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High Level Pathway

From the desk of Jake Lundahl: 

 

Hello! In case you didn’t read the “About” page, my wife Amy and I are responsible for Lundahl Performance. We train and teach horsemanship at our farm in Newbury, OH. We grew LPH from a round pen behind a machine shop to a full service 65-acre training facility with clients around the country.

 

To explain what makes us different and why our horses and owners enjoy better results, I’m going to take the reins here and guide you through my personal experience. 

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Why do I do what I do? 

 

First and foremost, I am passionate about horses. I know everyone says that, but I mean it. From the very first day I began learning about horse training, I’ve been obsessed. I literally think about horses 24/7. I feel most like myself when I’m around horses or people passionate about horses. I spend most of my time either in an arena, in my barn, or studying how to get better.

 

When it comes to my training process and techniques, I’ve gone through a few evolutions in my career. I got my first job in a cutting horse barn as a sophomore in high school in 2008. This was my first step on a 15-year journey through the professional side of the horse industry. I had the opportunity to ride with some household names and get the inside scoop on their programs. 

While apprenticing under these elite trainers, I often saw them doing the exact opposite of what they told their clients and students to do publicly. I began to question whether many of the shop-worn notions I’d learned from famous trainers and gurus were actually correct. Gradually I learned that no matter how extensive the guru’s library was, nothing they put out publicly was ever 100% comprehensive. There were always unwritten rules, key tricks of the trade, or “missing pieces” to their program that were in none of their books or training videos. The only way to get these insights was to spend lots of time riding in close proximity to these trainers — either learning through osmosis, or getting private instruction from them in sessions that were never written down or recorded. 

 

What I really began to crave was some kind of structure, or “mental model” I could follow to develop the same high-level intuition and feel these master horsemen had.

 

For awhile, I chalked it up to pure experience – numbers of horses the person had trained, and the hours they’d spent in the saddle. I didn’t realize that this “feel” was something that could actually be reverse-engineered and learned in a methodical way. But little by little, that started to change.

I soon realized that there actually was a method to the madness. The things these elite trainers do aren’t random. Even if they can’t explain the reasons why they do them, or those reasons are poorly explained, that doesn’t diminish the fact that there are reasons. I started to focus on the unspoken nuances of what these trainers were actually doing, rather than what they were saying. Actions speak louder than words. 
 

That decision to more deeply observe — not just listen — was a big turning point for me. I was finally able to wrap my head around more advanced concepts and felt like I was starting to embody my knowledge. My own horsemanship philosophy and training style were emerging. But I wasn’t satisfied yet. I felt I still needed to learn more. 

 

Then the most eye-opening experience of all happened during the winter of 2017. While visiting Rancho Oso Rio in Arizona I got the opportunity to ride Custom Spook — a reining horse with over $230k in lifetime show earnings.

 

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I’d ridden good horses before… but this was different. A word like “exceptional” doesn’t even begin to capture the feeling of effortless confidence, precision and power of a horse like this. This was another level. And while it wasn't much more than a light exercise ride for him, it was enough for me. I'd found my true calling. 

 

I’ve been fortunate to ride other world-class-caliber horses since then. Futurity winners and finalists. Derby winners. World’s Greatest Horseman winners. Top performers in reining and reined cowhorse. Even the ones I actively helped start or develop, I take no credit for their success. On the contrary, I’m grateful for the lessons these incredible horses and the trainers I rode under taught me. 

 

Through all these experiences, I had noticed some patterns. Themes. Rhythms. Development cycles. Universal skills and mechanics that were the signature of high level horses. I gradually refined all the nebulous concepts I’d learned about riding and training high level horses. I unpacked years of pent-up frustration over working with guys who couldn’t accurately verbalize why what they were doing worked, and started to process and make sense of it all.

 

My mission was to reverse-engineer the skills and mechanics to create that elite feeling I’d fallen in love with, and to share that knowledge with others. 

