Kate regularly spends the day with me and one of my two horses, Pugsie (a Cob), and Amber (a Thoroughbred).
I had been training Pugsie using natural methods for a while after he had started to become dangerous as a three year old, and I was astounded how it began to change our relationship. I contacted Kate because I was keen to improve our partnership further. She has taught me the importance of being able to ‘read’ my horses, and has showed me just how light they can be. Learning how to move my horses feet has really helped to start improve our yields, and it has made me think of the benefits that teaching this at an early stage would have. Kate has also shown me the purpose of being effective and progressive, and whilst I sometimes find this hard, the support I am given is great!
Amber seriously lacked in self confidence when I first got her, but I have seen a slow but steady improvement in her confidence levels from when I first got her, after sitting down and talking the problem through. I never used to be able to tie her up, as she used to run backwards as soon as I did. Kate teaching her how to stay in her halter has really begun to improve this too. She has also shown me ways of helping improve Amber’s self carriage, and watching her release herself as a result is quite something.
I learn so much from these training sessions, and the time just seems to fly by! I have also noticed that my confidence has improved too. All I am after is a fun partnership with my horses, and it is good to know that I have the help and support from someone like Kate on our journey!
Emma and Amber
Click here to see how EquineTouch bodywork helped Amber to regain balance and soundness.
A journey with horses is never a dull experience, especially when that horse has no manners, bites, has huge emotional problems with saddling, mounting and riding and feels that the only way he can have his say is to barge you with his shoulder or buck you off as an unwanted participant. To change that mindset is a huge undertaking, one that requires enormous doses of patience!
Two years ago Soldier arrived at my yard and in those two years he has made huge progress in his emotional state, however I was really craving for some help and support. I remember feeling both excited and scared as I waited for Kate to arrive. Soldier was not hugely great with strangers and I was feeling a bit apprehensive. As soon as Kate met Soldier I knew it was going to be fine. I could see she had made a connection with him, she is extremely calm and confident and has a fantastic sense of feel.
My horsemanship journey has changed through Kate. She has taught me that Feel is just that. Not a criticising, sharp, frustrating emotion but a feel that is based on energy. Every action generates a force of energy, while it is easy to know this it is hard to fully understand without having hands on experience. Nature has intelligence that functions with effortless ease, and it is that effortless ease that we can only hope to mimic in our horsemanship journey. Having Kate alongside to help and support through all the ups and downs is what makes travelling that journey a much more enjoyable experience.
Horses are truly amazing, nature has given them true harmony within it’s own kind. We really need to take onboard the concept that you must “do less to accomplish more”.
Soldier and I have changed enormously through Kate. It is fantastic to have such an understanding instructor and I sincerely hope that Kate will always be part of our horsemanship journey.
Avril and Soldier, the horse with “huge emotional problems with saddling, mounting and riding!”
Start of the journey
My gelding, Boris, and I embarked on our horsemanship some years ago after attending an inspiring Parelli Natural Horsemanship demonstration with Neil Pye, Dave Stuart, Charlotte Dennis and others near Bedford. It blew me away. I thought: ‘I want to do that – if someone can, so can I.’ I bought the resources and tools, attended courses and we passed the PNH Level 1 Partnership assessment tasks.
We soon encountered challenges, especially on the ground. Boris, now 16, becomes more of who he really is as he ages. He’s not very confident – although this is now improving steadily - and he’s dominant. He’s also sensitive, skeptical and smart, learning quickly (not always what I want).
Disappointingly, I wasn’t always able to learn my horsemanship as fast as he was able to out-smart me. Boris’s main way of telling me how I was getting on as a leader was to bite – either lightening quick, or slow, deliberate pinches to whichever body part hadn’t left his sphere of influence. He was excellent at yielding me to his suggestions – his driving game had many a time caused me to want to submit and move my feet. A few times in earlier days he knocked me over with a lively charge. For some time I experienced fear. Neither of us trusted each other in those darker days. I’m not proud of this phase, but it’s how we were.
Boris needs a leader, someone clear, firm and calm. I have come to understand this, but I haven’t always been fluent and knowledgeable enough to get my body to do the right thing at the right time. And doing it while putting our relationship first has been a major challenge. I love Boris! I needed help with my language and leadership as we tried playing our way through the tasks in the PNH Level 2 Harmony programme. I was stuck in some areas, sometimes learning and teaching bad habits. There were also places we needed to go on our journey that I was avoiding. Then, in the Spring of 2006, Kate joined us.
Help from Kate along the way
Since April 2006, Kate has coached me with my ground skills. At the start she helped me to:
- learn to move one of Boris’s feet at a time (forwards, backwards, sideways)
- do it by noticing where his weight is and causing him to shift it to help him move the less-weighted foot
- by holding the rope with feel as when riding (using direct, indirect and supporting reins)
- by being precise about where and how to offer pressure and direction
- by managing my energy more effectively
Back to basics
We played the Catching Game in Boris’s large paddock. He was often skeptical and would do what horses do to avoid being caught.
