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Renee's Article

The Horse Ranch offers an amazing working student program. A unique place to come and learn directly from Glenn Stewart. Renee started her first summer doing the Summer Intensive program and developed into a working students. Her knowledge and horsemanship soared! Here is a little of what she has to say about some of her time here.

My Third Summer at The Horse Ranch

My name is Renee Cardinaals and I am a 20-year old girl from the Netherlands. I have just completed my third summer as an apprentice at The Horse Ranch with Glenn Stewart. Three years ago I decided to take the leap because I wanted to make a big change in my horsemanship skills. I was 17 years old and travelled from Amsterdam to Fort St John by myself. I was to work for Glenn as a working student for 6 months. I did not know what to expect, but I tried not to think too much and just go for it.

The most common question people have asked me over the past summers has always been: ‘How did you end up at this place?’ My most common reply to that question is: ‘By airplane’. But it appears most people don’t take that as an answer, so I tell them the following: back home in the Netherlands I graduated from high school relatively young and decided I did not want to apply to university right away. This is a rare thing to do where I live. Instead, I wanted to work on my horsemanship skills by going places, doing stuff and learning from great horse people. My biggest interest at that time was to start colts and do it in such a way that the young horse would have the least stress and the most understanding.

So, I started searching the Internet for the right people (horsemen) that specialized in colts. I found out there were even actual competitions in starting colts in the States and Canada. One of these competitions might be familiar with you and is called Road to the Horse. It was fall 2011 then and the competitors for spring 2012 were being announced. Glenn Stewart was one of them and after checking his website and finding out he hired working students I decided to give it a shot. Just by his website and the conversations over e-mail I could have never imagined where exactly I was going to end up. And so I could not be more thrilled though when I watched his performance at Road to the Horse over the livestream. I remember his final course and my excitement that I was getting the chance to be learning from this guy! Even then, with the limited experience I had at the time, I could see the respect, understanding and trust in the colt after only four hours of working with him. He looked committed to have Glenn as his leader and took the obstacles he had never seen in his life smoothly and without fighting.

So there I went, as a 17 year old girl, fresh out of my diapers, never having been gone from home for very long, thinking I would just go ahead and own this trip. It didn’t take long though to get my feet back on the ground and face reality. It was probably the hardest and best thing I have done in my life so far.

Now, two years later, I went from working student to apprentice and I have different opportunities in my new position. I get to start colts that are in different stages of their training, their life and their experiences. Some are not even catchable, some already started, but in need of a tune up, and everything in between.

I am being watched over and mentored by Glenn in this process, which does not mean he holds my hand everywhere I go. It means I get to struggle on my own first, motivating me to use my own brains and skills until I have a mental breakdown. That’s when he jumps in to show me what he would do.
Every time I see Glenn working with a horse I become more amazed, thrilled and frustrated.

I become more amazed because I cannot believe a person can be so smooth and clear and get a horse’s mind engaged in such a short period of time. The horse will look different after a half hour session with Glenn. The look in the horse’s eye, the shape of his body and the way he moves has changed. And on top of that, you can see the horse wants Glenn to be his leader and loves the clarity. I get thrilled because this is all happening right in front of my own eyes and the knowledge is there for me to take. It’s super exciting to think that all the right parameters are there now to have these skills myself some day. And yes, also I get frustrated because Glenn will make it look so easy and I want to be able to do it myself so bad. I will be struggling with this one thing for days when Glenn jumps in and fixes it in minutes. Or I will be very excited because I have one thing mastered and the next challenge is waiting for me around the corner.

In my stage of learning it does not seem to be as much about the steps you should take while starting a colt anymore. It’s all about the feeling, timing and smoothness. Every one of you will have a different perception of these three things, which is fine, because we are all in different stages with our horsemanship. But to give you an idea of what I am trying to master here I like to use the same comparison that Glenn always uses, which is dancing. And I know absolutely nothing about dancing. If you start dancing you’ll have to learn the steps first and what to do with your feet, body and arms. Once you’ve made that your own, you will start working on partnering. Being smooth in the way you move together so you won’t step on each other’s feet, trying to make it so you float around the dance floor without realizing someone is leading you… Or you are leading them.

So yes, if you put it this way, I spent my whole summer trying to dance with horses... No wonder I get bucked off every once in a while!

My affection with this place has been growing ever since I came here for the first time and I am not finished learning yet. So, it’s very likely I’ll be back for another round; next summer or perhaps the next.