Western Careers – Equine Veterinarian

Not many people have the gumption to give up a successful career and start into post-secondary schooling again. Yet, that’s exactly what this cowgirl did. Here’s why she’ll never look back.

 Interview by Jenn Webster • Photograph by Deanna Kristensen

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My great-grandfather homesteaded in Millarville, AB, in 1902. My grandmother was part of the very first University of Calgary graduating class. Being born and raised in the Calgary area meant I was always around horses. They were a part of my DNA. I remember how I used to get so excited if a veterinarian came to our place.

When I was younger, I started riding and training with show jumper Jonathan Asselin. At his barn I saw many interactions with vets and other equine personnel. The first time I ever observed a horse receiving acupuncture, I became immediately intrigued by sports medicine and its application to horses.

I went to school to be a human chiropractor for four years and later practiced with a big sports medicine practice in California. Our clients included the San Franciso 49ers and the San Jose Sharks. I got the opportunity to work with many injured players.

I met my future husband Dave while I was in California and ironically, he was also originally from Calgary. We knew we wanted to settle back in Calgary but if we wanted to travel, then was the time. So next we found ourselves in Ireland and I ran a locum Chiropractic practice there for two years.

I enjoyed what I was doing but I craved to work with animals. After Ireland we moved back to Calgary and the new University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine was opening. Hundreds of students were applying but I sent my application in and was lucky enough to be chosen. I’ve never looked back.

I graduated with distinction as a member of the first graduating class from the U of C’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. During my time as a vet student, I won a scholarship for leadership and excellence in equine veterinary medicine. The award is offered by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (which represents 63 countries). Every school has an internal competition to compete for this scholarship and my name was put forward by my teachers. Then you compete against all the other schools. Only four people win.

My next adventure has already begun with further studies in the field of Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. I am enrolled in graduate studies through the UCVM and Moore Equine, and hope to be one of very few individuals to become boarded under the newly formed American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation through a local residency program – one of only three programs in the world.

My mother gave me a custom-made, felt cowboy hat when I graduated as a veterinarian. Inside the headband she had it embroidered to read, “I can do this…”

I work with Moore Equine Veterinary Centre in Balzac, Alberta, and honestly, this is my dream job. I am in horse heaven. It is the busiest equine referral hospital in Canada. With events such as Spruce Meadows and the Calgary Stampede, we’re really in the heart of the most elite performance horses in the world.

In 1998, I was a Calgary Stampede princess. Last summer, I was honored to serve as a Stampede veterinarian on the sideline. I estimate there to be 400+ horses there this year. Vets at the Stampede do everything from drug testing to caring for parade horses, to colics, minor lacerations and lameness exams. We’re also intimately involved in the Stampede’s Animal Care Advisory Panel, overseeing all animal welfare policies and codes of practice. They were long days but I loved every second of it.

Children are not in my plans for the immediate future but Moore is very supportive of women in veterinary medicine. If Dave and I do decide to have kids it’s nice to know I am in an environment where I can balance a family life and my career.

Surfing is my passion outside of veterinary medicine. Whenever my husband and I go on a holiday, it must include a surfing destination.

The logistics of stopping what you are currently doing and spending money to pursue a dream means a lot of people can’t do it. I feel very lucky to have been able to change career paths. I worked my butt off because I knew I was lucky to be given another chance.

Alberta Whisky Cake

It’s becoming increasingly prevalent to consider source (local) and company (niche) in our world. In a sense, our western culture has perhaps always leaned more towards a high standard of craftsmanship, than an overload of cheap trappings. We cherish one well-made bit crafted from a local artisan, over 10 made overseas. A pair of chaps so beautifully constructed they must be passed on from mother to daughter. And so on.

I’ve as much as possible refined and practiced the same criteria in my kitchen and lifestyle. I’d rather have less, and enjoy quality than stack up on bulk buys of ridiculously processed foods.

awckamlaAll part of why I never grow tired of this friend, and her consistently positive mind and joy of life.

