As a Trainer, JJ Tate Puts the Horse First

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

As a youngster, JJ spent many hours observing horses in the pasture and it taught her much about how they communicate and about horse behavior. It also taught her that each horse is an individual. Hence, she approaches the training of a horse by first learning about its weaknesses, its strengths, its temperament and its experiences. Her goal is to help each be the best it can be.

JJ says, "Not every horse will be become a Grand Prix horse, but it can always learn better skills and develop the correct strength to move more efficiently. The goal for me with each horse is to find the right way to develop that horse into the best and happiest athlete. If my horse is going to look angry and not present itself in a joyous way, then I won't be able to sleep at night. I believe in being a coach and physical trainer, and a teacher to the horse. I pride myself on maintaining and allowing each horse's spirit to shine in its own special way throughout its time with me."

JJ wants all the horses in her barn to be "confident, proud, happy and true to their spirits." She believes the role of a trainer is to guide horses toward making better choices and it's clear that she has deep respect for these honorable creatures. "I am humble in their presence. Nothing intrigues, excites, inspires and even frustrates me, like the horse. But to figure out how each horse ticks, to achieve that harmony, where the rider thinks and the horse does, is the greatest high ever known. Being around horses makes me happy. All day, everyday! I honestly live to ride."

Although as a trainer JJ seeks to help horses find themselves, she's also quick to note that when it comes to learning about herself, the horses have been her mirror. "I believe that horses are the true judges of our character, and they teach us much more than we ever teach them. It's important to me how my horses feel about me and what I'm teaching them. I love the self discipline and self analysis, always seeking to do something better. The horse is constantly giving us feedback on how we are sitting, aiding, and acting. As a rider, I also love the challenge of competing. I believe the commitment of doing a test brings out a higher level of awareness."

JJ does not classify herself as a rider or as a trainer. She much prefers that people think of her as a good horsewoman. What matters most to her is how she cares for the horses in her stable. And to JJ, good care is not just about what one does for horses, it's also about how one relates to horses. "I myself am very sensitive to energy, positive or negative, and so I make an effort to treat my horses with respect, fairness, and kindness to make their surroundings as pleasant as possible. I am the boss mare, but in a firm, kind way. I think it's important for the horse to be able to rely on your authority so it can feel confident in the world."