Kate helped me to be positive without being aggressive, to build rapport without being woolly. She helped me to motivate Boris to offer his head up from the grass and stand still while I put on his halter. She showed me how to offer a long, feather-light feel and sometimes to reward him with a feel back down to the grass. She helped me to notice when the clip is hanging freely, so that there is no pressure, and for this to matter to me. She reminded me to allow Boris to find his own way and take responsibility for the release of pressure.
In countless ways Boris and I are benefiting from Kate’s patient, on the spot coaching. I’m gaining skills and knowledge, and developing a more constructive attitude. She’s enabled me to foster a partnership in all our tasks – not just those we’ve focused on with her.
A few of the many positives in having Kate along on our journey include:
professional horsemanship at our home
on the spot feedback (from someone other than Boris!)
instant guidance and correction
help with my attitude, valuing the relationship first so that ‘Why won’t he . . . ?’ becomes ‘How can I help him?’
empathy – Kate gives feedback and offers corrections, without criticising.
Joan and Boris enjoying each other’s company
I had always dreamed of owning a pony and finally at the age of 34 I purchased a Highland mare named Soay. She was, so I thought, the perfect pony!
I’d been having regular riding lessons and assisted at a local riding school for several years and thought I had accumulated sufficient knowledge to cope. Within the space of 6 months, if not less, Soay showed me exactly how little I knew.
Our relationship was heavily weighted in Soay’s favour, she knew exactly how to do things her way and not work together.
Riding for me was exhausting, I was working harder than Soay. She wouldn’t move forwards at all. Soay would plod around in walk at a snails pace, trotting wasn’t much better and cantering was virtually impossible. We had lessons with an instructor and I was often told to smack Soay to make her move forward, this never really worked because the harder and more often I smacked her, the quicker Soay switched off (I am not proud of having used a whip). On the rare occasions when we did manage to get Soay to move, stopping then became an issue, I always had to pull back hard on the reins.
I think as a consequence of my heavy handiness whilst riding, Soay’s manners on the ground deteriorated. I went from being frustrated whilst riding to being very scared handling Soay from the ground.
Tacking up was dangerous, I had to wear my body protector to put on the bridle. Soay had bitten me twice in the boobs, and believe me that is something you do not want to experience!! She would try to bite when I put the saddle on and I wouldn’t reach under her for the girth, I used a broom to hook the girth towards me, she had a tendency to kick.
Grooming should be a pleasure between you and your horse, for me it was a nightmare. I couldn’t touch Soay with a brush without her trying to bit, she would lunge at me with her teeth. I was advised by other people at the yard to tie Soay up really short, this never worked because Soay just moved her body and started kicking out.
To top it all, getting Soay out of her stable proved interesting, being presented with a rear end isn’t much fun!
I had reached rock bottom and didn’t know what to do. I went to the Equine Event at Stoneleigh a couple of years ago and watched a Parelli demonstration and for me that was a turning point.
If you want a quick fix then following the Equine Ethology route is probably not for you. For me it is an exciting journey of discovery into equine and human behaviour.
When I started on the programme I decided to stop riding (as it turned out for 6 months) and concentrate on building a new relationship with Soay using the ground skills. We haven’t looked back since, we have attended several courses, had lessons with visiting instructors and now have a regular lesson with Kate, once a month, to continue improving our relationship.
I now own my PERFECT PONY. Our riding has changed beyond recognition, I use the lightest of aids to move up and down the gaits, I can now vary the speed of walk and trot. We still have room for improvement on the canter, but there is plenty of time. There is no pulling back on the reins to stop this is all done with the release of energy and an upward supporting rein if required. Soay no longer leans on my hands, she carries herself. Over the last few months we have started jumping and we both enjoy it.
Soay’s behaviour towards me on the ground has also improved. There are no more body protectors and brooms to be used whilst tacking up. She will stand, untied, whilst I tack up. She offers her head to the bridle and reaching for the girth is fine.
Grooming Soay is now a pleasure, she will quite happily stand in her paddock, untied, while I brush her, she will more often than not doze off. She really enjoys having her back, neck and chest scratched and we can quite easily spend 20 minutes grooming each other.
With regard to her attitude in the stable, I only see her face now and not her rear end.
Following the programme and seeking new knowledge has opened up a whole new relationship for Soay and I. I would definitely recommend it.
Alison and Soay are now friends
I would like to describe how Kate has helped me along on my journey with horses.
As a teenager, I finally got my wish to learn to ride as a Saturday morning rider at a local riding school, but the most idyllic days of my teenage years were spent in the Black Mountains on two pony-trekking holidays that to my surprise my parents were willing to send me on.
