First and foremost, I think it is important to look out for the safety and wellbeing of my students and equines.
~ Set the student and horse up for success. Success in not measured in how long you stay in the saddle but by how confident the horse feels before you dismount.
~Leave a horse and student in a better state of mind at the end of a session. Anyone can make a horse move but what frame of mind are you leaving the horse in?
~ Not give in to the impulsive desires of others. I work methodically. If the horse and rider are not safe, confident, and ready for the next step, we do not take it.
~Tell people the truth even though it is not always what they want to hear but rather what they need to hear in order to connect with their horse.
~It is one thing to be firm in the necessary time and place and quite another to be a bully.
~ Tie downs and anything that artificially ‘corrects’ your horse for you are never the answer. True communication, feel and timing are the correct answer. True beauty lies in fluidity and joy, not forced movement. Yes, it takes more time to train this way so expect to enjoy the journey instead of ‘thrilling’ on speedy results.
~I will forever be a student striving to improve myself in the hopes of helping others.
Safety, Trust, Confidence, and a Better State of Mind ~ therein lies the key for both horse and rider.
Rachel and Pilgrim in the river cica 2015
I have been a part of the Horse Sense family for almost 10 years now and in those years, I have had a lot of ups and downs. I started volunteering 3+ times a week when I turned 13 and found myself constantly frustrated that while I cleaned 2+ stalls, filled hay nets, and did a lot of misc. work, I was not always afforded the time riding as I thought I deserved. I am considered one of the original “teens” in the program and always measured my progress against those who had YEARS of experience over me, yet they were the same age as me.
As I continued in the program, I constantly felt disappointed, less than, and overall crumby about my skill level. At the time there just were not enough horses in the program available to become “mine”, and all the horses that were available were WAY beyond my skill level. I was always so frustrated that I was “never good enough” and often took that frustration out on Kristin Praly.
After 4-5 years within the program, I did get “my own” horse Venus through the program, and ~1 year after working with Venus, I was afforded the opportunity to cross the river for a trail ride. If you know Venus, you know she is a mare that has an opinion that commands to be heard. Venus, at the time, was very good at testing people’s boundaries by backing into things so that she could get out of doing something she did not want to do. I had practiced with Kristin several times on how to keep asking her to move forward, and not allowing her to scare me off her. Once I had gotten her into the river, I thought the hard part was over… boy was I wrong. Venus is extremely experienced with trail rides, but every day and every rider presents new scenarios.
My plan to make it through Henry Cowell Park to Observation Deck, didn't happen that day. From the backwoods, to just barely crossing the river, I dealt with backing into trees, bucking, attempts to roll, spooking, other horses freaking out, a bee sting, and bolting. Kristin helped me in what could have been a very scary moment. I was able to calm my horse and collect her thoughts. I put into practice all the small things I had been taught through the years that felt meaningless at the time. I was able to relax my horse and come home safe.
Some thoughts I had immediately following this trail ride was, “Wow, I now see why Kristin had told me I was not ready.” It's a hard pill to swallow when you’re told you’re not ready, but after seeing how much patience, skill and practice I needed to barely go on a trail ride, I finally understood. While in the moment I felt incredibly hurt to be told I was not ready, I now see that it was for my safety as well as the safety of the horses.
While many programs give into what the rider (customer) wants and desires, Horse Sense is different. In our program our horses will always come first. Sometimes that means if the horse is not in the right state of mind or training, we do not push to accomplish something that is afforded at the detriment of the horse.
In the same way, we protect our riders by not allowing them to take on more than they can handle. Although people never want to hear it, something a rider must accept is that it is not about you and your desires. Our egos are so good at getting in our way. Your desires cannot come at the detriment of our beloved horses and while we as riders/learners cannot always see past our desires, Kristin Praly can, and that’s why you need to trust when she says, “Not yet.”
I promise all the mundane lessons add up to something so much greater. Every single day presents new challenges when riding, and you must be prepared in just about any way to handle the scenarios thrown your direction. It may sound silly; but to me, my horse is my best friend. It was drilled into me that I must clean my stall and complete my chores before ever considering riding, because if I have my horse’s back, they’ll have mine. To this day I cannot even consider riding before completing my chores and honestly, I take pride in the pre-care I put into my horse before riding.
I am now 23 years old and looking back, I wish I could tell myself that it gets better, and that all the work does pay off with time. My foundation I laid down with my horse is the backbone for everything I have ever accomplished with her. So, when you are feeling frustrated, stuck, and upset, try to remember to be kind to yourself, the horse and Kristin. While Kristin’s methods may not always be “orthodox”, they work.
If you were to ask Kristin or me about our relationship through the years, we would both answer along the lines that it is one of the most difficult relationships we’ve been in, yet the most rewarding. We chose to put the work into it.
In the same fashion, you need to choose to put the work and patience into your relationship with your horse before asking them to do something that either you, or they, are not ready for.
In due course Savannah and Venus made it to Observation Deck!
- Horse Sense Education and Advocacy