It’s 8:30am on a Wednesday morning, typically a pretty quiet time of the day at Bear Creek Stables. But on this midweek morning, the silence is broken by a myriad of questions “How do I put the halter on?” “Can you show us different breeds of horses?” Where are the brushes kept?”
Students from Los Gatos High School are with us, learning basic horsemanship skills, and helping out with the daily care of the rescue horses in the Neigh Savers program at Bear Creek Stables. Most of these Freshman have never been this close to any horse, never mind a 1300 pound, retired racehorse, her back so tall, few in the group can see over it.
But Carabella helps out. She lowers her head so Ben can fasten the halter, and stands patiently while another student cleans her hooves. Nicknamed “Marilyn Monroe” Carabella loves the attention, and gladly poses for photos with the group. Then we work on some ground manners in a small arena. The students lead Carabella, taking turns, learning that the further the horse is away from you, the more control you have. Carabella’s ears swivel back and forth – she is listening closely, and does not take her eyes off her new handlers. Program Manager, Jenny Whitman, demonstrates natural horsemanship “games” with the young Thoroughbred. Working without a bridle or lead line, Carabella moves away quietly, trots perfect circles around Jenny, then comes back to “join up” or connect with her, with subtle cues.
Three hours pass quickly. The students practiced a safe framework for volunteering with horses, and learned about horse nutrition, grooming and daily care. Through one-on-one interaction with the horses, they learn that it is not about size, but leadership that results in a well-behaved and compliant horse.
Which is time well spent, because next week we are practicing manure management!