The Things Trainers See


Dale Riding
I think my greatest natural talent as a trainer/instructor is a keen power of observation. This is ironic since my eyes have clinically poor acuity! Perhaps it’s more accurate to say I’m visually intuitive and able to discern what’s lurking beneath the surface of what I see. Either way I often find myself wishing my superb-sight had an on and off switch – or at least a damper that allowed my cognitive/emotional self to come away unscathed. I’m a trainer who strives to help horses and their human companions work together in comfort, balance, and enjoy a mutually-rewarding partnership. I am downright nitpicky about circumventing the possibility that a horse I work with or a student of mine rides/handles experiences any pain or distress. Did I mention I can eyeball a look of anxiety on a horse’s face or detect discomfort in his carriage from a mile away? My students are subject to my x-ray vision as well. I can see the moment they send tension down the reins, stiffen their pelvis, or misalign their shoulders.

Whether horse or human is under my scrutiny, I am immensely grateful for my powers to perceive and strive to hone that skill on a daily basis. The downside is that while on my daily rounds at barns, shows, other events, and even while watching videos online, images come into my field of view I wish I could unsee.

  • Riders relentlessly pulling on the reins.
  • Horses nervously mouthing the bit.
  • Equine eyelids wrinkled in worry.
  • Unnatural mechanical gaits.
  • Horses overflexed in the poll.
  • Riders riding with uneven hands and crooked posture.
  • Laterally and/or longitudinally unbalanced horses.
  • Horses’ mouths being yanked or jerked.
  • Horses being ridden sore or lame.
  • Ill-fitting uncomfortable circulation-restricting tack.
  • Poorly adjusted and severe bits
  • Overly tightened nosebands.
  • Horses repetitively asked to perform physically and/or emotionally stressful tasks.
Grumpy Horse

What fills my eyes with joy is seeing a horse under the guidance of his human partner comfortably expressing his athletic potential, working in a relaxed and comfortable frame, and responding to cues with understanding and confidence. I love seeing a horse meet his person at the stall door or pasture gate eager for attention and an enriching training session. Watching a horse travel in balance on the ground or under saddle, legs flowing freely, back swinging, is heavenly to behold. A soft connection between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth, an imperceptible loop of communication between two bodies, make my visual cortex as happy as can be.

Happy Horse

Horses are incredible, stupendous, magnificent creatures – honestly I can’t find words to adequately describe the grandeur my eyes perceive. What they do for us is tremendous. I think it’s our duty and responsibility to return the favor. Whether that means learning more about tack and equipment, equine biomechanics, proper care and management, and working to be more educated rider/handler, you benefit yourself as you benefit your horse. We would have more images of happy horses in the world for which my eyes would be forever grateful.

Dale Rudin is a CHA-certified riding instructor and clinician with a mindful and balanced approach to horsemanship and riding.


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Dale Rudin is a Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA)-certified riding instructor, welfare-centered trainer, rehabilitation specialist, saddle fitter, and certified equine nutritionist. She is a founding member of Force-Free Tennessee, an animal advocacy organization that promotes humane, low-stress training and handling of all animals. Dale's No. 1 goal is to create joyful experiences for horses and the people who love and care for them. She uses compassionate, reinforcement-based training methods that reduce stress and benefit the horse both emotionally and physically, and specializes in restoring health and wellness to horses with mild to severe physical, emotional, and behavioral issues. Dale offers instruction and consultations in person and online. She accepts horses for training and rehab at her farm, Lyric Valley Ranch in Santa Fe, Tenn., which is also the home of Pure Joy Horse Haven, a sanctuary for traumatized and abused horses (



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