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Must-Have Secret Training Tools by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

There are two mantras I lived by when training horses fulltime:

“Never pick a fight unless you know you can win the battle and P.S. if you get into a physical fight with a horse, you will never win that battle.

Training horses is a thinking man’s sport. You don’t have to be the smartest guy in the world but you must always be smarter than the horse you are working with.” Bonnie Marlewski-Probert.

The four key elements that every successful trainer must have are:

1. Time. Anytime you attempt to train your horse without allowing plenty of time, the temptation to rush is sure to sabotage your progress and cost you more time in the long run,

2. Always have a Plan A and a Plan B. The trick to training horses successfully is to think through what you want to accomplish and get a plan A and a Plan B in your head as to how you are going to achieve that goal, just in case Plan A fails.

3. Patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day and I know of no horse or husband that was trained in a day! Sometimes, the greatest successes come inch by inch, day-by-day. Remember that as you train various elements of a new skill, those same elements will come into play in many more advanced moves so, by taking your time and focusing on teaching the elements of a larger maneuver, you are actually shortening the learning curve for more advanced moves that you will be training down the road. This is what I call “elemental training.” Teaching the elements and then putting them all together to create the new skill.

4. Leave every training session on a positive note. There will be days when nothing seems to be working and when that happens, take a step back and “go to” something you know both you and your horse can do well. Do it, and make a fuss over your horse for it so you can always leave the session on a good note. Remember that you are NEVER just training your horse to learn a new skill, you are also always training their attitude. Your horse’s attitude toward training is every bit as important to your overall success as is their ability to perform. It won’t do you any good to have a “well trained” horse that can’t stand working and wants nothing to do with you or with the job at hand because their training sessions were always a miserable experience.

Must-Have Secret Training Tools by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

One final training secret is what I call the “controlled environment.” By planning ahead and thinking through all of the potential challenges involved, you can establish a controlled environment in your training program that will allow you to work on each piece of the new skill and make life much easier for you and your horse.

Here is an example of what I mean. You are planning on riding your horse in this year’s 4th of July parade. If you have ever watched a parade on TV or gone in person, you know that there will be lots of crowds, fire engines with their sirens blaring, school bands, marching people dressed up in wild looking costumes and then there are those floats. While all of that is exciting and fun for spectators to see, imagine how terrifying that would be for a horse that has no idea what’s going on.

Using the controlled environment logic, you can desensitize your horse to many of those “monsters”, one at a time at home in a peaceful, calm setting so when you arrive at the parade, you have minimized the chances of disaster. For example, in your riding arena at home, you could crank up your radio and get your horse used to loud noises. You could ride inside your field fence and have a friend drive by in their car on the road, getting your horse used to vehicles coming close, honking horns, they could hold flags as they drive by, etc., etc. The value of setting up the controlled environment is that you tell the friend when to drive by and before things get out of hand, you can ask your friend to stop to give your horse a minute to get used to things before proceeding with the exercise. The same is true with the loud radio.

Must-Have Secret Training Tools by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

Earlier, I mentioned, what I call, “elemental training.” Using the parade as the example, as you teach your horse to trust your leadership with each element they will encounter during a parade, that same level of trust and training will come in really handy when you encounter unexpected “monsters” on your next trail ride. Elemental training leads to positive ripple effect benefits that make life easier for you and your horse in so many ways.

By using your brain and thinking through the challenges that you and your horse will face in any new environment, you can mimic each of those individual challenges at home, in a controlled environment until your horse learns to trust you and is able to take it all in stride. Set aside 30 minutes a day to work on each element in a controlled environment (don’t overdue things or your will burn your horse out). Be patient, have a Plan A and a Plan B and above all else, finish each session on a positive note so each new challenge is something your horse looks forward to.

Must-Have Secret Training Tools by Bonnie Marlewski-Probert

About the Author

Bonnie Marlewski-Probert worked in the horse world as a professional rider, teacher, trainer and speaker for many years. She is the author of more than 25 books and 1000 magazine articles. Bonnie is also the founder of Whitehall Publishing. If you have a book in you and are looking for a publisher, visit for more information. Bonnie now devotes a lot of her time working with animal-related non-profits to help them grow their organizations through her website at


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