“There is no better proof of the riders method and program than that his horse becomes more beautiful in the course of training.” Charles De Kunffy
If you have been around our mountain horse community a while, you have heard of Kristie Cotton. Kristie grew up in the Evergreen and Conifer areas, spending her days exploring the mountains by horseback. “When you are young and in the woods on a horse, you learn very quickly how important the understanding of taking care of each other is in any situation.” Kristie’s love for the horse turned into her lifetime career and quest to learn and improve the lives horses and their people through training and understanding.
As a young kid, Kristie quickly realized she wanted to be a horse trainer. She started taking lessons when she was 9 from a woman who lived on Shadow Mountain. In the beginning, she was not allowed to have the reins or a saddle until she had an *independent seat, learning the importance of strength and balance in riding. To feed her quest for knowledge of all things horse, Kristie found work at local barns in trade for learning everything she could. She rode horses for neighbors who were afraid to, plus there were several horse breeding farms in our area at the time which gave her work teaching the colts to tie, lead and pick up their feet.
Years later, Kristie continues to train horses, and their people in our community. Most of her time is spent working on private ranches keeping the horses trained and safe on trails for the owners and their guests. Kristie states, “if the horse is confident in its training, then it can be ridden anywhere. Trail riding becomes a partnership of trust and willingness.” She also starts young horses with a strong, lifetime foundation, as well as specializes in behavioral issues and has re-educated horses with unpredictable behaviors such as spooking, bucking, and rearing.
Kristie uses classical Dressage principles when training for any discipline. She explains, “Dressage is not a ‘style’ of riding, it is a French word meaning ‘training’. When practiced correctly, the specific exercises create an athletic development of the body, attaining a connected focus between horse and rider. Training is not about submission, it is knowledge of communicating quiet dialogue to the horse. Every horse is different, each one needs to be approached with their own creative tactic.”
A course called the Science of Motion, has greatly influenced Kristie’s training and improved her ability to analyze and evaluate equine performance. She has successfully incorporated biomechanics, the science of body movement, into her training methods. She believes that this knowledge and understanding of the horse’s physique is extremely important if we are to achieve harmony with them. For Kristie, this information allows her to look deeper into the root cause of behavior as well as lameness issues. She finds that if there are behavioral issues, your horse may be attempting to communicate a pain related problem. Kristie believes, “We cannot force them to do what we think they should be doing. Training with force creates discord, when our priority should be exercising human virtue.”
With horses that are having issues, Kristie starts by ruling out health issues with the veterinarian as well as evaluating abnormal muscle development and poor fitting tack. She explains, “Horses have a very strong defensive mechanism of protecting themselves from pain. They can either shut their minds off as humans do to ‘tolerate’ or they will fight. Riding can either achieve a therapeutic result for horses or a damaging one.”
Kristie is a true advocate for the horse and the important role that they can hold in the lives of people.
“I believe it is important to keep horses a part of this community. Kids need healthy hobbies and formal Horsemanship lessons. Horses are healing, they teach empathy and a deeper connection to nature. To ride and love a horse is immensely rewarding.”
Kristie continues to enjoy her life’s work through training, teaching and writing. Be sure to check out her informative Facebook page and excellent educational blogs at: facebook.com/Integritytraining.trueunity/
Kristie was just nominated as the publications chair for Working Equitation United States. Working Equitation combines the focus of Dressage with the creative use of training obstacles helping to keep training interesting for horses and riders of any discipline or breed of horse. See weunited.us for more information.
*An independent seat is when a rider is able to connect continuously to the horse’s movement and remain in balance without the use or support of rein contact. The rider also has independent control of their leg position and aiding without disrupting the seat. Heather McWilliams © 2019