Horse Training… Serious 911

Horse Training… Serious 911

In this issue of the HORSE TRAINING TIPS INSIDER, I’m going to present a very bad (and very common) horse problem emailed to me by a distressed owner.

The author of the email is a very nice lady who actually likes me (shocking, I know) and complimented the work I do with horses.

In her email, she asked me to comment on the situation she’s in with her horse.

After reading about her problem, my heart just sank and I got that dreadful, queasy feeling in my stomach.


Because after she reads my response to her email, this well-meaning, good-hearted lady is going to HATE MY GUTS.

Not only that… EVERY PERSON who reads it and shares her point of view is going to hate my guts too.

Man, I dread the thought of that.

And yes, I considered NOT responding.

I mean, sending out horse training advice that’s going to generate a ton of hate mail, can’t be good for business.

However, I know I’ll do it anyway.

For some weird and sick reason, I’m compelled to tell people the truth about their horses… no matter what.

I don’t know… maybe its time to see a shrink.

Anyway… below is the email she sent me and my response to it.

I’ve changed her name and deleted a few paragraphs to shorten it up plus hide her true identity.

Go read it.

Then… let the hate mail begin. Post your comment (good or bad) at the bottom of this page.

Here’s the lady’s email:

Hi Larry

I have a 9 year old gelding named "Champ" I bought over a year ago.

I lost a lot of riding confidence after a "horse wreck" a year before I bought him, and thought I had bought a real steady horse to get back my confidence.

He was quiet and slow to ride and handle but I came to realize he was sort of shut down I guess as he changed a lot after a few weeks.

He is fine being ridden most of the time but shows genuine fear of things when we are out sometimes so I often get off and walk.

Sadly, it turned out he has a few issues with people and won’t pick up his feet easily and hates being brushed etc.

He has to be sedated for shoeing too.

He is genuinely frightened that you are going to beat him or be very rough with him.

I have now formed a nice relationship with him by following the natural horsemanship methods.

I often joke that he is a "one woman horse" as he follows me like a dog and seems to have formed a good bond as long as I don’t do anything he doesn’t like.

I take things slowly and at his pace and he respects my space and is very sensitive.

It hasn’t been easy for me or for Champ and we don’t seem to make much progress.

He will threaten to kick me if I don’t respect his fear and I try to stay safe so I often give up and move on to something else.

I do wonder if he is too far gone to ever be able to allow me to do the things I would like to do, like picking out his feet and grooming and washing – he is so frightened of hoses and water I dare not do it.

I end up just brushing with a very soft brush and wiping him down with a damp cloth – this takes me a long time too and I have to show him the cloth and he backs away to start with.

I have found clicker training sort of works for picking up feet – although he only gives them to me for a moment.

I don’t want to give the treat from the hand so I put it on the ground for him.

I must admit I am working a lot and don’t have as much time as I would like to spend with him – we do about three training sessions a week.

I just wondered if you had any advice or comment?

best wishes



Here’s my response to Sue:

Hi Sue,

I truly appreciate your situation. Your problem is a common one and shared by many, many horse owners.

You and many horse owners like yourself, are drawn to “Natural Horsemanship” and “Clicker Training” because it appeals to your personality and PERCEPTION of HORSE BEHAVIOR.

And because of your PERCEPTION, like you described in your letter, the results can be less than ideal. Not because there is anything wrong with those training techniques but because of your interpretation of them.

It’s not my intention to offend you or hurt your feelings because you sound like a really nice lady.

However, I feel obligated tell you the truth about your situation so you can perhaps come to a solution.

Plus… my conscious would bother me if I didn’t at least try to help keep you from getting injured again.

I want to point out, the accuracy of my advice is based entirely on the accuracy of your description of the problem.

If I have misinterpreted your email or mis-read your situation… I wish to apologize to you in advance.

I have given you the best advice I could based on the information you provided.

My response here is blunt and terribly harsh. Perhaps more harsh than you deserve.

I thought about re-writing to soften it so it doesn’t sound so darn bad.

In the end, I just couldn’t do it.

I’m leaving it the way it is in hopes somebody will read it and have their eyes opened by it.

You explained in your letter, you and your horse Champ, have formed a good bond (as long as you don’t do anything he doesn’t like).

And from your description, it appears he doesn’t like ANYTHING except following you around like a dog.

