October 18, 2017

“A Day in the life of a Stable Owner”

DSC01625I’m a stable owner, horse trainer and riding instructor.  I am also sometimes a stall cleaner, tack cleaner and general barn help. I plan the lessons, pick the school horses, buy the tack, drive the tractor, run the business, answer the phones and do the accounting. I sometimes wear the hat of vet, farrier, counselor or therapist. The days get long and crazy but are always interesting and usually fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world! Here’s what my average day looks like-

6:00 AM- Wake up, let the dogs out and make the tea. I’m not a coffee drinker. Sometimes wish I was, but I do drink lots of tea. Hot tea, iced tea, lukewarm tea. If it’s tea, I love it. Well not green tea so much- but I digress. Time to put on the sweats and do some stretching exercises. As I get along in years, I find the exercises help me get in and out the saddle. It keeps my back happy after a few too many “involuntary dismounts”.  Just another part of my day.

7:00 AM- Change into jeans, t-shirt, barn shoes and head out to begin feeding the critters. We always feed the horses first because they are the most destructive. After they are settled down, we feed theAthena Fosnight goats, pigs, chickens and dogs. While feeding we do our first “barn check” of the day. A barn check will consist of making sure all the stalls doors are latched, horses upright, eating, breathing, no gaping holes and otherwise acting normally. We also make sure the automatic water buckets are working but not over flowing and adjust blankets or fly masks depending on the season.

Once the feeding and barn check is done, I head into the office to check my schedule for the day. I’ll also take the time to write down any phone messages that came in overnight, adjust the lesson schedule to reflect the cancellations that came in, etc. Then it’s turn on the computer to check email and Facebook for messages. I’m always surprised how many people will send messages via Facebook. Email I get, but Facebook? Really? I guess I’m just old.

8:00 AM- Finally time for breakfast for my husband and myself. Something quick that doesn’t require much cooking- cereal, fruit and perhaps a hard-boiled egg. We use this time to catch up a bit and plan our day. We’ll discuss what’s broken and needs immediate attention. What needs fixing but can wait. I’ll tell him my lesson schedule, horses to be worked that day, etc. He will nod, smile and act like he’s listening because he’s one of the good ones. Then he will head off to work.

8:30- Time for me to get ready for work. Brush hair and teeth, put on the first layer of sunscreen, change into riding boots and a (temporarily) clean work shirt.

8:45 AM- Time to head out to the barn. First lessons begin at 9:00 so students are arriving. Turn on arena sprinklers and make sure everything is set up. Greet students and assign horses.

9:00 AM- 11:00 AM- Lessons- Keep the students motivated, safe and learning. If those things are accomplished, it’s a good day. Keeping everyone on top helps as well.

10:30 AM- Assistant arrives and begins grooming and tacking up training horses. She will also lunge those who need a bit of a “buck out” before we ride.KT Yorba Linda 508 009

11:00 AM- My first mount of the day. I will ride 4-6 horses this morning. My assistant will bring them up saddled, warmed up and ready to go. She will also take the one I just finished with, cool it out, un-tack, groom and put it away. We trade off like this for the next several hours. Some of the horses she will ride. She likes the more “energetic” ones.

2:00 PM- Lunch time. Second barn check of the day before I head into the house. I take my lunch break in the office answering email and returning phone calls. I’ll also use this time to check for any new messages.

3:30 PM- Re-apply sunscreen. Afternoon lesson students arrive. We greet the students and assign horses. Lessons are usually on the half hour in the afternoon. 3:30 & 4:30. My assistant and I will usually split the arena down the middle and each take an end.  This keeps everyone in their own space and better able to concentrate on their own students.

steve on tractor5:00 PM- Husband or assistant feeds horses while I finish up the final afternoon lesson. We have to be careful not to use those horses who are very food motivated in the last lesson. They can be difficult for the students to get back into the stalls safely. If a horse acts up, we make sure we are there to help out.

5:30 PM- While the horses are all tucking into their dinners, the feed person does the third barn check.

6:00 PM- Dinner and time to relax. Of course I have to fix dinner so it’s usually something easy like salad and spaghetti. Not much time for fancy food here. I tend to pre-cook and freeze a lot. I especially like using the veggies and herbs from the garden.004 Then on work days I can just throw something into the microwave. It works for us.

