MEET JP GIACOMINI, “THE HORSE FIXER”™
by Rahn Greimann, editor of Horse’nAround
(Copyright ©2002, PUBLISHED 2002)
Rahn heard of J.P. Giacomini through many horse owners who had him fix their horses’ various problems. They all seemed to think that the “man walks on air”. So, Rahn decided to conduct this interview as an introduction to JP’s new series: “Training Problems? Ask the Horse Fixer!”™.
Q: Why do people know you affectionately as “The Horse Fixer”?
A: Above all the equestrian pursuits I have engaged in, my vocation is to search for training solutions. Over the years, international competitors, amateurs and show trainers have called on me to fix their problems for two reasons: I was lucky with some well known cases and I didn’t compete professionally against my clients. Though dressage is my passion, I have helped owners with eventers, show-jumpers, hunters, driving horses, reiners, cutters, western pleasure and stockhorses, 3 Gaited Saddlebreds, light shod Walkers, Arabians and Morgans, along with the pleasure horses whose only job is to love their owners and be safe.
Q: What is your background as a horseman?
A: I benefited from two entirely different types of education. On the one hand, I received formal tuition, first in basic equitation through the French Cavalry system at my local riding club and later, in dressage with Master Nuno Oliveira in Portugal. Because the advice “by the book” often failed at correcting problems, I learned on my own the intricacies of horse training by trial and error. I rode green colts, raced in steeplechases, evented, show-jumped and trained my first, very imperfect Grand Prix dressage horse when I was 17. Later, I rode thousands of remedial horses while giving clinics internationally. I read a lot, including many books I didn’t agree with. While producing international FEI champions, and coaching riders up to the Olympics, I got the opportunity to check the validity of my approach against the best in the world, which can be humbling indeed. This combination of formal and empirical experiences resulted in creating my own training tools: a short “check list” of unalterable training principles applicable to every horse and a constantly refined “catalogue” of techniques (I called equestrian “details”). Each was devised to address specific issues of equine “genetic behavior” and biomechanics. Eventually, I named my method “Essential Horsemanship”, a.k.a. “Reality Training”.
Q: What do you see as the biggest problems of American horsemanship?
A: The first problem we face is the rapid disappearance of old fashioned riding schools where people could learn to ride on a variety of safe, trained horses before they bought one. My other concern is the fashionable “gurus”, with great sounding theories that are often hard to prove practically. Riding teachers may need marketing, but they first should demonstrate real substance in their teaching material. In order for horsemanship to be rewarding to horse and owner, riders need immediate, long lasting, practical solutions that improve safety and comfort for both parties rather than politically correct hogwash that cannot help them from being admitted to the emergency room much too frequently.
Q: Isn’t there a big step from theory to results, particularly in competition?
A: Yes! Equestrian sports judged against a standard, like
dressage, or against the clock, such as jumping, endurance or barrel racing, are based on performance. In FEI sports, the zero drug tolerance and vet checks, equalize the field even further. The horse’s eventual competitive success and longevity ONLY depends on the psychological and biomechanical correctness of his/her preparation, while the purity of the rider’s philosophy remains irrelevant to the outcome. When the horse is not talented, or already confused by a previous rider, or the trainer is not experienced enough, then the beautiful theory is of no help. That’s when one needs practical solutions. Otherwise how can one fix the problem that forestalls reaching the next level of the horse human relationship? Training by philosophy only works if the horse has the same beliefs as the rider. Training by just practicing the elected “performance” lames a lot of horses. Training by following Essential Principles ALWAYS works, regardless of the horse or the trainer’s level of talent, because it provides a solid
reference when things get confusing, a “road map” if you will.
Q: Why can trainers with vastly different techniques still be equally successful?
A: Well, I have found that those apparent differences are in fact superficial. The great trainers generally agree with each other, regardless of their specialty, while the mediocre ones usually stress the uniqueness of their breed/discipline and “lose the forest for the trees”. There are no secrets to horse training: all the guiding principles are explained in every serious book. Sometimes they are clear, sometimes they are cryptic, but they are available for all to learn. These principles MUST be applied in every situation either to prevent or cure problems while the chosen techniques are specifically suited to each trainer’s preference and each horse’s individual need. Having visited many countries where I rode vastly different horses, I learned that there are innumerable ways to “skin a cat” or fix a horse.
Q: What makes your approach fundamentally distinct from the current fare of horsemanship advice?
A: When I analyze a new horse, I always try to simplify my diagnostics by answering these questions: is the horse WILLING to pay me
attention/respect? RELAXED in his topline? READY to move on request? SYMMETRICAL in his actions/responses? SELF-CARRYING and SELF PROPELLED? When asking this before each remedial session, I find the answer to be usually NO or NOT ENOUGH. I then aim at the easiest aspect of the problem and choose an adequate technique. After the lesson, if the answer to the questions become YES, to ANY degree, the result is valid, regardless of the technique used. When judging anyone’s method, remember that what is acceptable/understandable/pleasurable to a horse is physically and emotionally different than what is okay for a human. Training philosophies often fail because they are based on arbitrary judgments while ignoring equine reality (*We* - fill in the name of the group- don’t: use draw reins, carry a whip, correct negative behavior, etc. because it doesn’t fit our politically correct criteria). Horses only truly understand how other dominant and/or friendly horses relate to them. Their standard is immediate, lifelong compliance to simple, reasonable and unmistakable requests. Their natural behavior is my model for
(re) patterning trained behavior!
JP’S ESSENTIAL HORSEMANSHIP: CORE SOLUTIONS FOR YOUR HORSE &
16 hr. of Essential Training with JP! 8 VHS Tapes for $295 including postage.
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