December 15, 2017

Dream a Lofty Dream

“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall at last unveil.”

John Ruskin

Many years ago I had a client who was looking for a new horse for her daughter, Caren. Caren had been riding the family horse for a few years. She had gone from a complete beginner to an accomplished show rider. It was time for her move-up horse. We were looking for an all-around horse that would be competitive on the PtHA and APHA circuits. We had looked at several horses so far, to no avail. They were either too English, too halter or too western.

After several months of looking they called me to check out yet another prospect. Her name was Mel. Mel was 5 years old and had not been shown. She had been well started and ridden extensively on trails. She had the breeding and look we wanted, but could she perform in all the events we needed her to do? Upon arrival at the barn, we were given free rein to try her out. I went through my usual pre-purchase checklist. I checked her stall manners, ground manners, conformation and way of going. So far so good. She was kind hearted and willing. She had a halter horse conformation and good legs.  We then saddled Mel up and the owner showed us what she knew. After that, I rode her and finally I put my student up. All went well during the evaluation. Things were looking good.

During the ride home we discussed Mel at length. She was somewhat green and would need some time and work to get her ready to show. Caren was certainly up for the task and willing to put in the needed time and effort.  My only concern was that Mel would be a much better Western horse than an English horse. She wasn’t very tall and was very stocky. If Caren was ok with possibly having limited success in English events, Mel would be a good choice. During the pre-purchase consultation it is my job to give the buyers information, not make the decision for them, and that is what I did here. We had passed on other horses for this same reason so I just gave them as much information about Mel as I could and then left the decision up to Caren and her family.

The next day Caren told me they had decided to purchase Mel. She flew through the vet check without a hitch and was very soon parked in Caren’s barn. I designed a training program for Mel that would get them to the show pen as quickly as possible. I made sure the plan worked to Mel’s strengths and weaknesses. By really pushing this mare to work as an English horse, I did my best to make her the all-around horse her owners wanted her to be. I didn’t just work her western because I knew that is where she would excel. I worked her on both disciplines because that is what the owners wanted. They knew Mel’s limitations before they bought her and accepted them. It was my job to make Mel the best she could be at everything her owners wanted.

We started Mel off at some local shows. She needed to get in the show pen and figure out how things worked. She had great success at this level in both the western and English events. Hmmm, guess our training program is working so far. It was time to head to the big time! We entered Mel and Caren in their first PtHA show. She showed in all the youth events, both English and western. At the end of the day, Caren came home with many first’s, seconds and thirds. Looks like we found a winner. As time went on Caren and Mel continued to improve. Finally the day had come; we were off to the PtHA World show!

By the time the show was over, Caren and Mel had 6 World Champion titles and 4 Reserve World Champion titles. The classes were English and Western, youth and open. I was so proud of them, I could bust! But the most important thing was that we didn’t give up on Mel going English. In fact, we worked extra hard on her English skills and she overcame her physical limitations and excelled! Had I given into my initial thought that Mel wouldn’t do well English, she wouldn’t have. Because I listened to my client’s wishes for Mel and did what they wanted, despite my concerns for success, Mel turned out to be a great All-Around Horse. I made sure I did what my client was paying me to do, not just trying to prove that I was right. In so doing all our dreams for Caren and Mel came true. We dreamed a lofty dream and unveiled our vision.

Let Cheryl help you unveil your riding dream! Call or email today and start on the path to your vision!

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also a registered AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted.



My First Horse Show

My First Horse Show

            When I was a kid, my friends and I decided to go to the local playday. We had never been in a horse show before but how hard could it be? I had owned my horse for over a year and we had come a long way from our very dicey beginnings. I looked at the requirements printed on the Playday premium.- Attire- Long-sleeved shirt, tie, long pants and boots. Well heck! I had most of those things already! The only thing I was missing was a tie so Mom took me to the local tack store and bought one. My “show outfit” consisted of my best pair of jeans, my only pair of boots, one of my brother’s old shirts and my brand new bolo tie.  I was ready to show!

            I wanted to go in as many classes as I could. Of course they all cost money, two dollars and fifty cents for each class! I had saved most of my allowance and babysitting money, so I had enough to go in most of the classes. I decided to enter – Bareback Equitation, Western Equitation, Western Pleasure, Trail, Speed Barrels, Texas Barrels, Single Pole, Pole Bending and Keyhole. I got my Mom to sign the entry form. I was all set!

