Recently, I happened upon a quote in reference to horses and humans that states, “Two Feet Move our Body, Four Feet Move Our Soul.”
How true. I’ve always felt that working with and playing with horses feeds my soul. Learning to understand their individual “horsenalities” and how to communicate with them is helping me to be a better horsewoman and a better person.
Last summer I returned to the Parelli Campus in Pagosa Springs, CO, where I was fortunate enough to attend Linda’s “Secrets of Horse Psychology” course. I took my horse Chaco who had been to the campus two years earlier with me for the “Journey to Level Four” course. That course started the process of changing my relationship with Chaco, an RBE/LBE, (Right-Brain Extrovert/Left-Brained Extrovert cusp) who desperately needed a confident leader. The confidence came, but Chaco still presented me with interesting and sometimes frustrating challenges; and at that time last summer, challenges having to do with his insecurities about his feet.
The first day of the Horse Psychology course we listed our “problems” and our “goals” as a group. Many of the problems centered around our horses’ lack of confidence – around, over, inside or through objects, lack of confidence with other animals, other people, other horses, and lack of confident with their feet( i.e. jumping barrels, going over ground poles, trailer loading, crossing water).
I quickly learned that I was not alone in my challenges! The overarching “goals” for the class were: 1) to be confident for our horses in every situation, and 2) to learn how to make good decisions to achieve that confidence.
I decided that my goal for the course would be ALL FOUR FEET – All four feet over the ground poles, all four feet in the trailer, all four feet in the pond.
As the course progressed we learned about what is important to horses—safety, comfort, play—and how to tell if the horse’s needs in these areas were met. We learned techniques for reading our horses and how their behaviors presented either fear or dominance. As we learned these behaviors and techniques for addressing our horse’s individual horsenalities, we were shown demos and given tasks to practice them. One of the most captivating demos of the course took place at Linda’s arena where we got to see Linda working with her own horses; Highland, Navi, Hot Jazz, and the amazing Dylano—all with different horsenalities.
I learned a lot from watching Linda work with and adjust to each of the horses’ needs in the moment. Those last three words are important because although sometimes skeptical, horses don’t live their lives dwelling in or thinking about the past, and they also don’t make plans for success or failure in the future. Horses live in the present and behave according to how they view what may or may not happen to them in the moment.
During the two-week course, Chaco and I made great improvements. I saw Chaco’s trust in my leadership grow. By the end of the course he soared through the cavalettis, made several trips through the pond, and stepped inside a scary pink trailer–with all four feet—twice!
Tackling problems and learning about my horse through psychology has given my horse even more reason to trust me and it is also helping me to build a better relationship with him—as well as with my other equine friends with their own set of challenges. It is helping me to achieve my own personal development goals in my horsemanship and in other areas of my life.
Building communication and working in partnership through different and unique challenges is something I no longer fear or dread. It has become something that I am ever grateful for – and something that truly moves my soul.
My father traveled a lot for business when I was a child. This created a great deal of anxiety for me as I feared the plane would go down and I would never see him again. To ease my angst, he always told me he would bring me something from his trip. It worked because instead of worrying about my father, I had something else to think about. Of course I prayed every night he was gone that he would come home safe and sound, but I would go to sleep with positive thoughts on what he would bring me when he returned. To my delight, it was usually a book. One of my favorites was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. This may have started my life-long passion and love of horses and writing, something that I am sure my father did not intend, but that he and my mother ended up wholly supporting during my youth and beyond.
I was so young when I read the book that some of the lessons it provided were forgotten. We also moved several times during my growing up years and my copy of it must have gotten lost along the way. It wasn’t until I started researching books about horses that I happened upon Black Beauty again. I’ve just ordered a new copy and look forward to scouring it from cover to cover.
Here are some interesting facts about Anna Sewell and her book:
Anna Sewell spent six years writing the book. It was published in 1877 when she was 57 years old, 5 months before her death.
It was her first and last book.
It was an instant best-seller and has to date sold 50 million copies.
A signed first edition sold for $18,133 in 2015. The copy she signed for her mother sold in 2006 for $50,693.
Anna’s mother Mary Wright Sewell was a best-selling author.
Anna and her family were Quakers and believed in kindness to animals.
Black Beauty was the very first novel ever published written in an animal’s point of view.
It was based on her childhood horse, Bess. The Sewell’s considered Bess one of the family—not a very common philosophy in those days.
Anna’s ankles were injured in an accident at age 14 and she never regained full use of her legs again. She spent much of her time in a horse-drawn carriage where she thought about the plight of the working horse.
The book was never intended for children, but for adults to reconsider the treatment of horses.
Sewell’s description of the “check rein” or “bearing rein” caused its demise in Victorian England. The “check” or “bearing” rein is a rein extending from the bridle to the harness of a driving cart that is used to pull the horse’s head up and back. In Victorian times it was fashionable to have this rein pulled tight, causing an unnatural backward bend in the horses’ neck, making it difficult to pull correctly and even to breathe. This caused detrimental effects to the horse and many had to be retired early or actually died from the effects. There are varying opinions on the use of “check reins” still today. Natural horsemanship adheres to the idea of a horse being able to move “naturally” without any bodily limiting devices.
The social practices regarding the use of horses in Black Beauty also inspired legislation in many states of the U.S. during the Victorian period that would condemn abusive practices towards animals.
The novel has been compared to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in its influence on social outrage and protest action in society.