It took baker Kamla McGonigal of Calgary, Alberta, four years to perfect her recipe. Determination, baby, that’s what it took. The fourth generation Calgary native wanted to use whisky, locally distilled at Highwood Distiller’s, from grain at nearby farms as one of the main ingredients in her delectable cakes. Finally after countless hours over an oven, McGonigal developed one of the best tasting and most unique baked-goods available to those with discerning palates – the Alberta Whisky Cake.

awcwhiskeycakeboxUsing only the finest locally-sourced ingredients, Alberta Whisky Cakes offer a seductive flavor. You will be able to smell it’s sweet, distinct goodness before you will ever taste it, but as whisky advocates know – this is a desirable trait.

awcradioSo, as I’m working through my Christmas list of gift-giving and thank-you’s – both personal and corporate, Alberta Whisky Cakes in their delightful western-styled packaging are a top pick. The beautiful bundts are simple to order, and because of the dense, whisky intinction, keep well through shipping and into the Christmas season.

Find Alberta Whisky Cake on Facebook or, here.

Paige Callaway

In our March/2013 edition, we profiled 20 interesting artisans of the West, casting a sweet little spotlight on a few of the most ambitious silver, leather, jewellery and gear makers, fashionistas and even a cake baker. Since then we’ve stayed in touch with nearly all of them, and continue to feed our own inspirations with both their love of the West and independent spirits.

Which was why, when western fashion designer, Paige Callaway, sent an invitation to the launch of her new brand, Pursue Victory, I was intrigued enough to attend.

For one thing, when writer Deanna Beckley initially interviewed her for the feature, Callaway’s words oozed conviction and confidence.

“I feel like positive thinking and action is one of the most powerful things on earth, especially once we grasp the ability to harness it,” she said.  “I think most of my ideas come on road trips. Road trips, good music and hitting every flea market I can find between Calgary and Del Rio. It is endless where one can find inspiration – the trick is harnessing the vision and moving forward with it.”

And secondly, I really needed a new show shirt, and I already loved the look and intention behind the flagship piece of her brand, the Functional Power Collar professional shirt.

pursueartsWhat’s not to love about this logo? Rhetorical question. Particularly since it was created by a designer and photographer we’re blessed and fortunate enough to work with on a regular basis – Natalie Jackman.

pursuepaige&alexHeld at Hotel Arts in Calgary, it was a great evening of fashion and inspiration. I asked my daughter, Alex (on the right) to come with me, and meet Paige (on the left), and we both left feeling the conviction behind this cowgirl entrepreneur.

pursueshirtsAnd with a few purchases in hand.

pursuelabelAlex opted for a unisex tee, and I, the show shirt, which I’ve since worn equally in the show pen, and out on assignment. While it’s not inexpensively priced at $125, each shirt is designed and sewn right in Calgary, making them a 100% Canadian product. And, with the quality and workmanship in the garment, I consider it a lifetime addition to my closet, ultimately translating to a lighter footprint on the earth.

Callaway’s “workshop” is still her computer and a sketchbook, along with a duffle bag of clothes that follow her wherever her adventures and business may take her. “Being able to do business on the spot has proven successful for me. It is similar to the people in Central Park with trench coats and watches, but a lot classier,” she quipped.

Paige really has created a line of clothing that is positive and empowering. Find Pursue Victory on Facebook or visit their temporary website here.

Win Dinner With Amber Marshall

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Photo by Denise Grant.

Sometime in the spring of 2013, we undertook an ambitious endeavour and focused our editorial attention to the ernest task of finding 25 youth under the age of 25, who, in a nutshell, embodied and rang true to a modern Code of the West. We wanted young people who embraced independence, a love of the outdoor life, close connection to animals (in particular, horses), showed a fierce determination to follow their own path, buck convention, (and occasionally, conventional wisdom), and radiated all of these western measures of character through their daily lives.

As we worked our way down the long list, we were constantly reminded that the dreams often fostered in young minds and hearts can translate to adulthood, and that good old fashioned determination can still achieve what many think is impossible. We loved the true western code of ethic each of our top 25 exuded.

Included in that issue’s Top 25 Under 25 was the then 25-year-old Amber Marshall, star of the CBC hit television show, Heartland, a talented actress, who has managed to segue her passion for horses into a successful acting career.

