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HORSES : Riders Put Their HEART Into Club

June 03, 1993|DARLENE RICKER | Darlene Ricker, an equine law attorney in Laguna Beach, has written several books on horsemanship.

When a Costa Mesa community college discontinued its equine care course, student Chris Fink of Newport Beach didn't lose heart. Instead, she and several fellow students who wanted to keep learning formed HEART--Horse Enthusiasts Assn. Riding Together.

The club, which is open to the public, meets monthly and features speakers from various walks of equestrian life. Its goal is to educate horse enthusiasts in equine care and enjoyment. Membership is $25 per year or $5 per meeting attended.

Those in attendance at a recent meeting ranged from teen-agers to senior citizens, some who own horses and others who wish they could. The common denominator is their love of riding and a serious desire to learn more about horses and horsemanship. Speakers have included equine veterinarians, farriers (horseshoers), insurance agents, saddle makers and others.

Jeannie Rodriguez, a professional horse trainer in Santa Ana Heights, educated the group at its May meeting on how to deal with so-called "problem horses." Often, she said, the real problem is communication.

"A lot of horses are misunderstood," said Rodriguez. Before deciding that a horse is a problem, the owner should spend at least a month trying to work out the problem with the horse, she said. "People tend to give up too easily. You have to give the horse a chance--and you have to give yourself a chance to get together with the horse."

Sometimes, however, a horse may develop true problem habits, such as backing up, shying or rearing to intimidate the rider and get its way.

In such cases, Rodriguez enjoys the challenge of making the problem horse into a pleasant one. Generally her process involves determining why the horse is misbehaving, training it to respond in the desired manner and then teaching the owner how to deal effectively with the horse.

For the partnership to work, said Rodriguez, both horse and rider have to develop confidence in one another. When the horse encounters a frightening obstacle (such as deep water or fast traffic), it will keep going only if it trusts its rider that no harm is going to result.

"If you have a timid horse, don't lie to him," said Rodriguez. "The horse will only learn to trust you if what you tell him will be OK is OK. Put yourself in the horse's shoes before you force him to go somewhere he doesn't want to go. Maybe he knows something you don't know."

That "something" may be a health problem. One of Rodriguez's students had reluctantly decided to sell her horse because it would bolt and buck every time she tried to urge the horse into a canter. Soon after Rodriguez observed the horse and hopped on its back, it became obvious to her that the horse had sore feet. "Would you want to run if the soles of your feet were tender?" she asked.

After some corrective shoeing, the "problem" horse is no longer a problem--and the owner no longer wants to sell it.

Those who want to learn similar insights are welcome to attend any of HEART's meetings, which are monthly at the Neighborhood Community Center, 1845 Park Ave., Costa Mesa. The next meeting will be held in conjunction with the Orange County Trails Council gathering on June 9 at 7 p.m. at Sgt. Pepperoni's restaurant, 2300 E. Bristol St., Costa Mesa. Attendance is free; bring money for refreshments.

For information on HEART, call (714) 631-0201, or write to P.O. Box 1286, Costa Mesa, 92628.

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