Lincoln Veraart’s training philosophy is centred around creating a positive experience for both the horse and their owner. To Lincoln, developing a confident mindset in the horses he trains is paramount to ensuring they can go on to fulfil their potential. Whatever level of talent any horse in his training has, being able to approach their work with a positive, calm mindset, free of fear or pressure is what he focusses on, to build a successful show horse.
Ideally, Lincoln prefers to start the horses in his training program. This way they develop that confidence that he desires from the beginning, which he builds on throughout their training. Lincoln places the initial emphasis on the horse being comfortable. For the first 6 weeks, the horses he starts are primarily ridden out in the paddock. “They get used to me being on their back, they learn to use their body, to follow with their nose and get control of their feet”. These are the foundations that Lincoln builds his training upon, so that when the horse starts working a cow, the fundamentals are the same. From there it is about teaching the horse to be comfortable pushing a cow around, getting behind a cow and also getting a cow stopped and controlling it.
Lincoln prefers not to overdo any training session. He likes to pull a horse up when they feel they are learning, in a good frame of mind and having a little win. He says, that goes a long way towards creating confident horses.
Consistency is what Lincoln comes back to. He likes to ask a little every day, and by building gradually by this approach he preserves the horse’s mental strength, that confidence that he is looking for. “I ask the same things each ride and build on it. I put that foundation on them early, so I don’t have to ever feel the pressure to cram training into a short amount of time. This method of developing a horse that hasn’t been rushed is what builds confidence. If they are comfortable mentally, horses won’t over-extend themselves physically. This helps to keep them sound in body as well as in mind.”
While Lincoln looks for the strengths in every horse he trains, he acknowledges that some just stand out from the start. The horses that are naturally cowy, athletic and want to learn – they are the elite. While a horse that excels in all of those characteristics is rare, every horse has strengths and Lincoln works to bring out the best he can in each individual. To Lincoln, the most important element is a trainable mindset – a horse that wants to learn, to be taught and to work with you.
“You can teach them how to use their energy in a positive way, to move their feet – and engage their mind so they understand that there is a release when they accept what is being asked of them. The horses with that willingness to try really hard, those with a desire to work a cow and the ones that understand the competition between them and the cow, are the ones that stand out. They are the overachievers; they don’t like getting beat – for those horses it is about dialling them back, so they don’t try too hard all the time. It’s about teaching them to harness their energy and to be efficient”.
Generally, it only takes a few months to identify the horses that possess the most talent however, Lincoln admits that some change throughout the training process. Lincoln is very aware that every horse has a fit and not every horse has to be a superstar cutter, but hopefully with the foundation that he has put on them early in their career they can pass into another discipline and succeed.
Having a background as a non pro, Lincoln is very conscious of respecting the owners of the horses in his care. “I understand the costs and investment involved. I want to make sure you get the best value for your money. I pride myself on making the whole process a good experience for everyone, and for owners to be involved all the way through”.
When his horses starts their competitive career, Lincoln wants them to continue to feel confident.
“A good show horse rises to the occasion, no matter the situation they give 100 percent. Even if the situation in a practice pen means they don’t get a good work, they stay composed and let you push them to where they need to be, to tighten up when they need to and to be confident that they can hold a cow.
It’s a delicate balancing act, a perfect mix of having a horse willing to listen to you enough, but to also have confidence in their own ability to read a cow in the show situation. Get that right and you have an exceptional show horse”.
For Lincoln, the standout horses in his career are the ones that he has a sentimental attachment to. These were super talented individuals, and the ones that enabled him to become competitive early on. Miss Calamity Jane will always be a favourite for Lincoln. She was the first Futurity horse that he trained that was competitive on an open level.
While, at the time Lincoln was still a non-professional, he made multiple open aged event finals on her, and finished 3rd in the NCHA Open Futurity, and 4th in the Comet Open Futurity. He went on to win the NCHA Non Pro Derby, come 2nd in the Comet Open Derby and 2nd in the Comet Non Pro Derby on this mare.
Spot The Playboy is another sentimental favourite. Even though he was a trained horse when Lincoln started showing him as a non pro, he was the first very talented horse he was able to show that helped him to become competitive.
Having a non pro background, Lincoln values being able to help his non-professional clients and friends. His advice for non-pros is to be consistent. “Be consistent in your positioning, to control a cow, but also in the methods you use to ask a horse to go there. Remember it’s a team effort. Help the horse when they need it”.
Lincoln’s journey to becoming a professional horse trainer is quite unusual. While he and his brothers had ponies as small children, riding was about fun and he didn’t ride competitively until he started cutting at 15 years old. Lincolns first exposure to cutting came from reading the Australian Horseman Magazine in 2008.
From the start his family were supportive. “I admit it, it was my fault that we went down this road”, he jokes. While the Veraart family had enthusiasm in spades, Lincoln admits that they went about things a bit backwards.
“We started by buying horses that weren’t trained and tried to train them ourselves. We borrowed horses to show, but realised pretty quickly we would need to buy trained horses if we wanted to be competitive”.
The Veraart family consulted family friend and non-pro cutter Wayne Brown, and before long they were on a fast trajectory into the sport. Lincoln and his brothers Nick and Connor were still in High School, and needed to balance their newfound love of cutting with schoolwork. Lincoln quickly found that he enjoyed working with young horses as much as he enjoyed showing, and says that the reason he started training young horses was so that he wasn’t just riding for show preparation.
“I wanted to ride all the time, it seemed silly just to ride at shows.” By the time he was at University studying Urban Development in Property Economics, Lincoln was training 2 horses a year for himself, as well as keeping 2 show horses in work.
Lincoln’s family are very close and still play an intrinsic role in his training business. From assisting with the care and upkeep of horses to building infrastructure to sourcing or organising cattle to work, all members of the family are in some way involved within the operation. Lincoln is very aware that the role his family plays behind the scenes is a big part of his ability to do his job well. “We all look after each-other. It’s a team effort”.
Lincoln and Abbey also have 2 young children who keep them on their toes whilst hiring a small number of permanent and casual employees to ensure all aspects of the program are tended to in a professional manner.
Once Lincoln realised his love of horses and the sport of cutting, his investment in becoming the best he could be was unwavering. He has never been afraid to take his own approach and to find opportunities to learn, develop and grow. From his earliest days training horses, Lincoln sought out learning opportunities. He would sit at the practice pen, watching trainers he admired and asking them questions.
“I was always looking for what I thought worked well, what I could learn from and incorporate into my training in my own way”. Lincoln says he has been fortunate to work with many of the industry’s leading trainers, which is something he enjoys and finds extremely beneficial to his own program.
Lincoln’s mindset is that he can always improve and learn. This also applies to the horses in his care and the non-professionals he helps. That growth mindset is what keeps him fresh and drives his unwavering hunger to do the best job he can with every horse he trains and shows.