Michelle & Vinnie’s Journey

Michelle is loving the social aspects of the Just Equus foundation clinics and the progress she and her horse Vinnie are making is inspiring. “It is so encouraging to be surrounded by riders like myself.  We are all motivated by the same goals; to develop the bond between ourselves and our horses.  We share our stories and reassure each other as we learn valuable lessons through Pete at Just Equus,” says Michelle.  Michelle Smith admits it has been 25 years since she last rode and getting back on the horse has been a long journey for this mother of three.

“As a teenager I was a fearless rider,” she says “but the demands of being a wife and mother meant I had no time for such activities. Now my children are independent and we live on a property with room for horses. So this is my time; time to get back in the saddle.”

Finding the right horse took over a year, but when Michelle found Vinnie, an eight year old Quarter Horse cross Stock Horse his gentle and responsive nature won her over immediately. Vinnie had been bred and handled using Natural Horsemanship methods, setting in place the traits that would make him an ideal horse for further training.  Despite the willingness of both horse and rider, Michelle still did not feel as confident as she once had. There were many factors in play; time out of the saddle, a previous horse that was more difficult to handle and some loss of strength and balance all contributed to Michelle deciding she needed some help.

“They call it Natural Horsemanship but if it were natural, everyone would be doing it,” Pete Biggs of Just Equus says. “It’s working with the horse instead of against it, so your horse is not operating out of fear, but a respectful understanding. I can’t emphasise enough the three basic elements of this connection; feel, timing and balance. It’s where one leads and the other follows but it must become effortless; a true union. I start with lots of groundwork and follow up with riding classes then trail rides. Gradually a trusting connection between horse and rider is achieved.” Over the past 12 months, Michelle and Vinnie have attended a number of foundation clinics and also had one on one training with Pete. “Pete has been wonderfully supportive throughout my training,”

Michelle says. “We have gone back to basics to help build the right foundations. Through groundwork I am learning to communicate with Vinnie and Pete has helped me realise that groundwork is an important extension of riding.”  It is these skills that have given Michelle the confidence to be a more assertive rider. “Vinnie tends to be a bit lazy and I need to be firm and positive when riding him. Through the groundwork I have been learning how my balance directly affects my horse. Improving balance and timing means that no matter what the horse is doing under me, I feel I am maintaining my position in the saddle.”  With those enhanced skills in place, Michelle is now achieving even higher levels of communication with Vinnie through Liberty work. Using body language and hand signals Michelle is able to control Vinnie without the aid of halter, lead rope or lunging reins. It is an exciting development and Michelle is thrilled that the bond between them has evolved to such a level. “Everything I learn through Pete is focused on building a strong and respectful relationship with my horse,” says Michelle.

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