Q & A with Natural Horse Care Specialist, Stephanie Krahl
Stephanie Krahl is a natural horse care specialist, co-founder and CEO of Soulful Equine® and author of the book Guiding Principles of Natural Horse Care. She teaches horse guardians about natural concepts that help their horses THRIVE. When she’s not with horses Stephanie loves watching movies, reading, and going to the gun range. Connect with her at: http://www.soulfulequine.com.
Q & A
What led you to become interested in natural horse care and natural horsemanship?
Before I answer that question, I’d like to share my definition of those two terms – natural horse care and natural horsemanship. Although I may teach about these subjects separately, both terms essentially mean being a steward of the horse.
There’s nothing “natural” about keeping a horse domesticated. However, the ethical goal is to provide a habitat in domestication that closely mimics what Mother Nature intended – this includes nurturing the psychological and mental aspects as well.
Since I was a child, I’ve had horses in my life in one way or another. I grew up on a dairy farm in Texas, so animals have continually played a part in my life and I’ve always had the horse nut gene. When I was around 16 months old, my father purchased a Shetland pony for my sister, brother, and me. Out of the three of us, I was the only one who took to horses. It was history after that.
As a child, and on into my teenage years, I was very natural with horses. Most of what I could do with them came easy to me. When you grow up on a farm you usually develop closeness with animals, excellent common sense, and an innate ability to choose wisely.
Common sense and intuitive guidance has had a lot to do with my complete switch to becoming conscious about what horses need in domestication. I believe that’s what it’s all about – becoming a more conscious individual so you can be easily guided to the correct answers. But that means getting out of your head and more into your heart so you have the ability to truly feel. That, in and of itself, can unlock and help develop your intuition and guidance.
I was never fully influenced by traditionalists from a horse care standpoint, and from the time I was born I had a mind of my own. In other words, I’ve always thought for myself and questioned things that didn’t seem right in every aspect of my life.
It’s a feeling, a gut instinct, which causes you to dig deeper, to question, and not take anything at face value.
Ever since my transition from high-school to college, I’ve been seeking out ways to improve my health. That mindset transitioned to my dogs, my cats, and then my horses. It was an easy switch for the horses because it all made complete sense.
A lot of it also had to do with experiencing and overcoming several health challenges for myself and after finding that traditional ways of thinking and approaches had failed me. Conventional approaches have and continue to produce their results which are less than ideal for my health or my animal companions’ health. It’s a consistent pattern. The best way to interrupt a pattern and get results is to do something different!
Can you tell us a little about what you do as a natural horse care and horsemanship coach?
It’s a service I offer individuals who would like assistance with their horses. The subjects will vary depending on the horse guardian’s needs. Some of those subjects include, but are not limited to, diet, enhancing or creating an equine habitat, natural hoof care, horse behavior, tool usage or non-usage, etc.
Most sessions usually require the horse guardian turning within and learning how to become more self-reliant – that’s where the real answers reside, because no one knows your horse better than you.
Something I usually share with my clients is this simple phrase, “Utilize experts, but don’t rely on them.”
I like to consider myself a guide rather than a person who tells someone what and how to do something. During client sessions, I present options to the individual that they can try, because in the end, the true judge is the horse.
Additionally, it’s important for the horse guardian to become empowered with the right kind of knowledge and to have confidence in their decisions. That takes becoming a strong and self-reliant person who doesn’t allow fear to get in the way.
I’d like to interject a quote here from Anthony Robbins – “The secret to real happiness is progress.”
Steady progress and improvement is key, because it helps the horse guardian validate that their choices are working. This leads to more self-confidence and less dependence on others. Dependence is not healthy.
People are realizing that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. I believe that is what’s causing them to seek out other options. The belief that a particular solution works for all horses and situations is not true. The same goes for people and approaches to their health care.
There’s always the “X-factor” to consider because nothing works 100% of the time. What’s interesting is that many times conversations with horse guardians end up being a discussion about self-reflection. I tend to be the type who loves to help people clear up some of their own deep-rooted emotions or limiting beliefs that do, and will, affect their horse.
I’m a big believer in getting to the root of a problem, but at the same time, focusing on a solution rather than focusing on the problem.
My approach to coaching is not for everyone. You have to be at a certain place in your life and be open to the possibilities. Usually people are attracted to my service because they’ve exhausted all other avenues.
