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  • Danai Synadinou

How Horse Riding Made Me A Better Dog Trainer

The experiences that shape us are as diverse as the methods we employ. As soon as I embarked on my journey as a dog trainer it was clear to me my way of thinking was being profoundly influenced by my experiences connecting with a different animal, many moons ago- the horse. My experiences as a rider and a showjumping athlete, has not only enriched my understanding but has also defined my approach to training dogs.

Communicating with a horse, a majestic creature that embodies both strength and sensitivity, requires more than just skill—it demands empathy, patience, and respect. The fundamental lesson I learned from horse riding is the art of non-verbal communication. Horses, much like dogs, respond to the energy and intentions of their handlers. This silent dialogue, based on trust rather than force, has been the cornerstone of my dog training philosophy.

Being an athlete and preparing for showjumping competitions taught me the beauty of setting small and achievable goals. In showjumping the progress of both rider and horse are interlinked and interconnected, and their health, physical condition, skillset and communication all play a vital role in their progress. In training both horses and dogs, planning for and being mindful of each step forward is crucial. This method not only limits the risk of failure but it also fosters positive emotions and ensures that everyone involved (the trainer, the handler and the dog) are understand the importance of what the other party brings to the table. It's a gentle reminder that the journey is as important as the destination.

I used to be a very shy and introverted teen, but forming a bond with Kalinka, my horse, opened my heart to a form of love and connection that I had not known before. She healed a part of me I had not managed to access before. She helped me feel more confident. She patiently taught me how to communicate and express my thoughts. Regardless of my emotional struggles she was present and calm. This memory of mutual respect and understanding, has influenced how I approach dogs with behavioural issues, recognising they are struggling emotionally and being a calm present around them. Acknowledging the individuality of each animal allows me to tailor my methods to their unique needs, creating a safe space for them to learn and grow.

While reflecting on my time in the horse riding world, I acknowledge that not all practices were force-free. There are a lot of things that I wish were different back then. However, the lessons I carry with me from those experiences have been invaluable and push me to be a better person for them. They have taught me the importance of continuous learning and adaptation, always striving to adopt methods that prioritize the well-being and dignity of the animals in my care.

The lessons learned from horse riding and showjumping have been instrumental in shaping my approach to dog training. They have taught me the importance of empathy, patience, and respect in building a bond with animals first and asking things second. As I continue on this journey, I carry these lessons with me, always aiming to provide a holistic and compassionate approach to my care and training.

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