October 6, 2020
In the world of Arabian horses, Josh Shino has made the impressive jump from youth rider to full-time professional trainer, running his own facility—Shino Training Center—within only a few short years.
We sat down with the 19-time National Champion to discuss his journey breaking into the training industry, what things have helped mold his training techniques, and the benefits of learning multiple riding disciplines. Learn more about Shino’s inspirations and what helped him quickly achieve his reputation of being an up-and-coming Arabian trainer to watch at the National level.
Image courtesy of Josh Shino.
Throughout your junior career you had a lot of success riding in many different disciplines. How have those experiences shaped your business and training practices? Do you still participate in all of those disciplines or is there a discipline you primarily focus on now?
I still do a little bit of everything, but it's definitely mostly Saddle Seat now. Doing different disciplines helps me a ton because I’ve learned that a trained horse is a trained horse no matter what discipline you're doing. Across the different disciplines, there are a lot of things that are very similar. Obviously, they're all very different, but a lot of the key basics are the same. I think that has taught me to not skip the basic simple steps in training and that all horses have to learn the same things to start.
You’ve transitioned quickly into owning and running your own barn and having a lot of people that are wanting to ride with you as their trainer. Was the transition an easy, natural one for you?
The transition was definitely a big transition. My last couple of years as youth rider I showed quite a few horses and got a lot of opportunities from being a kid riding under my mom, [Carolyn McDonald]. I received a lot of opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise, so that was extremely helpful. However, it was a big transition going from riding horses as a youth rider to then riding horses in the open classes—it was completely different. The open classes are significantly tougher, and people are less likely to trust a young trainer to show their horse when they could have bigger, more well-known names show their horses per se. So, it was definitely an adjustment.
I went from showing a lot of horses as a youth rider to my first two years as a trainer, where I really didn't get to show a lot at all. I showed a couple here and there, but not like I did as a kid because it took a little while to gain the trust from my employer, first off. He had to feel comfortable putting me in the arena, showing against all these other trainers. Then, I also had to get the trust of the owners to let me show because this isn’t a cheap sport. Everyone’s spending a lot of money and they want to make sure that they're equally as competitive.
Josh Shino competing as a youth rider. Image courtesy of Josh Shino.
After you turned professional, where did you work to get more experience?
I graduated high school and moved out to California where I worked for Jon Ramsay at Stachowski California for about a year and a half. Then, I worked for Jim Lowe for a couple months. After that, I moved to Ohio and worked with Jimmy Stachowski. While I was in Ohio, I went back and forth from Jimmy's in the spring, summer, and fall time, and then I went to Jon’s for the winter time. I definitely moved around quite a bit.
What made you want to work for them? Was it because of the size of their barn or was there something specifically you were looking to learn from that experience?
There were a lot of different reasons why I chose to work there. California was somewhat close to home, so it was easier for me to make a big move like that. But just looking from the outside, watching a program like Jimmy's, there’s really nothing like it. First off, it's huge, which a lot of people couldn't run a huge farm like they can. It is also super successful. I think that they have so many working parts within their farm that a lot of people don't really know and notice about it, so it was cool to get to see from the inside what all those different people did. Not only is Jimmy one of the best horse trainers, I think he's also a very very very good businessman. It was cool to learn a lot of that from him too.
Did you notice any similarities in how you learned to train and work with horses under your mom’s program versus Stachowski’s program? Are there any key lessons that you learned from your work experience that has been really helpful for your own program?
I think that especially growing up not doing as much Saddle Seat then transitioning to focusing a lot on Saddle Seat now really helped me realize how important forward is. No matter what type of horse you have, going forward is important—even on a hot horse that wants to go for it all the time. They're definitely has to be forward involved no matter what type of horse you have. So learning from Stachowski definitely helped. Even in Western, you have to have a forward motion or else the horse gets choppy and unnatural-gaited. So, working English horses all the time has helped me learn a lot about that.
Image courtesy of Josh Shino by Nina Galicheva.