 

But you know the scariest part about all of this? When I reflect on all the hard work and study it took to figure this stuff out, I realize that — in my younger days, when I knew far less than I do now — I nearly ruined some good horses. 

 

See, I was a professional horse trainer as far back as 2009. But at that time, I didn’t really understand a horse’s mind or emotions like I do now. I didn’t really understand how to structure the training process or how to advance a horse while keeping them happy between the ears. Sure, I had flash-in-the-pan blips of greatness that I felt during a training session here or there, but I didn’t really know how to repeat those breakthrough moments or continue the progress. I just worked my tail off and relied mostly on wet saddle pads to get a horse riding and behaving well.

 

What I know now is that all my “hard work” was actually preventing greatness from happening. I was stifling the potential of the horses I was training, because I didn’t really have things figured out at a high level. 

 

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It’s  painful when you realize that you’ve been working extremely hard on all the wrong things. And that any success you’ve had was IN SPITE OF — not because of — all your "hard work". But when I had that realization it motivated me to get better at my craft and put things right. 

 

This experience lines up with what most horse owners are feeling when they reach out to us. Somewhere along the way, they realize that they’ve lost the ability to make themselves and their horses better. The knowledge and skills they gained in the past just aren’t cutting it anymore. And they work against themselves because they don’t know what the next step is. They don’t know what to be working on, how, or why. What a waste. 

 

Through a bit of luck in finding the right mentors, and hard work on my part, I solved that problem for myself. Now my goal is to solve that problem for others. I want to help educate horse owners, and open their eyes to what’s possible when they understand the training process better.

Many things we do in the saddle – from ranch work and general riding to performance disciplines – require both horse and rider to make complicated and dynamic movements. In many cases these movements are happening very quickly, in a stream of consciousness and communication between us and the animal.

 

When riders and owners start to learn more about how their horse’s mind works, how he learns, and what kinds of movements or feelings to create, they can work smarter and break away from the limitations imposed by incomplete training or poor rider instruction.

 

This information is changing lives. In some cases, it’s SAVING them – giving horses who once “slipped through the cracks” a new beginning and a second chance.

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Who are the people behind Lundahl Performance? 

 

The people behind Lundahl Performance are not just my wife Amy and myself. They are our clients and students – from performance and recreational horse owners to professional trainers – who are striving every day to be better for the horses they ride.

 

The information we teach is only valuable if it is applied. When boots and saddles go on and things get real, it is the hard work of these people who make everything we do matter.

What kind of people are you? Who will I be working with or buying from?

 

To give a little insight to me as a professional, I believe in taking a “craftsmanship” approach to horse training. By that I mean letting the “product” – the training system I’ve developed, the way I teach it, and the results it achieves – drive the rest of my business. Everything we’ve put in place, from the facility we bought to the services we provide, serves this purpose of continually making the product and the experience better.

 

This seems like basic common sense. But a big problem in our industry right now is the lack of quality standards, lack of curiosity, and lack of ambition among self-proclaimed professionals to improve their craft and get better results for horse owners. I work hard every day to change that.

What are you most proud of as a trainer and teacher?

The achievement I most enjoy and take pride in is when a horse owner I’m coaching gets so good, they graduate beyond needing to hire me. At that point they’ve become a capable, independent horseman in their own right. They’re able to be their own trainer. They understand their process – they know what they need to be working on, they know why, and they’re truly showing up for their horse every single ride. They’re staying focused, not getting frustrated with short-term challenges, and working toward a long term goal.

 

You never know when it all will “click” for an individual rider. But when that rider starts to earn accountability for their horse and trusting their process, the results extend far beyond the arena. 

Wait, what? "Earn" accountability? Don't you mean "take" accountability or "demonstrate" accountability? Aren't we talking about setting standards and holding ourselves to them? Isn't that something you just do? How do you "earn" that? 

 

Here's how: 

 

  • To earn accountability, first you must learn what your horse actually needs and what's right for both of you. The only way to figure that out is through effort. Exploration. Asking hard questions. Trial... and error. 

