HORSE ENGINEER

What I love are the horses.  I love the process of building a relationship with the horse and the process of horse and rider developing together.

Jamie Stevenson

My Story

Discovering My Passion

My journey with horses began on a family vacation to Arizona when I was 10 years old.  My family was not a “horse family”, but one of the activities we had planned on the trip was a guided trail ride.  I was assigned to a beautiful black and white paint named Tom. While riding Tom I remember looking down at him and wishing to myself the ride would never end.  The trail ride did end, but it was just the beginning of what would become my life-long passion.

A Horse of My Own

Immediately upon returning from our family vacation, I convinced my parents to sign me up for weekly lessons at a local stable.  I soon began working at the stable after school and on weekends—doing anything I could to get more time with horses. The work eventually made it possible for me to lease a horse which gave me more time in the saddle.  Of course, like every horse-crazy, little girl I wanted nothing more than to have my very own horse. I often clipped out classified ads in the newspaper and wrote letters to my parents begging them to help me get a horse.  My thoughts were filled with horses day and night.  After years of begging and pleading my parents and grandparents finally gave in and made my dream of owning a horse come true.  

The Horse that Taught Me To Believe

When D’Artagnan (“Dart” for short) came into my life he was only 5 years old.  He was a stocky, little paint that had only recently been gelded.  His only under saddle experience was as a trail horse. He wasn't much to look at as his coat was bleached from the sun, one of his ears had a "chip" in it, and he had virtually no muscle tone.  But, there was something I liked about him that is hard to explain; I just got the feeling he was meant to be my horse. I overheard comments made from other people at the barn about how he would never amount to much of anything and he wasn’t well suited for what I hoped to accomplish—I knew differently.  I was the happiest girl in the world the day we bought him. As we developed our partnership I sincerely believed Dart and I were capable of doing anything any other horse and rider could do. I remember entering warm-up arenas surrounded by expensive, purpose-bred horses and thinking to myself, “there is nothing they can do that we can’t do.”  With this positive attitude and strong partnership we went on to compete through Preliminary Combined Training Events and obtained a USDF Bronze Medal together.  Dart taught me ordinary horses and ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things when they believe they can.

Getting a "Real" Job

Being from a non-horsey family a career with horses wasn’t something I grew up to consider a “real” job.  So, I went to college and obtained an Engineering degree. I worked in the engineering field for several years, but my heart wanted to be working with horses.  I began teaching and training on the side and built up a nice side business. During this time I met Kim Walnes who would become a mentor and major influence in how I work with horses and riders.  Kim encouraged me to follow my heart.  Shortly after meeting Kim, I took a leap of faith–I quit my engineering job and began running my horse business, “Horse Engineer,” full-time.  This required me to overcome not only my own fears, but the fears imposed on me by well-meaning family and friends as well.  With that leap another dream was fulfilled.

The Horse that Changed My Life

I adopted Talon as a 3 year-old shortly before stepping away from my engineering job.  Talon was an awkward looking, red-headed, OTTB with strong opinions. I had originally planned on him being my first re-sale project. The timing of Talon coming into my life just as I went “pro” in the horse-business shaped my early relationship with him.  Suddenly, I was no longer a little girl just having fun and believing in my horse...I was a “trainer” with something to prove. For the first time, I felt pressure to produce results and build my reputation. The self-imposed pressure led to MANY mistakes in my work with Talon.  I rushed him up the levels; competing him at Preliminary level of Eventing when he was only 5 years-old. He began exhibiting performance and other “behavioral” issues which initially I thought I could “train” out of him. Thankfully, Talon refused to submit to these training ideas and made me expand my awareness to understand his “behaviors” were actually his way of communicating to me he was in pain and stressed.  Talon refused to let me continue down the path I was heading. Once I understood this truth behind Talon’s behavioral issues, I began studying everything I could in an effort to learn from my mistakes, help him feel better, and save our relationship. During this time of intense study I even became a certified equine sports massage therapist and hoof trimmer.

Following Your Own Path

During my studies and work with Talon I stepped away from following common training and horse management methods used in Eventing and Dressage.  My new approach and choice of equipment (or lack of equipment) left many looking at me like I had lost my mind. My horse was barefoot and I was trimming him myself, we sported hoof boots during our training sessions, I had an unconventional saddle, I stopped using nosebands, I rode bitless sometimes, and I often spent more time on the ground than in the saddle.  I was no longer fitting into the expected mold of an Eventing or Dressage trainer, so it was hard for people (including some of my own students) to make sense of the changes I was making. Many felt it would be best if I just sold Talon and tried to convince me to do so while others made snide comments.

 

This was a difficult time in my life...I knew I needed to follow my own path, but felt pressure from all around me to stay the same.

Reconnecting to What is Most Important

As I continued my journey with Talon I realized I was far from alone in the mistakes I had made.  Being unaware of a horse’s stress and pain (or worse, ignoring a horse’s stress or pain) along with a lack of understanding on how to identify and address the root cause is an epidemic problem in the horse world.  I also realized my efforts and the pressure I felt to build my reputation as horse trainer had caused me to drift from the reason I got into horses in the first place...my love for the horses.  With these realizations my goal shifted from proving myself as a trainer in competition to creating positive change in the horse-world through helping other heart-centered horse people learn to listen to their horses.  I now help students learn to interpret what their horses are communicating and provide tools to identify and address the root cause of any physical or mental issues. Through this work students connect with their horses from their hearts resulting in harmonious, trust-based partnerships.

Heart Horsemanship is an integration of my lifetime of study, art, and life.

I've known Jamie for over 20 years. She is extremely knowledgeable about horse management, and is an excellent instructor, rider, and trainer. She also has an in-depth awareness of alignment from the hooves up. I can't recommend her highly enough, and anyone who works with her is very lucky indeed! There aren't very many horse folks with her wisdom, knowledge, education, and ability around these days.

Kim Walnes
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© 2020 Heart Horse Stables, LLC
Email:  HeartHorseStables@gmail.com
Heart Horse Stables
238 Longfield Road
Fincastle, VA 24090

© 2018 by Horse Engineer

Talon