Which horse trainer or clinician is the best to follow?

Yes, there really is an answer to this question!Blank cowboy

One of the great things about living in the information age is that you have the advantage of accessing virtually endless amounts of information online. Add to that the growing number of TV shows, horse expos, blogs and YouTube and it would be easy to argue that if you want to learn something; a lack of choice shouldn’t be the problem. Here are some things to consider when finding the right fit.

First thing: put some time and effort into finding someone who’s techniques, methods, and teaching style fit you.

I often tell people to study one persons methods from colt starting to finished horse…that could be Clinton Anderson, Chris Cox,Bob Avila, Pat and Linda Parelli, Richard Winters, Ken McNabb, Julie Goodnight, Josh Lyons, Guy McLean, Craig Cameron, or anyone that you admire the results of. That includes the local person giving riding lessons or the regional person who shows horses that you have been admiring from afar these last few years.puzzle horse

Study that one person’s methods from beginning to end because the consistence is important for the horse. If there is one disadvantage to the amount of information out there it may be that people ‘pick and choose’ from methods without looking for a ‘common thread’. Remember when you were in kindergarden? First grade? Second grade? There was a reason why you had one teacher for all of your subjects. It made finding the ‘common thread’ easier for you. It gave you consistency.

‘Pick and choose’ does have its place also. I recommend it as step one and step three.

Step One-Look around and see what is out there (pick and choose)

Step Two-study one method from beginning to end

Step Three-look around and see what will challenge your thinking (pick and choose)

The goal of this would be that you would find a teacher who 1) you like their results 2) you understand and agree with their methods.

So who is the best horse trainer or clinician to follow? The answer is the one that fits you the best.

P.S.- Other thoughts to consider: once you do this three step process….you aren’t done. (Sorry, it is true) because your needs will change as you continue to grow. This will eventually send you back through the three steps again.

Also, as you study, you should begin to realize that the vast majority of clinicians and trainers have similar methods (the common thread) running through the programs. Once you can see that similar thread (the release is the reward, etc) you will suddenly be able to study multiple programs without confusing your horse.

I could just keep writing on this subject…..maybe another blog……


  1. Heather Ann on August 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    I have followed many trainers training programs and worked with many local trainers in my area, What has always worked best for me has been to take things I like from every trainer I’ve worked with and combined it to make my own style. Most natural horsemanship builds on itself no matter the trainer so I have had great success with my paint gelding. Though the most helpful program with riding has been the basic handle system (Pat Wyse) this has helped me fill in many “holes” with the classical start my gelding has.

  2. Nikki B on December 22, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I have followed many trainers, starting with Monty Roberts many many years ago, he was the first person to introduce me to natural horsemanship and since then I seek out anything and everything I can so I have studied quite a few. We have a trainer Steve Halfpenny come to our town for a clinic once a year and I have learnt heaps from him, he is very similar to you Stacy. The one thing I have noticed when working with him and watching you is you’re both completely CALM when working with the horses, you don’t show any outward emotion. All your actions are non offensive even when you are pushing them away or driving them. This is the part I struggle with when I work with my own horses, I get emotionally charged and they know it, I take any disrespect personally and I show way too much emotion. When I help out others I can be much calmer as I don’t have that emotional connection to their horse. Weird, I know. Any tips?

    • Janette on December 24, 2013 at 6:38 am

      Hi Nikki B, I hope you don’t mind me suggesting. If you change the way you interpret your horses behavior, you may not get so offended. I don’t believe horses are deliberately disrespectful in any way (they don’t know the meaning of the word). Disrespect is our interpretation of the horse just trying to survive. It’s our responsibly as owner/trainer to show the horse, more appropriate behavior. Try and eliminate that word (disrespect), it’s that word which stirs up human emotions. I wish horse trainers would stop using it also. That one little word changes so much. Hopefully Stacy can confirm, add too or dismiss my opinion.
      Ps, I know how you feel, I had the same problem.

  3. Bren on December 14, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Stacy, I love your blogs! I am learning so much. I did not grow up a horse person , but have dived into the world when my son was in a therapeutic riding program. He made so much progress, he no longer needed the program and begged for his own horse. He won, almost 3 years ago, we bought him a green broke, 9 year old, quarter horse mare. (Her temperament is so gentle which was the only reason we bought her even though she was only green broke, she is a good horse, but still has things to learn) A trainer/instructor came with the barn where we board, we are now at the point where he wants more for him and his horse and feels the current instructor isn’t working. She has done beautifully at starting him but he wants more. I find myself now with having to make a choice between two professional trainers, both with proven success, but how do I choose? Would it be wrong to try both of them out and see which works better with my son and our horse?