It has inspired many other books concerning animal cruelty.
We live in a time when in order to be a successful author, one must be incredibly prolific. Anna Sewell never had the opportunity to be prolific, but Black Beauty, her one and only novel, did the job. More than just a story about a horse in Victorian England, the novel is about treating all of God’s creatures with kindness, empathy and respect. A theme we can all relate to and want to read about.
I rarely worry about my dad going down in a plane anymore. Time and age have added other, different concerns for both of us, but my dad still gives me books. And rarely a birthday or Christmas goes by without me giving him one in return. It is something we have always shared. If you haven’t come up with a new year’s resolution yet, maybe you should consider giving loved ones a good book on gift giving occasions or just because. Maybe one of the classics like Black Beauty.
This time of year makes me want to hunker down in my office with my essential oils diffuser, a delicious pot of loose-leaf herbal tea, my cats, and my latest writing project. Some of my favorite oils to use while writing are frankincense, lavender, and a blend from Young Living Oils called Envision that really helps me to focus.
I got into essential oils about a year ago. I learned about them through some of my equestrian friends who use them with their horses, their other animals, and on themselves. I started using the oils on my own horses and was so impressed with their reactions both emotionally and physically that I decided to take this new wave of essential oil popularity seriously, and of course, started to research the history behind the oils.
First, I wanted to know exactly what essential oils are and where they come from. The oils come from the liquid extracted from flowers, seeds, leaves, stems, bark and/or roots of trees, herbs, bushes and shrubbery that is also referred to as the “essence” or “life blood” of the plant. The liquid is steam extracted or cold pressed and then distilled to produce the oil.
Pure essential oils are highly concentrated and very little is needed to reap the benefits. To produce 1 lbs. of rose oil–one of my absolute favorites–5000lbs. of rose petals are needed. It is no surprise that a 5 ml. bottle of pure rose oil can cost up to $200. In my research I have found that for inhalation, ingestion, and absorption of the oils into the skin, it is extremely important to use products that are 100% pure therapeutic grade. According to Cynthia Foster, MD (drfostersessentials.com) many of the oils sold in grocery stores and health stores today are useful for aromatic purposes and perfume, but are commonly adulterated with solvents such as propylene glycol, acetate or alcohol. Only therapeutic grade oils are the purest and can help with physical, mental and emotional ailments, without harmful side effects.
Essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. Hieroglyphics and manuscripts found from the Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Chinese cultures indicate that essential oils were used to heal the sick and promote health. When the Egyptian Tutankhamen’s tomb (carbon dated 1500 B.C.) was opened in 1922, 50 alabaster oil jars were found. The oils had been emptied from the jars some time ago, thought to have been stolen. The fact that gold jewelry and artifacts had been left behind and only the oils stolen indicates the extremely high value of oils at that time.
Oils have also been used for spiritual purposes throughout the centuries. As a practicing Catholic for all of my life, I’ve always enjoyed the aroma of incense during certain spiritual celebrations, and have participated in sacraments where oils were used, but never really understood why they were used or where the tradition came from. After researching I’ve learned there are over 150 references to essential oils and anointing oils in the bible. “Anointing” which means “to smear with oil” was to make a person sacred and elevate them to a higher spiritual purpose. Many religions use frankincense in its resin form and burn it to release its aroma to encourage deeper spiritual contemplation and liberation. Many cultures use oils for meditation to promote emotional and mental calmness and to reach heightened states of enlightenment.
In Christianity, the Bible tells a story of preparing a sacred temple with aromatic oils to help stop a plague that was infesting a city. In the New Testament the story is told of the three kings coming to visit the Christ child with gifts of frankincense and myrrh—both oils—and gold. “Gold” in this case, according to some historians, was actually balsam oil and was referred to as “liquid gold” during that time period.
In my own experimentation I have found that many of the oils are wonderful for physical ailments such as pain, allergies, sore muscles and skin irritation. I have also incorporated essential oils into my skin care regimen and diet. A few months ago I became a certified practitioner of the Aroma Freedom Technique (AFT), a new energy technique that utilizes the aromatic properties of essential oils to release inner blocks and resistance we have built in our minds that prevent us from moving forward and realizing our goals and dreams. Since I have been using essential oils and practicing AFT on a regular basis, I notice that I approach life with a little more calm, a little more joy, and a lot more confidence. I’ve gained clarity in how I want to proceed in my career and with my relationships.
Essential oils and AFT will not cure all your ills or magically give you everything you want in life, but they can have an effect on how you see things, and can help you to be more proactive in your own health, career, and quality of life. If you haven’t already gotten on the band-wagon of using essential oils, you might give them a try. You never know what goodness life might offer you!
If you are interested in learning more about the Aroma Freedom Technique or essential oils, please feel free to contact me. Happy oiling!
Earlier this month I had the great pleasure of attending the 2016 Parelli Savvy Summit ( http://www.parelli.com/-2016parellisavvysummit.html), and celebrating their 20th anniversary of this amazing event at the Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Springs, Colorado—the land of milk and honey. For some reason, I have always referred to the Parelli Ranch as “the land of milk and honey”, and I recently asked myself why? The first image that popped into my mind was A.A. Milne’s, Winnie the Pooh—a beautiful series of books my father read to me almost every night as a child— and the loveable bear’s search for “hunny” in the Hundred Acre Wood. Winnie the Pooh was never happier than when he was scooping honey out of a honey tree, or had his nose stuck in a pot of the sticky gooey stuff.
