where I live is two training facilities, One is a well know cutting horse facility and the other person is on the Canadian Jumping team. Now both are very excellent trainers and produce, so very high end horse but it’s the one in between that mile radious that are the problem. I should mention that with a quick head count there are well over 150 horses that reside that is counting mine. within that radious there are only six family’s that reside, Now if you take away the 60 horses that are being well trained that leaves 70 that are not and are now pasture pets, and from these 70 more then half will be sent to slaughter. Now in having said all of that the county has now place a animal cap per acre which is one horse per 3 acres of land, So which now leave the problem of what to do with the extra horses, And this is where they end up in auction and the meat buyers are there ready to pay the lowest dollar to send them for slaughter. The problem is a little tricky as you can see. I myself have no solution to the problem other than education on the breeding and maybe there should be a cap on the amount of breeding that can occur. I hate the fact that this is a problem but humans can be very stupid when uneducated and are greedy.

  17. Rachel on October 20, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Wow- When I was given my horse that was where I began- she was a mess- sweet but a mess- after 2 years of hard work she is finally becoming ‘educated’ I saw a play once that had a line in it “poor folks has got poor ways” that was what she was like and now with some education under her belt she is becoming the horse that will never be ‘given’ away again. I have been following both you and Stacy in me education process- Thank you for the honest and humble example you both provide.

  18. Gary Kennedy on October 20, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Most all of my horses come from rescues. They have been well trained into barrel & pole horses, roping horses. Any small kid could ride them (they are bomb proofed), trail rides, parades, I even trained a few of them to open & shut gates (latches included) while I stay in the saddle, which is something I have found to be a mistake because now I have to keep a stud chain on all the gates. LOL ! I can guarantee they will not end up in a slaughter and I totally agree with you on that line. The way I see it, one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure I guess is the best way I know how to explain it? I don’t mean to sound cheap, but I have had the best luck at GOOD horses from horses that no one else wanted.

  19. Terri Anderson on October 20, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Jesse, that is one of the most memorable things I got from the clinic last summer. Well said!

  20. Liseanne Roy on October 20, 2011 at 8:28 am

    That is very well put! You sound a bit like you are running for president! lol

    Keep up the good work!

  21. Jennifer Daniel on October 20, 2011 at 6:54 am

    amen. Thanks for all you do. You are certainly educated me too.

  22. Lindsay on October 20, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Well said Jesse !! The last line is awesome.

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