7:00 PM- Evening lessons start. I don’t do these every night. Only one or two nights a week. On the other nights I usually catch up on office work, update the web site, return calls or emails and reschedule lessons that have been cancelled. That’s if all the horses got worked. If not, it’s back to the arena after lessons to ride some more.

9:00 PM- Barn closes. I’ll shoo out any lingering boarders and complete the final barn check of the day. Make sure all stalls are latched, that all the horses have eaten their dinner and seem healthy enough to be left alone for the night. Put on blankets if the weather warrants. Make sure all the other livestock is tucked in for the night. Turn off the lights, lock the doors and call it a day. I kept my goal of only working half-days. Yep, 12 hours of work and I’m done!

9:30- Finally time to take a shower and put on some comfy clothes. I might even watch some recorded TV shows. That’s if I can stay awake. It’s not unusual to find me asleep on the couch with the TV running.

11:00 PM- Off to bed. I hope for sweet dreams and that I don’t hear the clip-clop of hooves from an escaped equine during the night.

Catching some rays.


  Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horsewoman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 40 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 and photos, in whole or in part, in any medium including but not limited to, newsletters, websites, blogs, magazines, etc. are reserved. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com


It’s Just A Chair…

IMG_1202      It’s just a chair. It’s made of white plastic, reclines for impromptu naps and folds up for easy storage. To all the world, a very unremarkable item. It was purchased at a discount store with the help of Dad.  A humble, folding chair just like thousands of others. But this isn’t just an ordinary chair. This chair was changed. This chair was improved. This chair is completely different than all the other chairs in the world because of the love of a child.

This chair was a gift from my children for Mother’s Day.  Why did they give me a chair you ask? Because I’m a horse show mom. I spend my Saturdays and Sundays, week after week, month after month, year after year at horse shows. I am up with the dawn loading saddles, hay, kids, clothes and horses. I spend long hours in the sun waiting, watching, coaching, cheering and commiserating.  During a horse show a place to sit is a wonderful thing. My kids thought so much of me that they gave me a chair to take to the shows.  My very own, special chair. This chair came with rules too. The rules were hand written on a construction paper card that accompanied “The Mom Chair”.

Rules of “The Mom Chair”-

  1. No one but Mom can sit in “The Mom Chair”.
  2. If you are a kid, you can sit in the chair, but only on the lap of Mom.
  3. If you aren’t Mom and you sit in “The Mom Chair” you will be told to move. Not asked, told.
  4. Any questions?- See rule #1

Many years have come and gone since I received this incredible chair. Numerous Mother’s Days have passed us by along with hundreds of shows.  Long gone is the child who looked to me to pin on numbers, check cinches or asked “Do you have my gloves?”  My children have long since hung up their spurs, given the horses’ final pats good-bye and left home. They have been flung to far off places in the world by their jobs. It’s what mothers spend their lives working, hoping and praying for- children safely grown into happy, independent, prosperous adults.

Today is another Mother’s Day. From my children, I received phone calls, gifts, Facebook messages, texts, cards and flowers. But, it’s a bit lonely this Mother’s Day with my children so far from home, so I went to a horse show today. And there, sitting in the horse trailer, waiting like a silent embrace, was my trusty chair. While others may only see an ordinary chair, I see the love of my family.IMG_1197

Special thanks to my kids- A1C Chris Torrez, US Air Force and CS3 Katrina Torrez, US Navy  for the inspiration for this message.

I Don’t Wanna and You Can’t Make Me!

stubborn horse“I don’t wanna and you can’t make me!” Has your horse ever said this to you? I know mine have! They stop, go sideways, back-up, even run away. It’s called Avoidance Behavior…

            Avoidance behavior is anything a horse does instead of what they are supposed to be doing. Let’s say you are taking your horse “Duke” to the wash rack for a quick hose down. Once you have passed the paths to the turnout, barn and arena, Duke has figured out where you are headed and he’s not impressed. The last bath he had was just before a show and took hours! By the time you finished clipping, braiding his mane, giving him a bath, wrapping his legs and put his blanket on, Duke was thoroughly fed up. He is not looking forward to a repeat session, so he stops cold in his tracks. Let the avoidance behavior begin!

            You step back to his shoulder and encourage him forward again. Now Duke has realized you are in earnest so he starts to back up. Slowly at first, but increasing the pace as you get more animated in your attempts to stop him and get him moving forward again.  The next thing he does is try to spin around away from you. Now you are chasing him around in a circle wondering how things got so crazy so quickly? All you wanted to do was a quick rinse off and it’s become an all out war.