Unable to fully reconcile my connection with the ranch to Winnie the Pooh, I decided to look up the phrase land of milk and honey on the Internet. My favorite definition that came up was from the website Culinary Lore (www.culinarylore.com/food-history). It explains: Land of milk and honey is a literary expression that comes from one of the greatest works of literature ever written, the Bible. In Exodus, when God instructs Moses to lead his people, the oppressed Hebrew slaves of Egypt, out of bondage and into freedom. He promises them their own land. He does not tell them exactly what land, but describes it as a land flowing with milk and honey.
Again, maybe a stretch on the connection with the ranch, but upon further introspection, perhaps not so much. The key word in this phrase to me is “freedom.” Pat Parelli often refers to the ranch as “The Eagle’s Nest.” The eagle represents freedom and liberty, doesn’t it?
As Linda Parelli often says, “How interesting!”
Now, it makes complete sense to me. In my mind and experience, the Parelli Ranch IS the land of milk and honey, because there, I have learned to break free of my previous “assumptions” about horses and how to work and play with them. Most importantly, I have learned to break free from the assumptions I have made about myself. Horses have the ability and power to transform lives. By studying them, so can we. If we tune into our “natural” selves, and appreciate the natural power of horses and working in natural partnership with them, we can free ourselves from our preconceived notions and beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world around us.
One of the most inspiring demonstrations at the Summit this year was the spotlight session with Caton Parelli, Pat’s son. Thirty-three years ago, Caton was born with hydrocephalus—fluid on the brain, and the condition left him with extremely limited body function. The doctors told Pat and his former wife, Caton’s mother, that it would be best if they institutionalized Caton. Pat refused. Not only did he refuse to sequester his child from the world, he decided to put him on a horse. Pat strapped Caton to the saddle with a seatbelt of sorts. While mounted and holding the lead rope of Caton’s horse (a term called pony-ing) Pat and Caton took to the fields and mountains, riding and herding cattle. Unfortunately, when Caton was 12 years old, he suffered a stroke caused by his condition. A blood clot had traveled from his lungs to his brain, rendering the left side of his body completely immobile. Again, Pat and Caton remained undeterred, and Caton continued to ride and play with horses, activities that eventually helped him to regain his mobility. Since then, he has competed in branding, reining, roping and cutting competitions.
During the Summit Spotlight, Caton and his mount cut a cow from the herd. Pat challenged Caton to run alongside the cow and lean down and touch her between the ears. Sounds easy, right? As Caton and his horse sped around the arena chasing down the cow, the crowd cheered with abandon. After several adrenaline rushing laps, Caton was able to reach down and touch the cow on its hind quarters. He didn’t touch the cow’s head, but no one cared. In those moments, we all not only saw, but lived through, the difficulty of the challenge—a tough one even for a perfectly abled-bodied person. The moment Caton’s fingers finally touched that cow, the crowd roared and rose to its feet in thunderous applause. Once the ovation subsided, Pat said to the crowd, face beaming, something to the effect of, “I don’t have a handicapped child. He’s a horseman.”
Horses can heal, and this was one of the highlights of the event this year.
Caton is but one of the many examples of the healing power of horses you will find anywhere in the world. In the last two articles in my blog, “The True Measure of a Champion is What is in Her Heart”(https://karibovee.com/2016/09/07/the-true-measure-of-a-champion-is-what-is-in-her-heart/) and “Para-Equestrian Dressage Begins at the Paralympic Games” (https://karibovee.com/2016/09/10/usa-para-equestrian-dressage-team/) about Para-Equestrian Olympians, I highlighted five amazing athletes with major physical challenges who competed in the top equestrian sport in the world, the Para-Equestrian Dressage competition during the Paralympic Games. Each one of these athletes has had to overcome many incredible physical challenges, and they have done it with the partnership and love of their respective horses.
Come to think of it, perhaps Winnie the Pooh does have a connection to the land of milk and honey, or rather the Parelli Ranch. Pooh lived a pretty carefree and simple life in the Hundred Acre Wood, free from preconceived notions and assumptions about things. Through his characters, A.A. Milne approached common human problems in life with a philosophy built on nature, purity of heart, and simplicity. His characters were all animals that facilitated lessons and experiences for Christopher Robin, their human, just like the horse does for many who use equine therapy to learn and heal.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games are well under way having started with their opening ceremonies on Wednesday, September 7. Starting tomorrow, Sunday, September 11, one of my favorite sports in the Paralympic Games will begin, the Para-Equestrian Dressage. Seventy-six Para Equestrian Dressage athletes from 29 countries will compete this year, 78% whom are women. The oldest competitor is 67 years old from Great Britain, and the youngest is just 18 years old from the U.S.
As I mentioned in my last article about Canadian Paralympic athlete, Lauren Barwick, “The True Measure of A Champion Is What Is In Her Heart”,(https://karibovee.com/2016/09/07/the-true-measure-of-a-champion-is-what-is-in-her-heart/) the Para-Equestrian champion is truly someone to be admired. While these competitors must contend with their physical limitations on a daily basis, they must also be safe and responsible for a 1,200 pound, living, breathing, moving mass of emotional horseflesh.