You also pointed out, Champ routinely threatens to kick you.

I must confess, I actually had to read those lines over a few times because I thought I must have missed something.

I’m still not sure how you can equate your horse threatening to kick you as any kind of a good bond.

Anyway, for your safety (and other peoples safety too), I hope you take my advice to heart.

Here goes…

Like you explained in your letter, you are a “timid” horse owner who lacks confidence.

You are afraid of your horse and the things he does (with good reason as you’ve already been injured).

Because of your fear, Champ totally has your "number" and is simply taking advantage of the situation.

Like you said in your letter, he was a good, steady horse when you first purchased him and then after a few weeks, he started to change into a problem horse.

What really happened is you actually DID buy a GOOD horse but it only took a few weeks for Champ to realize he had been purchased by a person who was willing to let him do whatever he pleased.

Champ, being a normal horse, said to himself… this is so GREAT.

My new owner is a total PUSH-OVER!

I wonder if I can train her? I wonder if I can train her so well, she’ll do anything I want?

If I really put some effort into it, I bet I can train her to jump off my back and lead me around instead of ride.

I bet if I throw a big enough fit every time she reaches for a hose, I’ll never have to take another bath.

OMG… do I dare dream… I could even train her to feed me TREATS!

That would be awesome!


If I could do that, I’d be the envy of every horse in the county.

Whenever she leads me around the neighborhood, all the other horses will say… "now there goes a real stud!"

Sue, I realize what I wrote above will probably make you upset with me but let me assure you…
If Champ had a "PEOPLE TRAINING" DVD, every horse in the neighborhood would buy it because he really knows his stuff.

Seriously though, you are totally MIS-READING your horse and the reasons he does what he does.

You are attempting to develop a relationship with Champ based on LOVE, KINDNESS, PATIENCE and TRUST.

All the things that sound so great.

All the things that appeal to you as a caring person.

All the right EMOTIONAL words that enticed you to embrace the natural horsemanship – clicker training MARKETING PROMOTIONS.

There is only ONE problem…

The meaning of those words, your horse doesn’t UNDERSTAND.

Those words are not a part of his evolutionary make up.

It’s not horse nature.

The bald face truth is there is NOTHING NATURAL about those words when viewed from the HORSE’S point of view.

To prove to yourself this is true, simply observe a herd of horses living together out in the pasture.

At feeding time, you’ll see the weaker (submissive) horses of the herd get driven away from their flake of hay by the more dominant horses.

You’ll see them kick, bite and strike to impose their will and achieve pecking-order dominance.

Horses have no problem with dishing out physical discipline in order to get their way. They do it all the time.

Horses have no problem watching a weak member of the herd starve in order for the strongest to eat.

You certainly won’t see any love, kindness or patience there.

You will only see characteristics that ensure survival of the fittest.

This is how nature intended it to be.

That’s how nature insures survival of the species in a natural environment.

We humans are the ones who want a horse to be our buddy, our trustworthy companion, our soul mate.

The horse only wants food, water, comfort and safety.

Our horse may genuinely LIKE us if we are the one providing those things.

He may enjoy having us pet him and take care of him.

But he darn sure doesn’t LOVE us.

Nor does he have any qualms about INJURING us (as you have already experienced).

I find it amazing, you talk about this great bond you have with your horse and in the very next paragraph talk about how he is constantly trying to kick you.

And on top of that, you come up with this ridiculous justification of why its okay.

You claim he must have been beaten and abused by a previous owner… causing him to be the way he is now.

Well, didn’t you say he was a good, steady, well-mannered horse when you FIRST PURCHASED him?

That’s why you bought him, right?

The truth is, YOU are the one who messed him up and turned him into something that is now dangerous.

You… nobody else.

You said you lost your confidence after having a bad horse-wreck with your PREVIOUS horse.

My guess is, you are the one responsible for that too.

You’ve gone through two horses now and it appears you haven’t learned any of the critical things you need to know.

Don’t you realize if Champ kicks you in the head or the chest, you will probably be KILLED?

Do I need to paint a picture for you?


Sue reaches down to pick up and clean Champ’s hoof. Champ doesn’t like that and threatens to kick Sue.

Sue, not understanding how to correct the problem, resorts to BRIBING Champ by giving him a treat.

Champ says to himself, "Let’s see if I’ve got this right. Every time I threaten to kick, this woman gives me a treat.

