My name is Amanda Hocking and I am a full time performance horse trainer and EA NCAS Level 2 coach.
I am British by birth and as my parents were not in the financial position buy me a pony when I was a young girl I used to hang around the local riding schools “bartering” cleaning stables in return for rides. I slowly progressed to cleaning saddlery, grooming and preparing feeds and by the age of 12 I was actually teaching beginner riders. Each year I would hire a pony to go to Pony Club camp and because the school could not afford to let their best school ponies be out of work for a week I used to take whichever equine misfit was least liked by the clients. This led to some interesting learning curves!
I can remember having the compulsory Career talk with a careers councillor at school when I was 15 and telling her that I wanted to be a full time Three Day Event rider and Coach. She looked at me sympathetically and said “Yes, but what do you want to do when you grow up?”! I managed to escape school fairly early and was offered a job with a hunting yard. Here we cared for 4 to 5 stabled horses 7 days a week with one day off a fortnight and these horses were ridden by the 2 Masters, the Huntsman and the 2 Whips. The owner of the yard also supplemented her income by buying Irish-bred buckjumpers and” turning” them into quiet “Hunters For Hire” During the “turning” process we grooms usually acquired a few bumps and bruises!
The Fernie Hunt is based in Leicestershire and this is considered very fast country (when they find a fox the countryside lends itself to some very long and fast gallops) so each of the hunt staff needed access to 2 horses each so as to last the day. As a rider of 2nd horses I was expected to follow hounds at a quiet distance and then when we swapped to hack the now tired 1st horse back to the truck or stables, which ever was closest. Sometimes the 2nd horses returned back to the yard at 7pm still hot and caked in mud. As we were not allowed to wash horses at that time of night we had to rub them down until they were calm and dry, then groom every speck of mud off, often this was not finished until 10pm. Then we had to clean all the gear!
One night I was so tired I went to bed without rinsing and refreshing the water buckets and I was woken up at 1am by a furious Boss who dragged me out of bed to do my water buckets. She let me know in no uncertain terms that tired horses, locked up in stables, do not deserve to drink stale water. She pointed out to me that water in stables absorbs the ammonia from the air making the water taste off within a four hour period, a fact I have never forgotten.
The work was hard and the standard consistently high but the plusses were amazing. Like the days we were out hunting and I had the opportunity to ride at full gallop over miles of huge 1.20m brush fences and ditches. Awesome!
I then did a year at an eventing yard where I trained the eventers for a young junior rider. Great when she was at school as I was allowed to ride in competitions but when she came home I had to step down. It was this that made me look toward immigrating to Australia.
My first horse job in Australia was working for a wealthy American family who owned an amazing equestrian property in Bowral. All white wooden rails and mown paddocks. They bred American Saddlebred horses, but this was the 70’s and most people could not get their head around how these horses were shown. High tail carriage, hollow backs and well above the bit, very strange paces (or gaits). As a result not many horses were sold and at one stage there were over 200 horses and only 5 members of staff. Not a lot of time for quality workmanship here! Horses were cheap to buy and land/space was plentiful. I started to realise that Aussies tend to work with quantity rather than quality.
But I had never given up my dream of becoming a coach so when I was given the opportunity to come to Victoria and work in an Equestrian centre near the coast I jumped at the chance. The boss and his wife were extraordinary in their generosity, giving me two nice horses to ride, time off to compete, go to clinics, use of a float and payed up my expenses! So the next thing I realised was that Aussies will back you all the way if you are honest, up front and prepared to put in.
After a couple of years we hatched a plan were I would go to England and obtain my BHS qualifications, with the view of coming back to Australia to set up a Coach Training scheme. This I did but before I left I thought it would be fun to get involved with the International eventing scene, so I went and did an internship with the Roycroft family for 3 months so I could have a reference that the Poms would recognise. Back in England I stayed for one year, gaining two BHS Instructor qualifications and one ABRS, went to Badminton Horse Trials as a Journalist for Hoofs and Horns, met Princess Ann at a very posh reception in a castle, strapped for the Australian 3DE team at the alternative Olympics, trained with leading BHS Examiner and Coach Islay Auty and worked as a barmaid/dish-pig at the local pub to cover my expenses!
When I returned to Australia it was to find that the NCAS had been formed and Riding Coach qualifications were now available. After gaining my Level 11 I chose to open my own yard teaching riders and training performance horses. As we lived near 13th beach I also took on pre-race training racehorses as the money was very good and it was a good way to check out potential event horses.
Over the next few years I enjoyed winning numerous events including my first 3DE, riding in an Australian Dressage Team and my husband and I taking out the Daily double at a 3DE, he won the 3* and me the 1*. I continue to train both here and overseas with great trainers and coaches as I love to learn more about our fascinating sport and four legged friends.