When I started researching these articles, I, like many people I’m sure, didn’t quite understand the definition of “Paralympic Athlete”. As Lauren and US Para-Equestrian Angela Peavy explain in the two videos I cite in this article below, the term “para” does not mean “paralyzed athletes”, but rather it means “parallel” to the Olympics. The Paralympics are the Olympic games for people with physical disabilities to achieve the same elite status as able-bodied competitors. Para-Equestrian Dressage is the only Equestrian discipline in the Paralympics.
Para-Equestrian Dressage was first included in the Paralympic Games in 1996. The athletes are classified according the level of their impairment. From the inside.fei.org website: The competitor’s mobility, strength and coordination are assessed in order to establish their Classification Profile. People with similar functional ability profiles are grouped into competition grades. The Grades range from Grade IA for the most severely impaired, to Grade IV for the least impaired. The competition within each Grade can therefore be judged on the skill of the individual competitor on their horse, regardless of the competitor’s impairment.” (Source: https://inside.fei.org/fei/disc/dressage/about-para-equestrian .
Since equestrianism is a fairly dangerous sport for even able-bodied riders, the equipment has been designed to keep the para-equestrian as safe as possible. Much of the equipment uses Velcro and rubber bands for easier and faster breakaway if needed during a fall. Balance is also extremely important. Saddles are often made with extra padding to facilitate the rider’s equilibrium and communication with the horse. Class and disability profiles are used to classify the type of equipment a rider can use for competition.
This year, four very talented riders from the United States will be competing in the Para-Equestrian Dressage events at Rio:
Sydney Collier from Ann Arbor, MI, will be competing with Dusty Rose, a 2003 Oldenburg mare, owned by her trainer, Wesley Dunham. Sydney began riding at 7 years of age with aspirations of becoming an eventer. Diagnosed with Wyburn-Mason syndrome, a rare congenital birth defect, Collier underwent medical treatments, radiation treatments and three unplanned brain surgeries to combat the illness. As a result, Collier completely lost the vision in her right eye and suffered a stroke causing her to lose the use of the left side of her body. She had to relearn to walk and also to regain the muscle control on her left side again. Undeterred from training, Collier, as a Ib Grade competitor, has won many outstanding championships. At age 16 she made her first appearance as a part of a U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Team at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG).
Rebecca Hart from Wellington, FL will be competing as a Grade II rider with her own 2002 Danish Warmblood mare, Schroeters Romani. Born with a rare genetic disease called hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), a progressive impairment that causes muscle wasting and paralysis from the middle of the back down, Hart also would not be steered away from her dreams. In 1998, she purchased her first horse and decided to compete internationally. Hart has represented the U.S. in several international events. In 2014, she purchased Schroeter’s Romani and won the USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Championships in both 2014 and 2015. Hart is a seven-time USEF Para-Equestrian Dressage National Champion.
Margaret “Gigi” Macintosh from Reading, PA, will be competing with Rio Rio, her own 2006 Rheinland Pfalz-saar mare. Gigi broke her neck in 1999 during the cross-country phase of an eventing competition, resulting in incomplete quadriplegia. Her love of equestrian sport kept her going. After her hard work to regain her mobility, Gigi now competes in para-equestrian dressage as a 1A competitor. She recently started riding without stirrups to counteract the effects of leg spasms that occur while riding with stirrups. She recently took team gold at the Wellington CPEDI3* and won the Grade Ia Freestyle
She was also the Individual Grade Ia Champion at the Wellington CPEDI3*with Rio Rio.
Angela Peavy, also known as Annie,from Avon, CT and Wellington, FL will be competing as a Grade III rider with Lancelot Warrior, a 2002 Hanoverian gelding owned by Heather Blitz and Rebecca Reno. In utero, Annie suffered a stroke, which affected the left side of her body. She began equine therapy as a 4-year-old and got her first horse at age 10. Smitten with dressage, Annie and her mother traveled to Portugal for “dressage vacations.” She couldn’t get enough of the sport and took three lessons a day while abroad. When she returned home, a friend introduced her to para-equestrian dressage and Annie began her journey toward representing her country in dressage all over the world. Annie’s hard work and dedication landed her a spot on the U.S. Team at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Annie is one of the few para-equestrian athletes who also competes in able-bodied dressage.
Like Lauren Barwick of Canada, these athletes have found meaning, purpose and healing through their horse partners and healthy competition. Enjoy this video with Annie Peavy and Rebecca Hart as they explain how dressage and competition has helped them to heal and work toward achieving their dreams.
Champions are the type of people who have chosen a road less traveled. They have sacrificed their time, money, and sometimes their relationships, to achieve their championship dreams. There is a certain drive and force of will these people have that not everyone is fortunate enough, or strong enough, to foster.
As we are in the midst of the Olympic season, first with the Games in August, and now with the Paralympics starting this week, we get to see these champions doing what they do best, at the peak of their performance, competing for the elusive Holy Grail of all awards, the Olympic Gold Medal.
Athletes of this caliber are indeed special, but one in particular stands out to me: Canadian Paralympian Lauren Barwick. Lauren is a 4-time World Para-Equestrian athlete and 3-time Paralympic medalist, having earned gold and silver medals in the Paralympic Games in Beijing (2008). In 2008 and 2014 she was named
Canada’s Equestrian of the Year and in 2015, she was inducted into Canada’s Paralympic Hall of Fame. All amazing achievements, yes, and all from a person who has no feeling below her belly button and paralyzed legs. It seems mind boggling, but what draws me to Lauren is her devotion to and passion for natural horsemanship. In addition to all of her monumental achievements, Lauren is a Parelli 4-Star Senior Instructor and Horse Development Specialist.
