Frequently Asked Questions about The Stables at South Molton

Why do you offer 3 levels of certification as oppose to just training all horses to the top level certification?

By offering horses for sale at all three levels of certifications we can offer premium horses at various pricing points to our customers. As our horses progress in their development and skills, so does their value in the market place.

Once we advertise a horse for sale, it does not mean we have completed their training. In fact, a horse we might advertise at "Saddle 1: Elementary Saddle" will be also scheduled be begin their Saddle 2 training. Once the horse completes Saddle 2, the selling price of that horse will have risen. By offering the horse for sale when they are at Saddle 1 certified, a customer has the opportunity to purchase the horse at a lower price point in that horse's development.

Additionally, our customers have many different requirements and goals and not all customers require a horse to be saddle 3 certified.

Tells us your thoughts on certification of horse trainers?

First, to provide a you a basis of my thoughts on certification in general: During my life that made horses possible, I had hundreds certified technical professionals working for me in the computer field and I was on committees that set requirements for staff certifications.

I have reviewed all the equine certifications I can find. In reality, there are not many and those that we can find focus on coaching or riding.

The main issue with certification in most industries is that they certified an individual in their ability to perform certain tasks, usually via a test, and sometimes also requires a minimum level of experience. What is absence in most certifications across industries is they do not certify that the person can actually achieve good results beyond a classroom. In other words, they say a person knows how to do something but not how well they actually do it.

For example, my best project managers and programmers were not certified and many of my certified professionals were average to below average in their end results. Why? In my opinion, the best ones were always fully employed, highly in demand and simply did not have the down time required to study for a certification test. They proved themselves in battle.

This is not to say certification is bad. In fact, we believe so much in it that we developed our own for our horses. The "how" is not what is important, it is the end results. We believe the equine industry needs a standard way to certify a horse's skills to determine the suitability for a rider. If for no other reason other than for the safety of potential buyers and professional credibility. I would not really care if the trainer is a "natural horsemen" or certified by Lyons, etc. (all great programs by the way), as long as the trainer produced results and the horse is reliable for ultimate owner.

Horses can be dangerous under the best situations. What we care about is: repeatability of results over dozens of horses that produces a horse that is reliable and safe for the owner given the dangers involved. To best match a rider to a horse you must know both pieces of the equation. Way too often buyers purchase a horse that is not an appropriate match for them - this mainly happens because sellers provide so little information about the horse's skills and temperament.

Tell us about your breeding program?

During the first 12 years, I treated my horse operation has a research and development facility. I experimented with various breeds (Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Paint Horses, Appaloosa). I experimented with different stallions and many mares, tracking the temperament and trainability of their foals.

Overtime, I developed a bloodline of American Quarter Horses with a great blend of temperament and conformation and dropped all other breeds with some minor exceptions for great horses.

Stating you drop horses from your training program is pretty unique, what else can you say about this?

We recognize this is a different approach. Many breeders are simply too small or operating at or near a loss to drop a horse and just cannot afford this approach.

However, South Molton cannot afford to keep marginal horses in our program. Our goal is to be the most reputable provider of pleasure horses and selling horses that present a potential risk of injury or just owner dissatisfaction run contrary to our goals and professional responsibilities.

A key thing to understand is our breeding program has evolved to the point where we average less than one a year that do not make it through the program. In fact our group of 2008 foals, we have zero on our "watch" list as they became yearlings. While we will continue to evaluate them, we generally know by now of any concerns that need to be monitored.

Lastly, there are many people that take good pride in turning a marginal horse around and it can be done successfully when one person wants to invest the time and plans to keep the horse for their own use (hence eliminate the transition to new owner risk).

Horses we drop from our program are project horses and we will sell these horses cheaply to a good home to anyone looking for a project. We sell them without papers. However, if the buyer stills owns the horse after three years and for mares, has not bred the horse and states they will not ever breed the horse, we will make the papers available. Contact us for an application and to be placed on our waiting list.

What are your thoughts about the Equine industry in general?

I think the general person is just confused these days. The whole "Natural Horsemanship" movement has added to this confusion in that people think they should be able to get any horse to do anything. People are bombarded with marketing for nutrition products, tack, training, etc. Then add to it that every month, in every publication people weigh in with their wide ranging opinions on how to care for a horse. It can be like drinking from a fire hose.

