Welcome to our first Community Profile! In this new Nicker feature, we will interview members of Boulder’s horse community to find out what’s new and exciting (or old and still exciting!) going on in Boulder County. This month, we spoke to new community member, Peggy Gurnett, a trainer of horses and riders who is offering a BCHA-sponsored clinic on Saturday, July 23rd called “Navigating Challenges.”
To learn more about this clinic, visit HERE
—tell us about the work you do with horses? Is there anything unique about your approach?
My passion for horses centers on having a partnership with them built around understanding their behavior and communication. These things are universal to all horses, and without this understanding, peak partnership and performance can’t happen. I have studied teaching humans with the same intensity that I’ve pursued horsemanship, and this allows me to bring personalized teaching to each horse and human pair.
—how did you get your start learning about horses?
When I was a little girl, I fell in love with two things: horses and figure skating. I pursued figure skating, which was wonderful, but I never stopped thinking about horses. Finally, I had a chance to buy a horse, and I fell completely in love with everything about horses. I was very lucky to find an excellent master teacher as a novice, and I was able to progress quickly. Horses proved to be 10 times more wonderful than I had ever imagined.
—what do you think is the most challenging aspect of your work?
My goal is to be as provocative as possible for both the horses and humans I teach. Each horse/human pair learn completely differently, even though the principles of horsemanship are very consistent in a general way. If the lesson is too easy, it’s boring. If it’s too scary, it’s hard to learn. Sometimes the horse is in one place and the human is in the other. That’s where the art of teaching successfully comes in.
—if there was one “horse wish” you could have granted, what would it be?
I wish all horse owners and enthusiasts would put the dignity of the horse first. This requires balancing leadership with affection and communication in equal measures. It’s hard for humans to be mentally, emotionally, and physically fit at all times. Yet that’s what we expect of our horses.
Personally, I currently own the most challenging horse I’ve ever worked with. I often fall short of being able to build her progress fast enough, using her desire to learn with me and from me, without scaring her or building resistance. She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had.
—who do you most admire in the horse community?
I admire anyone who is completely honest about their abilities, both strengths and weaknesses, with horses. No one system, teacher, or discipline, has a corner on the market of horse knowledge. I have never been involved with a hobby or sport in which people seem to be so wedded to one set of (right or wrong) information, and are fearful of being open to other approaches and strategies.
—you’ll be teaching a clinic on July 23rd. what would you like people to know about it?
It takes a measure of bravery and an open mind to attend a clinic and get the most out of it. The things I see that block people from feeling in tune with their horses fall into two primary categories:
FEAR: if people are afraid of doing something with their horse, their fear will block the message the horse is sending to them, and make the fear bigger and the situation more troublesome.
PEERS: getting caught in what others think, whether they’re judges, fellow riders, onlookers, shuts down what’s truly possible to achieve with the horse. I am first and foremost interested in having my horse think I’m good, and building heart and desire from there. It’s not about looking good.
I guarantee fun and a provocative day! We will put fear and peer pressure aside.
To our readers: Know anyone we should be featuring in Community Profiles? On the board here, we know lots of folks, but we don’t know everyone. If you have any ideas, please let us know!