One Year Ago, I was in trouble. I owned a horse that terrified me. Every time I was around her, it was as though I was reliving my first year of teaching. I felt inexperienced and spineless, and I always had this severe pit in my stomach. Being around her made me feel insecure–so much so that my voice quivered and I became tongue-tied even trying to speak. It was like I was 21 again, teaching a room full of 18-year-old seniors. I felt lost and defeated.

One Year Ago, I made Skyview Farm Ngugi’s new home, and I put my trust into Kim Selby’s hands. It was a desperate attempt to keep Gugi and protect her from being passed to someone with inhumane intentions.

One Year Ago, I would find myself browsing because I had anything but my dreamhorse! I loved the idea of rescuing her from neglectful hands, but I didn’t like her. I didn’t like the way I felt when I was around her. Part of me was hoping just maybe Kim would really like her. Then I could just give her away and find my forever horse in the Dreamhorse classifieds.

One Year Ago, Gugi and I found the right fit. And it saved us.

This post is a dedication to Kim Selby, owner of Skyview Farm and Wellspring Riding Academy trainer located in Kankakee, Illinois. I hope to not only celebrate the gift Kim has with training challenging, special-needs horses like Gugi, but also speak to what Kim calls her “marriage counselling” between horse and rider. Here’s a picture from last summer of Kim and Gugi:
Flyer 1st Draft

Within the first 5 minutes of meeting Kim, you will learn two things: 1) Her love for and connection with horses is palpable, and 2) she loves to talk. This works out great for me because I went to Kim for help on partnering with Gugi, and also, I know that I learn best from talking through concepts. I will always need the instructor who breaks down the big WHY?, the big SO WHAT?

Thinking back to my first conversation with Kim over the phone, I knew then that she’d be that instructor for me, for us. I remember her explaining the mantra that stands at the core of her training: “Ask, don’t tell; soft, but firm; repetition, persistency, consistency.” I remember her telling me, “God gave me a gift with people and horses. It’s my goal in life to be a positive influence on the lives of the people and horses I meet.” I remember really believing in her. I remember counting down the days until I could bring Gugi to her positive environment (even though it’s nearly an hour and a half from my home).

And now it’s been a year. We’ve made so much progress–even if it’s been slow and steady. They say a horse mirrors her owner, or the owner mirrors her horse. Well, that’s how I learn. I may not be the first in the group to learn a new concept, but when I get it, I see things that others miss. Kim gets this about Gugi; she gets this about me. So while so many “talkers” don’t listen, Kim is an anomaly. She listens to both human and horse. And what the human isn’t understanding from the horse, she translates.

On the Wellspring Riding Academy Facebook page, you’ll read the following description:

Kim has developed a philosophy of balanced riding and a more natural approach to connecting and communicating with your horse.

I close with what I believe makes Kim Selby and Skyview Farm the right fit for Gugi and me:
1)Horses at Skyview farm either live outside year-round or spend the day outside with suitable paddock/pasture mates.
2)All riding disciplines are welcome.
3)Even at a busy horse show, Kim is still able to make everyone (even me who just brought Gugi there for the experience) feel important.
4)Kim welcomes diverse clinicians (she most recently hosted a dressage clinic, and will host a Natural Horsemanship clinic in April), and encourages students to analyze their riding through the lens of another trainer’s critique.
5)The farm is a work in progress. It is not one of those static farms that never grows or changes.
6)Cliques don’t exist. All riders are viewed equal regardless of whether they own a horse, attend shows, etc.
7)Lessons are truly opportunities for riders to try new things, take risks, go outside of their comfort zones, etc.
8)Lesson horses still have spirits.
9)Kim is the type of trainer who calls me after a training ride just to tell me how amazing my horse is.
10)Kim develops in her students not just good riders, but confident people.

And now I ask you to reflect on where your horse is stabled and who trains both you and your horse…
I would love to hear what makes it the right fit for you OR what you would add to your own top 10 list of what makes a good barn / trainer.