I wonder what would happen if I actually DID kick her? Would I get TWO treats?"

Sue reaches down to pick up the other hoof and this time Champ kicks her right square in the head.

Sue falls to the ground dead.

Her body, limp and motionless with the bag of treats sticking out of her pocket.

Champ calmly reaches over, pulls out the bag and eats all the treats.

All the while thinking to himself… "Damned if I wasn’t right".

The scenario above makes me so angry I can’t see straight.

I’m not angry at the horse. He’s was TRAINED to do what he did by the human.

No, I’m angry at Sue.


Because a scene like this is so easily avoidable. So easy to fix.

To fix it, all you have to do is understand and accept horses for what they really are.

Not some unrealistic, emotional fantasy.

I ask… what’s so wrong with TRUE horse nature that people feel like they need to make crap up?

Why do some people feel compelled to blindly believe horses possess emotional characteristics they actually don’t?

If there’s some emotional VOID in your life, projecting it and expecting it to be fulfilled by an animal, just isn’t realistic (or safe).

If you want your pet to possess the emotional characteristics of a dog… for pete’s sake, go GET a dog… don’t get a horse.

Sue, if you were here talking to me face to face, I’d chew you out so bad it wouldn’t be funny.

If you get seriously injured or killed, what’s your family to do? How are your kids going to get along without you?

And what about Champ?

Now that you’ve trained him to be dangerous, will he end up being shipped to a Mexican slaughter house?

YOU have done this horse a terrible injustice. For his sake, I hope you’ll rectify it.

The statistics gathered by the American Horse Council show that approximately 70,000 people a year visit the hospital emergency room due to horse related injuries.

For the most part, these are people just like you.

People who don’t understand horses.

You asked me if its too late for Champ.

The answer is NO, IT’S NOT.

However, a horse’s behavior is a REFLECTION OF HIS OWNER.

 For Champ to change and become a good horse again… YOU HAVE TO CHANGE.

Read the words written below.


These are the keywords of a successful and rewarding relationship with your horse.

The keys to a well-mannered and enjoyable horse.

Boil those words down and they equal… RESPECT.

Getting your horse to RESPECT you is the key to a good relationship.

Nothing is more important and I’ve written an entire Training Tips newsletter about it.

Sue… if you’ll read it, I think it’ll help clear up your misconceptions.

I also have some really good Inner Circle videos that I feel would benefit you greatly.

You may want to go to the Inner Circle website and check it out.

I realize it’s not easy to admit ignorance. Its not easy to change.

It’s difficult for most folks in your situation to abandon their erroneous beliefs.

However, a few more painful injuries will hopefully do the trick.

A broken leg or cracked ribs work wonders for changing a person’s mind.

I just hope you (or Champ) don’t end up having to pay the ultimate price.

Good luck and be careful.

Remember to keep your cell phone close by.

The digits to dial are 911.

Larry Trocha
Larry Trocha Training Stable



  1. Jill says

    When I first got Jessie (whom was also rescued from abuse) she would bolt for home, not stand still for mounting or saddling up, and shake her head like crazy even on a loose rein, and even more when you tried to get her to do something you wanted. Now, I can ride her wherever I want, when I want, how I want. I ride her bareback, saddled up, w/e, and she stands still. A horse needs a dependable leader.

    While I do agree with discipline and being a leader, I disagree with horses not being able to love. Not in the human form of course, but they can. There’s no way to describe my bond with my horse without using the word ‘love’ sorry. She has chased off bears while they were trying to attack me. She LEAVES her GRAIN to come see me when I walk up. She watches me like a hawk with her eyes, seeing every movement I make. If I call her by her name, she gallops up to me, and won’t leave my side, even if our other horse, Booger, is whinnying like crazy. That IS love.

    Now, I think Sue needs to step up and discipline her horse. She needs to be a leader first to earn that horse’s trust, respect, and yes LOVE.

    Just my thoughts…

  2. trail guide says

    Well put! I admire you speaking your mind. This woman needed a wake up call, bad because in the end, both horse and owner would pay the ultimate price. I work with 22 horses as a trail guide, they all respect me. The horses that used to bite you if they didnt get their grain in time now back off and wait for you to pour it. I didn’t beat them, just simply walked up to them with my back towards them and gave them a little hip check if they threatened me. You speak their language and there will be no problems. Your advice was spot on and you seem to know exactly what the horse is thinking. We need more “horse people” like you!