Lauren was introduced to the Parelli Program before her tragic accident. As a jumper, she appreciated the methods and learned the hallmark Parelli Seven Games. But, like many of us, at first, she didn’t take it too seriously, and just had fun with it. At 22 years of age, while training to perform stunts with horses for the movie industry, Lauren climbed to the top of a pile of 100-pound stacked hay bales at feeding time. The stack was unstable so she jumped 10 feet to the ground and one of the top bales fell on her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. Lauren thought she would never ride again. Three weeks later, she was allowed home for a visit, and wheeled herself down to the pasture to see her horses. Only one approached her, unafraid of the contraption she had to sit in for the rest of her life. Her horse, Peanut, had not forgotten her owner, and as horses are so apt to do once a bond is created. Peanut loved and missed Lauren unconditionally. After that, Lauren felt she might be able to ride again.
In 2002, just two years after her injury, Lauren hired a trainer and began competing internationally, representing her country. She was nominated for and began training for the Para-Equestrian 2004 Paralympics in Athens, where she came very close to achieving Top 3 in the dressage competition. In 2005, Lauren realized that she no longer wanted to train the way she had trained for Athens and wanted more of a partnership with her horses. It was then that she reached out to Pat and Linda Parelli and began her natural horsemanship journey once again. Still with no aspirations to continue on to Beijing in 2008, Lauren went to the Parelli Colorado campus for a two-week audition to become a part of Pat’s barn. Lauren says that after seven days of riding with Pat in the mountains, she was inspired again to see how far she could go with her horses. She moved to Florida to train at the Florida campus with the goal of competing in the 2008 Beijing Summer Paralympics. It was through Pat and Linda that she found her Paralympic horse, Maile, and realized her Olympic dreams. Lauren has another shot at the gold this year at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, September 7-18, with her horse Onyx.
Lauren inspires me in so many ways. She has overcome what seemed to be insurmountable odds to achieve her goals, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to be a better partner to her horses. She wanted to be completely involved in their training, both physically and emotionally. Although I have no aspirations to achieve what Lauren has in her equestrian career, I can relate to her desire to want more than the ribbon. She wanted those awards to really mean something, from her heart. She wanted to be able to foster a deep and meaningful relationship with more than just one “good” horse. She wanted to prove to herself that she had the heart and the desire to be the best partner she could be to a number of horses. Regardless of what she may do in Rio this summer, in that she truly has succeeded.
Relationships between royals and commoners don’t happen very often. In 1936 England’s King Edward VIII’s affiliation with a commoner forced him to lose the crown when he wanted to marry the famously divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Since his time, things have loosened up a bit. Prince Charles married the late Diana Spencer and is now married to Camilla Parker Bowles. England’s beloved Prince William married Kate. All of these relationships, perhaps aside from Charles and Diana, sprung from shared passions. As I wrote in my last article about Queen Elizabeth, “The Queen’s Private Passion” (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/04/the-queens-private-passion/), we all know about QEII’s passion for all things equine, particularly the horse itself. This passion has led Her Majesty, too, to engage in an on-going, unlikely relationship with a commoner—who is also an American.
An avid thoroughbred racehorse breeder, the Queen wants only the best for her four-legged friends. In the late 1970’s, the longest reigning monarch of all time reached out to a cowboy from California who had fostered the reputation of being “the man who listens to horses.”
Like his fellow horseman Pat Parelli—also a cowboy from California whose had an audience with the Queen, Monty Roberts decided as a young man that violent means for training performance animals was not the answer. Roberts studied horses in the wild and learned how they communicated with one another. He noted their body language, how they set boundaries, showed fear and expressed annoyance, relaxation or affection, and then developed gestures to mimic those behaviors. Robert’s method came to be known as “Join Up.” Impressed with his philosophy and training methods, the Queen hired him to help train her racehorses.
Robert’s relationship with the Queen has remained steadfast since the 1980’s. With the Queen’s encouragement, he wrote a book entitled, “The Man Who Listens to Horses.” Published in 1996, the book became a phenomenon. Documentaries were made and more books were published. In 1998 he became one of several natural horsemen who served as inspirations for the movie “The Horse Whisperer” starring Robert Redford.
In 2011, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed Roberts with an honorary Membership of the Royal Victorian Order—an order of people who have served Her Royal Majesty in a personal way—for his contributions to the racing establishment. He has served the Queen and her horses for a quarter of a century.
The relationship between the QEII and Roberts was much more widely accepted in the late twentieth century than the relationship held between her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, and one of her Indian servants. In fact, Victoria’s friendship with 24-year-old Abdul Karim, who was 42 years her junior, was viewed as more akin to a scandal.
After the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert, Victoria missed the companionship of a man. Albert provided support, ideas, and indispensable advice to the Queen from the time they courted, until his death. Queen Victoria later found solace in John Brown, a servant she also had a deep and lasting platonic relationship with after Albert’s death. In Karim, Queen Victoria was once again able to find the same comfort after John died.
Brought to England in 1887 as a personal servant to Queen Victoria for the Golden Jubilee, Karim immediately endeared himself to Her Magesty with his gentle nature and advanced intellect. She gave him the title of “ Munshi”, the Urdu word for “clerk” or “teacher”. Within one year, he had become one of her most trusted confidants and she promoted him to a status well beyond servant.