    • Stacy on December 14, 2013 at 9:48 am

      Bren-Great story. I don’t think it would be wrong to try both. If they offer haul in lessons it would be easy to do.

  4. Janette on December 10, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Dear Stacy, please understand, I was not criticizing your list. I actually really appreciate your courage to make a list. It’s that courage that makes you so inspirational. Your list is only stating a fact. One of which puzzles me. I would love to explain in detail, but I run out of space on my little phone. (Lucky you, LOL) Thanks for giving me some more woman trainers to watch out for. Keep on keeping on. We need you.

    • Stacy on December 11, 2013 at 10:38 am

      Janette-No problem! You were not the only one asking about the women and leaving more name, lol

  5. lisa teniswood on December 10, 2013 at 12:15 am

    you forgot to mention carolyn resnick, klaus hempfling, and nevzorov…if you want real trainers!!

  6. Sherry on December 9, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Stacy Westfall and Buck Brannaman 🙂

  7. Suzy Harrelson on December 8, 2013 at 8:36 am

    good blog Stacey. love reading it. you are so right on.

  8. Flo Browne on December 8, 2013 at 8:31 am

    I grew up in the racehorse industry and have worked for many different trainers. I learned something from all of them, even the bad ones taught me why you DON’T do something a certain way. I watch everything I can on the NH methods. Have to say my three favorite clinicians have been narrowed down to Chris Cox, Stacy, and Clinton Anderson. To avoid confusion, though, I follow Clinton’s program because he seems to be the only one who comes to the Northeast PA area with his Walkabout Tour and I always take my students to see him. After they see Clinton, it makes my teaching a little easier. That Farm Show Complex is a nice facility, Stacy. I’ve seen you do demos at the Expo there… how about a 2 day clinic?

    • Stacy on December 8, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Perfect examples of what I was talking about Flo!

  9. Pam Harty on December 8, 2013 at 3:45 am

    my personal experience is that we need to be open to any education that may be accumulated. Every horse is different. Training is education for the horse and just like people all horses learn on different levels.

  10. Janette on December 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    What I find interesting, out of the 11 trainers you mentioned only two are female. There is no right or wrong way, just easy and hard ways.

    • Stacy on December 8, 2013 at 11:57 am

      Janette-I find the ratio interesting also. I didn’t try to make the list one sided, I did a google search and came up with most. I was having trouble with ‘the list’. I wanted it long enough to make it not seem like I was promoting three people…and yet I didn’t know how to pick and choose. I was advised to leave the list out all together to avoid confusion….but I thought that people
      would add any names they felt were left off. To boost the ‘woman’ side I would add; Jane Savoie and Barbara Schulte, who would you add?

  11. Grace Trosino on December 7, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    I think a lot of the clinicians you mentioned all have good qualities. Today I audited Jake Biernbaum he is a Parelli instructor. There is nothing like seeing a clinic verses a DVD . I go to see anyone who is near me. I am open to all of them , you can always learn something. I live in Oxford Pa on the East coast, I feel there are more natural clinicians on the west coast. I wish I had my horse there it was a chilly day, I didn’t trailer there but did make the clinic. It takes a village to raise a good horse, we all need to help each other. Thanks Stacy for all your online information with Jac.

  12. nina on December 7, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    I do a mixture of Parelli, chris cox and julie goodnight, I just started following you, so you count too.. They all have great tips and tricks that help. I don’t think just one system can always work for one horse. Sometimes you gotta change it up. Some horses need a firmer hand, while others need the softer, slower approach. Every horse is different and you should change how you work and train your horse to their personality and what works best for you and your horse. Consistency is the best thing no matter what age you’re training.

    • Flo Browne on December 10, 2013 at 8:02 am

      I grew up in the racehorse business, always loved working with the colts. One winter I had 2 stud colts that were as different as night and day. One was belligerant always looking for a fight, you had to be real assertive and firm; the other was a real spook, you needed to really tone it down and be soft and gentle. Because you multi-task all day, I had to stop, take a breath, and change my whole demeanor every time I went from one to the other. By end of winter I felt like I had split personality disorder.

