Sometimes we lose focus of what’s important in riding. We get so focused on the fame or the prize that we lose sight of the most important part: the connection with the horse. Barbara Koot was at the height of her career when she learned the immense power of the connection between horse and rider.
Barbara and her sister are both highly successful riders and their father was their biggest fan. He always wanted them to compete professionally, so he did everything he could to help them get there! In fact, in 2000, Barbara was a reserve for the Dutch team at the Sydney Games! However, her father passed away in November 1999 and it was an event that shook her greatly.
Barbara was seriously contemplating quitting riding and horses altogether in the midst of her grief. After some soul searching and an encounter with Henk Glijn, she was on the path to a new direction for her life. Henk helped put together a clinic series for her in the Pacific Northwest in the United States. Barbara flew over, knowing no one, and put on a handful of clinics. She met Heather Bunn and she also met Pamela Jones in Hawaii and had such a great time that she now comes out to the U.S. a few times each year to do clinics and teach.
These initial clinics opened her eyes to see the interaction and connection between horse and rider and began to form the philosophy of training she has been so successful with today:
- Spiritual Focus – Horses have so much to tell us, if only we’ll listen. However, sometimes people don’t listen or don’t know how to read the language of the horses. Barbara’s passion is to help riders understand their horses. Her goal is to help riders go deep and understand the spiritual and emotional side of communicating with these magnificent animals.
- Scientific Influence – Barbara is a big believer in Andrew McClean’s research on equine brain activity. Andrew McClean is a scientist from Australia who did research for five years with fifty horses. He studied horses’ learning patterns and psychology and his published works give amazing insights into how horses work. One of the most instrumental concepts that Barbara has implemented into her training is that horses don’t know the difference between right and wrong. They can’t behave bad; it’s all a result of our training as humans. This drastically shapes how we approach horses and help them behave and perform appropriately.
Barbara is now part of the elite Trainer Platform in Holland, alongside 50 other phenomenal trainers. People from all over the world come to train with them. In fact, her sister is also a trainer in this elite group as well! She brings the techniques she learns from these trainers to the folks she clinics with and trains with around the world!
As a result of Barbara’s journey to understand the horse, and her experience as a professional rider, she began a training center. She wants to teach young riders (ages 12-21) what she has learned. She started a talent training center in her home region with trainers at the Grand Prix This is a three day program with education and they create a talent team. It is still a great program for riders who are selected for the talent team or not because each rider gets a day full of quality, and intense education. Barbara also started doing theory nights, where she started explaining more of the science behind Andrew McClean’s theory and then applying those theories live with her horses.
The connection with a horse and rider can be extremely strong. Being vulnerable as a person is the best thing you can do for your horse to make contact. Horses are a mirror of our behavior. The connection between the person and the horse involves way more than we think. Horses can’t tell us things verbally, so we need to look for the nonverbal cues that the horse is giving us. Regardless of if you are riding traditional English style disciplines, fast rodeo style, classic Western disciplines, or simply caring for an older horse, your connection with your horse should be the most important focus – and you’ll find it the most rewarding as well!