            The only problem was that I didn’t have a clue what to do for each class. I got a book on showing horses from the library and all my barn friends shared their knowledge. The book helped some but I’m not so sure about the friends. We were all pretty much the blind leading the blind, but we had fun! I knew I needed more help so I talked my parents into letting me go to a horse show to watch. My brother dropped me and my friends off early in the morning. After watching the seemingly endless halter classes, we got bored and decided to wander around a little. Then we stumbled onto the trail arena. Now that was interesting! That one class- Trail- fascinated me. I watched those horses and riders for hours. I could do this one! Belle was a great Trail horse! We could go over or through anything on the trail. She would bravely stomp through any puddle or stream, over curbs, logs and sticks on the ground. Trail would be our class! I already pictured the blue ribbon hanging from Belle’s bridle.

            The big day came and we arrived at the show grounds after a long ride to get there. (Yes, we rode our horses to the show. How else would we get there?) After not placing in the first few classes (Wrong leads? What’s a lead?) it was time for the trail class. Finally my chance to shine. The judge carefully explained the course- Walk over the logs and bridge-check, jog through the cones- easy, pick up the slicker and put it down again- no problem, lope left lead from cone A to cone B- hmm that lead thing again-well give it a shot, walk through the tractor tire-simple, side-pass over the telephone pole and you’re done. Ok, fine, all pretty straightforward.  We can do all that. Oh wait-What? Side-pass? What’s a side-pass?

            Some very quick conversations ensued between us stable mates. Together we decided how to handle the side-pass obstacle. I waited, watched and finally my turn came. Belle and I stepped onto the course. She bravely stepped over the logs and onto the bridge-check. We weaved through the cones at a nice, slow jog- easy. After picking up and putting down the slicker-no problem- I cued Belle for lope. Off she went on the left lead! (Not that I knew that at the time!). She stopped promptly at cone “B”. Then we continued on to the tractor tire which proved to be as simple as I hoped it would be. Only one obstacle left- the side-pass. I stepped Belle over the telephone pole, looked at judge and said, “I don’t know how to sidepass.” I then stepped off the pole and walked off the course. This was how my friends had decided to handle the obstacle, not do it at all. I knew I had blown it. My only chance for a ribbon and I hadn’t even tried.

            We all lined back up for the announcing of the awards. I was pretty bummed but we all waited together while they went through the placings from 1st to 5th. When they got to fifth place the announcer called “And in fifth place- Cheryl Rohnke riding Belle Star.” I had gotten a ribbon in Trail! Even after I gave up, I still placed! All my friends cheered and I stepped forward and got my ribbon. I was so happy and proud. All my “work” was paying off after all!  I could win at horse shows!

After the awards were handed out the judge approached me. She said that if I had done the side-pass, I would have won the class. She wished me luck and wandered off to judge her next class. I would have won the class! Those simple words made my day! But of course they did bring about some questions. Why didn’t I at least make an effort to side-pass? Why did I listen to my friends and just quit? I had watched all the other riders’ side-pass. I figured out the cue, so why didn’t I even try?

Because I listened to my friends, that’s why. When you are 12 years old and at your first show without parents, a trainer or anyone but your friends, that is who you rely on. At the end of the day, they would be who I rode home with. Tomorrow we would be back at the barn complaining about who won and figuring out why we lost (Because we didn’t have fancy outfits, of course!). After that, we would be working to improve our horses and ourselves for the next show. And together, we would all learn to sidepass.

Later in life, after receiving lots of instruction, I would train another horse for Trail. Together we ended the year number 2 in the nation. It just goes to show that you can make it if you work hard, do your homework, get the proper help and don’t give up!

We welcome your comments and questions. Tell us about your first competition or a special memory from your first barn friends.

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also a registered AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted.


A Horse For Christmas

A Horse for Christmas

(Or How Not to Give Your Kid A Horse)

By: Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg

            When I was a child, like so many young girls, I wanted a horse. I had read loads of books, rented a horse nearly every Saturday, and watched every horse movie I could find. I was ready for my first horse! Of course I lived in the city. We couldn’t keep a horse at home, but there were horse properties and stables nearby. So the begging began.