In your view, what are the three most important concepts involved in natural horse care?
You can refer to the answer I provided in your next question, but I’ll add this to it – it’s necessary to promote a mentally healthy horse. I realize that those in the circles you and I surround ourselves with understand this, but most don’t think twice about it.
Horses are living, breathing beings; they’re not dirt bikes. To become the human your horse needs you to be – from a mental and emotional standpoint – you have to be willing to work on you first.
No one is excluded from this – including me. I’m constantly working on myself in this area. I’m always seeking ways I can become a better human being – not only for my horse, but also in a way that I can help and support others on their journey.
Mental wellness is important for the human and the horse in order to have true harmony and optimal health.
What are some simple changes that one can make towards a more natural life for their horse?
Although there are many, my top two favorites come to mind:
1) Create constant movement – I discuss this subject in-depth in my book, Guiding Principles of Natural Horse Care. Movement is the number one principle that keeps horses healthy, sound, and happy.
Horses are designed to move continuously. This keeps them limber, decreases the likelihood of muscle stiffness, tones and develops the body, decreases lameness issues, and gives the horse the opportunity to form a healthy, sound hoof (barefoot, of course), that once healthy, can require little trimming because a well-designed habitat will set up this situation. This is part of the art in keeping a naturally healthy horse.
2) Eliminate processed foods from your horse’s diet – this is anything man-made or manipulated in a lab in a way that does not promote the powers of nature. Equine diet is an area where there’s a lot of confusion for people, but this is one of my specialties that I’m passionate about.
Since becoming a natural hoof care professional in 2002, I’ve seen a lot of things from a diet standpoint that will quickly cause soundness issues – processed, toxic foods are one of them.
I look at everything from a soundness standpoint, which I’ve found that most conventional horse care professionals don’t do (vets, farriers and equine nutritionists) – this is a huge problem. Most conventional approaches focus on, and only treat, symptoms. In the end, these band-aids have a cumulative effect on the horse’s soundness and health.
Conventional approaches are not about promoting health. A client of mine shared with me that she refers to it as The Sickness Industry rather than The Health Industry. Although modern, high-technology medicine has many wonderful benefits, it focuses on treating disease after an illness has occurred. We are in desperate need of a system that encourages promoting health at each and every level and doing it naturally.
Can you give us a brief look into your book, Guiding Principles of Natural Horse Care?
I think most of the questions I’ve answered in this interview have done that. Some of the book discusses my own challenges and how I got to where I am today. I’ve found that many people have had similar experiences on the road to developing a higher level of consciousness.
My book also has a section on fear. I provide strategies on how to understand, and work through, it. I believe it’s the single most common block that every horse guardian faces and that often holds people back. Handling fear will depend on how developed and adaptable you’ve learned to become.
Guiding Principles covers many strategies – understanding the naturally healthy horse concept, creating a natural habitat, barefoot hoof care principles (not how to trim), a brief overview of diet, tips for those who want to learn to trim their own horse, and common equine health concerns.
I feel that regardless of your horse experience, this book has something for everyone.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Through my personal growing process, I’ve learned how to meet people where they’re at in their journey. We all have to start somewhere.
As the saying goes, “The expert was once a beginner.” Simply put, some will get it, want to learn more and take action, and some won’t. I’ve learned the hard way that I need to accept that and help those who want help, rather than trying to convince those who are not open enough to listen.
This popular quote that I heard from Pat Parelli says it all:
“Don’t go the extra mile for someone going in the opposite direction.”
I think that’s hard for people like you and me to accept and be okay with. It’s not easy, because we care so deeply, and the horse is caught in the middle. You can’t force a person to grow, just like you can’t force a horse to drink when you lead her to water.
This ties in to being judgmental of others. I’m no saint, but I’m working toward completely eliminating this thought pattern from my life.
From a karmic standpoint, I believe it’s not a good idea to judge. Instead, I do what I can to focus on solutions rather than problems and understand that each of us (including the animals in our care) have certain lessons they’ve been put on this earth to learn as well as teach. To remain positive and able to move forward, it’s important for me to have faith in that.
Since I love quotes, I feel this one is fitting to close with:
“Others will follow your footsteps easier than they will follow your advice.” ~ Unknown
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