            How about this one- My school horse’s favorite- If the rider asks for anything more taxing that a shuffling amble, the horse moves closer and closer to the rail until the rider is so afraid for the wellbeing of their leg, all thoughts of trotting have gone out the window. The rider watches that fence like it’s going to take on a life of its own while desperately pulling on the inside rein in an attempt to move away. Sometimes they even lift their leg up over the saddle in order to prevent it from being squished. The horse has changed the riders entire focus with a minor avoidance behavior such as moving toward the rail.

            So what’s a rider to do? How do you deal with this kind of behavior without risking life and limb? Let’s take scenario #1- The Wash Rack Walk- As soon as Duke stopped you should have stopped also and determined that there wasn’t a legitimate reason for his behavior like a bear lurking behind a bush.  Nothing? Ok, now ask again for the walk, making sure your are cueing correctly i.e.. walking at his shoulder, facing forward, using your body posture, voice and hand to move Duke in the correct direction. If he still refuses, it’s time to get serious. I usually give several quick hard jerks on the lead rope. If that doesn’t do the trick, I will use the long end of my lead rope to tap him on the rump or anything I can reach that is behind his shoulder. Make sure you are still facing forward while you do this. Not only will your body language match your other cues, you will be in a safe position in case Duke decides to make a break for it and runs or jumps forward. Also, if the correction works, you are prepared for a nice quiet walk forward.

            Now let’s assume Duke has made a run for it- backwards! The first thing you need to do is get him stopped. That is usually best handled by the firm use of your stopping word first (Whoa, Ho, Peanut Butter, whatever!) along with some quick, hard jerks of the lead rope. Never try to out-pull a horse. Unless you are a bigger horse, it simply won’t work. 1000 lb. horse beats the 150 lb. human every time. You need to outsmart him. He can only pull against steady pressure, so don’t give him any. Pull, release, turn or push. It all works eventually. If you can’t get him stopped, turn him until he is backing in the direction you wanted to go in the first place. If he won’t walk there, back him there. If he stops, resume your usual cue for forward and make him miserable until he complies. I’m not talking abuse here, just lots of short jerks, taps with the lead rope, pulling into tight circles, backing up,  yelling. Whatever he doesn’t like, until he moves forward again. Reward the forward steps with a quick “good boy” and perhaps a pat on the neck.

          Always remember to quit on a good note. Even if it means you don’t get all the way to the wash rack today. Might not be a bad idea to skip the hose-down anyway. It will just put more bad memories on the old ones. If you get him to the wash rack, reward him and take him away. Now do it again. And again. And again. As many times as it takes until he walks up willingly and quietly, without a fuss.

            Scenario #2- The Wall Flower- When you ask for a jog, your horse, Flower, moves closer and closer to the rail until your leg is in genuine jeopardy. How do you fix this one while keeping your leg intact? Flower uses this behavior to get out of working. It usually happens by accident at first, but if it works out well, Flower learned a new trick! Again, you need to catch this one before your limb is at risk. Always make sure you start well off the rail, so you have some room to react and correct the problem. As soon as you cue for trot, Flower starts moving sideways instead of forward. This is where you need to catch it, at that first sideways step. Immediately cue with the outside leg to direct Flower forward. If she continues to move sideways, give a firm kick or two with the same outside leg. Resist the urge to pull on the inside rein as this will push Flowers rump into the rail more quickly. Use the inside rein instead by moving your hand up and across the withers toward your inside hip. This will bend Flower’s neck and head into the rail which is not where she wants to be, its where she wants you to be. If she straightens out and moves forward, continue with your trot cue. Give her a pat on the neck when she complies correctly.

             If she does succeeds in getting your leg all the way into the rail, it’s game over time. No more Mr. Nice Guy! Using your outside rein, pull her directly into the rail until she is facing the rail. Now stop and back her up very firmly. Once you are a safe distance from the rail, turn to the original direction and start over.  You can also turn a complete circle, thus moving Flower away from the rail and starting over. Just remember to make these little side trips unpleasant ones. After all, she started it! I like to use firm kicks and perhaps some taps with a crop or whip if I happen to have one handy. You may have to repeat your actions several times before the message is received. Be persistent and you will prevail.

