Citizen-Soldier passes life communicating with horses
April 14, 2011
- Horsemanship clinics help owners, riders understand equine
- Citizen-Soldier shares civilian profession with Fort Gordon community
FORT GORDON, Ga. - (October 9, 2010) Equine enthusiasts attended a horsemanship clinic Saturday at the Hilltop Riding Stables on Fort Gordon, Ga.
The daylong clinic teaches individuals to understand the basic skills of natural horsemanship through communication games, which horses play among themselves. Other topics included how horses learn and a horse\'s thinking of the prey versus predator concept.
"Clinics are a total mind and body workshop focusing on real horses and real riders while renovating their problems with communication in normal situations," said Dr. (Maj.) Rebecca Gimenez, an Army Reserve Signal Corps officer with the 359th Theater Signal Brigade, Fort Gordon, Ga., and an internationally known expert in large animal rescues and clinician teaching horse behavior.
Gimenez helps horse owners, anyone interested in horses to connect with these large animals and correct bad habits both people and horses have.
"Humans speak different languages. No matter the type of horse or where from around the world, horses speak the same language," she said.
People make many similar references to vocal clacking of the mouth to communicate with a horse. Gimenez teaches how to send a person's body signals to correspond with how a horse interprets body language, a horse exhales a deep breath; a horse's wigwag of their tail demonstrates their excited state of mind.
"The emphasis is on safety, relaxation and communication, as you become a better partner with your horse," Gimenez said.
The clinic started with basic ground handling techniques. Through various obstacles, individuals used body language to communicate with their horse. By bowing a person's upper body toward the horse and signaling, a horse will not feel intimidated and approach the individual.
Horses will follow a person who leads them with confidence making them feel they are in a safe zone.
Getting a horse to walk into a trailer can be a difficult task if the horse does not want to go inside. Make the horse want to enter the trailer, says Gimenez. Direct the door of the trailer toward the sun for sunlight to brighten the interior. Teach the horse to not be afraid to enter the trailer and through slow progress work toward getting a horse's leg on the ramp, then two. Move forward to pass the plane of the door and let the horse look inside. This technique requires the handler to look inside and point where they want the horse to go and to walk the horse forward and back and reward the horse with affection after every try. The horse will feel calm and enter the trailer through signals afterward with training.
Growing up around horses on a farm in Florida, Gimenez has been around horses her entire life. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology on a Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. and became a commissioned officer in the Army Reserve. She then graduated from Clemson University with a Ph.D. in Animal Physiology focusing more on large animal behavior during emergencies.
While on mission, Maj. Ben Stevens, an intelligence officer deployed with the 359th TTSB at Bagram, Afghanistan, who has rode horses since he was in the second grade took time to participate in the clinic.
"I first learned about horsemanship 10 year ago and this is outstanding," he said. "It was nice to have a day off and do something you enjoy doing during some downtime."