In every interaction with our horses, we are training them, and they are training us. The unspoken understanding between horse and human, like any relationship, is ever evolving. By being mindful and consistent with our horses, we foster responsibility and reliability, the building blocks of trust.
I take an approach of clear questions, positive rewards, and consistent boundaries. I develop horses so that they are interested and engaged in our work together. They are eager to come to class every day, willing to learn new things and give their best effort.
All my work with horses is grounded in three goals:
healthy body ∙ healthy mind ∙ healthy heart
I believe that horses and humans can do great things together. Experience has taught me that a thorough education is the key to success in the “real world,” whether that be checking cows, packing into the mountains, pulling tourists through the city, or teaching children to ride. I guide the horse to maintain a healthy posture, healthy gaits, a relaxed body, and a relaxed mind. At home, we can isolate each of the skills that the horse will need to succeed at his job and build his understanding and confidence one step at a time. This way, by the time we get to the “real thing,” the horse can be responsible for himself, respond easily to our aids, take surprises in stride, and we can enjoy our time together.
I never use extra tack or so-called “training aids” to force a horse into a shape; rather, I take the time to educate the horse to carry himself in a healthy way, according to his physical development. I am careful to never demand more than a horse is both physically and mentally capable of. Over time, this builds the horse’s confidence in his own strength, and builds trust in our relationship.
I am not interested in rushing a horse’s training. I would much rather the horse remain strong and healthy well into his senior years than have a three-year-old that can do it all. Experience has shown me that taking the time to give a horse a thorough education and develop his body carefully and methodically brings great rewards for many years to come. I’ve learned that while some “bad habits” and less-than-ideal posture may not seem like a big deal in the moment, when repeated over and over and over again, these seemingly minor annoyances can eventually create serious injuries. Therefore I give careful attention to every small detail.
When our horses so willingly give of themselves, I believe it is our duty to set them up to succeed with ease. My background as an Equine Sports Therapist, my years of experience preparing and educating carriage horses to work in the city, and my ongoing education within the Academic Art of Riding, give me many tools in my belt to develop confident, healthy, well-balanced equines who will excel in their job.
WHAT I DO
Whatever your goals, a strong foundation is paramount. From basics like leading and standing to confidence-building activities including obstacles and de-spooking, we will build the "life skills" that will empower you and your horse to succeed in any direction that you go. Horsemanship classes are a great starting point for young horses or inexperienced handlers, and a great way for horses and humans of all ages and backgrounds to build confidence, improve communication, and strengthen your partnership. Classes in trailer loading and other specialized skills are also possible.
In groundwork we teach the horse to use his body in a healthy way for life. I school according to the Academic Art of Riding. This approach to training educates the horse in the principles of classical dressage, with a detailed focus on healthy biomechanics and a soft and willing mind. We use a cavesson with a lunge line or rein on the center ring, and a dressage whip as an extension of our pointer finger. We work in different positions — in front of the horse, beside the horse, lunging, long reining — to educate the secondary aids and develop the horse's strength and suppleness. I often think of this work as yoga in motion. Horses must be a minimum of 3½ years old — there is no maximum age! No previous experience is required.
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In giving the horse the option to leave, we also give him the freedom to choose to be with us. I approach liberty as a means, not just an end goal. With no physical connection to the horse, we must refine our body language to clearly communicate our ideas, our questions, and our boundaries. Learn to motivate your horse through play and become the inspiring leader your horse is looking for. With young or inexperienced horses, I use liberty for connecting, playing, and teaching basic skills free of any pressure. With more seasoned horses, I will practice all of the same skills that we practice in the groundwork, including the side movements and collection.
Having spent many years teaching folks to drive horses in downtown traffic, I place a very strong emphasis on safety. For new drivers, we take the time to instill good habits of harnessing, hitching, and driving in all different situations. For drivers and horses of all abilities, my two favourite topics are communication and biomechanics. Whether you compete in Combined Driving, pleasure drive down the back roads, or show tourists around town, you want a horse with a healthy body and a healthy mind. Driving lessons can take place in the arena, field, or on the road, according to your goals and your horse's experience. Horses must be at least five years old and have a good foundation in horsemanship and groundwork to begin driving training.
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