Amber has been around horses as long as she can remember. She has been riding since a very young age and says that the two things she loves the most – acting and horses – have come together to create this dream role of Amy on the Heartland series.

In between filming and occupational commitments, Marshall lends her time and celebrity to a multitude of causes. Most recently she appeared with Niki Cammaert at Cowboys for Kingdom House, a fundraiser for special projects in Africa.

As Heartland films in Alberta, Marshall has made a home for herself on a small ranch outside of Calgary where she is surrounded by her many animals, including horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys and Jerseys. She stays true to her western roots and honours the people and animals around her while enjoying great professional successes. Grounded and focused, she is well on her way to creating a fulfilled, enriched life.

Her latest venture is partnering with Rustic Ranch, a furniture, home decor and gift store, located just 10 minutes north of Cross Iron Mills Mall, in Airdrie, Alberta. Located on the Giles family farm, the unique store shares a 30,000 square foot showroom with Airdrie Trailer Sales and Decked Out Vinyl, and specializes in log, reclaimed and rustic furniture and decor.

I’m pleased to let you know Rustic Ranch is offering you an opportunity to win a VIP evening with Amber Marshall!

Ballots are available in the store, and entries close on December 31.

Take the opportunity to meet Amber on November 1 when she’ll be in the store for a signing from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Perfect timing as Rustic Ranch’s yearly clearance sale is Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

In the meantime catch up with Amber Marshall at her site, and view Rustic Ranch’s latest offerings at here.

Canada’s Greatest Western Town: The Winner!

The votes have been tallied and Canada’s Greatest Western Town Contest has reached a fitting end (see the entire bracket of towns here), with Old Cowtown . .  aka. . . Maple Creek, Saskatchewan the final winner!

As it happens Wee and I passed through Maple Creek just a few weeks ago.

MChorses Along with these two.

I love that place. Rifts of country and cowboy woven throughout its streets.

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Admittedly, some on the corny side.

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Others fun. All pose-able.

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We studied some historic black and whites.

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Bought an old-time country cookbook with recipes like salted beef and jelly rolls. My mom had these identical cookie cutters. I loved seeing that.

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Sat street side. . . .

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And visited with passer-bys in the heat of the afternoon. All of whom were so friendly!

Congratulations, Maple Creek, well deserved!

But especially thank-you to everyone who participated. This contest shone a light on so many remarkable western corners of our country, we look forward to covering as many as we can manage in future issues of Western Horse Review. 

 

 

Canada’s Greatest Western Town: Final Two!

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Here we are – the final two!

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Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, also known as the Old Cowboy Town faces off against Ponoka, Alberta, a town rich in rodeo and western heritage.

The Final Two round is now underway with only two days to cast your votes and round up a posse of supporters for your town. The rules remain simple. Vote ONCE for ONE town, and your vote must be cast in the Comments section of this blog post. Get the word out by sharing our Facebook posts, or using the hashtag #greatestwesterntown. Do it soon, as voting for this round ends very quickly – midnight August 9.

Day Six High and Wild Adventure

BY KELSEY SIMPSON

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As the week is coming to a close it is hard to remember everything that went on here on the High & Wild Adventure. From the moment we stepped foot on the ground at the lodge we have continually been picking up facets of information throughout our day. It didn’t matter if we were in the corral, working with horses, or eating breakfast, there was always more information to absorb.

Today a handful of us went on a longer trail ride with Glenn through another mountain range even making it to the top of one. With a long ride and steep hills to climb on foot it presented quite the challenge. But we finally made it to the top of the ridge just in time for lunch. We tied our horses near an old dilapidated corral and settled in to enjoy our packed lunches.

After lunch we continued to head along the top of the ridge. The sun was hot with little breeze but we felt relief when we wandered down the mountain through the shady moss covered forest.

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Climbing over and under felled trees and avoiding hole, it was a wonder there were so many game trails and horse trails. We eventually made it out of the tree and into a clearing with muskeg and a bunch of windfall trees. Thinking about Glenn’s advice the first day about walking through different vegetation, I carefully tried to leap from clump of moss to clump of moss. Unfortunately some were deceiving large and just sank under my pressure, drenching my shoes and socks and painting them with a coat of black mud.

