Horse trainer Angi Murray recently visited Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary with some of her students. A trainer for 25 years, Angi spent 12 of those years working with wild horses at Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue and is a five-time Extreme Mustang Makeover competitor. She now teaches leadership development programs at Wrong Turn Ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif.
How did you become a trainer?
I always knew I wanted to be a horse trainer which is very odd considering neither of my parents were animal people. I knew right away and at 12 years old started following around other trainers and watching their methods. Mostly, I found that I didn’t care for what most people were doing with horses and it didn’t feel right to me. I always felt like there was a better way to find with horses, and I was not seeing it in the trainers that were in that area. I started experimenting with people’s horses that had issues to try to find out if I could find a solution to the problem. I was able to learn a few things from those horses.
My parents got me an unstarted POA stallion and I spent the summer teaching him how to ride which also taught me tons. I worked with horses in my spare time until I was about 19 and then I took a break for about seven years while I was working in big cities so did not have much exposure to horses. I started back up after talking to a client in a hotel where I was working at they told me about two difficult horses they had and how no one seemed to be able to help them. I convinced them to let me start training them and I was happy to get good results. I was hooked because it was really the only thing that made sense to me.
What misconceptions do people have about horse training?
I think that other people have misconceptions about how long it actually takes for a horse to feel comfortable being ridden. Most people assume being a horse trainer is wonderful work, when often it is just dirty, sweaty, time-consuming work. Also people assume once a horse has training that it should always be that trained horse, no matter what happens to it in between.
What are the differences between working with wild and domestic horses?
It really depends on the horse. First, a domestic horse is sometimes easier to start under saddle (although their are exceptions to the rules). We have bred out a lot of the instinct in some breeds. The wild horse has its instincts intact. and they need you to be more aware of body position and energy. A wild horse will often be worried more about the underlying energy you have than a domestic — and the sensitivity to pressure is amazing.
What do new horse owners need to keep in mind?
New horse owners need to understand that they need the best support system they can possible find. They need to work closely with a trainer and with other horse owners so they are less likely to get hurt or get their horse hurt. They also need to know that a horse is constant work and training. You never come to the end of when you should be working on things and taking lessons constantly is beneficial. Also new horses owners should start with horses that are actually at a level that can keep them safe or to commit to working very closely with a trainer so that they can understand the training process.
What have horses taught you?
Horses have taught me SO much! They have taught me a new level of softness/lightness. They have taught me how small you can actually be to get a response. They have taught me patience that I can use with people, and what presence of pressure feels like. They have taught me to slow down and to notice tiny things that most people do not. They have taught me that horses need relationship before anything else and that training without relationship produces hollow results. They have shown me how much heart they will have to work for you if you give them love.