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Center For America’s First Horse, Johnson, VT

Photos by the lovely and talented fellow VSC resident: Danielle Austen   During my time at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT, I discovered the Center for America's First Horse.  Created to help conserve the Colonial Spanish Mustang, the center lists outreach and education as priorities. I took a lesson with the center's founder Stephanie Lockhart who is wonderful.  Our time focused on ground work, which means you work with the horse on the ground, or not in the saddle.  In this way, you establish communication and a relationship with the horse before you ever try to ride it.  This approach falls under the category of natural horsemanship.  As defined by wikipedia: "The techniques vary in their precise tenets but generally share principles of developing a rapport with horses,using communication techniques derived from observation of free-roaming horses,and rejecting abusive training methods."  It makes sense if you ask me! Horses are prey animals.  It is because of this that they have a deeply rooted instinct to run and get away. We were encouraged to observe two horses playing.  Stephanie pointed out that the lead horse never moved his feet and was always able to move the other horse.  This is what we were to try to emulate.  The skill lies in establishing leadership qualities while simultaneously earning and maintaining the horse's trust.  This is why the rider/trainer/human must tune in.  Animals are quick to assess whether we are trustworthy, there is no faking it or pretending, just being.   If you are ever nearby Johnson, VT I encourage you to stop by and say hello to the center.  Or support their mission here.