Eventually we crossed through wet marsh land to get to the other side of the valley to head home. The horses obviously knew that we were headed home and were eager get there.

We saw an incredible amount of elk along with very unique landscapes from minimal trees, to complete forest, to marsh land, and then open pasture. It was truly a beautiful and long ride.

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With the week finishing up and some of us headed home tomorrow, the impact of the trip hit us. Glenn’s goal was to take us on adventures and experiences in a safe and fun way that we would or could never do on our own which he certainly accomplished. If you told everyone what we would do at the beginning of the week, they would say I would never do that or could never. This trip has been an all around expanding of our skills, knowledge and experiences not only in terms of our horsemanship but also in our entire lives. I think we have accomplished more here in a week then most will experience in a lifetime.

Whether we wanted to or not, we all found ourselves outside of our comfort zone doing things we could have never before thought we could do. It instills quite the confidence in you to realize that. Most of us will go home and tell our friends and loved ones about this special place here and the special people, and of course the horses, but it is quite hard to put it all into words. Our High and Wild Adventure here was certainly that but again so much more, more than we could have ever thought. People who were afraid of the horses at the beginning of the week, found themselves getting acquainted and eased around them. They found themselves riding wild horses and along some of the most beautiful and difficult trails of their lives.

Glenn said right off that bat that this wasn’t going to be a dude ranch, this is a holiday learning adventure. You get from it what you put in, this isn’t a fake ride, this was “real life” as one participant said. Every day and every moment leading up to riding helped to prepare the horses and more importantly us without us evening knowing it.

This place, this trip and the people we have met along the way will be an experience we will carry with us forever. The stories and great times will surely be told over and over again, with our friend not quite sure what we are talking about. This week of good times and great people and awesome horses is what High and Wild Adventures is all about and I believe it has lived up to its name.

 

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Find out more about Glenn Stewart at his website and his Facebook page. Also check out his educational video on his Youtube Channel.

Day 5: Feel it in your soul

 

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BY KELSEY SIMPSON

While taking in the scenery that surrounded us at lunch, we were discussing how incredible it was and Donna Blem said something profound.

“When I breathe in deeply, I can feel it in my soul.”

This perfectly described the day and the emotions I think we were all feeling as we traveled through the mountains. There is no way to describe the feeling you get being here. Every turn of your head reveals a new vista to take in, all beautiful, all peaceful, all magnificent. It would not be possible to ever take any of this for granted.

Even though the morning started off like the previous ones, today was a unique and challenging day. The group was tasked with taking 20 horses down to another camp approximately four hours away.

Our small outing a few nights ago was an hour there and an hour back, so riding for four straight hours was something we were all a little unsure of. But we graciously accepted the challenge, and set about getting ourselves and the horses ready for the day’s adventure.

After catching and saddling up our horses, and going through the series of Glenn’s “pre-ride check list” on the ground for ourselves, we were ready to begin the next stage.

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Horses and humans gathered around the outside of the round pen to watch Glenn work with the horse he was taking along. The bright-eyed, blue roan watched Glenn intensely, and within a short amount of time measurably calmed down and was very accepting of Glenn’s actions. Glenn quickly worked through the key elements of his horsemanship program to check out all aspects of his horse, preparing him for the ride, and being sure that any reaction the horse might have to a given stimulus was exposed as best as possible now, before we left. He again explained tips and techniques to use on our own horses to build the relationship and confidence to help us on the trail.

Something as “simple” as his asking for lateral flexion (our emergency stop maneuver), something not yet ingrained in this young horse, seemed natural and easy. Something those of us with older, seasoned horses were finding difficult to obtain.

We all then mounted up and went through all of our check lists again. When Glenn was satisfied with our abilities, we were ready to head out.

Unlike the previous ride, we needed to take extra horses and that meant Glenn and his apprentices had to pony another horse behind them.   They were young, fresh horse that needed to get used to the trail none of us were sure what to expect.

We started off on the same path we took the day before, and everyone seemed comfortable. The long line of horses and riders bobbed and weaved around the beaten trail that was going to take us to our destination that was approximately four hours away.