Although the Queen benefited intellectually and spiritually from Karim’s advice and companionship, the rest of the royal household did not see his value. Many of Victoria’s other staff and servants thought him well beneath them and resented the closeness between Karim and the Queen. The fact that she showered him with gifts, honors, and a large land grant in India didn’t help matters.
I found this relationship so interesting that I have infused it into my second Annie Oakley mystery novel. Like the unusual relationship between QEII and Monty Roberts and Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim respectively, Annie Oakley found herself in an unlikely friendship with royalty of another kind. Chief Sitting Bull, the famous Sioux Chief and warrior, who was also a principal player in Buffalo Bills Wild West Show, became smitten with Miss Oakley, when he first saw her perform in 1884. The great Sioux Chief felt that Annie was “gifted” by a supernatural force that enabled her to shootequally accurate with both hands. Because of this, and their close rapport, the Chief symbolically “adopted” her and named her Watanya Cecilia, the Sioux name for “Little Sure Shot” – a moniker that stuck with her throughout her career.
I think that unlikely relationships are always the most interesting to read and write about. The single factor in each one that bonds each of the people in them together is a profound respect that crosses social, racial, and religious boundaries. It is truly remarkable and heartwarming for Her Royal Majesty QEII to reach out to a cowboy fromCalifornia; for Queen Victoria to take in an Indian servant as a confidant, and a for a famed Indian warrior to be so touched by a young white girl’s special talent, that he wants to make her his daughter. It reminds us that no matter what a person’s title or status in society, we are all human beings who have a desire to share our passions and interests. I think it is a good lesson for all of us.
It is a shame that Olympic Equestrians do not get as much attention as the other athletes at the Summer Games. As I mentioned in my previous article, “Equestrianism in the Olympics”, (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/11/equestrianism-at-the-olympics/) these athletes have much more to contend with than the other athletes because they also have to take into consideration the care and well-being of their equine partner—a partner who really has no choice or say as to whether they are to compete or not.
It was especially moving when Dutch dressage rider Adelinde Cornelissen, a previous Olympic medalist, gave up her Rio Olympic dream of winning the gold because she felt her partner Parzival, a chestnut gelding, was not up to the task. It was determined that Parzival had suffered an insect bite, which caused a fever and swelling in his jaw. Once he had been cleared by the vet, Adelinde was ready to perform, but ended up retiring mid-test, because she knew her horse was suffering. That is the act of a true champion.
While the Equestrian events are not given prime-time television and press coverage, their efforts and talents are appreciated by many viewers and fans.
I was pleased to see that four equestrians, all show Jumpers, were given the spotlight during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics Parade of Nations when they were honored and chosen by their countrymen and women to serve as flag-bearers. The country’s Olympic committee, the country, or the Olympic athletes themselves choose each flag-bearer–a truly special honor because only one person per country can receive this unique opportunity.
The four equestrian flag-bearers at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics are as follows:
Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani represents his country, Qatar, and its Show Jumping Equestrian Team, which makes its first appearance at the Olympic games this year. The 34-year-old athlete competed at Rio as the team’s anchor. To make their goal of competing in the Olympics, the Qatar Equestrian team began training with Jan Tops of The Netherlands in 2012. With one of the world’s best-known show Jumping trainers to push them, they made their goal and the country of Qatar named Sheik Al Thani their flag-bearer. Sheikh Al Thani leads his team with experience as a two-time rider in the World Equestrian Games, and a three-time rider at the World Cup Final.
Abdelkebir Ouaddar from Morocco is among one of the oldest athletes to compete in the Olympics at age 54. Raised as one of their own by the Moroccan Royal Family, Ouaddar rides several of the King’s horses for training and in competition. King Mohammed VI makes sure that Ouaddar and his horses travel with the finest of everything at their disposal. Ouaddar started competing at age 14. He was the first Moroccan to qualify for the World Championships in 2013, and the first to compete at the World Championships in Normandy in 2014. This is Ouaddar’s first Olympic Games.
Jeroen Dubbeldam carries the flag of the Netherlands in this year’s Parade of Nations. At age 41, Dubbledam is one of the most experienced and well-respected members of the Netherlands team. He claimed an Olympic gold in 2000 at Sydney, and also the world champion gold at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, as well as the team gold in 2006 and 2014. The Netherlands has a large presence at the 2016 games, with 239 athletes in 27 sports. To be chosen to carry the flag among all those amazing athletes gives credence to Dubbledam’s reputation as a superior sportsman.
Isheau Wong of Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) does her country a great honor by being the first athlete in the country’s history to compete in the Equestrian portion of the Olympic games. At 27 years old, Wong won the spot to compete at the Olympics against her friend and long-time trainer, Samantha McIntosh of New Zealand. Wong tells Horsetalk.co.nz that it was tough to be McIntosh’s rival in that competition, but she put her reservations aside and just rode as fast as she could. She beat McIntosh’s time by three seconds.
I have hope that equestrian sports will be better recognized in the Olympics in the future. After all, four flag-bearers from the sport were chosen to represent their countries in the opening Parade of Nations and during the closing ceremonies for the Parade of Athletes. Despite rumors that equestrian sports would be eliminated from the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, the Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to keep equestrian sports alive in the Olympics.
I encourage you to do what you can to further support Olympic equestrian sports, so that we may continue to be inspired by these horse and human champions who compete in perfect partnership. Enjoy the closing ceremonies—and look for our proud equestrian friends from Qatar, Morocco, The Netherlands, and Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) during the Parade of Athletes.
