My Equine Teachers
Regular lessons and clinics at The Balance Point Equestrian Learning Center are taught by Rachel Steen, a life-long horsewoman with over 30 years of experience training horses. In her horse-career, she has bred Quarter Horse and Arabian performance horses, trained horses for Endurance, Eventing, Dressage, Driving, Competitive Trail, team penning, and has shown in Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, Trail, Dressage and Combined Training. She has experience training all manner of horses, from draft horses to ponies, wild Mustangs to gaited horses, and all sorts of in-betweens.
Whether its cowponies or dressage horses, the fundementals are the same.
Rachel: “I am the type of person who always asks WHY? When people couldn’t give me an adequate answer, I had to find out ‘why’, the hard way. I thank God that I survived the “equestrian school of hard knocks”! It is not a learning methodology I would recommend to others. It taught me however, the importance of communicating to students the function/reaction of each part of the horse/human partnership. I teach students how to read the body language of horses and FEEL what is about to happen in each moment. Timing is critical for accurate communication and learning.
By the time I was training horses in college, I had stumbled upon the techniques of natural horsemanship. It was so similar to what I had been doing with my own horses, but it was great to find validation through someone else’s proven process. After college I sneaked into the world of dressage. I say sneaked, because even though I had always yearned to understand the secrets of collection, I was afraid to have my horsemanship critiqued by the civilized equestrians.
What I found through dressage was the basic training ideology that made every training moment make perfect sense! I began incorporating Natural Horsemanship techniques with Dressage principles and I found that even the most difficult and sensitive horses could learn to work happily with humans and become reliable mounts. And I found that my best cutting horse was my best dressage horse!
Throughout the years, I learned:
No matter how well educated a horse may be, he will be limited by the understanding of his rider.
Time spent building your foundation will enable you to build layer upon layer and far surpass those who skip their foundation.
And most IMPORTANTLY – Patience is a requirement, not an option!
MAJOR SPORT TWIST
The first horse I ever trained was my Quarter Horse gelding, Sport. He loved to swim in the ocean in Hawaii, and he learned to appreciate snow when he went with me to college in Northeast Oregon.
Sport and I spent 31 years together.
Malakh and I were together for 20 years, and shared both the ups and downs of life.
His name means, “Angel” but he was no soft dulcet-toned creature–more like the Archangel Gabriel who was the embodiment of power & authority. Malakh was very good at teaching students to be confident and work with clear boundaries.
He was a strict but fair herd leader. I had several nervous and excitable horses that were quieted by his authority when integrated into his herd. After his passing, his brother, Zahir had to take over the mantle of herd leader.
Zahir’s name means “Shining Perfection”, needless to say I was very pleased with him when he was born! Zahir has always been fun-loving and opinionated, but also very calm and trusting. When I started him under saddle, everything was easy for him, and he never made a fuss. Whatever I asked for, he gladly gave.
Zahir was so sweet and easy-going, I thought I could find him a home with someone who could appreciate him more than me, since I already had Malakh. And after much searching for the right buyer, I sold Zahir.
What a tremendous mistake! Zahir was gone a total of 8 months before I was able to get him back, and yet it took me 4 years to clear out most of the baggage that he acquired in his time away. The journey we had is worthy of a book in and of itself.
For now I will just say that in the end he learned to trust again, and I promised him I would never sell him again. He is where he belongs now, and he is grooming the next herd leader, Aliya.
Aliya means “to ascend”.
I really thought I had enough Arabians in my herd, but when I saw Aliya, there was no question that she was what I needed. She can be sweet and gentle or bold and opinionated. She is a great trail horse and driving horse and astounds me everyday.
My lovely Bonne has left me, but I will always remember what she taught me: a still, quiet, and calm confidence. Bonne was mischevious and sweet, and riding her was like trying to contain fire.
Every student who met Bonne, fell in love with her. She somehow managed to convince every student that stroking her ears was much more important than work.
Bonne taught me the importance of not rushing things – that learning must be free from tension. Since her passing, I have learned to find happiness in the things that are, rather than what will be.
Shelton is a 16.2h Thoroughbred I adopted when he was 9. He was considered dangerous and un-managable and was in danger of being euthanized. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with him. I went back to square one with him, teaching him trust and respect – the basics of submission. It was very difficult for him to believe he no longer had to fight to be heard. Any physical or mental pressure caused him to explode violently.
The first 6 months I had him, I did not hold much hope that he would be anything more than a pasture ornament.
Finally, he got it. He had tested my rules in a thousand different ways, and finally he said, “Okay, you mean what you say.” He learned that if he gave to the pressure, it would be released immediately. He learned that there would always be a “right answer” within his reach, all he needed to do was listen.