Along for the ride: 10-year-old girl training

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and nationally competitive rider.

Warwick talks about “10-year-old girl” training and how it is good for the horses and good for us as well. To just spend time with our horses without an agenda or expectation is good for both of our souls.

We dubbed this relationship stuff “10 year old girl training” after a long year of epiphanies and it culminated while watching a friend of ours, who is amazing with horses. We were trying to figure out the process that they go through to get their results. At first we were convinced that there was no process at all, just feel. Amazing things happened through the relationship they had with their horses. After a while, it hit us that the person did actually have something and it was what we deemed “10 year old girl training”.

When I was 10, I had a great horse named Sir Poco. He was an ex-barrel racer but had good foundation Quarter Horse lines that made him very versatile. He was my transportation, my friend, my confidante, my Barbie doll, my everything! We spent hours and hours together. I didn’t treat him like a horse, I treated him like my best friend. Endless hours of brushing and riding bareback. I’d bring him into the garage when it was cold and groom him there. My friends and I would ride double and triple and practice falling off in the tall grass. We’d play hide n seek and use him as a play structure. There were the races down the canals, swimming, jumping and trail obstacles. We were partners. We had a connection.

We were quite successful in the show arena at the time too. He tried his guts out for me every time. I remember one of the last times I saw my grandpa was at a horse show close to where they lived. He and grammy had come to watch me show, he was battling cancer, I was 11. I won my first buckle that day – it was for Hi Point 13 & Under for that show series. I was so proud and happy that I got to share that day with Baba.

Fast forward 7 years and we had been raising a few horsey babies. My mom did most of the work with them. I decided that I was going to “start” our young mare Barbi. She was a beautiful black Quarter Horse that we had seen born and done everything with. Looking back, we did everything wrong and I know now that it was the connection I had with her that kept me from dying in the process of breaking her to ride.

With both of the horses from my youth, I had developed a relationship with them that allowed them to trust me and we had a connection, kind of like on the movie Avatar! That is super important. But, it’s not everything! There was a limit to what I could teach those horses based on just 10 year old girl training. I could do things that the horse wanted to do or was ok with but if I would’ve wanted to get farther along in my “training” of those horses, I would have needed more than just the relationship.  In fact, we ended up selling Barbi because she didn’t end being able to do what I wanted her to do (surprise-surprise). The relationship is important, but so are the horse training tools that we cultivate with them. It’s all about balance, just like Warwick talks about so much.

30 years later, I’ve got the horse training process good and it’s come full circle. Now we are incorporating a little more 10-year-old-girl training with our horses. Adding the relationship stuff back in seems to be working well. We are getting to the balance that I think we all seek with our horses – a horse that can do what we want and remain happy with us and their life along the way. That has become my new goal – not only a horse that can do the things that I want to do but remain HAPPY, really HAPPY. I’ve had horses that were happy (when I was young) and I’ve had horses that could do the things (starting with my first real western pleasure horse and most of the horses since then). In retrospect, I don’t think I ever had the balance of both at the same time. So far it seems to be working great. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together – I’ll keep you posted!

Thanks for reading.