By Tammy Chipko
I caught up with Steve McAllister of Martin McAllister Training to speak with him about their training system. Steve and Jenni have made some changes recently and are gearing up for a very exciting year.
TAMMY CHIPKO: Have you always been involved in the Hunter/Jumper industry?
Steve McAllister:No, I actually come from a Western background. I was heavily involved with the AQHA including showmanship, horsemanship, reining, and pleasure. I was also a blacksmith at the time and became increasingly fascinated with Jumpers. I wanted to bring the training system that I believed in to the Hunter/Jumper discipline and in 1984 I decided to open a barn in Connecticut to train horses.
TC: When did Jenni become part of the team?
SM: I met Jenni shortly after opening the barn. I needed a rider and we shared the same philosophy and goals. When everyone agrees, then you have the potential for success.
TC: What brought you to CA?
SM: We continued to grow, showing in Ocala, West Palm and The American Trials on the east coast, and then we decided to try showing in California. We fell in love with the west coast and never went back east.
TC: Tell me about the training system you specialize in.
SM: I was doing some research on a problem horse I had and came across this system, a German training system, which only a few trainers knew about. It is a method that promotes rhythm, looseness, and connection along with acceptance of the bit, impulsion, straightness, and collection. Each horse is unique and so we developed different exercises for different horses in order to achieve all these things. If a horse is sore in one particular area they will compensate for that in other areas. I found by doing various exercises I was able to increase muscle development using the right applications, which leads to a happy horse.
TC: How do you decide which exercises are best?
SM: When a horse first comes to us we do a physical and emotional evaluation. I take everything into consideration. Does the horse pin its ears or ring its tail? ‘Ears tell you almost everything and the tail tells you the rest’. I believe in a balanced horse and what I mean by that is that if you have good feet, good teeth, and a good rider for that particular horse, you are in balance. These three things go hand and hand. This is not something you can get overnight but may take months, especially if you have shoeing or other specific problems. Time and patience is sometimes all it takes to gain success.
TC: Do you teach this system to your clients?
SM: Absolutely. Riders are sometimes more difficult than the horses but when you watch someone learn these exercises and progress in their own riding it is very rewarding. In teaching the exercises to the rider correctly, you have both a rider who learns and a horse that learns. You put that together and you have a good combination. Our focus in the past has been to make horses, but now we are focusing on making riders as well. It gives me a chance to share my knowledge with people and promote a system that I feel strongly about.
TC: Jenni is spending time in Europe – has that helped the business?
SM: Jenni is working for M&K Equestrian outside of Brussels and it is a great experience for her. She needed someone from outside of our business who could help her select horses to further her riding career. M&K have sold a lot of good horses to the States. The approach is great for Jenni and when she comes back, she brings all that knowledge to our business. She spends approx 2/3 of her time in Europe and 1/3 of her time in the U.S. She is very committed and has given up a lot to do this.
We both believe that to gain something you have to give up something. Jenni is working on developing a string of horses in Europe as well as in the U.S. and ultimately would like to ride for the U.S. Team. It is a path of progression for both our careers. It is exciting when you think about what time spent with European trainers can offer the Americans. If you improve the industry, you improve the business for everyone. Having a trainer who rides in Europe is inspiring and we hope to put some small tours together for amateurs to share in the experience.
TC: It’s interesting to hear the details of your plan – good luck!