            The most important thing to remember is what you expect of your horse. Never accept anything less than that. Any avoidance behavior can be corrected if caught quickly enough. That first stop or sideways step needs to be corrected quickly before it gets out of hand. Don’t wait until the horse has total control of the situation. By then it’s too late. Always remember your expectations and accept nothing less.

            You can never expect more than what you accept.  If you accept these kinds of naughty, avoidance behaviors, you can expect your horse to repeat them. If you don’t accept them and expect good behavior, you will get that as well. Happy Riding! unstubborn horseCheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor, Clinic Instructor and AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl graduated from Rawhide Vocational College and Fullerton College. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 35 years, training students from beginner up to world level competition. 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. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com

Once Upon A Time…

What’s the most important thing to teach your horse? In my humble opinion it is to stop when asked. The all important Whoa. Or Ho. Or Stop. Or you can even say Snicklefritz if you want, as long as your horse knows that means they have to stop moving. As in stop moving their feet/legs/ neck/ body/ all of the above. It’s the first thing I teach all my riding students. I always teach stop before I even teach them the go cues. I want all my horses to stop when asked without question. I want all my students to know how to stop a horse and that they have the right to stop that horse any time they feel they need to.

Why is stop so important? Let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time in the far away land of Yorba Linda, there was a smart, beautiful, young horse named KT. KT was a very special horse therefore; she had two very important people in her life to attend to her every need; a Kind and Loving Owner and a very Talented Rider. Now, being so young, KT hadn’t been to lots of shows, but she still thought they were fun. Horse shows were something her Kind, Loving Owner and her Talented Rider liked to do. Because KT worked really hard at the shows, sometimes her back got sore. But KT’s Kind and Loving Owner was very attentive to KT, so she had the Talented Rider dismount between classes so KT wouldn’t get sore. One day while KT was between classes, her Talented Rider had dismounted and they were both standing in a group of other horses and riders. While they were all standing there enjoying a much needed break, KT felt a trickle of sweat run down her side causing an itch, so she reached her head around to scratch it. It was just than that the Wicked Stirrup Iron saw it’s chance and grabbed KT by the lower jaw and refused to let go!

Now KT wasn’t the type of horse to panic, but the Wicked Stirrup Iron was cackling, “Now I have you! You’ll be mine forever! HaHaHaHa!” as it held fast to KT.

In typical young horse fashion, KT tried to run away from the Wicked Stirrup Iron. When KT tried to run, all the other horses that were standing nearby ran away too. But KT’s Talented Rider had a good hold on the reins and KT, being the good horse that she is, didn’t go far. She just spun in circles trying to get away from the Wicked Stirrup Iron that had a hold of her.

Meanwhile, KT’s Kind and Loving Owner was watching some other horses and riders in the nearby Warm-Up-Arena-Land. As soon as she realized that KT was in trouble, she raced to her rescue. “The Wicked Stirrup Iron has my horse! I must save her!” she said as she ran.

 Of course, the Kind and Loving Owner had to fight her way through all the other panicked horses and riders who were running away from KT and the Wicked Stirrup Iron. After what seemed like ages, the Kind and Loving Owner was still far away, but was close enough to KT to yell out – “KT Whoa!”

Now KT, being the smart, young horse that she was, knew what “Whoa!” meant and coming from her owner she knew she would be soon be saved from the Wicked Stirrup Iron. So KT planted her feet and waited for her Kind and Loving Owner to rescue her. All the other horses stayed far away while the Talented Rider and Kind, Loving Owner removed the saddle and released KT from the Wicked Stirrup Iron’s clutches. Then KT was carefully checked from the bottom of her shiny hooves to the well clipped tips of her beautiful ears. Other than a few minor bruises in her mouth, KT was declared fine and dandy and was able to finish the show. Many more awards and blue ribbons were won because the Kind and Loving Owner and the Talented Rider had saved the day! And because the smart and beautiful KT knew how to Whoa.

And they all lived happily ever after.

The End

So what is the moral of the story? If you are a horse, always, always listen to your Kind and Loving Owner and your Talented Rider because they will, for all time, do everything in their power to keep you safe. If you are a Kind and Loving Owner, always teach your horse to Whoa, because you never know when you will need it to save the day.

PS- This is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. If you want to learn how to teach your smart, beautiful horse the all important Whoa or how to become a Kind and Loving Owner call Cheryl today.

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also an 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. For more interesting articles by Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com


Honesty’s The Best Policy?