As a horse enthusiast I find it interesting that many people do not know that equestrianism is actually an Olympic sport. I also find it interesting that people do not realize that dressage is part of the Olympic Equestrian family. Actually, it is amazing to me that many people do not know much about dressage at all. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most beautiful and poetic of disciplines, and it requires an absolutely rock solid relationship between horse and rider to be successful.
Dressage has its history in the military, going way back to the first documented accounts of the discipline in the writings of the Greek Xenophon. The horses chosen for this military discipline had to be obedient and maneuverable, and required a rigorous system of training. “The system of training was built upon throughout the ages, with many well-known riding masters, military and civilian, writing books expounding their methods.” (Source: United States Dressage Federation – www.usdf.org)
Equestrianism in general, and dressage in particular, did not make its debut in the Olympic games until the 1900 Summer Olympics, and then only as a military discipline. Commissioned military officers and “gentlemen” were the only people permitted to compete in the Olympic equestrian disciplines. The military test included obedience and maneuverability (or what would become dressage) and the ability to jump obstacles.
After the US Cavalry was disbanded in 1948, the focus for dressage shifted from military to civilian competition, and it quickly gained momentum. Women as well as men ventured into the sport and in the 1952 Summer Games, women made their first equestrian appearance in dressage. It wasn’t until 1956 and 1964 respectively, that women could compete in jumping and eventing.
Equestrianism is one of the few Olympic sports in history where women and men are allowed to complete against one another. In team competition, teams may have any blend of male and female competitors, and are not required to have minimum numbers of either gender; countries are free to choose the best riders, regardless of their gender.
Dressage has changed dramatically since its early appearance at the Summer Olympics. Jumping is no longer required, but the tests on the flat are now more difficult and include more challenging movements such as the piaffe and the passage. Today’s dressage horses are specifically bred for the discipline and their movement is much more refined and dramatic than in past years.
Lis Hartel from Denmark was the first woman to win a silver medal for Individual Dressage in 1952, and she was also the Danish champion that same year. Hartel had the heart and drive required to be so successful. Despite contracting polio in 1944 at the age of 23, which paralyzed her legs and affected her arms and hands, Hartel was determined to continue her equestrian career. Against medical advice, she went on to finish second at the Scandinavian championships, despite the fact that she needed help to get on her horse every time she rode.
In 1992, Hartel was inducted into Denmark’s Hall of Fame, and in 2005 she was named one of Denmark’s top 10 athletes of all time. An empowered woman, Hartel paved the way for other empowered and dedicated women in the sport.
That type of drive and dedication brings to mind other empowered women and Olympic athletes who will be competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympics such as Canadian Paralympian Lauren Barwick. Her story is especially moving to me because Lauren is also a practitioner of natural horsemanship and is a Parelli 4-Star Instructor and Horse Development Specialist. Lauren became paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 22 when a 100 pound bale of hay fell from 10 feet above onto her spine. When she left the hospital, Lauren said she would never ride again, but it was her relationship with her mare, Peanut, whom she now calls her “heart horse”, that gave her the inspiration and courage to ride again. To date, Lauren has earned gold and silver medals in the Beijing Paralympic Games 2008, as well as bronze and silver medals at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Most of us have no room to whine or complain that horsemanship is hard and often frustrating. To overcome such a tremendous hurdle takes an inner strength that most of us can hardly imagine.
Liselott Linsenhoff , a German equestrian and an Olympic champion, became the first woman to receive an Individual Dressage gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics. In the 1968 Summer Olympics she took home a team gold with the West German team. Lisenhoff won many world championships and her daughter, Ann-Katherine, also became an Olympic champion in equestrian arena.
It’s funny how a passion can run through families. Equestrian Olympic athlete Zara Phillips Tindall, the second eldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and daughter of Princess Anne, says her love of horses came from her grandmother. (https://karibovee.com/2016/08/04/the-queens-private-passion/) Her mother, Anne, participated in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal as a member of the British team riding the Queen’s horse, Goodwill. Zara, as a member of the Great Britain Eventing Team, won a Silver Medal at the London 2012 Olympics. Sadly, Zara did not make the team this year and will not be competing at Rio de Janeiro – but there is always the next Summer Olympics four years from now.
The latest female equestrian to win the Olympic gold medal in Dressage is another Brit—Charlotte Dujardin with her power horse, Valegro, in 2012. Dujardin is said to be the most successful British dressage rider in the history of the sport and the winner of all major titles and world records. She has been described as the most dominant dressage rider of her era. With Valegro, Dujardin currently holds the complete set of the available individual elite dressage titles; the Individual Olympic Freestyle, World Freestyle and Grand Prix Special, World Cup Individual Dressage and European Freestyle and Grand Prix Special titles. Dujardin is the first and to date the only rider to hold this complete set of titles at the same time.