            One year when I was about 11 years old, my parent’s business had a good year. Money was no longer tight. My older brothers were getting huge Christmas gifts that year and I knew it. The oldest one got a car and the middle child got a real, professional drum set. It was Christmas Eve (when we always opened our gifts) and we had opened all the presents that were wrapped and under the tree. The time was upon us. I knew my brothers gifts were in the front driveway. So we all traipsed outside and standing there next to the car and drums was a HORSE! MY HORSE! I screamed and ran toward the poor animal so fast that she nearly bolted. After much conversation about her name (Belle), age (about 12), breed (Quarter Horse-ish), etc I was ushered back into the house while my Dad walked Belle back to the stable. Yep, at night, in the dark, on city streets. My Dad had been raised on a Midwest farm during the depression. He had worked with horses plowing the fields. He had even gotten to ride his horse to school! What a luxury! He knew horses and had picked Belle out himself.

          The next morning I was forced to wait until after breakfast to see my horse again. Finally, my Dad took me to the barn where she was living. It was a neighbor’s backyard within bike riding distance. The neighbors would feed my horse along with theirs and I would clean the stalls. There was no arena, round pen or anything. Just a stall in the backyard, a turn-out area on the side of a hill and a shed that doubled as both a tack and feed room. The neighbor’s horse lived in the stall and Belle lived in the turn-out pen. The shed had an extended roof that gave Belle some shelter from the rain and my dad had built a feed manger on the outside wall for her feed. My Dad had also purchased a bridle to go along with the halter and lead that came with Belle. He showed me how to put on the halter and how to put on the bridle. I was the happiest little girl in the world as I trotted bareback around the turn-out pen.

          After that Christmas Day, I was free to ride whenever I wasn’t in school. I would ride my bike to the barn and off Belle and I would go, blissfully riding the trails. Well, that’s what I wanted to happen, but the reality was somewhat different. Since I had only one lesson on bridling it was often very difficult for me to get Belle’s bridle on. My Dad knew horses but he worked all day and didn’t have time to spend teaching me to ride. Mom worked also and was basically afraid of horses. I had no saddle so mounting was a problem also. I had never been the gymnast type so I would lead Belle up to a fence and hope she would stand still long enough for me to climb on. We lived in the city, so there weren’t any trails nearby. We did have some fields so I sometimes rode there. Of course, the fields were quite a distance away so most of the time I just rode around the small pen that Belle lived in. The neighbor’s horse stabled with Belle was retired and not ridden anymore. I had no one to ride with or learn from.

          Almost immediately, I began having lots of problems getting my new horse to do my bidding. For some strange reason she was completely incapable of reading my mind! Since I had no clue about proper cueing, we were at an impasse. Well, it was not so much an impasse as a complete take-over on Belle’s part. Belle did pretty much whatever Belle wanted to do. For some strange reason she didn’t seem to want to trot up and down the hill of the small pen she lived in for hours on end. She did become very proficient at getting me off her back whenever she was tired of me. Bumps, bruises,  sprains and torn jeans soon became the order of the day.

          It wasn’t long before I got tired of falling off my horse and having to ride my bike home with a sprained ankle or scraped knees. I began to complain that Belle was stupid and wouldn’t do what I wanted. I wanted a different horse. I wanted a horse that would do what I wanted. I wanted a horse that wouldn’t hurt me all the time. My parents said that if I didn’t want Belle anymore they would sell her, but no other horse would replace her. It was Belle or nothing.  Reluctantly, I agreed to keep Belle. But I needed some help! My Dad looked around and decided to move Belle to a nearby stable.

          So Bell went to live in a huge pasture with 20 or 30 other horses. Every day I would go catch her, bring her in and feed her in the tie stalls set up for that purpose. Yep, she got fed once each and every day. I wasn’t allowed to ride until she finished eating all her hay. During the times of the year that grass was plentiful, she wouldn’t usually let me catch her at all. No reason for her to want to work, right? She was quite happy hanging out with all her friends. But despite these things I did finally improve my riding skills. I had horse people around to teach me the right things. I had friends to ride with. I had a proper arena to work in and I was no longer trying to muddle through on my own. Dad also bought me a riding crop and taught me how to use it.  Finally I was in charge of Belle!

