The Women's Journal

Picky People Picking Professionals

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Dean Roles_3 edited

By Dean Roles

There are one of two categories when you meet a trainer, that they usually fall into; physical or mental. Physical trainers tend to use exercise in their training to obtain (consistent) proper movement. Mental trainers use inconsistency in sensory perception to attempt to stimulate the horse, to develop leadership to modify things like the fight or flight response of the horse. The inconsistency can easily lead to fear, and consistency can easily lead to boredom and resentment of the method! These contradictions take wisdom to master in a balanced approach. Both methods of training are valid, but differ greatly in applications.

When I started training dangerous horses and modifying their mental conditions and was able to achieve things inside of a horses’ mind most people could not, I loved it, but there is little appreciation in the human world for horse psychology. So I took some of my skills and started training in disciplines. I had achieved some success but found myself bored and discontent- so over the years, I moved back towards the mental aspect of horse training.  I strive to be that A-Z trainer that applies a perfect balance of mental and physical. My personal preferences tend to lean towards foundation training with a mental twist, not roofing, I don’t even like heights! I can and do put a great foundation on a horse for any discipline, but if you want to go to the Olympics, you need a trainer to finish what I started.  Showing, to me, can be boring and superficial, but most of my clients show and finish their horses and they are great people! However, they understand to achieve their goals they can’t send a 3 year old to college nor can they expect a middle school history teacher to teach quantum physics.

So remember when choosing someone to work with, to choose someone that is well qualified to work at the level you wish to work and within the field you wish to work. Don’t choose a trainer to finish a horse when your horse needs to be started. This is like building the roof before the walls. It’s just silly and ends in a mess. The opposite end of the spectrum is the foundation trainer that does not understand the end goal, and what is required to give a sound finished product. Remember when humans have a hammer; every problem tends to be a nail. So it is vital to pick the proper tool for the job. The simplest piece of advice I can give you is, a young horse should always enjoy their job and their rider and so SHOULD YOU.


Onyx came into my life in January 2009. In the past 3 years she has battled strangles and founder. In the spring of 2012 I decided this mare needed to have a job and I was desperate to find someone who would work with her without sacrificing my horse’s soul. And so it begins…

On June 9 I brought Dean a horse with soundness issues due to her foundering previously. I brought him a horse that had no desire to please a human, but who would rather intimidate people with her size and power.

Dean saw that Onyx’s issues ran deep and they weren’t all psychological…her physical well being needed to be addressed as well.  He took such care to get my horse physically comfortable in the first three weeks by trimming her feet, giving her massages. Anything he could think that would help, he did. He could have physically pushed my horse, took my money for a month’s worth of training and sent us on our way, but he didn’t!

This man cares about the horses and he cares about the people who own these horses that come through his gates. He has a plethora of knowledge and he loves to share it. He spent hours talking to me and sharing the lessons he has learned in his career…and he does it with passion! He is teaching me how to speak horse and to translate the information my horse gives me and to have a relationship with Onyx.

It’s been a beautiful experience to have Dean train me and teach my horse and I’m excited to say my journey isn’t over.  I’m continuing lessons with Dean and he is also continuing to trim Onyx’s feet to keep her sound.  –  Donna Austin, Clayton, DE

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