Dujardin and Valegro are competing in this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but this year will be Valegro’s last. Dujardin is retiring her partner after an amazing career. “Dujardin says she will not let the pressure of being an Olympic champion affect her. ‘I just take it all on board. I try not to let that all bother me. Riding Valegro always makes you smile, so I enjoy it.’” (Source: BBC.com article”Charlotte Dujardin: Valegro to retire after 2016 Rio Olympics,” published November 16, 2015 – http://www.bbc.com/sport/equestrian/34832755)
(Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcDLLxgWa_YCharlotte Dujardin’s World Record Breaking Freestyle test at London Olympia, FEI, Published December 18, 2014)
This year, the United States has four stellar Equestrians on its Dressage team: Allison Brock from Loxahatchee, FL with her partner Rosevelt, a 2002 Hanoverian stallion; Laura Graves from Geneva, FL and her own KWPN gelding, Verdades; Kasey Perry-Glass from Orangevale, CA with her partner Dublet, a 2003 Danish Warmblood Gelding; and the well-know Steffen Peters from San Diego, CA with his partner Legolas 92, a 2002 Westphalian gelding.
While all of the equestrian athletes, both horse and human, are to be greatly admired and respected, I always like to root for the home team. Best of luck to the four riders and their partners on the US Dressage team, and best of luck to Canadian Paralympian Lauren Barwick. I’m on the edge of my seat!
I hope this article helps to shed some light on the uniqueness of all equestrian endeavors and especially the role it plays in the Olympic games. The bond between horse and rider is absolutely vital to achieving greatness in equestrian sports. Most athletes must be in tune with their bodies, take care of themselves, and learn to push their limits. The equestrian athlete not only has to take care of him or herself, each one also has a 1200 lbs. partner, who needs love, attention, and understanding, to take care of as well. I sometimes think this is taken for granted. I hope that I have helped people to appreciate the enormity of an equestrian athlete’s passion for and dedication to their sport. Go USA!
Note: Some of the material in this article has been cited from Wikipedia.org., and Dressage Today article “Get to Know Canadian Dressage Paralympian Lauren Barwick” Dressagetoday.com
In light of the recent events surrounding Brexit, we’ve seen a lot of coverage of the royal family, particularly Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. In April, she celebrated her 90th birthday and the photographers went wild. In July she was photographed during the annual Order of the Thistle service at St Giles’ Cathedral (The Order of the Thistle is the second-most senior order of chivalry pertaining to Scotland. The oldest order is its English equivalent, The Most Nobel Order of the Garter.)
In short, we see a lot of photographs of England’s beloved Queen, but the ones I love most are of QEII with horses. She is either sizing up their conformation with a very concentrated, stern, or discerning look on her face, or she is simply beaming. In many photos, she is reaching out to touch the nose or neck – all the while with a girlish grin on her face. I recently watched The Queen: A Passion For Horses, a documentary made by Clare Balding. In it, England’s stoic Queen actually giggled with glee while inspecting one of her newborn thoroughbred foals.
One cannot hide one’s passion, not even the Queen of England.
Horses have the ability to bring out the best in people. That is one of the aspects of horse and human relationships I like to bring out in my books. In Dead Eye Dame, the novel that my agent is currently selling, Annie Oakley has a tremendous relationship with her horse, Buck. Through Buck, Annie is better able to handle the volatile emotions that come with the stresses of performance and competition, not to mention the horrible things I do to her throughout the course of the story! Buck is her rock, her constant companion. He, like all horses that are treated well, loves her unconditionally. They have established a bond. To Buck, Annie is just a horse with two legs instead of four.
Queen Elizabeth, a woman whom many people have criticized for her lack of emotion, understands this relationship and bond extremely well. According to her cousin, Margaret Rhodes, when Elizabeth became Queen at the tender age of 25, she “had to sacrifice within herself many emotions. With horses, she is in another world.” It is a world in which she can be herself—just another human being. As natural horsemanship trainer Pat Parelli likes to say, “With horses, once you take off the halter, all you have is the truth.” I love that statement. For me, it means that horses have the ability to make you look inside yourself and see what is truly there. If they run away from you, it might be wise to do some soul searching and figure out what kind of vibe you are transmitting to them, and probably the world. On the other hand, if your horse is “in your pocket” as they say, there is a bond of trust there. And trust, for prey animals like horses, does not come easy.
It is said by many people closely associated with the Queen that she is unconditionally loved by her horses. She takes extreme care and caution to hire only trainers who treat her horses well, from Monty Roberts, the inspiration for the movie and book, The Horse Whisperer to Rochelle Murray, one of her stud grooms at Sandringham whose job it is to make sure that her young thoroughbreds learn to be comfortable around people from birth. Not many racehorse owners go to this effort to ensure that their horses are sound in MIND and body. Their horses are a means to an end, and that end usually involves money. While the Queen is competitive with her horses and wants them to win, what is more important is that they know they are valued. That kind of care and devotion only comes from someone who is emotionally connected to her horses.
It is true that royalty and horses go hand in hand. Just flip through the pages of history and you’ll find many paintings and photographs of royals on horseback either enjoying a leisurely ride or storming into battle on their fiery steeds. Elizabeth’s passion goes back to her childhood when her father, King George VI, gifted Elizabeth, age 4, and her younger sister, Margaret, with a Shetland pony named “Peggy.” Since then, Elizabeth’s relationship with horses has remained constant, and like many royals, she has owned countless equines throughout her life.
During Princess Diana’s funeral, the Queen got her fair share of negative press for not showing enough emotion. As her cousin Margaret Rhodes revealed, once Elizabeth became Queen, she has had to keep her emotions to herself, by putting on a mask of stoicism for the public. Even in the presence of her great grandchildren, there is often but a hint of a smile on her face. But, I believe that underneath the quirky hats and the regal mask of a Queen, there is a deeply benevolent person lurking beneath—one whose secret passion cannot be hidden. Just look at a photo of her, looking at a horse.