  3. Joy says

    Larry I hope everyone understands your point here and I bet most did. I didn’t want to read through over 1,000 comments to find out! I do want a bond with my horses, it is especially good for trailriding. I benefited from it when my mare and I fell on ice and my knee was hurt. I’m so glad I could call her back to me and I didn’t have to walk home! I bet you would have 90 percent agreement in your comments if someone checked!

  4. Joy says

    Well put Larry. A scary scene and if she does not listen to you I hope someone else is watching and dials 911 for her. I have a gelding that is 5 and I have been raising him since he was 1. When I got him he was in the field not much handling so he kicked out of fear. I got him over his fear so he was confident and did not kick. He got a little too confident later and tried to kick at me out of bossiness. I slapped him and chased him and threw rocks and sticks at him he must have thought a tornado appeared! He is a stubborn gelding and he tried it again when he was 3. I gave him another “tornado” and he has been good since. The horses understand this and seem to be reassured by their reaction to me after I deal out my punishment. Just consequences do not seem to hurt the bond. Just the opposite, the bond becomes deeper. Just for the record I do use treats as a training tool and as part of a routine of coming in off pasture for daily checks to see if all is well. I also use feed on tarps and inside umbrellas and white paper bags. They catch on quick to check the weird thing for goodies. A lot of fear is removed by curiousity. I train my own and sometimes a breeder friends young horses for trail riding. Treats work really well for horses to learn to stand still for mounting. You can phase out the treat for mounting. Its wierd, but you have to train horses how to eat treats politely by not giving them any if they get too nosy about it. Also hold your hand with the treat up to their mouth firmly pressing your hand to their mouth briefly until they start to chew it. Then they don’t bite the treat or drop it. They have to be gentle or no treat. Another weird thing I noticed is that I can use a very small treat for lifting each hoof. I am getting over surgery so I can’t manhandle them and I am forced to find easy ways to deal with them. Using treats and feed for traing tools saves me a lot of time and grief. But you better believe there will be consequenses for any kicking or biting I don’t have to mete it out very often but you can bet I will if I have to. Twice the “tornado” has come for the gelding. And if a baby bites it gets its nose pinched hard. It does not take much to get the point across and you must make your point.

  5. Jan says

    Larry, while I think you have gotten great press from this 911 email, I think it is time to move on. I have been a subscriber for over a year and have read many of your posts and videos. This has been a big success for you and you, as a trainer have got a lot of mileage. You are very clever, and a bit condescending, to Sue, but we all got the point, the horse got his way with a very nice lady., and she allowed Champ to be the boss,

    Larry, you are a great trainer, and very well spoken, but let’s address other concerns. I emailed you about a year ago, about a rearing problem with my mare and never a response. I had a severe break in my arm and never got the help I needed to correct her rearing issue,
    I ended up sending her to my sons barn in Colorado, they are rop number, I was a novice rider, and we were not a good match. After spending a year looking for the right match, I found a 9 yr old Kentucky mtn. Gelding, very laid back. I got a gaited trainer for us both, he knows what we both need and we have become a good team. After my accident on my mare I was very scared and this man helped redeem my confidence and we are having a great time. I can’t stress how important it is to have a great trainer.

    Larry, I like you newsletters, but I think the Sue’s of the world get it! GET Help from a Larry!

  6. Thereasa Marcum-Hribar says

    THANK YOU!!!! Thank you for being honest and blunt. It’s what the owner needed to hear. As a trainer, I have a lot of “problem” horses who come to my barn, and the only problem the horse has is the owner. It drives me nuts. There is an old saying (maybe not that old), 95% of all problems with a horse are caused by the owner/rider. I wish more people would remember that. But then again, that requires common sence, something a lot of people don’t have now a days.

  7. Debi King says

    You are so right to tell Sue that she is the problem. I had many children and parents that joined my 4-H Horse Club thinking they was going to have a horse be thier baby. When you tell them how a horse can hurt them or even cripple them, they rethink. First thing is to let your horse know you are the dominant one in this relationship. It may take a few times for your horse to understand but dont give up they will come around to your way of thinking. There is no hitting or beating just keep doing it until your horse goes “dang it I just do it they will stop making me do this over and over again”.
    I love your advise and keep up the good work

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