Listen to Your Horses to Learn What They Need
Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved horses. She dreamed about becoming a famous trainer. She willed herself not to grow, because she wanted to be a jockey (and she was the shortest person in her family).
The little girl was lucky enough to have a young buckskin mare and live where she could ride through orchards, rolling hills, and forests. She had little parental supervision; her parents believed in the school of hard knocks.
Once she found her mare’s canter button, she kept it pressed down pretty much all the time and ran that game mare all over the place. Every day she cantered her horse around a lake and up a hill not far from her home, pretending she was Elizabeth Taylor in “National Velvet”. Occasionally the mare said “enough” and bucked the kid off, but she just climbed back on and loped that poor little mare some more. The girl loved the feeling of speed, freedom, and flying.
Eventually, the girl’s mother hired a young woman trainer to come help with some of the family’s horses. The little girl loved the trainer, who was pretty, funny, and won ribbons in horse shows. The kid wanted to be like her when she grew up. One day the trainer observed the girl galloping her horse around the lake, and when she finally loped up the long hill to the house the mare was sweating and winded. The trainer gave the girl a tongue lashing, asking, “How would you like it if someone treated you that way?” The little girl looked at her horse with new sight, realizing she was hurting the very thing she loved and she felt sad and ashamed. It was the beginning of her journey toward compassion. The words stung, but they changed her life. That little girl was me.
All these decades later, I’m still learning how to take better care of my horses, and I’m grateful for that trainer’s harsh words. I strive to see if and where my horses might hurt and try to understand what they need. I want my horses healthy and happy. Don’t we all? I want their tack to fit, their feed high quality, and their veterinarians top-notch. I want the work they do to be as rewarding and fun for them as it is for me.
Horses speak clearly if we listen; what they tell us can lead us to be better people, and that makes it all worthwhile.
Kim Roe grew up riding on the family ranch and competed in Western rail classes, trail horse, reining, working cow, and hunter/jumper. She trained her first horse for money at 12 years old, starting a pony for a neighbor.
Kim has been a professional dressage instructor in Washington state for over 30 years, training hundreds of horses and students through the levels. In recent years Kim has become involved in Working Equitation and is a small ‘r’ Working Equitation judge with WE United.
Kim is the editor of the Northwest Horse Source Magazine, and also a writer, photographer, and poet. She owns and manages Blue Gate Farm in Deming, Washington where she continues to be passionate about helping horses and riders in many disciplines.