“Honesty is the most single most important factor having a direct bearing on the final success of an individual, corporation, or product.” Ed McMahon

    A few years ago I had a client named Delores who owned a horse named Rebel. Rebel was a nice enough horse but he was a small, very flashy palomino tobiano paint. Delores had purchased him as a yearling and she loved him dearly. Rebel had numerous trainers before he came to my place as a 3-year-old.  He was started, but had never loped or even trotted under saddle much. I worked with him for awhile and had him going pretty well. We even started him in a few local shows, where he held his own.

     His owner was quite happy with his progress and things were fine until one day when Delores asked me when Rebel would be ready to go on to the APHA shows. I informed her that Rebel was a great horse with lots of potential, but that he would not be competitive on the APHA Show circuit. He was not a good enough mover and at only 14.3 hands Rebel was just too small.  This was also during the time when tobianos had a hard time placing as well. She was not happy to hear the truth about her horse, but as her trainer I felt obligated to let her know where Rebel’s potential lie.

     Delores seemed ok, but I don’t think she really believed me. Like any “parent”, most horse owners don’t want to hear that their “child” has limits. Every horse has a limit. No amount of money, training, care, riding or supplements can change those limits.  You might be able to stretch them out a little, but they are still there. Sooner or later that limit will be reached.

     Things with Rebel and Delores continued on the same path until my accident.  It was early May and an accident put me in the hospital for 2 weeks. I would not be able to ride for many months. The doctors weren’t sure if I would ever ride again. Because of this, Delores began looking for someone else to take over Rebel’s training.

     When I got home from the hospital, Delores gave her notice. When I asked, she told me about her new trainer – “Ms. B”.  “Ms. B” showed exclusively at the APHA shows. “Ms. B” didn’t go to local shows and considered them a waste of time. “Ms. B” had viewed a video of Rebel taken at a show and told Delores that he would do wonderfully at APHA shows due to his flashy coat and excellent conformation.  It wouldn’t matter that he was small, he would do just fine. “Ms. B” had assured Delores that with some additional training Rebel would be winning at APHA shows by summer. I wished her the best as she packed Rebel up and sent him off.

     I didn’t think much about Delores or Rebel after that. I was busy working on my recovery and trying to get my life back in order. A very demanding schedule of Doctor’s appointments and physical therapy along with keeping up with my business kept me pretty busy. It wasn’t until around December of that same year, that I heard from Delores again. Rebel was for sale. Delores sent me a flyer picturing Rebel being shown in a Halter class, not under saddle. The description told of all his accomplishments at the local shows, how many PAC credits he had earned and how many years of training he had. It said nothing about any APHA points or wins at APHA shows.

     What had happened with Rebel? Why would she sell the horse she was so devoted to? I was intrigued so I gave Delores a call. Delores went on and on about how great “Ms. B” was. How she had put so much work into Rebel and how great he had done at the new barn. Then Delores said- “Rebel just doesn’t have what it takes to make it at the APHA shows. He’s too flashy and small, so I’m selling him and buying a new horse. “Ms B” has a great horse for sale so I’m going to buy him once I sell Rebel.”

     Hmmmm…Sounds familiar. Kind of like what I told Delores over a year ago. Well of course I didn’t say anything about that to Delores. I just wished her well once again and hung up the phone.

     I knew from the beginning that “Ms. B” knew Rebel didn’t have what it takes to make it at APHA. She just told Delores what she wanted to hear so she could reel her in hook, line and sinker. After she collected many months of training, show, board and whatever other fees she could get out of Delores she finally dropped the bomb. Rebel couldn’t do it. Well the bomb probably dropped all by its self when Rebel didn’t do well at the APHA shows. But hey, it’s not a problem! “Ms. B” had another horse that would work just fine. Not only did “Ms B” collect all those training fees, she would also get sales commissions on both Rebel and the new horse! Not a bad payday!  

     Maybe it’s just me, but I think “Ms. B” lied to Delores just to make money. Of course, given my situation at the time, I couldn’t keep Rebel in training anyway. But this has happened with other clients as well. I give them an honest assessment of their horse/child/riding ability and they don’t like it. They take their business elsewhere. They go to someone who will tell them what they want to hear. It is never too long after they move that I hear they have sold their horse and purchased a new one, but they never admit it when it turns out that I was right. Am I mistaken in thinking that this seems wrong? Or am I just deluding myself?  Has honesty in business gone the way of the Dodo? Do you need to tell clients only what they want to hear or should they be told the truth?

