Monica Begay: Training “People” To Understand Their Horses

O’siyo.  It is usually the case that people think they  need to “train their horses” when in reality, it is the people who need to be taught how to care for their animals. Monica Begay works with three other horse training experts from the Navajo Nation in helping people overcome problems with their horses. She recently hosted a session for horse owners to observe experts demonstrating some of the basic techniques for working with their horses. After the demonstration, members were grateful for the help.

Courtesy Photo: Horses for the Spirit.

Excerpt: Session offers tips on horse training, By Shondiin Silversmith, Navajo Times

“With all the recent coverage on horse problems within the Navajo Nation, horse owner Monica Begay wanted to help her community understand the critters a little better.
So on Aug. 3 she hosted a “Problem Solving Challenge” at Willie’s Ranch a few miles west of Steamboat, where everyone was welcome to come and watch experts demonstrate basic techniques to train horses. Even though you encounter challenges with your horses those challenges can be overcome with the right teaching techniques and proper knowledge, Begay said.
Three Navajo horse trainers demonstrated techniques before an audience of about two dozen people, showing basic training exercises, and tips on loading them into a trailer and calming them when they get spooked.
Matthew Smiley of Manuelito, N.M., led off with a demonstration of basic groundwork and exercises to prepare horses to be saddled and ridden. He said when starting a horse, you need to earn its respect before moving on to any other training. Since horses look for a strong leader to follow, the human has to demonstrate that in terms the horse can understand…In place of the old-time methods of subduing a horse by force, Smiley showed that calm and consistency, not violence…As rain clouds gathered overhead, Carlos Ray Chee of Wheatfields, Ariz., demonstrated how to soothe a frightened horse… If you can earn their trust they will understand you better, he said. As the wind picked up and raindrops began to fall, Ty Jones of Flagstaff demonstrated tips to help your horse learn to load safely into a trailer. Jones started off by earning the respect of the horse as he led it around the corral. To get the horse used to stepping up, he led it over a pole that was propped up several inches. When you work with your horses, Jones said, you have to make sure you give them 100 percent because as a horse owner that is what you’re expecting of them, so meet the horse half way…Although their styles differed, each trainer had the same goal – to share their techniques with the community with hopes that people will be able to handle their horses better…Monica Begay said she hopes to turn the Problem Solving Challenge into an annual event for her community, and plans to increase her efforts to publicize it to other communities across the reservation.”

“Even though you encounter challenges with your horses those challenges can be overcome with the right teaching techniques and proper knowledge…” ~Monica Begay~  Steamboat, Ariz.

“…when starting a horse, you need to earn its respect before moving on to any other training.”~Matthew Smiley~  Manuelito, N.M.

“If your horse has problems it’s not their fault.” ~Carlos Ray Chee~ Wheatfields, Ariz

NOTICE From Book Editor Deb Burns:

To All  Horse Lovers and Writers:

“Hello! I am a book editor at Storey Publishing, overseeing horse and farming books, and I’m a big fan of Talking Feather.

I am looking for a Native author to write a book about Native horse-handling techniques and traditions, tips and insights. It’d be especially great if that author were a woman, but that’s not essential. I was very impressed with Monica Begay’s program on Training People to Understand Their Horses, but I have not yet been able to reach her.  If you are that potential author, or you know someone else who might be, please email me at Thanks in advance for your suggestions.”

Deb Burns, Acquiring Editor

From Talking Feather staff:  Interested parties can also Visit the beautiful website Deb Burns: Animal Minds HERE 


Note: We would like to thank our initial readers for keeping “in touch” and we welcome our new readers this fall. Best of luck to those starting school!


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