Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release February, 2010
“I haven’t really considered any of the horses we’ve gotten to be a problem,” Kels explains. “I’ve never had one that’s been vicious, a terrible stopper, or hard to control. I might have had minor issues to address like sourness, or boredom where they do not want to do one particular thing like lead changes, but I don’t think we’ve had one that’s been that bad.
“I’ve learned a lot through making mistakes as far as bringing along a troubled or green horse. You need to be extremely patient. Anytime you try to rush things, something is going to go wrong with the horse’s mental or physical health.
“If a horse is fighting you, it makes sense to step back and work with the horse. It can’t always be your way. If you just fight them, you are not going to get anything accomplished.”
Project Earns Pride
“I was very proud of a horse I had last year named Rebel’s Run. When we got him, he had only done the baby green hunters, so he was jumping very low. I was the only one besides my brother that rode him; and we brought him all the way to the Junior Jumper and did the Medal finals. It was really rewarding to bring one along, and it made me realize how much I like bringing green horses up through the ranks.
“It was a gradual process with Rebel. When we got him, he knew the basics, but he was very green. Every day I made his routine a little more advanced — getting the steering better, learning to be collected, jumping more complicated gymnastics, etc. By the end he was jumping extremely complicated courses with ease.
“The first horse show I did with him was in Thermal, California. We took him out there to do the winter show circuit for six weeks. We started the first couple of weeks introducing him to the show grounds and courses, just not showing. When we did compete, we started in the very low jumpers with Level 1s, and by the end of it, he was doing Level 4. It was amazing how quickly he learned.
“That same year he was fifth at the six-year-old Jumper Championships. He did both Medal Finals that year. The next year, he started doing the High Junior Jumpers. This summer he placed in every Classic that I did with him.”
About Kels Bonham
Kels is a gifted, mature, and insightful young lady. Even though she was competing at levels as a junior that many adults will never reach, she insisted on tacking her own horses at shows and connecting with the horses she rides through time spent on the ground between competitions. Kels has not only shined as a nationally acclaimed equitation rider but has also held her own in Jumper Classics against seasoned and celebrated adults.
While she admits she’s not sure yet what she will do after college, she indicates she’d like to be a professional rider (some might argue she already is). She dreams of having her own small training farm where she starts young horses to bring them up through the ranks, with the ultimate aim of selling them to others.