Learning about horses | RecordCourier.com

Learning about horses


Although I have always marveled at the beauty and strength of horses from afar, I’ve been afraid of them since one ran off with me down the middle of a Girl Scout camp when I was ten and threw me over a mountainside.

Sixty years later, though horses and I have never bonded, I found myself seated with twenty other people in a big outdoor horse arena at Skyhawk Ranch on a beautiful big blue sky Nevada day. We had come to a fundraiser and we were watching an incredible exhibition.

A small girl and an equally small young boy led two huge horses through a series of successful training exercises. Older children demonstrated body work techniques that gentled and relaxed the horses, while a teenager, bareback, without using her hands, demonstrated complicated riding skills that necessitated a high level of trust between her and her horse.

She and the other children and teenagers on hand were the fortunate participants in Barbara Slade’s nonprofit leadership program called Between Horses and Humans.

Barbara Slade, a former jockey and a long time, beloved riding teacher in the Carson Valley, with great heart and extraordinary teaching skills, explained what we were seeing. As I watched small children, calmly, without fear, successfully work with the huge animals, I began to understand the deep impact of her work with troubled children who face great personal challenge and tragedy in their lives.

She explained that in the program, the highly sensitive horses, through their actions and responses, mirror back to the children the state of their emotions. The children learn how to modify their behavior and responses in order to successfully work with the horses who give them unconditional love and acceptance. With kindness, firmness and intuitive coaching from Barbara, children learn techniques and leadership skills with horses that, beyond the joyful mastery it gives them, teaches them how to deal with their life challenges in new, positive and life affirming ways.

On that beautiful autumn day, we witnessed miracles. And we heard miracles. A young mother, whose husband had died, told us of her child’s debilitating grief over her father’s death. Between Horses and Humans Leadership Program changed the child’s life. And there was hardly a dry eye among us.

As I listened to Barbara Slade’s heartfelt commitment to the program and to children, I understood why, when I was an insecure, timid, unhappy 10-year-old suffering the interior schism of my parent’s divorce, the horse ran away with me. In a program like Barbara Slade’s, I might have come to important realizations about life much earlier than I did

Between Horses and Humans is a vitally important nonprofit program that needs our support. For more information email betweenhorsesandhumans@gmail.com or call Barbara Slade at 265-0901.

Juliana Joldersma