     As frustrating as it can sometimes be, this is what I have decided to live by. If I have to lie to get or keep business then it’s time for me to shut the barn door and call it a day. I believe if a client prefers to hear lies instead of the truth, that isn’t the type of client I want at my barn. If a person accepts lies they will probably tell them also. I don’t want clients who lie, period. Plus, lies are just too dang hard to keep track of. Lying will trip you up sooner or later so, for me, it’s just not worth it.

     What do you think? Is it OK to “be creative” (i.e. lie) to a client if that is what they wanted to hear? Is honesty always the best policy? Or does the answer lie somewhere in between?

     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.




Aliens Invade Yorba Linda!


“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.” – Calvin Coolidge


Aliens Invade Yorba Linda!


            I was going for a ride the other day. I had my paint mare, KT, all tacked up and ready to work. As is my custom, we walked into the arena and began doing a little ground work before I mounted up. As we approached one corner of my arena KT suddenly became a giraffe! Her head went to the sky, she started snorting and tried (in vain) to run away! Since I wouldn’t let her just bolt, she continued to dance in place while I looked around trying to figure out what had gotten her knickers in a bunch. Hmmm, the arena seemed the same as always, no rouge grocery bags or vicious bunnies lurking about. The small hill behind the arena likewise. Ah ha! Just then I spotted the cause of all the drama. A large, black trash bag filled with weeds was resting ever so innocently against the chain link fence that separated my property from my neighbors. In fact, a whole flock (3) of them had apparently invaded the neighbor’s yard and come to rest against that fence. It was Grover’s Mill all over again!           

        So now the time had come to try to “talk down” my 16.1, 1100 lb mare and convince her that those bags were not some new strain of horse-eating alien space predators that had come to earth just to make her their lunch. I would have loved to just hop on and continue with the lesson I had planned on for that day, but things had changed with the appearance of those bags. My lesson plan for the day was now gone. I needed to do something at once or my poor mare would lose her mind. I couldn’t do everything I planned at once, but I could do something at once.            

          The first thing I did was sacrifice myself to the alien gods. That is to say, I put myself between her and the bags.  Hey, better that only one of us becomes lunch, right?  Plus, I have already established myself as the alpha mare in this two critter herd so if I showed her that I wasn’t afraid, maybe she wouldn’t be either.   

           Next I got KT’s feet moving. I walked her back and forth, always keeping my body between her and the “aliens.” By making her move, I was negating her flight response. She would be less likely to bolt if she knew she could move and wasn’t trapped. Here is when being able to lead your horse from either side comes in handy. I needed to walk her both directions while keeping myself between her and the bags. If you haven’t taught your horse this skill, now isn’t the time, but it is a good skill to have.  With each pass I got gradually closer and closer to the invaders. As I did this, I was very careful to watch KT for signs that she was ready to stop and investigate the invaders. The signs include- her desire to stop walking, lowering of the head, twitching ears, and calmly looking away from the predators.  Once she showed me these signs, I moved on to the next part of the plan.      

        Let her stop and watch. Now this can sometimes backfire so you have to be sure of the timing here. You horse needs to be really, really ready to stop and the alien needs to be very, very still. If a sudden gust of wind had moved the bags, we would have been back to square one, but nothing like that happened this day. The slight breeze did cause the untied “ears” of the bags to wiggle a little. This was enough to keep KT’s interest, but wasn’t sufficient to invoke another panic. Lots of soft-spoken, encouraging words and stroking here will get you quickly to the next step.  

         Sacrifice your horse to the gods. Just like in some ancient cultures, it was time to sacrifice my 7-year-old virgin to the gods. I began walking in a circle again, but this time I kept KT between myself and the bags. I made her walk to keep the flight response in check, but she was also required to listen and respond to my normal ground cues while ignoring the bags.  And we walked circle after circle. Then we changed direction and walked more circles always getting closer and closer to the bags. After many circles, KT was responding normally and had overcome her fear of those trash bags. Now, that is not to say that the next time a bag shows up someplace else the process won’t start all over again, but for today we were ok. This whole process only took 15 minutes and was well worth the time invested. 

           I was then able to mount up and continue with my riding plans for the day. Well… I did ride, but the plan was different. The process starts all over once you are mounted, but that is a discussion for another day. Just remember to do what you can do at once, keep your wits about you and the “aliens” won’t get you. Or your 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.