          I owned Belle for 4 years before I moved on to a new horse. I trained her (or she trained me) and together we learned about things like cues and leads.  We worked hard and had some success at the local playdays and shows. Belle also presented me with a beautiful chestnut colt one year. Apparently a long-yearling stud colt broke out of his stall one night. The stable owner failed to mention that he found them together until we started asking questions 10 months later!  I named the colt  Galveston and he was the first horse I ever trained from beginning to end.

          Belle turned out to be a great first horse. I not only survived but thrived because of her. It was a school of hard knocks at first, but all’s well that ends well. I was lucky. I never got badly hurt. This was long before the days of helmets, videos and lessons on youtube. I learned by watching, reading books and doing. I worked to earn money for luxuries like fly spray, grain and a saddle. All my birthday and Christmas gifts were for my horse. I became a horse trainer and riding instructor despite my dubious beginnings. Or maybe it was because of them…

          We always remember our first loves be they animal or human. Tell us the story of your first horse.

          Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also a registered AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted.



What IsYour Riding Dream?


      What will you do today to improve yourself, your situation, your riding? Will you surround yourself with those people who will help you achieve your goals? Or will you stay with the same ole’ same ole’?  So many of us go by the old adage- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But maybe you just haven’t realized that it’s broken. Someone defined insanity as -Doing the same thing but expecting a different outcome. Are you doing the same things with your horse and expecting a different outcome? If you want your riding/horse/training/show results to change you have to change something you are currently doing.

      One of my long-time students was having fun with her horse. Every lesson focused on learning an entertaining new skill. She could do many things with her horse- canter leg-yield, flying lead changes, jumping, trail obstacles, etc. She was a jack-of-all trades but master of none. She had also had a great deal of success at small, local shows. She had taken herself and her horse far and wanted to move up to a higher level of competition. So she packed up her trailer and off she went to one of the big, breed shows. Unfortunately, her results weren’t that great. So she tried again with the same result. After yet another less than stellar show she decided it was time to make a change. She wanted the focus of her lessons to be fine-tuning her horse for the show pen. So we looked for the areas she needed to fix. We decided on some short-term and long-team goals. Then we got to work. Her lessons got hard. We no longer had the light-hearted lessons that were fun but didn’t get her to her goals. She worked hard during her lessons and I gave her homework. Her next show was better. The changes were working. She was getting closer to her goals, but was not quite there yet. With more time and hard work she will go far, but she needed to make some changes. And she is having a lot of fun now that the program is getting her to her goal.  

      Now is the time to look at your riding program. Are you reaching your goals? Or are you just having fun but not making any progress? Not that there is anything wrong with having fun, but it’s possible that will not be enough for long. If you have a trainer you are already working with, perhaps it’s time to ask them to change your program. Re-define your goals with them and create a plan to work toward those goals. As a trainer who has some very long-term clients I know the lessons can get stagnant over time. I often find myself looking for fun new ways to keep these riders engaged and learning new things. I always ask my clients what they want to do that day as well. Is there a particular thing they want to work on like leg-yield, side-pass, canter transitions, recognizing leads, etc? When was the last time your trainer asked you what you want to learn? Yesterday, last month or ever?

      If your trainer has reached the limit of their knowledge, look elsewhere for help. If the knowledge is there, but they aren’t sharing it with you, something is wrong. You are paying them to teach you. You deserve to get what you are paying for. Your lesson dollar is hard earned, don’t waste it. Ask them what you should be learning to get to your goal. No goal? FIND ONE! If you don’t know, ask your trainer. It’s their job to help you define your goal and help you reach it. After you reach that goal, dream up a new one! Just like my student, she had a goal- to have fun learning new things. Her goal changed so the focus of her lessons did as well. Her dream changed.

      Your trainer should be a dreamer who has their feet firmly planted on the ground. Your trainer should be helping you reach your dream, not their dream for you. Well, actually, both you and your trainer should have the same dream for you.

  I welcome your comments and questions about lesson goals or other topics. You may attend my discounted lessons during November to try some different riding ideas.  Go to the events page to see dates and details of upcoming classes. Feel free to share this article with your friends! Enjoy the Ride!