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Don Jessop

When your looking for help, look for these five qualities in your teacher. It doesn't matter if you're looking for English riders or Western riders, what matters are these five qualities.

Quality Number 1: Safety is a priority.

You sense your trainer wants everyone to be safe. Many trainers prioritize fun over safety. If you're a super confident rider you might want to join a more advanced instructor. But even with advanced instructors, safety should ALWAYS take priority. You and the horse must live to ride another day!

Quality Number 2: Genuine caring for the animal.

You sense your teacher genuinely cares about the animals experience. In other words, they want the horse to learn, and feel rewarded. Read the article on reward versus consequence oriented training.

Quality Number 3: Genuine caring for your experience.

You sense your teacher genuinely cares about your experience. You might wonder why I don't put this one first. The reason I prioritize this as number three isn't because you aren't valuable. Your teacher must see you as extremely valuable. It's just that many teachers value the experience of the student over the experience of the horse and literally enslave the horse to make the experience good for the human. Whereas in my course, classes, and coaching, my team and I always ensure the horse is recognized and honored and then we proceed to ensuring your experience is perfect. And by perfect I mean, you want your teacher to ensure you are safe, you have fun, and you make progress.

Quality Number 4: Extensive knowledge about the inside and outside of a horse.

You sense your teacher has a deep understanding about horse psychology and horse physiology. That means, they get what is going on inside the mind and emotions and at the same time, they see the value of helping a horse physically. Horses need help learning balance and self carriage. Once a horse learns, they need reminding from time to time.

What all that means is, many instructors don't know anything about horse psychology or physiology. You can ask just a few pointed questions to uncover their knowledge base. For example. I always recommend asking your potential instructor these four questions:

1. Do you believe the horse is created to be mans servant?
This is tricky to answer, and that's why I love this question. A "yes" answer shines a small light on how your teacher thinks about horses. A "no" answer is better but doesn't give you all the data yet either. When you ask them to explain, you have the opportunity to see deep inside their own mental processes. The ideal answer is, "I don't know, many people do believe that. What I believe is that horses can be wonderful partners if they are treated with respect." Some variation of that answer would suffice.
2. How quickly do you move beyond the foundation into higher performance tasks?
If you find your instructor boasting about getting from point A to point B in their training in a short amount of time, you know instantly they could be prioritizing speed over quality. You don't want a speedy instructor. You want an effective instructor, yes, but not a speedy one. Speeding through learning processes destroys the horses trust in humans and also can destroy your own confidence. My favorite answer is, "I take the time it takes, the horse will tell me when he's ready!'
3. What's more important to you as a trainer? Helping the horse find the answer, or leaving the horse to find the answer?
When an instructor answers by saying it's more important to let the horse figure it out, you know they don't see the whole picture. When they say it's more important to help them, you know you're on the right track. In truth, however, it's the instructors that answer with a combination of both that make the best instructors. When you hear your teacher say, "At first I would help them, then in some situations I might just set things up in a way for the horse to find the answer himself. That way he feels like it's his idea, and I like that."
4. If your horse doesn't do what you want, how do punish him?
This is a trick question. You want to see their reaction. If they answer you with strategy and forget to correct you on the word "punish" you can begin to second guess his or her skill sets. Many trainers do punish horses and act as if it's OK. The best trainers will always correct you on the word "punish" and encourage a softer word. They may say "You mean, how would I support him to understand me?"

Quality Number 5: Your teacher hasn't stopped learning.

You sense your teacher is learning themselves. In other words, you don't want to study with someone who isn't a student themselves. Yes, instructors do need a good knowledge base to be effective instructors, but the minute a teacher stops learning, is the same minute they begin closing the doors to new and better technologies, or different styles of horsemanship for different folks. One simple way to find out if your teacher is still willing to learn, is to listen when you hear a teacher say, "this is the only way you do it." If you hear that comment, make a mental note that your teacher isn't open to new ideas. If you have time, ask your teacher if there are other ways to do it too, if the answer is "no", then you know. If the answer is "yes, there are always other ways to do nearly anything, some I'm sure I don't even know." then you know you've got a good teacher.

Also, be sure to ask your teacher, who he or she is studying with. Their answer will give you clues to their mindset and their own goals. It's important you find a teacher with a progressive and positive mindset.

Of course when looking for an instructor you might want to look inside a particular part of the horse industry. In other words, do you prefer English or Western riding styles? In Mastery Horsemanship we teach both, because ultimately it doesn't matter if you ride English or Western from the horses point of view. What matters is that you are safe, have fun, and make progress toward your personal goals, while maintaining and growing your relationship with horses.

We know how hard it can be to find good local trainers, so we created a distance coaching program to support people. Ironically, we're finding in many cases, some of our students make more progress in this safe and inclusive format than they ever did face to face. We call it Success Pathways.

We've helped hundreds of students worldwide with our Success Pathways program excel in western riding, English Riding, and natural horsemanship styles. We've helped riders make it all the way to the top levels of cutting and reining shows. We've also helped Olympic riders in with their jumping horses and dressage patterns. We have members on our team of instructors who demonstrate regularly in front of large crowds, showing the pinnacle of natural horsemanship, including liberty, bridle-less riding, working with multiple horses and more. We have expert colt starters and clinicians that travel the world teaching, and bringing that knowledge back here to this program.

What I'm saying is, I know we can help you with your horse. We know how hard it is to find a local instructor who has all five qualities.
We would love to be a part of your journey.
Don Jessop

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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Don Jessop


Don opened up a community, full of people on the same journey you are!
To share LIVE Q&A's and help people and horses transform Confidence.

Don Jessop


Don shares his  passion for writing with his passion for helping horse owners see the horse and themselves for who they truly are.

Don Jessop


Don believes every horse owner should have access to the Principles of Horsemanship and he shares them freely here.

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