  13. Bridget Goldsmith on December 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I am getting a tremendous amount of information and training from the Internet, yourself, Julie Goodnight, Collen Kelly, Jane Savoie and a few others. You all come from the balanced horse balanced rider ethic.
    The one who I have met in person at several clinics in my area is Elaine Ward. I had started riding again at the age of 67 after a 42 year absence. My dicipline is English and that is what I rode but everything has changed even leg position and Elaine very patiently kept on with me and finally I got it. She is a wonderful Clinician and a great person. She does not yell or embarress.

    I have only just heard about you Stacy from another rider and I love what I see so far. I am in Ontario and you are only in Ohio so maybe one day I can get to home of your home clinics if there is such a thing. Thank you for this blog.

  14. Suzie on December 7, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    I also follow several, but there is a common thread in all their training. Sad thing is one of my favorites has grown so commercial, it seems more important to buy their “brand” of training tools to get the same job done. I don’t subscribe to that, but work with the tools I have available to me. Most importantly, I have learned to “read” my horses & adapt their training to them since they are all so different & no one style of training suits them all the same.

    • Stacy on December 8, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Suzie-It sounds like you have found the ‘common thread’ so now the doors are wide open for you. I agree that no one thing fits all horses so getting people to the point where they can read the horse is the important part. So glad you are there!

  15. Olivia on December 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    When I was 13 and got my horse as a 2 year old and began working with him, there was a lady half an hour from my house who gave me tips and helped me make sure I didn’t miss anything in his training. Mostly I would call her and tell her over the phone what we had done and what progress we had made, and she would give me some things to work on with him. She came over a few times when we took big steps, like the first time I put a saddle on him. I did mix in other things I had learned with our mini horse and through camp, lessons, and other riding. Red(horse) is a really fun horse to ride now, I am so happy with what he has became.

    • Stacy on December 8, 2013 at 11:51 am

      Olivia-That is a PERFECT example that it doesn’t have to be a ‘big name’ person to help you out. I am so glad she was there for you.

  16. Judith Stahl on December 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    You forgot Buck Brannaman.

    • Stacy on December 8, 2013 at 11:53 am

      Judith- I was having trouble with ‘the list’. I wanted it long enough to make it not seem like I was promoting three people…and yet I didn’t know how to pick and choose. I was advised to leave the list out all together to avoid confusion….but I thought that people, like you 🙂
      would add any names they felt were left off. Thank you for doing so.

  17. Julie Hankins on December 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    It is funny you wrote about this because this was my method. At the time I didn’t know it was an actual method used by everyone. I was online researching everything I could, watching videos movies and reading books. I finally ran across your methods and said that’s it !! I can see emotional connection here also and that’s what I want to get across with mine.To me my horses are not just to be worked, rode put on display, and put away, they are my companions.I like the way you handle a horse, you refer to training them like parenting and it is so true! So thanks and keep it up!!

  18. jim brunson on December 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Chrjs Cox

  19. Dana Bone on December 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Great information. I Appreciate a great trainer, as yourself, putting this out there, because this was what I concluded…after watching MANY from Tom D>Ray H>Steve R>Buck B>Harry W>Chris Cox>Clinton A> John Lyons> and many others I’ve personally attended clinics to, etc…….I respect Tom D’s and his fellow clinicians greatly, and see a common thread. I have also concluded, there is a time to pick and choose and also a great need for consistency. I’ve also had my needs change, as well as my horse’s needs, from day 1 to now…It’s a great journey. I’ve also learned that I need to always focus on ‘relaxed’ learning…not that learning doesn’t get intense, but if the horse is ready, and the presentation is correct, you get a willing, relaxed response, not resistant, and the horse retains and seeks that. They love to be worked and have a job to do. But neithre horse nor rider enjoys it when it’s intense and stiff….which teaches resistance. My motto: Ride for relaxing, not resistance. It teaches the rider to be more in tune with what the horse is asking, and telling or otherwise, trying to communicate with its handler. I’ve really enjoyed watching and learning from you, Stacey…you have a great way of pointing out finer details, which ARE vitally important in the training process. Thanks! Keep it coming, please!

  20. Jenna on December 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I am surprised Buck Brannaman or Byran Neubert is not in that list.

