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Trainers as Stakeholders

by | Jul 2018 | Article

My name is Yvonne Barteau and I am a lifetime horse trainer. My husband, Kim, and I own and operate KYB Dressage and Horses Without Humans out of Rock Bluff Ranch in Bell, Florida. Forty years with horses gives me a rather unique perspective on the equine industry. I am a Grand Prix dressage trainer and rider, equine theater producer, author, and teacher but most importantly I am a horse lover.

Learning about the risk that horses in transition face in the United States has moved me to change the course of our training business at KYB Dressage. I call on all trainers of all disciplines to remember why they decided to make horses their life’s work. Trainers are major stakeholders and must unite on this one issue: to aid horses in transition and increase adoption. Those with no voice of their own deserve the fairest counsel of all. As a nation of horse lovers, we can come together and make a difference for horses in transition. Together, we can face the issues that cast a shadow on our industry and move forward towards a unified solution.

I know that I was put on this earth to be a horse trainer and I am happy I figured that out after reading Walter Farley’s Black Stallion many decades ago. I started in Western, then jumping, then seven years with Standardbreds, and a few more with Thoroughbreds. Five years with “problem” and behavior issues horses really taught me a lot about people… and then I went into equine theater and dressage.

Along the way, I gathered credentials in different fields which mainly served to reinforce that I find horses to be something I cannot live without. Horses have defined and shaped me… I have benefitted greatly by being lucky enough to spend my life learning from them. It is now my time to give back.

I met Christy Counts, president of The Right Horse Initiative, in early 2017. We both share a need to speak up for those with no voice of their own. I believe all who have benefitted from having horses in their lives need to find a way to give back to complete their own circle of life. I have decades of knowledge and experience to offer. My husband is also a lifetime horse trainer and he too is keenly aware that a trained horse has more security than an untrained one, so we started there.

We are educators of horses and people. We are dedicating our time, and resources, to creating a bridge between the horses who are the presumed elite, and the horses who need a new beginning. We have seen and worked with both. In our opinion, the differences between these two categories are usually circumstantial and when scrutinized, caused more often by human frailty than a horse’s failure. It is not enough to simply recognize a problem and not act, which is why we are trying to find new solutions.

So I am in. With my voice, my talents, my energy, and my experience I am choosing to help horses in transition. At our ranch, we will continue training horses and riders, from beginners up to the Grand Prix level of dressage. We also offer liberty and trick training, the basics of understanding temperament in horses, ground control and problem-solving. However, these same doors are open to horses in need of a new career.

Our trainers and staff now assess, train, and market horses in transition who may have remained stagnant or at risk if we did not cultivate their unique purpose. That horse may be a companion or trail horse or a first mount for an eager new horse lover. We are finding real talent among this group and are excitedly uncovering potential with many of our projects here: trick horses, driving horses, dressage, and lesson mounts. Even future equine theater performers are appearing in front of us, as a good feeding program, proper care, evaluation and training becomes a normal part of life for these deserving souls.

Simultaneously, this shift in focus brings new relevance to our business in an ever-changing landscape. Younger generations – both equestrian and otherwise – are welfare-minded, with a passion for social causes. Young riders and working students want a career that advances their own opportunities while also giving back. Trainers can offer opportunities to do both while also stepping up for horses in transition.

I am excited about this next chapter in my life and our ongoing partnership with The Right Horse Initiative! It is a symbiotic relationship from which the many working students, interns, and apprentice trainers who go through our programs will benefit. We will train and teach others to understand and work with horses in transition because there is a shortage of mainstream trainers working to repurpose at-risk horses. I will spread awareness whenever I have a chance and I will try to be an example of the change I wish to see in the equine industry.

One horse at a time and one after another: we are good people for good horses.

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