Cover Stories

Willfully Guided Horsemanship

Willfully Guided Horsemanship
Catherine Madera

Seeing Through the Eyes of the Horse

by: Catherine Madera



Willfully: (adverb) acting intentionally, deliberately, of one’s own free will, voluntarily, willingly and with purpose. Guided: (verb) lead, piloted, steered, instructed, directed.

Photo credit DiaRae Harvey

Trainer Allison Trimble thought carefully about naming her style of horsemanship. She wanted something reflective of a core system of approaching the horse/human relationship, something inspiring yet practical. A multi-champion in the show pen for cow horse disciplines, this tough Alaska native knows what it takes to succeed: guts, heart, and plenty of hard work. But Willfully Guided Horsemanship wasn’t conceived as a way to collect more trophies. After years of showing as a non-pro—training and riding her own horses—Trimble’s philosophy is rooted in the deep desire to further sustainable methods that value the individual horse, invite growth, and open wide the door of possibility for riders of all levels.

“My horses mean something to me,” says Trimble, who still owns and nurtures her first horse, a 36-year-old Arabian/Appaloosa mare named Bayleen. “We are like family. I could write a story about each one and some large or small triumph we have had together.”

It was the triumph of a changed perspective that one relatively insignificant mare named Brixy wrought in Trimble’s life 8 years ago, firmly laying the cornerstone in her philosophy of horse training: seeing through the eyes of the horse.

From the beginning Trimble could see that the little mare, though cowy and a hard worker, wasn’t built to be a show-stopper. Her back was a little long, her legs a little short. Still, after time under saddle Brixy knew her job, was pretty, and gave everything her best. She could score a 70 in reining on a good day so Trimble took her to the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nevada. Fairly new to the show pen and eager to compete, Trimble was pleasantly surprised when Brixy showed better than expected. She determined to do what was needed to help the horse step it up.

Brixy and a Green Pasture’s camper (a program created by Allison for underprivileged youth). Photo credit Allison Trimble

After the futurity Trimble practiced hard, pushing the mare to be quicker, “stingier.” One afternoon Trimble dismounted after a frustrating practice session that left Brixy tired and numb. As Trimble looked at the mare she suddenly felt sick, the sweat on her sides was tinted pink. Occasional excessive spurring is often considered acceptable, even unavoidable in serious competition, but when viewing the process through Brixy’s eyes Trimble saw things differently. Horrified she had kicked the horse hard enough to draw blood Trimble put Brixy away and withdrew her from serious competition. It wasn’t in the horse’s best interest to continue with something she physically could not excel at. Brixy now shines as a broodmare, lesson, and rehabilitation horse.

Great trainers all point to experiences like Trimble’s that molded them into better horsemen and women. The horse is consistently the best teacher when one is willing to be teachable. Trimble has been relentless in her goal of refining horsemanship methods and breaking them down into connecting pieces that are approachable and practical to the rider and make sense to the horse.

Trainability is the master quality in the best horses and riders. Trimble coaches both at her facility in Ferndale, Washington. She believes everyone, with a little help, can train their own horse and be successful. This is her passion.

“Experience is important, but without knowledge, understanding, and self-examination you will have a much longer road. You must be trainable, just like your horse,” says Trimble.

Allison and stallion Cow Cuttin Colonel. Photo credit Emily Clay

Students of the Willfully Guided program can expect a teacher with plenty of experience – Trimble has won numerous titles – as well as a sense of humor who is devoted to each and every student. Whether they are new to horses or competing at national levels, Trimble invests herself in each horse/rider combo, adding them into her circle like family. Her students range from 15-year-old Sierra Bishop who leads the nation in the NRCHA Youth Bridle to Val Richey, an adult who battled fears when she returned to riding after a long hiatus. Coaching from Trimble and guidance in buying her perfect equine match helped Richey develop a new vision for her horse-related goals.

I have gained so much confidence in myself and my horse that I am now doing things I would never have dreamed of doing before. Through it all Allison has given me nothing but encouragement and shown endless patience while I have worked through my insecurities,” says Richey who will compete at the Northwest Reined Cow Horse shows in 2012.

Photo credit DiaRae Harvey

Students of Trimble consistently value her giftedness as a teacher, commitment to their personal goals, and keen eye for matching a rider to their best horse. She is passionate about helping her students become the horsemen and women they want to be through a process that makes sense.

“If you have a grasp of the ‘why’ of what you are doing, you are much more capable of having the desired result and obtaining forward motion in your training. Each moment you spend with your horse, every motion, relates back to this belief system,” says Trimble.

Willfully Guided Horsemanship serves clients through training, lessons, and events such as ranch sorting and Buffalo Fun Days where students are exposed to the challenge of working bison. Allison Trimble will be presenting at the Washington State Horse Expo as well as producing the The Great Alaska Horse Expo, the state’s first such event, in June. She will be holding horsemanship clinics and a cow horse camp this summer. To learn more about Allison Trimble and her program visit:


Published February 2012 Issue

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Cover Stories
Catherine Madera

Catherine Madera attended Walla Walla University in Eastern Washington where she majored in communications/journalism. After winning a national competition for Guideposts Magazine in 2004, Catherine concentrated on non-fiction inspirational stories. Since then, she has published numerous personal and ghosted stories for Guideposts and their affiliate publications. Catherine has published in many regional and national magazines/newspapers and her work is included in several anthologies. She specializes in equine-related topics and profiles and serves as editor of The Northwest Horse Source. In 2010 Catherine’s non-fiction story, A Hero’s Work, received the Merial Human-Animal Bond award given by American Horse Publications. She has also authored three works of fiction and provides editing/writing assistance through Word Horse Writing Services.

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