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  • Writer's pictureKarl Avdek


Updated: Nov 1, 2021


Horse trainers know how to train horses but what they really really really looooove to do is show horses.


Not hard to figure out. Showing meant having the ability to "show off"; a chance to exhibit your own ... and your horse's skill level ... sjpwomg ,eams being up on "center stage" with everybody watching (you guessed it ...)

... you and your horse!!!


There are of course, all sorts of challenges involved in showing however ... if you are on board a top horse ... there is absolutely nothing like it in the world. It is an incredible ego rush.

It is an opportunity to "shine" in front of an audience; a moment to say, "Look at me. Look at what I have accomplished. Look at me and my horse. Look at what I can do ... with my horse."

There is an odd psychological "twist" or challenge that most performers face in competition. It can applyto any performer; a musician, a student, and of course athletes.

It is the challenge of being able to perform as well "on stage'; i.e. in competition; be it a test, game, or show ... as well as you perform in practice.

It is the equivelant of the "batting practice" hitter in baseball; the guy who CRUSHES the baseball when nobody is looking and they consistently goes 0 for 4 and appears "clueless" in the game.

How does that happen?

Easy. It's because "practice" carries no "consequences" but the "competition"; the game, show, test, etc. does ... have consequences.

In practice there is always ANOTHER opportunity; an opportunity to gather information and improve your performance.

In competition; it's simple. You win ... you win ... or you lose.

One of the psychological "devices" we encourage the riders

in competition, it’s simple; you win … or you lose.

One of the psychological “devices” we encourage the riders and other athletes in our “mental skills” programs is to change their “perception” of the competition from one of “consequences” (win or lose) to rewards.

that reward is an opportunity to show off.

All the hard work, the sweat, and planning that goes into our practices; no matter what our sport may be … culminates in a competition where … the competitor has an opportunity to show off how much he/she has achieved … on that particular day.

There is absolutely nothing like being on board a great horse; riding into that ring and knowing that you’re going to win.

I recall being at the joe cody classic one year and watching the late reining horse legend Bill Horn ride Trashadeous.

The class was over the moment they stepped into the ring.

Now … what must that feel like?

Top of the world.

More rewards and … realities ..

Showing a winning horse also impacts business. I remember someone telling me once that, if you were lucky enough to win the futurity in any event; the win would guarantee you a minimum of ten years of getting good horses into your barn to train and of course, along with wins and good horses to ride also comes the “sale” of good … and expensive horses.

Good. good. all good.

Ah, but what about the training thing. you know the part of the business with the sore back and tired legs and muscle cramps; the wet saddle blankets and the early mornings and even later nights spent in the ring; riding and riding and riding; lunge or hot walk. lope. train. rinse and repeat over and over and over and over again.

It is hard hard work.

Not for everybody.

No names now in order to protect the innocent .. and the guilty … but Iwas friendly once with a reining horse breeder. He had several horses spread out among a couple of trainers but the horse he was most excited about was a black and white paint horse (a stud as well if i remember correctly) who was with a big time trainer in the midwest.

Why was he so excited?

Well, for one thing (again; if i remember correctly) the apha offered (it may still) an incentive; a “bonus” if you will … if a paint horse were to win the nrha futurity; due to the added publicity it would generate for the organization and breed.

Secondarily the trainer told the breeder constantly that this particular horse was “incredible” and had a “real shot” at placing high in the futurity.

this breeder was literally “giddy”. he talked incessantly about this horse and how excited he was.

As luck would have it the breeder had to make a business trip through the midwest during the summer. he flew (Ibelieve to chicago), conducted his business and then, completely on a whim, decided to “lay over” an extra day, rented a car and drove several hundred miles out of his way to go see the trainer and his horse.

He arrived at the training facility only to find that the trainer was out of town. disappointed; he still wanted to see his horse so he stepped down one of the aisles to his animal’s stall.

“How’s he doing?”, my friend asked one of the grooms.

“Don’t know,” the groom replied with a shrug. “He never gets ridden.”

“Never gets ridden?”

“Oh one of the assistants lopes circles on him but the trainer doesn’t work him. he only works the top horses.”


Everybody wants that top horse. most trainers; due in large part to the consequences i have listed above, spend a huge amount of time and emotional energy on finding a top horse. a top horse can make a career.

So why ride all the horses in your barn …

Ah but what about the average horse; the horse that someone is paying you to ride but is certainly going … (you guessed it): nowhere and certainly not with you aboard.

He/she needs to get ridden too.


Well why? there’s nothing to be gained by riding that horse. nothing to be gained by the trainer at least … except for money so … why not just have an assistant lope circles and collect a paycheck.

Well, it all goes to integrity and honorability and accountability doesn’t it?

throughout history there have been “blood letting” rituals in various societies. many of them are pretty gruesome; (usually it’s a military ritual). someone bites the head off a chicken and drinks the blood.

Eeeyew … ugh!!!

What these rituals are supposed to represent is “sacrifice.”

When you choose a trainer; choose integrity

What this all means in the horse business is that what you want for a trainer is someone who is “willing to drink the blood of the chicken”; someone with the honorability to ride all the horses in training; the great ones. the average ones. even the bad ones if you happen to get a bad one in your barn.

You ride on the days when it’s cold; raining; blistering hot and humid. you ride on the days when you’re tired and sore and maybe even a little sick.


Because it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?

Seek out the trainer who’s willing to “drink the blood of the chicken.”

You’ll be glad you did.

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