  • To learn anything you must first fail. The willingness to be a fool and endure failure is the precursor to transformation. That's what humility is about. You accept that you're going to do a bad first job. Because when you fail, and you fix that failure, you learn. 

  • When you learn, you "earn" knowledge. When you earn knowledge of what works for you and your horse, only then can you be accountable to it. So yes, you do earn accountability.

Too many riders dodge this accountability and end up on a treadmill — paying training or lesson fees for years without tangible results — because they overly rely on their trainer or coach for every single decision. They outsource their feel and timing to someone else. After every move they make, they look over to the trainer for validation and feedback about what went wrong or right, instead of staying present and letting the horse answer that question. They don't let the information sink into their head so they can become their own best coach.

This is why Lundahl Performance is different. Because we set defined-end goals and teach you how to think like a professional. We don't keep our clients on a treadmill chasing vague notions of "progress" forever. Instead we lay out a clearly defined pathway from start to finish, so you know where you're at now and what comes next. Then we guide you through the process of earning that knowledge for yourself, until you don't have to rely on us anymore. 

 

Accountability is a long term game. You have to learn what works for you and your horse, then commit to the process of embodying that knowledge. For me, seeing someone make that decision to commit is the coolest part of my work with horse owners. It makes me feel like a proud parent at my kid's graduation. 

Why should your customers care about you or get know you better?

 

The horse owners I work with tend to be very loyal and we end up building friendships because we have a mutual respect for each other. The people who appreciate this information are unique. They are willing to get uncomfortable in order to get better. They are open to trying new things that may not be conventional. They are seeking to be the best they can become. My mission is to aid their journey any way I possibly can. 

We don’t crank people through a factory-style process that treats their horse like a number. We actually care about building a relationship with you and your horse, as much as we care about producing results and getting you to your dream. We’re also honest about who is and isn’t a good fit for our services and we refuse to make empty guarantees just to sell training programs.

What does Lundahl Performance stand for?

We stand for working hard and working smart. We stand for objective and measurable results. We take a first-principles approach to horse training. We always ask “why” and look to innovate what we do. We aim to be consistent in everything we do and teach, yet always open to learning more. Ultimately, every horse and every rider you work with is different. The more experience you gain, the more well-rounded your teaching becomes. You constantly find ways to innovate and be more creative about teaching the different aspects of horsemanship. 

What does Lundahl Performance stand against?

 

We stand against “conventional wisdom” and doing things the way they’ve always been done. With so much information about horse psychology and training available today, there is no excuse to not spend time researching and growing as a professional. If horse owners are willing to put skin in the game and risk their valuable time and hard-earned money to make themselves and their animals better, we trainers have to be responsible and accountable for the information and results we are providing. 

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Final thoughts... 

 

If you've got this far, you've noticed that we take a different approach to most trainers and gurus. But you're still not clear on what our High Level Pathway program consists of, why it works, or how to get started.

 

So let's solve that problem right now.

I recorded a podcast which you can listen to right here that goes in-depth on what HLP is and what results you can expect. This is a good introduction to our training philosophy and I highly recommend listening before you consider any of our paid products or services. 

If you'd prefer to see a demonstration, click here and enter your email address. I'll send you 3 training videos where I walk you through the Advanced Body Control exercises that form the core of our training progression, as well as how we teach Flying Lead Changes and Spins specifically. I'll send you some handy PDF downloads, articles, and other goodies as well.

To your horsemanship success, 

 

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Jake Lundahl

Lundahl Performance Horses

Jake Lundahl, Lundahl Performance Horses, Horse Training, Horsemanship, Advanced Horsemanship, Reining, Cowhorse, NRHA, NRCHA, Professional Horseman, Horse, Show Horse | Purpose. Partnership. Performance. We help people achieve greater results and happiness with their horses. Colt Starting | Advanced Horsemanship | Horse Training | Horsemanship Clinics | Lundahl Performance Horses

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