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.


Liar, Liar. Pants On Fire!

Liar, Liar. Pants on Fire-

            I was watching TV the other night when this commercial came on. The people on the commercial lied about their car insurance and their pants burst into flames! Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire! Just like when we were kids. It got me to thinking about how we sometimes lie to our horses. We don’t always say what we mean and we don’t always mean what we say. Later that week I was teaching a lesson to a long time student. She was working on side-pass. She knew the basic cues and was practicing getting a straight side-pass. My kind and tolerant school horse, Lace, felt that it was entirely too hot a day to be walking sideways, so she refused to move. After increasing the firmness of her cues my student finally got Lace to take a few, less than graceful but straight, steps sideways. I told her to stop and reward Lace for her effort. The student promptly said “Whoa”, released the rein cue and petted Lace on the neck. However; her leg (compete with spur) was still pressed into Lace’s side. When I pointed it out to her, she removed the leg pressure but it was too late. The student lied to Lace. She told her to stop with her voice and hand, rewarded the stop, but was still telling her to move with her leg.

            This is a common problem with students who are learning new skills. The process is so complex that they forget some of the steps along the way. This leads to “lying” to the horse just like I described above. This is one of the reasons school horses get dull and don’t respond to cues very well. They have been lied to so often they don’t believe anymore. Have you ever had a friend who liked to tell tall tales? They tell such wild stories you don’t really believe them anymore. You listen, nod your head and then go about your business. That’s how some of our horses get. They just nod their heads and then go about their business like you aren’t there. If this is happening to you, maybe you have been lying to your horse and don’t even realize it.

            When you are working your horse on the ground, how do you use your body language? Do you always face forward when leading your horse and face backward when standing still? If you expect your horse to understand your body language it must always mean the same thing. My showmanship horse knows that if I face forward, she is supposed to move forward. So if I turn my body and face forward I better plan on going somewhere because my mare is!  If not, I’m lying to my horse with my body. I see handlers doing this all the time. They will face forward and then correct the horse when it starts to walk. That’s wrong. If you want to stand still, you need to face your horse. Body language, voice command and expectations must all match. If not you are lying to your horse and they will start ignoring your cues. Before long the horse won’t move unless you start tugging on the lead. That has become the new cue and the old one of facing forward has vanished.  In a showmanship class that simple thing can mean the difference between a 1st place trophy and nothing.

            How about when you are riding? One of the most common mistakes I see is the use of the word “Whoa”.  I’ll see people loping down the rail saying “Whoa. Whoa. Whoa” every other stride. They are trying to slow the horse down. Later they use the same word to stop the horse. When the horse doesn’t stop, it gets corrected. Usually with some very harsh yanking on the bit, backing up, or rolling the horse back into the rail. The problem is the horse has been lied to so often it doesn’t know what “Whoa” means anymore. Sometimes it means slow down and sometimes it means stop. What’s a poor, honest horse to do?  He might be thinking something like- Uh Oh, there’s that word “Whoa” again. What do I do? Slow down or stop? Oh no, she’s gonna yank on the bit. I better decide and quick! I know! RUN AWAY!  Your horse has lost their training because you are a liar. 

            Or how about this one. A few days ago one of my students was working on the rail tracking left on their horse “Beau”. Someone else was exiting the arena and left the gate open. Beau got just past the gate, realized it was open and turned to the right into the rail and was headed out the gate. The rider tried in vain to turn Beau back to the left so they could continue down the rail. Beau was stronger than his rider and continued to pull to the right. Finally the rider turned Beau in a full circle to the right and was able to continue down the rail. Victory right? Did this rider win because they continued down the rail going in the original direction? Or did Beau win because he got to turn to the right when the rider wanted him to go left?  Beau won because his rider lied. Beau was told to go left but was allowed to go right when he wanted to. Beau learned that if he really, really wants something he can get it if he insists long enough. Like going right when told to go left. The rider should have stopped Beau, continued to cue Beau to turn left and not given up until he complied. That way Beau will learn that he must always do what he is told or he will be corrected. That will keep the horse honest.

            Are you lying to your horse? Come to our FREE CLASS on 1/22/12, Horses 101 to learn more about horses and their natural behavior. You can also see the optional ground handling demonstration a small fee. For more information go to the Events page at www.crktrainingstable.com.

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.


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.