A gold-certified horse trainer came to the Kispiox Valley rodeo grounds last weekend to help owners learn how to communicate with their horses.
Birgit Stutz of Falling Star Ranch, based in Dunster, B.C., has 30 years of experience with horses and has trained horse owners since 2006.
Julia Corbet,Telegraph Trail saddle club member, decided to bring Stutz to the KVRG after training with Falling Star.
“We wanted to provide anyone from around here the opportunity to learn proper techniques,” Corbet said.
“I bought a horse a number of years ago and had a lot of problems with him.
“He was very defiant and didn’t seem to want to listen at first.”
So Corbet began to seek sound advice on how to reign in her unruly animal.
“I was mostly concerned that I was going to get hurt,” Corbet said.
“A friend of mine recommended the train-the-trainer program at Falling Star Ranch.”
Falling Star Ranch is owned by Chris Irwin, a world-renowned trainer.
Stutz has learned basically everything she knows about how a horse’s mind works from Irwin and endeavours to share that knowledge with students wherever she goes.
“Horses are hard-wired,” Stutz said.
“They only know one way to be and it is up to owners to learn how to speak that language to them.”
Besides knowing how to establish boundaries based on what a horse knows, there are two main things an owner must do to ensure steady progress.
“Consistency and awareness of their own body language and how that
affects the horse’s body language,” Stutz said.
Relaxing your knees and core are essential to relaxing your horse, she added.
“The number one rule is stay outta the horse’s face,” she said.
“Don’t be a bully and send negative energy into your horse’s head and neck.
“Most people do because they don’t know the rules.”
Being a proactive leader for a horse is simple, such as holding the left reign still when your horse tries to turn right when it’s not supposed to, she said.
“There’s no gimmicks involved in what we do,” Stutz admitted.
“It’s just using body language and knowing equine psychology to get inside the horse’s mind through their bodies.
“There’s a big difference between being assertive and being aggressive.”
Each student received two sessions per day in what is called non-resistance training with Stutz, while the rest of the students look, listen and learn.
The attention of a horse is so fragile that Stutz mainly does one-on-one sessions.
Whenever a group needs to be close Stutz emphasizes the need for everyone to be relaxed at all times.
Stutz was impressed with the speed the students in this session picked up what was being taught.
“They’re awesome,” Stutz said.
“Everyone is so receptive and willing to learn.”
“It makes what I do fun and easy.”
What is taught to the students quickly translated to each horse.
“On Friday I did a demo for everyone and it is a bit overwhelming at first,” Stutz said.
“But once everyone got a chance to apply what they saw improvements happened right away.
“I could see the light bulbs start to come on when the horses respond.”
Once a horse and rider are speaking the same language it will be difficult to see what is happening to the untrained eye, Stutz said.
“If somebody doesn’t know what they are looking for they’re gonna say, ‘How did you do that?’” Stutz said.
As long as Stutz has been training she admits the education never stops refining her craft.
She has developed a flexible skill-set to enable catering to horses of any variety of temperament.
The non-resistance moniker is not to be confused with having a horse that does everything it’s told, Stutz said.
“What it means is we don’t resist what they throw at us,” Stutz said.
“You can still get the required result without fighting.
“Some horses are pushy, but it is just a test.”
“They like to test boundaries as much as humans.”