First, realize, the vast majority of information is self-serving being provided by people in a for profit venture. Now there is nothing wrong with that, we very much understand that and much of it serves a validate purpose when applied correctly to the correct situation.

It is time to take a step back to the basics to some extent. Basic good horse care has not changed much in many years. A good diet of natural food (grass), basic foot care, open living space, regular use and contact with people ...stick to the basics first and foremost.

Consider 99% of the stuff you hear and read as your personal development and put it into your tool kit. Just remember, to vary from the basics there needs to be a reason - a special situation to solve a specific problem to use in the rare case that you need it.

Second, this is a largely unregulated industry. There is fragmented governance. For the largest segment, the riding market there is nothing to protect the consumer. No governance overseeing horse training, breeding techniques, etc. Way too many people end up with horses that are inappropriate for the riding market or not suitable to their skill level.

The industry needs more accountability from trainers and breeders to ensure horses entering the pleasure riding market are fit for that purpose. But with so many small breeders, hobbyists, thin margins that is a long, long way off.

Lastly, we believe that it is time for a new model and we are prepared to be alone in this. Riding has risks and it is our job as trainers and breeders to ensure only horses that can reduce the risks enter the market and the ones that increase risks stay out of the riding market.

Tells more what a buyer can do to predict transference and consistency?

We plan this into our training program, constantly exposing the horse to different tack, handlers, riders, situations, etc. This is a prime considering for us when making decision to offer a horse for sale. We need to consider how well will the horse will perform for others.

There are two areas to focus when assessing these critical issues when buying a horse.

First, assess the trainers methods. Many trainers today take great pride in turning around or rescuing horses. We applaud them for these efforts. But many times people get so involved in the details and the pride of their workmanship, they lose sight of objectively assessing how the horse would perform for someone else when they go to sell it.

So pick the current training/owner's brain. They will love to talk about what hurdles they overcame in training the horse. If there are long stories about getting the horse to come around or other red flags, chances are that horse is great for that person but there would be transference and consistency risks that should concern you.

You are more at risk when buying privately from an individual owner and auctions, of course, are the most risky environment to make a horse purchase. The University of Missouri Extension states "buying privately from a breeder is usually one of the best and safest ways to get a horse" in their white paper titled "Buying a Horse" by Wayne Loch.

Next, assess the horse itself. For pleasure horses, temperament is a critical element. The following is a table lists the traits that influence transference and consistency:

Positive : Increase Transference and Consistency Negative: Decrease Transference and Consistency
Trusting Fearful
Willingness Stubborn
Gentle Aggressive
Sociable towards people Antisocial with people
Confident Insecure
Relaxed Tense

When looking at a horse, devise yourself some test to assess the likelihood of transference and consistency:

  • Ask if the horse is normally kept with other horse and if so ask they be in the natural setting when you arrive. Just observe when you the horse curious about a new face? Do they come up to the railing and let you pet them? Look for clues about how the horse interacts with people.
  • Ask to catch the horse or watch. You can tell a lot about the horse's willingness.
  • Lead the horse into a confined space, preferably one they are not use to (your trailer?), a barn stall will work.
  • Try some carefully placed, small sudden movement (taking off your hat; dropping something). Most horse will react once, so try it twice during your visit. If the horse learned from the first experience their reaction will be less. Note: try this only when the horse is secured and you have assessed the overall safety of this situation.
  • Bring something from home (blanket, pillow, stuffed animal, etc) and have the horse follow you near it. They should follow you willingly.
Are you a horse whisper?

Gosh no. They do not exist. Ever since Monte Roberts' book and the movie "The Horse Whisper" (my favorite books and movie by the way), it became vogue. There are many people with true gifts with horses, but there are many people bottom feeding off the success of a few and looseness of the term. The ones with true gifts do it through their talent not magic.

I have always seemed to have a natural way with animals, particularly with horses. But it was through a lot of creativeness and hard work that I became a good all around horse trainer and professional.

My early years I made a go at it in the horse industry holding various jobs with various breeders and stables. This gave me lots of experience working with many, many horses in a variety of situations. At the same time I studied and practiced training techniques endlessly. Through lots of field work and I learned what worked and didn't work.