However, as we later found out, it can take much longer when you are traveling in a large group, dealing with the terrain, and taking breaks to see the sights. But, it didn’t seem to matter to any of the riders.

Going up and down the sides of the mountains, following the bends in the river, and seeing wildlife appear randomly throughout the ride out of no where really puts things into perspective. These weren’t just any mountains, or just any river, or even just any trail we were following.   Everything was special, different, and unique to us. It was a spectacular feeling that can’t really be described or told in words, photos or even videos.
We stopped for a quick lunch break right on the river. With the rushing water as our background music and the mountains as our backdrop, a perfect moment was painted.

Again, it was aptly described by Donna, “When I breathe in deeply, I can feel it in my soul.” You really, truly, profoundly could.

It didn’t matter what time it was, or how sweaty or tired we were, because the ride meant more to us. Because this place meant more to us, and this moment and this experience we were sharing meant more to us. Simply feeling it, absorbing it, and breathing it in as Donna described, was mind blowing.

Being here is indescribable. I guess you will just have to come up here and try it for yourself.

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We continued on up and down, and side to side, watching elk bedded under trees and running up the mountain, and in one case, just standing on the skyline looking down at us, curious about what we were doing. Eventually it was time for a water break and another opportunity to stretch our legs. We came across a spring that fed into a really neat part of the river with small rapids. Huge black geometric rocks guarded the edge of the raging river and allowed the stream to connect with it. The rocks were huge slates of almost tabletop proportions with white splashes here and there almost as if someone just took a paintbrush and splattered white paint everywhere.

With that quick photo op finished, ourselves refreshed and our horses rested, we hopped back on to cover some ground.

The bush started to thicken, the trees became more densely packed, and when we eventually came to a clearing, we discovered it was muskeg. As Glenn had mentioned on our first day, it can be hard to tell where it can be besides slight changes in the vegetation. We were walking along fairly obvious ground when all of a sudden the horses sunk down into the mud and water, up to their bellies in some places.

It was too late to turn around, and it was felt that the muskeg was too unstable to continue forward on this track, so Glenn ventured off to find a new trail. He led us through a forest of thin trees placed so close together we had to lift our knees just to squeeze between (or through) them. Luckily we were rewarded at the end of this short detour with a spectacular view of the river below, and I mean very, very far below.

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When did we get up there so high? The elevation, and how much ground we covered was hard to keep track of, so there were quite a few times when I was pleasantly surprised, and sometimes shocked, to see where we were relative to the river and the mountains.

Thankfully it wasn’t too far (or long) after that we made it to camp, 2 hours later than the original estimation. We unsaddled, turned out the horses and just took a break to truly take it all in.

This camp, Lower Prairie, was situated near the river as well and had a fantastic view overlooking some beautiful scenery. After recharging our batteries a little bit, most of us loaded up into the plane to head back to base camp. We couldn’t all go back in one trip due to the size of the plane, and the need to take back some of the saddles used on the horses that were staying there. However, after 3 trips, we were “home”.

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Flying back to the Lodge was so eye-opening for me, and probably the rest of us. What took the plane only mere minutes, took us all day! From that viewpoint, in those short minutes, it was amazing to see just how much ground we really did cover.

Four horses needed to come back to base camp, so Glenn and his apprentices road them back. On their trip back they saw what I have always wished to see, a grizzly with her two cubs. It was Dan’s birthday and what a gift for him to have this additional experience, one that he will never forget.

From the porch of the base camp lodge you can look off into the distance past the river, and see the various mountain ranges in the distance. If you look straight across the river there is a particularly large, grassy mountain that is the furthest thing on the skyline. Flying back I realized that we rode past that. We skirted around it and went on to further, and sometimes particularly rough terrain. That was certainly an amazing feeling. Every deep breath went right to my soul.

 

Find out more about Glenn Stewart at his website and his Facebook page. Also check out his educational video on his Youtube Channel.

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Day Four High and Wild Adventure

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BY: KELSEY SIMPSON

I woke up in a slight panic this morning. First I thought I had slept through breakfast, but when I realized I hadn’t something else entered my mind. “Day four? How is it day four already?” I thought to myself. We only arrived a few, very short days ago and now the trip is already half over! What happened to our week!

