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Training vs. Teaching: What kind of instructor do you want to be for your horse?

Do you teach your horse or do you train your horse? Is there a difference?


According to Merriam Webster, the definition of "train, trained, training" (a transitive verb) is:

- to teach so as to make fit, qualified, or proficient

- to form by instruction, discipline, or drill

- to make prepared (as by exercise) for a test of skill

The definition of "teach, taught, teaching" (a transitive verb) is

- to cause to know something

- to cause to know how

- to accustom to some action or attitude

- to guide the studies of

- to impart the knowledge of


If you look closely at the definition of train, it includes the word teach, so why am I making such a fuss over the two different words? If it’s the same thing, why does it matter which word we use?


I believe the difference is not in the definition but in the mind set between the two words. More importantly, about YOUR mindset. Think about the question again - Do you teach your horse or do you train your horse?

When working with a horse, do you break things down, teach portions until your horse can put it together as a whole, allowing your horse to make mistakes along the way or do we drill over and over until they get it right?


To me, teaching entails breaking down a skill into manageable parts, then teaching each part until it makes up the whole skill. When I think of training, I think of repetition and going over the same thing time and time again, refining what you already know (I.E. you train for the Olympics after you have been taught the specific sport.)

We all had/have a favorite teacher while in school. I was lucky enough to have two - one while I was in 6th grade and one while in high school, and both were math teachers. Now, to anyone who knows me, I don’t math. Math does not come easy to me, so the fact that both of my favorite teachers were math teachers says something. They took something I struggle with and broke it down into manageable parts that I could then put together. They were patient and understanding. They applauded my successes and helped me review my mistakes.


Like I said, I struggled in math, so during the 4th grade, I asked my teacher to help me with math. She agreed and I stayed after school to work with her. She proceeded to hand me a worksheet full of multiplication problems and then went across the hall to talk with another teacher. Needless to say, I never asked for help again from that teacher. Then, in 6th grade, I got up the courage to ask my math teacher again for help. This time was SO different! He sat down next to me, worksheet between us, and we went over the math questions together. He taught me little math tricks to help make it easier - like when multiplying by 9, you subtract 1 from the other number, then you find what number is needed to add to make 9, for example — 9x3=27 (3-1=2; 2+7=9). My 6th grade mind was blown away.


In high school, believe it or not, I took a math class all 4 years, even though it is only required to take it for 3. The reason this math impaired kid took 4 years? The math teacher. Once again, I had a math teacher that broke things down, that took each step of the math problem and explained it, then put it all together for the big picture. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like math and would never volunteer to take a math class again, but those two teachers changed my fear and loathing of math into something attainable and less scary.

What kind of teacher are you? Are you the 4th grade teacher who hands out the worksheet and walks away or are you the 6th grade teacher who sits down and goes over the problems together? For example, how do you introduce your horse to something new, like a sidepass? Do you break the sidepass down into steps and teach them each of the steps and then bring all of the steps together to have the final sidepass or do you ask them to complete the whole sidepass on the first try? If they don’t know what body parts they need to move where and when, then how do you expect them to move any body parts where and when you want them to move? Will your horse get frustrated with the sidepass, starting to balk or refuse, or will they see it as a routine set of movements that are not scary and completely attainable?


Embrace the mindset of the teacher. Teach yourself. Teach your horse.

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