I have learnt how to drive trotters and fine harness, break in horses, natural horsemanship and ridden world class reining quarter horses. Later this year I am travelling to the states to participate in The Art of Teaching program with Jane Savoie, well known rider/competitor/ coach who uses NLP, sports psychology and other neurological science to enhance performance.
As a Level 2 and Coach Educator I now am based in Shepparton and work around the state helping riders follow their chosen path and trainee coaches fulfil their coaching dreams. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting involved at the grass roots of the NCAS system and have seen tremendous growth and development over the years.
If I was to offer any advice to people wishing to make a career in the horse industry it would be this:-
- Always have a dream – then set realistic goals that help you to realise the dream
- Be flexible and open to possibilities – there are many roads to Rome and some whilst unusual, can be very educational and lead to amazing opportunities.
- Work for the love – if you are passionate about your work the money and opportunities will come.
- A sense of humour – it does not matter how many medals you win or accolades you achieve in the horse industry there will always be poo to pick up. On your first day of work you will be cleaning up poo and probably on your last day of work! Poo happens. Get over it!
If you are working in the equestrian industry as a professional be it in racing, harness, training, massage, dental, vet or anything for that matter, knowing the personality of a horse is going to assist you in making informed decisions about the horse.
Like people, every horse is different and like people some horses find it easier to learn or respond if we communicate with them in a way they understand.
People have different ways of perceiving their environment and learning. Some of us are kinesthetic, some auditory and some visual.
Horse’s are very similar. The horse personality decoder will help you understand how to pick the personality of the horse and then how to work, train and handle that horse which is going to be safer for you and the horse. You can download information and our decoders at: www.horsepersonality.com.au
To get you started, there are four key indicators that will help you work out the personality of your horse. Does your horse appear to be:
Thinking – smart
Reactive – emotional
Expressive – likes to move
Lazy – Unmotivated
We then work out if it is a horse that likes to:
Move a lot but is calm thinking – this is a True Blue
Moves but can be out of control and emotional, panics – this is a Red Hot
Doesn’t like to do much, is stubborn, smart and lazy – this is a Purple Pain
Doesn’t like to move but is shutdown, aloof and evasive – this is a Yellow Belly
So how is this going to help you in your work place.
If you know that a True Blue needs to move his feet, needs variety and has an explorative, creative nature then you can create a plan that will get the most out of this horse. They love to move and run and these horses, treated right are great race horses – make sure you mix it up for them and they will love you for it. If these horses aren’t given the opportunity to be creative and have a bit of fun, they get grumpy, dominating and intimidating – make some work place environments dangerous. Red horses love to run too, however, they are way more sensitive and prone to emotional and mental burn-out so they need a very sensitive patient handler or they will become out of control, reactive and dangerous.
A lot of harnes horses are purples, they’re unflappable but they still like to move. If these horses are given lots of rewards like doing nothing in between each session of training they will out perform for you. Yellow’s are mostly man made after being in the ruff and tumble industry of equestrian sports. They are shutdown and evasive, this is often the result of bad handling, and poor and unnatural environments. They are not suited to equestrian sports unless they have exceptional training and handlers.
If you are looking for an edge and knowledge that is going to make you stand out at work or with clients, take the time to read through our personalities and training strategies. They are well researched, tried and tested and have given many handlers and riders amazing results and rewards.
Imagine being able to problem solve a situation of a horse in your work place because you now know the personality and how to communicate with that horse. Developing this insight developes you as a horse handler/trainer and creates a skill you will have for life around horses.
The Blue horse is a horse that loves to express its nature mentally, physically and emotionally. They are extremely quick learners and need creative leadership as anything repetitive will drive them mad. They are very confident and love to show off, they love attention, people and playing. In the wrong hands their play can become dangerous and intimidating as they are very good at inventing games and taking over. They love to rule the roost and be the centre of attention, playing with everything and anything in their paddock.
Key Personality Indicators:
Desirable Traits: Forward, Thinking, Inquisitive, Like To Move, Clever, Playful, Quick Learner, Confident, Creative, Honest, Likes to Move, Sociable, Smart, Athletic, Mouthy
Undesirable Traits: Challenging, Takes Over, Intimidating, Invents Games, Pushy, Dominant, Defiant, Bad Mannered, Excitable, Mischievous
Training Strategies: Variety is the key to training this horse, flat work in an arena will drive them mad and before long they will be inventing games and spooking. Try to be creative in how you train this horse, use applied dressage strategies rather than teaching the end goal. The Blue Horse needs to be entertained and detest a monotonous approach such as mindless circles and lunging. It’s essential that you do regular, creative ground work with this horse. They need exceptionally strong leadership, time and feel. Trying to keep this personality under control through dominance rather than leadership will shut the horse down making him insecure, dangerous and grumpy. They make excellent Dressage horses if you can capture their natural flamboyancy without shutting them down, they love games, hunting, cutting cows and activities that are energetic and interesting
The Red horse is a highly sensitive, instinctive, intuitive, emotional horse. They are very quick learners and extremely willing as they will do almost anything to avoid pressure. They need to move and love a job. They are born worry warts and can easily become fearful and panic, they tend to react first and think later, shying and spooking easily, leaving you fearful. They are the most likely to be herd bound and notice the smallest changes in their environment. They are honest and wear their hearts on their sleeve.