    • Stacy on December 8, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      I was having trouble with ‘the list’. I wanted it long enough to make it not seem like I was promoting three people…and yet I didn’t know how to pick and choose. I was advised to leave the list out all together to avoid confusion….but I thought that people would add any names they felt were left off. Thank you for adding those two names. Met Brian Neubert at the RTTH 2013 and had the chance to get to know him. Super nice guy!!! I told Equine Affaire they should have him there doing demos! Lol….probably should have asked Brian first….

  21. Valerie on December 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Stacy, you are a savior. Your 2006 video opened the door for people to admire, respect and trust you. I have been a professional trainer/Instructor since 1987 and the last 15 years have been a nightmare for me due to the zealousness in the desire to do the best thing for a horse! You put things in a way that is positive and truly helpful!
    You have been a fabulous ambassador and example of what women do in the horse business.
    Thank you, keep up the great work, and way to represent!

  22. Lyn Graham on December 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Stacy…I absolutely love your blog. Due to something beyond my control, I had to give up my horses and training a few years ago. Your blog + videos inspire me and bring back many good memories as my love for horses has never died. It is also thought-provoking. If that was your goal with this blog, you have certainly accomplished it. If you want to start another blog and you feel in your heart that is what you should do, then go for it. This blog has certainly blessed me and others.

  23. Tammy on December 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Buck Brannaman is conspicuously missing from your list, especially considering you are talking about colt starting, but I guess there are probably many others missing?

    • Stacy on December 8, 2013 at 12:04 pm

      I was having trouble with ‘the list’. I wanted it long enough to make it not seem like I was promoting three people…and yet I didn’t know how to pick and choose. I was advised to leave the list out all together to avoid confusion….but I thought that people would add any names they felt were left off. Thanks for adding! I loved the movie and recommend it every chance I get!

  24. Mark Reames on December 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I personally refer to Buck Brannaman,Tom Dorrance,Bill Dorrance and their methods from colt starting to a finished bridle horse. That’s just my opinion. You have to figure out what method works for you and the horse you are working with. Because like humans each horse is different.

  25. Byron Funnell on December 7, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Stacy, I really appreciate this and would like for you to write more. I have SO many clinician dvds and books (including all of yours of course) and get bothered by some of the differences which leads to fear of making the wrong choices for my horses in my training. I figure I can learn from each one but sometimes I get stuck on where now. I have found that all of you (professional clinicians) have had many horses to work with and adapt things horse to horse where I only have my few. I think that is why I like your blog on Jac so much. I like listening to your thought process as you are doing the training.

  26. Stephanie Livingston on December 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Ok my husband and I have had this conversation many many times when he was training.. In all honesty I have carefully watched and studied all the sucssesful trainers for many years… They all do the same thing! There marketing strategies is what makes each of them different! The colt starting clinics are luck of the horse they pick because no horse is the same as another some horses progress faster then others. But if you are thorough in your observation of all of them there horsemanship is all the same 🙂

  27. Kimi B on December 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I have a friend that is a local legend around here, and I love her work. I have watched her for years, and she’s been kind enough to help me whenever I’ve had a question. She’s 86 in a couple weeks and still is working and training horses. I’ve said it before, and I keep it to my heart, I want to be just like Ms. Dona Sherman when I grow up. (and according to her, I have plenty of time)

    • Stacy on December 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Kimi-I LOVE it! It sounds like Ms. Dona Sherman is a very special woman!

      • Kimi B on January 15, 2014 at 12:32 am

        Sadly, Dona passed away unexpectedly a week before her birthday, but she was a legend, Ms. Westfall. She had formed a drill team back in the 80’s and they performed at the superbowl in 1982. I am truly blessed to have learned so much from her. 🙂

      • Janette on January 15, 2014 at 12:41 am

        Kimi B, teaching is a beautiful legacy. Dona’s spirit lives on, with all that have taken the time to listen.

  28. GimmeADream on December 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    I don’t know…. I follow several trainers but I’m also not starting a foal. My mare is 14 years and quite capable of just about anything but she spooks a lot so I’m preparing to re-train her and desensitize her in the most humane way possible. Causing her stress is not my agenda. Making her happy and prepared is.

Leave a Comment




100% Private - 0% Spam

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

No one taught you the skills you need to work through these things.

Riders often encounter self-doubt, fear, anxiety, frustration, and other challenging emotions at the barn. The emotions coursing through your body can add clarity, or can make your cues indistinguishable for your horse.

Learning these skills and begin communicating clearly with your horse.

Click here to learn more.



Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest content and updates by email.