What about Western and Reining? Are you still doing that?
I still do Western, but I don’t have any Reiners. I did quite a bit of reining when I was younger, but I don’t have any reiners right now. Reining was actually one of my favorite disciplines because it was exciting and thrilling like English (Saddle Seat), but it’s all very precise. It's fun because you're the only one in the arena when you're showing, so every little move is being watched. When you're showing Saddle Seat or anything main ring, it's all skeptical on what the judges see and don't see, but for Reining, the judges see everything. I also like that Reining is judged off of a scorecard. I think it's interesting to see where your pluses and where your minuses are—depending on the mistake, it doesn’t necessarily kill you right away. But you get to see where your pluses and minuses are, which you can really learn from later.
Shino in a costume reining class. Image courtesy of Josh Shino.
Yes, I feel like it's a little bit more regimented—a little bit easier to know if you really won it, as opposed to opinions all the way around. With that, why do you think you went towards Saddle Seat instead of Reining?
Honestly, I didn't really think a ton about it when I first moved away. I just thought that it (Stachowski) was a good farm to learn from, and then I just really loved the Saddle Seat division. I think there's so much versatility per se—even just in that division. You have your Show Hack, Country, English, and Park. There's so much to do with it and the horses are so beautiful. They’re pretty amazing. I just wanted to do something that was exciting but also natural and fun for them.
You mentioned earlier about building trust with your clients to be able to show in the open classes. Was that easy for you? What are some of the things that really helped you prove yourself to them?
I think that's something that Jimmy, specifically, is incredible with. Working for him helped tremendously. I think that because he has such a big farm, he has to be able to outsource his work to other people. I think that he was a huge help for me to be able to gain trust from people because you have to have somebody that trusts your work and thinks that you're doing your job well in order to talk clients into letting you do that work. So, I think that he definitely helped that transition go a lot easier than normal, but I think that it was still a big transition.
It definitely took me the first year or two [to start showing in the open]. I only showed horses that were his or his wife’s, Shawn, until I got to a point where I showed enough
that people from the barn recognized, “Oh, that’s Josh!” And then it gradually built from there. But he was really good about that.
I know you have a great name within the Arabian community, even from before Stachowski. I've heard trainers talk about you as an up-in-coming trainer that they’d love to have on their team. What do you think helped get your name out into the community?
I definitely lucked out showing under my mom. Most people already knew me as a youth rider before I was a trainer, so that that helped a ton. And the biggest part was that I moved back to Scottsdale, Arizona, where I already had a lot of relationships, clients, and friends that it did help already knowing people. It definitely would have been harder starting out my business in an area that I didn't know anyone.
Josh Shino now runs his own Shino Training Center where he trains both youth riders and adults. Image courtesy of Josh Shino.
Do you still go to your mom for advice or do you work with her at all still?
Yes, she helps me a lot. She actually comes up to my farm at least four days a week and helps. She’s still training horses. Just not nearly as many as she used to—not nearly the scale that she used to be on. She still took eight horses to Youth Nationals. She has some adults, but mostly kids, I would say. She just does it on a much smaller scale than she used to.
What inspired you to ride all the different disciplines? Was it just that those horses were available to you?
I took pretty much any opportunity I could to ride and show. I never turned it down. When I first started, I always did Equitation, Western and Hunter. Then, one of my mom's clients had a Country horse that they let me show, so I did a little bit of Country. But my mom never had a ton of Saddle Seat horses, so I only had one or two growing up. I definitely showed a lot of Western and Hunter.
Image courtesy of Josh Shino.
Did you ever do halter? What is your favorite thing about each discipline?
Yeah, I did quite a bit of halter, as well. Halter was probably my least favorite just because I always preferred to be on the horse’s back. It was exciting, but I just didn't feel like I had the connection as I did with riding the horse.
Since my experience in Saddle Seat was very limited as a youth rider, I think that’s what made it so enticing to me—it was something that I wasn’t super familiar with. So, I wanted to learn more about it.