Key Personality Indicators
Desirable Traits: Energetic, Motivated, Eager, Forward, Likes to Move, Perceptive, Soft, Willing, Honest, Action Rich, Vocal, lateral thinkers, Expressive, Highly Intuitive.
Undesirable Traits: Reactive, Bolts, Tantrums, Emotional, Panics, Crowds You, Shy/Spook, Accident Prone, Herd Bound, Distracted, Restless, Hyper Active, Lose the Plot, Dominate out of Fear.
Training Strategies: The Red Horse needs to be kept busy and tuned in to the rider at all times. They like to move so you need to be able to go with the horse and not hold them back. Because they can be easily distracted giving them a job helps them and you stay focused. They are ultra sensitive so you only need to think what you want and they’ll respond. When the Red horse “Loses the plot” they will often need a pattern interrupt, so do something that takes their mind off their problem. They also need consistency as change really bothers them, so don’t keep changing the rules on them. Don’t try and work with this horse either if you’ve had a bad day, they’ll always catch you out. Forceful aids, punishment and bad timing will send this horse completely over the edge, so less is always more with the Red Horse.
The Purple horse is very independently minded and often known as the “bombproof” horse. They’re unflappable, reliable and a loyal friend. However, these horses can also be one of the most frustrating horses to own as they are not easily motivated, giving them the name of “royal pain in the butt”. They are often not worried about what the herd is doing and are happy doing their own thing, which normally involves eating or standing. To train a horse like this you need to offer many rewards and think laterally, as they can be very contrary.
Key Personality Indicators
Desirable Traits: Reliable, Calm, Accommodating, Consistent, Tenacious, Congruent, Confident, Loyal, Bomb Proof, Unflappable, Non-reactive, Thinking, Strategic, Relaxed.
Undesirable Traits: Defiant, Doesn’t Like To Move, Contrary, Buck/Rear, Sucks Back, Over Powers, Bores Quickly, Rebellious, Tunes Out, Calculating, Rigid, Lazy, Tough Minded.
Training Strategies: The Purple Horse requires a very clever, patient owner. This horse is naturally oppositional, and will nearly always be inclined to do the opposite of what you ask. You will need to be equipped, with exceptional lateral thinking skills and not be someone who gets hot under the collar quickly or you’ll go mad. They didn’t get the name “Purple Pain” for nothing. Because these horses love standing around and eating and doing nothing you can use this to your advantage, using food and lots of stops as a way of getting the horse to work with you works like a treat!!! The Purple Horse is not that sensitive and not that motivated so kicking and whipping and applying more force will just cause them to tune out and ignore you completely, you can never get the trust or respect of this horse with that style of training. Once you have your Purple Horse understanding their job they are exceptionally reliable, unflappable mounts and make great beginner horses and ponies.
The Yellow horse is one of the most challenging horses to own, train and read. They internalise their feelings and emotions until they all boil over and then everyone knows about it. They care a great deal about their relationship with you. Trust, comfort and safety are what motivate this horse. They are very sensitive but can also be bossy and aloof. If your timing is out then they can go from being super quiet to explosive in milliseconds, causing you to feel very insecure. Once you have the trust and a solid relationship with this horse they are truly amazing, very reliable, calm and super responsive.
Key Personality Indicators
Desirable Traits: Agreeable, Soft, Easy, Sensitive, Disciplined, Submissive, Bonding, Quiet, Responsive, Reliable, Kind, Tries Hard, Solid, Gentle.
Undesirable Traits: Insecure, Fearful, Unstable, Hard to Catch, Disconnected, Aloof, Evasive, Shutdown, Doesn’t like to Move, Reserved, Defensive, Explosive, Robotic, Solitary, Unreliable, Hide at the back of the Herd, Don’t catch me.
Training Strategies: The Yellow Horse can be difficult to read as they don’t externalize their emotions. They need someone who is ultra patient, puts the relationship first and understands that this horse needs time to make decisions and should not be forced into things. Ask and wait. The Yellow Horse is very sensitive and cares a great deal about how much you care. They are driven by comfort and security and need to trust their riders and handlers. To train these horses you reward them with comfort. Eg. Get the change and let them stand around, they need time to process and reflect on information. They can become very evasive, aloof and bossy with the underlying manipulation of an explosion if you push too hard. So take your time, be patient, but be firm and have a strong image of the outcome you want to achieve. Once they trust you this horse will do anything for you.