Our Story

Our Story
It’s funny the turns life takes. I am not a person who really plans thing out rigidly but I generally have an idea of the direction I am going and where I would like to be in 4 or 5 years. This is not the case with my entry into the horse world.

sheilds_56When my two beautiful daughters were about 7 and 9 years old we took them for riding lessons at a local stable. There is a powerful force that attracts little girls to horses  and we thought it would be healthy for them to experience this activity as it’s out doors and would be good exercise. We started in July and by September we hit a bit of a snag with my youngest. She would not canter!! As young girls do from time to time, she began to weep up there on that noble beast. We knew there was no point in putting pressure on so we promised her a different horse next week and all would be well. Rather than put the horse away our coach suggested we put my wife on the horse and let her finish out the lesson. So we did. It was fun and my wife continued to ride in the weeks and months to come.

Next week arrived and the promised steed was tacked up and my youngest headed out to face her fears like a trooper. All was going well until she was asked to canter and the water works began once again. We explained, like good parents, that this was not something she had to do and that it was supposed to be fun so if she wanted to take a break for 6 months and try again that would be fine … so she did. It was then suggested that I finish out the lesson and I did. This was my entry into the world of horses at the ripe old age of 35.

Being an avid watcher of westerns for most of my life I planned on jumping up on this appaloosa mare and showing these kids (now 3 months into lessons) how it was done. Well, as you can imagine, I did well just to stay somewhere near the saddle for the lesson. It turned out to be much harder than it looks in the movies.

Tom-ShieldsI am a bit of a driven person so made it my mission in life to figure this riding thing out. I began to read books and magazines and watch riders in a whole different light. I began to learn  the theory behind the concepts from authors like Sally Swift, Walter Zettl and Alois Podhajsky. They explained the movement of the horse and the function of the rider in nauseating detail. It was starting to make sense to my mind but getting my body to do what was required was where the issues were … and still are, but I am doing much better than that first night on the appaloosa mare.

The-BoysI have some great coaches and have schooled with many different teachers of the hoofed variety and I owe them a great debt to this day. School horses have a very special place in my heart as they endure the growing pains of the beginner rider. As the horses taught me, and after a few years,  I was asked if I would like to begin to teach some beginner riders myself. I, being a teacher at heart, jumped at the chance and so began my journey as a riding instructor.

I was able to attend a clinic by a trainer named Chris Irwin about 7 years ago at a local barn. As I watched him that evening I realized that it is possible to make a very deep connection with these beautiful animals. This thought percolated in my heart for several years until I saw an ad for something called “train the trainer” by this Chris Irwin fellow. I thought it was time I forayed into training from teaching so I signed up and attended my first clinic. I took along my big Canadian/Quarter horse gelding named Jaco and he and I grew in leaps and bounds in those three days. That was May of 2007.

TomandCatI am now a certified trainer/coach under Chris Irwin and am working with horses of all levels and issues, confident that I can make a positive difference in the lives of the horses I handle and the owners that love them. My mission now is to impact the lives of horses and horse enthusiasts with this beautiful, non resistant horsemanship and open lines of communication between horse and human that is amazing and awe inspiring.

This is my journey so far. I have much to learn from the horses I handle and have yet to handle. Thank you for sharing a bit of this journey with me.

Tom Shields