Celebrating the Small Things

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

Vincent Van Gogh

New Baby step on the journey achieved! I just received this certificate from The University of Guelph’s Equine Guelph program for completing their new Equine Facility Management Certificate. I began this program, not with this end goal in mind – but at the start of my journey in the fall of 2019, which I wanted to be close to horses, but didn’t know how exactly I would get there.

I did a search about horse career, horse volunteer opportunities, and programs to learn skills and information about being around horses — and discovered the Horse Portal and the plethora of baby steps in the right direction, in the form of introductory level courses on horse care and behaviour. I began with Horse Health & Welfare, where I learned all about the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Code of Practice for the Care & Handling of Equines – which until then, I had no idea existed, and appreciated launching onto the path with this important information.

Next, in the Spring of 2020, when the world shut down due to the novel virus, COVID-19, the Equine Guelph offered free tuition towards their Sickness Prevention in Horses course, which not only was full of practical things to watch out for and care for, but also gave more context for all the “new” ways in which we were living, such as quarantine – which is not something new to the equine world (turns out there are many illnesses that require horse owners to quarantine individual horses, herds, or even the farm or county!).

Then, after taking another full university credit course which I received a full scholarship to take, Equine Business Finance & Risk, in the Summer of 2021, Equine Guelph offered the horse community ANOTHER opportunity to educate ourselves as a gift – through their free Equine Business 101 course. Of course, how could I not jump at the chance! Not long after they offered this program, I learned that there would be a new certificate program, that just happened to use those three building block courses! The Equine Facility Management Certificate – so, once I completed Equine Business 101 about a week ago, I applied and sent in the required documents to obtain this new certificate.

On their own, I would say that there is good information, heck, great information, contained in all of these courses. While the courses are foundational, on their own they are not enough to build the real-life skills necessary to take on managing an equine facility, or even taking care of a herd of horses. I have been so fortunate to now have had two opportunities – one in the Spring of 2021, and another in the Winter of 2022 to care for my mentor Mena’s horses independently, the Freedom Herd, for 6 weeks, and 3.5 weeks respectively. This was a huge responsibility, and came after weeks of 6 – 9 hours of mentorship with the horses, and learning about everything this particular herd needs to thrive, and months of volunteering for weekends to gain experience and trust.

There is a TON to think about when you are caring for horses, and while this certificate indicates that I have succeeded in learning the basics in caring for horses and a horse facility, I am definitely going to keep learning and growing, in both taking more courses through Equine Guelph, and other specialized programs – and, Equine Facilitated Wellness, Coaching, learning and riding lessons! I have heard time and again, horse owners say that they are still learning, and that there is always more to find out about the horses in your care, and horses in general.

After receiving this certificate – and completed my 3.5 weeks of caring for the Freedom Herd, I went out to Barb’s and felt a new level of confidence with Winston. We played a bit at liberty, practicing our back and forward movements, and then I felt ready to ride, bareback again! Barb was so funny, when I got on Winston’s back, on a the first warm afternoon in nearly a month, the sand ring full of snow, she kept saying “so you’re going to fall off, you know that right” to prepare me should it happen, with the footing being a bit more challenging, and it being about a month since either of us last rode. Well, I didn’t have that same feeling, I sat confidently on his back, and we walked around the yard, he even went up a little hill and I leaned forward, like a natural response to the incline! We rode around, just at a walk, for about 10 minutes, still taking our time, but it felt incredible. I even took the reins in one hand, and pulled my phone our of my pocket with the other – and filmed this short video! Each little step forward for me, means a step forward for us. Winston knows his role, he loves connection, and people – he and I have developed our bond over the last few months – is just waiting for ME to step powerfully into myself as a rider. He knows I have it in me, his willingness to spend time with me, and be patient as I learn, never losing his cool – demonstrates that.

First time riding with the reins in one hand! Bareback in the snow 🙂

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