I want to share a good horse story. The main characters are JP Dyal (Horse Trainer/Whisperer), Frosty (my 11 year old quarter horse gelding), and me (average middle-aged woman with dreams of trail riding on the happy road of retirement). I had only happy, easy memories of having horses in my teens and then again when my kids were young. So when I found Frosty, after a 20 year hiatus from all things horses, I had a fantasy of what it would be like to trail ride through my golden years with a horse who was ‘retiring’ from life on a working cattle ranch.
Frosty had been out to pasture for months when I found him, was loaded with ticks and really out of shape (I could say the same for myself, minus the ticks). I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to get into shape together but it wasn’t long (weeks) before the problems began. It quickly became apparent that my horse was smart and I was unable to hold his respect. We were trail riding but it was more like wrestling than relaxing. Frosty spooked at everything and despite my ability to keep a pretty good seat I worried my luck would eventually run out. Did I mention my history with several bad concussions? So the risk of falling now is not just about breaking aging bones but of additional brain traumas.
After a scary accident where Frosty fell out of the back of my trailer, and shortly after stomped on my foot and left me laid up for about 4 weeks, we both lost confidence in my ability to lead us out of the hole we were in. My vet initially guided me to a local trainer for help but Frosty’s problems only worsened. As I watched an experienced trainer struggle to control Frosty’s tantrums I wondered how I would ever be safe on his back let alone regain confidence working with him on the ground. He scared me and I felt like a failure.
That’s when I got a referral to JP Dyal. He came highly recommended from three other trainer’s who knew his special ability to work with problem horses. I jumped at the chance to go and meet him in person despite the two hour drive to do so. JP recommended I give him 3 months to work with Frosty and he encouraged me to come and be a part of as much of the work he would be doing as possible. My vet had already told me that it was both me and Frosty that needed help so I committed to go every week.
It didn’t take long to see how lucky I was to find JP. I understand there are many good horse trainers out there but I suspect there are fewer who are equally as good at working with the two-legged part of the team as the four-legged team member. I saw immediately that Frosty was a different horse when he was with JP and the opportunity I had to learn how to model my own behavior and interactions with Frosty after JP. It was also clear that JP cared as much about my happiness, well-being and safety as he did Frosty’s.
I’m not sure I can do justice through words to explain what it is that JP does that makes him so talented. Yes, it is part patience, practice, technique but it also seems a bit like magic to me. I’ve not only witnessed it first hand with me and Frosty but every time I’ve watched JP work with other horses and their owners. Something else that is important to know about JP is that he knows what he doesn’t know and when to call in help to find answers to problems he can’t quite figure out alone. He has an amazing network of resources he can draw from. For example, after JP got to know Frosty a little he recommended an evaluation with a very talented horse chiropractor (MC Kidd). Doing that helped to solve some problems that were related to repetitive injuries Frosty had from years of being a working cattle horse. And because of MC’s work with Frosty we began to correct some problems that needed the help of a skilled farrier. So between the farrier, MC and JP we got Frosty to a place where he is much better balanced over his feet and overall. I guess my point here is that JP sees and has a great team approach to horse care. I’m grateful for his humility and complete absence of ego in his work: the only thing that matters to him is doing what is right for the horse and the rider.