Susan Hopf Mindful Equitation-Natural training
Questions and answers about natural horse training
with Susan and Nancy-
*Q Nancy--What is your background, training, personal style on horse training/instructing? Where can people find you?
A- Susan First ride was on a pony at Coney Island – poor pony – round and round he went all day long. As a teen I belonged to a 4-H club, did gymkhana and western pleasure. Not at all like it is today – no peanut rollers – much more natural head position and much more freedom for the horses. When I came back to horses after 12 years as a Veterinary Technician I was appalled at the way horses were made to ride. So educating myself was paramount to serving the horse population in which I was entrusted. Classical Dressage and Combined Training started this re-education and it continues today with biomechanic and kinematic studies through Jean Luc Cornille’s Science of Motion. Those that come to me here in West Walworth, NY do so because their horses have been lame with unsuccessful treatment as well as to fine tune their understanding of a real partnership with their horse – you cannot achieve true harmony unless you have some understanding of the actual functional anatomy of the horse. This is particularly true of trainers and instructors - when students ask me questions they get real answers. *Q- Nancy What is your barns style like and how does it differ from typical training/boarding barns?
A- Susan My barn is a bit different as I do not stress competition – in fact I am rather opposed to competition. Too often the judging standards are based on fashion rather than the development and preservation of our horses. My clients come to me in order to advance their own education regarding the functional anatomy of their equine partners. I believe that all horses need help to achieve their true potential and it is the human half of the relationship that is responsible for doing so. I also believe that each horse’s best trainer is their rider – I teach people to train their own horses. *Q- Nancy What can your students count on learning with you.
A- Susan My approach is unique in that most students begin by working in-hand ( a very specific method of walking next to your horse’s shoulder so that they can feel your energy, spinal position and presence in a positive way). This new schooling method helps on many levels but most importantly gives both human and horse a base for re-setting their schooling – re-setting their brains as well as how each step needs to be thought about rather than allowing past compensation and ideas interrupt the progress. It is precise and controlled but as one gets used to this distinct approach becomes freeing and very intimate – it is truly a fine-tuned and deep relationship between horse and human.
Q- Nancy * How does natural horse keeping impact you and your horses?
A- Susan The horse here at Mindful Equitation go out as much as possible – in the barn only during the worst weather be it winter or summer. They get fed multiple times a day with a forage based diet dominating. Round bales all winter and well- managed, organic pasture during the growing season. Those that need more get fed concentrates – small meals every few hours. The feed is a non-gmo oat based feed made locally.
I use only Green Horse Organics Total horse protection for their bug defense. It is the ONLY product that keeps the mosquitoes off all night long during the summer. I have been involved in horses and boarding for over 30 years – wish this product was available long ago but soooooo glad it is here for us now.
Q- Nancy What draws you to horses and what is the most important thing they have taught you?
A- Susan Horses are truly amazing. They are intelligent and generous of heart. I learn something from each and every one with which I interact. Give them time to think and react accordingly and they will give you their all. I have rehabed off the track Thoroughbreds for many years – many of them come to me ready to destroy humanity but given love and the ability to return to being a horse, rather than a money maker, most forgive us and move on to incredibly rewarding relationships. People could learn a lot from this ability.
Q- Nancy * What is your opinion on how the horse industry has changed over the past 20 years?
There have been some good and some very bad changes in the horse world most of the recent changes have come about due to the internet. The anonymity of the cyber world has created a plethora of so-called experts on all things horses. Credentials are not necessary if you have a great web-page. That said it has also led to a more educated equine student. They come with ideas and questions and learning from our mistakes is one of the best ways to process information. Those that keep searching for correct answers eventually find their way toward those that do educate themselves in order to better serve the horse - be that in finding a qualified instructor or a great resource for natural products that work. Q- Nancy *What are your future goals and dreams in your equine world?
A- Susan I would love to see more horse people embracing the science that is currently available. Traditions are comforting but when we have proof of what works and what doesn’t it makes no sense to continue those things that might harm our horses. For instance riding long and low is very detrimental to the horse’s spine yet because people feel the horse’s back “come up under” they continue this very destructive schooling method. It is a long topic but in short – weighting the horse’s forehand and then driving them forward creates shearing forces all through the spinal column. The back lifting is in reality the forces from the hind legs humping up the back in a very unnatural posture – I believe this to be the main contributing factor, other than genetics, for kissing spine. Each person that I convince to no longer ride long and low makes all that I do worth it – and yet it is just the beginning of creating a great athlete – no matter the age of the horse or the person.