I embarked on my own in 1997 when I purchased my own ranch. Since then I have personally owned about 200 horses of various breeds.

Then how did you get to be good with horses?

Lifelong passion and hard work. In my younger years, I worked various jobs in the horse industry. I read every book I could find. I would save all of my pay for weeks to be able to attend a clinic.

I practiced and tried many techniques. I learned and studied how well they worked by employing them on my horses. I learned early that every horse is different and learns differently and that you need a deep bag of skills to draw upon.

Most importantly, early on I became intrigued by how well my horses performed or in some cases did not perform for others. The horses that were my biggest challenges to train - the ones I thought showed just how good of trainer I was, had the most difficulty when transitioning to a new owner.

My learnings: There was more to it than great training - you needed the right horses as well. The people that buy horses generally do not have the experience with 100s of horses but only a few. You need to be more than just another good trainer, you need to have a good life-cycle management process that ensures your customers' success. Your customers are the real ones that need to be successful with your horses.

That's when I took a different path, taking the time to develop a breeding program to match the training - it would take time, patience and a lot of heart ache. But we have arrived at something special.

You provide a lot of free information on your web site, why?

There are many reasons, but the ones that come to mind first are:

  • It is our professional responsibility to match the right horse to the owner. We will do our part, but we need to provide the resources to potential buyers to help them make the right choice.
  • Intelligent, informed, savvy customers are more likely to be happy customers after the sale.
  • We do not have a horse for everyone, but we are glad to help anyone make the right choice in a horse purchase. Its good for the industry and that is good for everyone.
Tell us more about your structured transition?

Basically we want our customer's to be happy with our horses for as long as they own them. We hear about all these nice people with problems with their horses. Why? There is many possibilities.

There is no one in the world that knows our horses better than us.

Many people have not been exposed to the number of horse we have. It is the small items that well intended that owners do that create bad habits in good horses down the road. Our transition program is designed more so the buyer does not have to discover the horse on their own and they have better information to keep the horse's development going forward.

In addition to the one-day structure transition on the day you pick up your horse, we also provide six hours of follow up training to help with any fine tuning for both the horse and rider. Lastly, we provide one year telephone and email support to help owners make that first critical year as successful as possible.

After that first year, we offer trail rides with optional coaching sessions to help the owner in any aspect of the horse's continuing development.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

First, we believe in customers so much so that everything about our horses is an open book. Our customers are smart, savvy, successful, hard working people. They deserve to be treated as such when buying a horse. We play no games. We provide a vast amount of documentation on each horse. With only limited time to enjoy their horse during the year they deserve to find the best possible match in a horse for them.

Building on that, we are not trying to sell a horse: we are trying a match a horse to the buyer to ensure success. We take the long term view, we do not need that next sale to stay in business. We would rather have a win-win for both us and our customer than to make one sale. It means we may have to tell someone we do not have a match - its a big market place, plenty of room for everyone.

Second, we are not lifers in the business. It has allowed us to view the industry from the outside. We spent a great deal of time in the business world working in the same environments as our customers which are people who are succeeding in life through hard work. We both worked our way up from nothing, succeeding one step at a time. In the process we both had the privileged of working with 1000s of successful people all over the world. We know the reputation of horse sellers and we do not want to play the same old game that has been played countless times for countless centuries. We decided that the only way we would be in this business is to do it differently.

Lastly, just a word on pricing. We are able to price our horses well below equivalent quality horses offered by our competitors The reason for this is simple: when you buy from South Molton you are not paying for costly bank loans which add at least 50% to the prices of a horse. At South Molton we are self funded - not because we are wealthy but because we work hard and save. All buildings and facilities were built by us - every nail, every rail, every weld and every posted pounded. We are relentless in cost management and we do not outsource any aspect of our operation - even this web site was developed completely in house to keep our costs down. If we do not know how to do something, we learn it and never take the easy way out.

It is a simple equation that results in lower prices for you.

Where does "South Molton" come from?

It was the street we lived on in London. It is located in central London in Mayfair by the diplomatic district just a stone's throw from the USA and Canadian embassies. It is a street famous for women's shoe stores. It is also the place we detailed our the business model for The Stables at South Molton.

We would sip cocktails after work on our balcony and develop our business plan while being entertained by the 30,000 to 50,000 people who walked under our flat everyday.