But after thinking about it, and how we had come as a group, and as individuals it kind of made sense. When we stepped off the plane we were “newbs”. We acted like “newbs”, we walked like “newbs”. We were true “newbies” to this strange and unique environment. It didn’t matter if you had been on a horse a thousand times or just once. For the most part everyone was on a level playing field. I mean we were dealing with wild horses.

In the beginning we watched Glenn with intensity as he entered the large pen full of horses. I grew up on the back of horse and rodeoed all my life, and yet there was still a sense and almost fear, or apprehension, of the unknown. These weren’t my horses at home (although they can pretend quite well to be wild horses and not come in when I need them to). These horses were foreign and I had no idea what to expect from them. I found out later they also had no idea what to expect from me. Still, the thought of wandering through a pen of over 100 wild horses was worrisome, but we all witnessed Glenn smoothly and casually stroll through the herd and come out unscathed. It appeared like a risky place, one we wouldn’t want to be in, one we probably shouldn’t be in, but today that changed, we changed.

Even though our group ranged from people with zero horse experience to moderate experience, we all grew from that first day and that first impression. We have continuously been pushed (for some forced) out of our comfort zone as we listened, learned and experienced new things or reinforced old things to a higher level everyday. This results in varying levels of newfound confidence. A confidence no one was looking for but we all gained.

Today we continued to work on horses that needed some yearly maintenance. Yes they sound like cars in need of an oil change or a tune-up, but cars are maintained more than once a year and these horses are not. Some needed their feet trimmed while others had injuries to attend to. Some needed a good wipe down while others just needed quality time around people.

Just a chance to work with such horses, to learn and grow in confidence with them was an amazing feeling. We were not allowed to just come in and work with these horses; we had to earn the privilege. Over the days I have observed how Glenn is assigning more difficult tasks and challenges to different people, while allowing them to gradually increase their ability to handle the challenges offered.

Today everyone pitched in to catch the horses, spending time with each one to identify anything that they could help with (or fix themselves), and if not, then be able to bring it to Glenn’s attention for help. For some that once feared the large pen of wild horses, were now able to go and aid in helping the herd get through another year.

We have one 2 year old that has an abscess, two days ago she was assigned to two of the participants to soak the horses foot. Can you imagine a horse that has only been haltered one or two times ever in her life to allow us to place her foot in a bucket full of water? The two took on the challenge, and applied Glenn’s program and principles. They worked at their own speed and the speed necessary for the little mare to learn, building trust and confidence in themselves and in the horse. The first day it took them a little over an hour for the horse to comfortably place the abscessed foot into the bucket. But today they were able to walk right up to her, and after a moment of greeting they were able to bring the bucket of medicated water over, lift the foot and place it right in the bucket like they had been doing it for years.

These are the kinds of things most people in the group have found so rewarding. We are all learning that our actions either individually, or as a group, will help aid the herd and the horses, and their overall quality of life. Even though we all came here with varying levels of knowledge and experience with horses, we all did what we could to help because of our common interest, the horses standing before us.  I am so impressed about the health and quality of the horses in the herd. 110 horse’s all shinny coats, clear bright eyes, and I have not heard one horse cough

You could tell people had grown more relaxed with the horses and themselves. They weren’t afraid to ask Glenn for help or advice, but they also weren’t afraid to try it out for themselves. After spending countless hours trying to pick up on the slightest details of Glenn’s skills, it was rewarding to think that it had paid off. It didn’t matter if we had never lead a horse before or if we grew up on the back of one. Everyone’s skills and self confidence are improving by leaps and bounds each day in this environment.

It is interesting to me how little people in the more “traditional” horsemanship world learn and change each day, or how little the horses learn and change each day. I have found here the changes in horses and horsemanship have been extreme.

These experiences we have shared far exceeds our horsemanship. It is all spilling over to our everyday lives.

None of us will leave the same people we were when we arrived, all due to the experiences we are sharing.

Find out more about Glenn Stewart at his website and his Facebook page. Also check out his educational video on his Youtube Channel.

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