I met Steve several years ago when we both were learning about a new equine therapy program. I was immediately impressed by this big man with the kind and gentle way of being, not just with humans, but with horses too. Though I was new to the field, Steve had been volunteering for another program that did similar work. He willingly shared his knowledge and experience, helping me find my way in a new field and helping me to see my relationship with horses in a fresh and more creative way.
Though we were all learning about “Natural Horsemanship” through Pat Parelli’s 7 games, Steve took it a step further and studied the teachers that came before the Parelli’s; the teachers they learned from. But more than this, Steve has incorporated what he has learned into his own unique and effective way of addressing the horse/human relationship.
What’s more, Steve has helped me to be a better partner to my horses. One example comes quickly to mind. Like many horses, my Andalusian gelding Kody does not like to be “cinched up” too quickly. Though I would try to be gentle, his response could be extreme – backing up till he breaks a rope or cross-tie and even falling on the ground – luckily he never hurt himself! Steve was out visiting and was actually going to ride Kody. So I warned him, telling him that frankly I was about to “get tough” about this behavior, as it was unacceptable and dangerous. I got busy with my own horse and the next time I saw Kody he was all saddled up. Steve said he had no problem, “He likes wheat thins. I just made it something that was good (tighten a little – get a wheat thin) and he was cool with it.” What an “ah-ha moment”! I was all set to punish him for reacting to something he didn’t like, but Steve showed me how to change this to making it something he did like. In this way we both win – he stands while I tighten his girth (though I still am thoughtful about how quickly I do it) and he gets a reward for standing. So much better than what I had intended! I now keep a supply of wheat thins on hand (low sugar – so better than traditional horse treats and less expensive too!) and all the horses get wheat thins during tack-up. I know that Steve didn’t intend for me to give treats while girthing consistently and forever but . . .
To this day, when things aren’t working with a horse, I stop and ask myself, “what would Steve do?”
He is a wonderful teacher and a role model for those of us who want to truly build partnerships with the horses we work with.
Laurie Roberts, Co-founder