a 32-year-old chestnut gelding named Scotch. An old rancher in Colorado gave him to me. Scotch was the old rancher’s favorite drink.
My family spent summers in Colorado. I would pack a lunch and ride Scotch every day for hours, just him and I. Roaming the wide-open Colorado back-country, I discovered the sacred connection that can exist between humans and horses. I knew it was part of my destiny.
I grew up in Honey Brook, west of Philadelphia, on a 97-acre farm that had been in the family for four generations. Our street, King Road, was named after my great-grandfather, who bought the land.
My parents were wonderful. They both encouraged my riding. My dad had an accident in his youth where he was paralyzed waist down, yet he did his best to ride with me. I watched him fall off a horse three times on his first day, then get a custom-designed saddle, and go so far as to train one of our horses to ignore his lack of leg cues.
I put together narrative presentations on long rolls of paper in a box. Next, I’d roll it out slowly making a paper version of a TV show! My presentation topics were subjects like strangles (an equine respiratory disease) and obscure horse nutrition research. No surprises there!
In high school and college, I earned money and fulfilled my passion by tending to the horses in local barns. However, I saw things during those years that upset me and shaped my future.
One morning, I pull up at my workplace, it’s six-thirty, and the sun is sparkling on the dewy grass. It’s idyllic, yet as I walk into the barn, I feel my heart sinking, over the condition of the horses. Some are pacing, chewing on things, with their ears pinned back. Others are standing sullen in the corners.
It feels like a prison where the inmates are banging on their bars, or as I’d imagine an insane asylum to be.
Deep down, I knew not only were the horses unhappy, but also some owners. Many found themselves treated poorly by their trainers when these owners didn’t desire competitive success. Like me, they loved the simple joy of being around horses for its own sake.
As I used a pitchfork to throw fresh straw into the wheelbarrow, I surveyed the stalls. But instead of seeing the barn’s ill-conditions, I imagined it as the better place it could be, with just a few simple changes.
I began implementing the changes I had envisioned years before. I improved the care the horses received and gave them more space to roam. The results spoke for themselves. Word of mouth grew my business fast, and my temporary side hustle was becoming a full-time job.
Then one day, one of my clients tells me about this new thing she discovered called “blogging,” and suggests that I do it. I took it up and enjoyed it. At the same time, my riding clients wanted more than their once a week lesson, so I began making little videos that gave them homework. Soon those videos, combined with my blogs, morphed into educational courses online… And CRK Training was born. That was in 2012.
As social species, both humans and horses strive for connection but are so often starved for it too. I’ve learned the two essential ingredients that create a genuine connection are awareness and empathy – two qualities I strive to bring more of into the world, in and outside of stables.
Scotch passed away when I was 14 years old. And of course, other horses took up a home in my heart. But to Scotch, and the rolling hills of Colorado,
I forever owe my first experience of ‘genuine connection’ between horse and human.