Looking back, I remember much happiness with my ponies-for-a-week. However, I also remember being uncomfortably aware that I did not really know what my pony was thinking and feeling, and whether he liked me.
I then had a twenty-seven year gap with no horses in my life, until the passion of my younger daughter got me involved and riding again in my forties. Then at forty-five, I bought Eleanor the horse she had learnt to ride on at the local riding school, and together we had the joy of watching him lose his reserve towards us and accept us as his people. I began to develop the ability to read our horse at least some of the time. And Eleanor followed her passion, going on to work with horses and study horse care and management.
At the age of fifty, I bought a Morgan mare for myself and as a second-string for Eleanor. On the face of it, Highland was a mistake for me, one reason being that I could not cope with the speedy trot that she would go into when warming up, and suffered the ignominy of having to have some more confident rider warm her up for me. At the time I pretended I didn’t care. But I did.
So did we have any idea what Highland was thinking and feeling? Sometimes, but Eleanor and I soon recognised that we did not understand her anything like as well as we did our two geldings. Sometimes I had hunches and things I wanted to try to get round various problems, but I was too diffident even to voice them half the time, not having the theory to back them up.
Well, various alarms and excursions, accidents, joys and triumphs down the road, I made my first attempt to “do natural horsemanship” with Highland. With book in one hand and horse in the other this was short and not very sweet. Next time round, I quickly started looking for help and found Kate through this site. Things went considerably better…
Through Kate’s teaching, I can now communicate with and listen to my horse better. I have also been given insights that enable me to assess my hunches, and greater confidence when making decisions and trying things out. This has been very timely as Eleanor has meanwhile re-trained as a nurse and moved away with our first horse. I no longer have her on hand to make or check out decisions; I no longer have her supportive and encouraging presence daily in my life. Instead Kate has helped me to develop greater independence and autonomy as a horse owner and for the first time since those early days in the Welsh mountains, I don’t feel like a complete fraud around horses!
Another factor that makes Kate’s appearance timely is that I have developed a medical condition that sometimes leaves me very low in energy. Kate reminds me not to flap around my horse, dissipating what precious energy I have. Instead, she has encouraged me to marshal it and to “go into neutral” when I get the response I have asked for.
And rather more fundamentally, after discussion with Kate last year, I came to the decision to keep Highland at a time when I wondered if she was wasted on me as I was no longer riding her. As it is, Highland and I are continuing on our journey together doing groundwork, and generally hanging out and getting on with things. I must stress that I still have a long, long way to go and we still have our hairy moments, but thanks to Kate, I have more joy, less frustration and a lot less fear on that path. And Highland has a somewhat less confusing and somewhat more reliable leader.
Brenda and Highland messing around together
Despite being a very nervous and not very proficient rider, I have always since my earliest memories loved horses and having reached the age of 47, I wanted to once again experience horse ownership and enjoy the companionship and pleasure owning a horse can bring. Having owned my own pony about 25 years ago, I (very) optimistically felt that I could give another horse a caring and loving home. I took great care to pick the right type of horse for my abilities and he was brought from an impeccable source. However it quickly became apparent that to give my horse the happy and contented life I had envisioned, and that he deserved, I would need some urgent help.
I had completely underestimated how much my nerves and timidity would affect my relationship with my horse, and lead to his losing faith in me and deciding that it would be best if he made all the decisions himself as he couldn’t see much leadership from me. I began to think I had made a life-changing decision for the worst – I had taken on a huge responsibility, and I dreaded handling my horse, let alone riding him - my confidence was at rock bottom, and my horse’s behaviour showed that clearly he wasn’t happy being around me.
Kate was recommended to me and I can unhesitatingly say that she has set me firmly on the path to have a tremendous relationship with my horse, through showing me how my intent, my breath and my body language all affect my interactions with him and his perception of me. Her natural horsemanship approach, her deep understanding of horse behaviour coupled with her immense practical knowledge makes her a wonderful instructor.
Kate has guided me in every single aspect of horse ownership – ground work, riding, stable management, horse care – even turning the stress of moving yards with him into a positive experience. Kate’s lessons are interesting and innovative - her approach is hands-on and encouraging, and she is meticulous yet patient in making sure one really understands what is being taught. When she works with my horse, I can see immediately how responsive he is to her calm, quiet and confident leadership, and it is something for me to aspire to.
I now look forward and have great pleasure in owning my horse and reciprocally, he is letting go of his anxiety and becoming more relaxed, responsive and content. Having a horse has proved a huge privilege and a huge responsibility – with Kate’s help and guidance my horse has enriched my life and made me more confident in myself. And, most importantly, of all, my horse is content and happy in his life with me.
Karen and Crispin on a journey of discovery