Reining and Saddle Seat are definitely my favorites to show. I think Hunters is one of my favorites to ride and train because they're kind of the perfect mix between a Saddle Seat horse and a Western horse. I think it's probably the easiest to train. I think that it's a very fun, soft, flowing, forward-moving discipline to train.
I definitely think Western is the hardest discipline to train. They carry themselves softly and lightly, and they go around on a soft rein. But to get them to continue to go forward but slow, it's definitely a tough concept.
Josh showing halter at the Arabian Breeder Finals. Image courtesy of Josh Shino.
What's the best advice you've ever received from other trainers or people in the industry?
“Don't be afraid to slow down and listen to your horse.”
I can't remember who said that to me, but it really stuck with me because sometimes you get into this mode of looking at the final picture and just wanting that to happen. There are things that your horse could be trying to tell you that you're just not paying attention to because you just want that next step, but sometimes if you take a step back and slow down your approach, sometimes it makes it a lot easier for them to understand.
That’s great advice! What are some of the key elements to your training program?
The biggest things to me are getting the horses to be forward moving and being non-dependent on the rider. They have to be able to carry themselves. You can't have to tell them every step what to do. They have to carry themselves and carry their frame. We work a lot on making sure they're moving forward and softly. If they are leaning on your leg, they're going to be moving funny. If they’re leaning on the bridle, their cadence will be off. There are a lot of things to train, but as long as they're moving forward and soft, all the other things are possible and the collection can then come from there.
What if you get a horse that is choppy, doesn't know how to move forward, or isn’t comfortable moving forward? What would you work on to get them more developed?
I would take a step back. I think that your last step really is always collection. Your first steps are way more basic in that the collection of the horse comes at the end. Naturally, more so than anything, I think that some people try to get that final picture too soon. When the horse doesn’t know these other steps, that's when you run into a lot of problems. I would take it a step back and try to teach them forward movement. I would take them back in the round pen and get them moving forward off the leg. But I think the biggest mistake is going to collection first.
Image courtesy of Josh Shino.
What about training aids? Do you use anything special to work with your horses?
I'm pretty basic. I don't use a lot of extra tack or use different little things to train them. I try to keep it as basic as possible because I want us to all be natural with them. I want it to come naturally. I do think that there are certain things that can help every once in a while, but I just try to keep it as basic as possible.
Do you have a preference of long lining or lunging? Do you feel like they offer different benefits when training horses?
It depends on the horse. I think that long lining is great. I long line a lot. I think it's a good way to get them physically fit without having to ride them. It's mentally good for them. I don't actually lunge them a lot. Often with lunging, you don't have as much control as you do long lining. So, if I wanted to lunge a horse, I’d just end up long lining it for preventive reasons. I definitely prefer long lining over lunging.
With your horses competing at the top level, do they have any special routines to help keep them fit and in top condition?
I think that every horse is different, but for the older horses, we keep them on joint supplements. It's good for any horses that are working as hard as we are asking them to work. I think it helps us limit down on our vet work and not have to do quite as much work to the horses. As long as every horse is taken care of properly, vet work should be minimal. But we always do what's necessary to keep them happy and healthy. When we do quite a bit of shows, we always ice and wrap them quite often to keep their legs from getting any sort of wear and tear.
It varies per horse, but every day we use liniment on them. We put it in a bucket with water and sponge them down after we work them and put it all over the body. I think that helps the muscles stay relaxed. Every horse is different. If it's a seasoned show horse that's been in training for quite a while, a lot of your work is just maintenance, so I typically ride them three days a week, long line them twice a week, and then give them two days off. So, they're working five days a week and have two days of rest. When they’re working, they're working for maybe 15 minutes.
Obviously, younger horses are different. I prefer to work the younger horses more consistently for less time rather than for 25 minutes and give the next day off, then for 45 minutes and the next day off. I'd rather work them 15-20 minutes every day then give them a day off, and then 15- 20 minutes for three or four days a week, and then give them a day off. I just prefer the consistency, but it just depends on the horse.