Trainer teaches the art of communicating with a horse | SierraSun.com

Trainer teaches the art of communicating with a horse

Sierra CountisSierra Sun

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunDebbie Dutra warms up "Filly", an Arabian horse on Tuesday. Debbie teaches horse safety and natural horsemanship in Truckee.

She doesnt exactly whisper to horses. But as Truckees Debbie Dutra led Filly, a 12-year-old Arabian, through several warm-up laps around the pen before a ride on Tuesday, she kept her eyes on Filly and watched the horses body language as Filly dipped her head and shook her sunlit shiny, black mane.At the end of the exercise Filly rested quietly next to Dutra, who teaches the art of horse communication.They dont speak English. The horse has no idea what were thinking, said Dutra about communicating with horses. We have plans. They dont know that.Dutra teaches natural horsemanship, or safety riding, as a means in developing a trusting relationship between a horse and a rider. The horse dictates the lesson, said Dutra, who has been teaching horsemanship for 10 years.Filly and Teja, Dutras 18-year-old Mustang, both waited for her commands in the center of the pen.It takes years and years of communication, she said.Dutra began working with horses 15 years ago when she became interested in natural hoof care. All of her horses are barefoot, she said. She works during the summer hosting horse clinics, teaching hoof health, treating and managing lameness, nutrition and equine behavior.One of Dutras students, Kristen Harvey, 15, climbed up on the fence and pulled Filly close to her with the rope halter as she carefully put one leg on the horses back. Dutra said this way of preparing a horse to be ridden allows the animal to communicate before riding on a trail.You dont want to be out there when they have something to say, Dutra said. She and Harvey repeat the same exercises and learned behaviors with the horses every time they ride to help build trust and a bond with the horse. Dutra said many horse trainers will get on the horse too soon, before the horse realizes what the rider wants to do.Riders should remember the size of the 1,000-pound animal, she said, and its important to realize that this horse could kill you.Dutra said a horses body language isnt any more difficult to read than a person.When youre mad you walk tense, with your head up, she said, as she demonstrated an angry walk around the pen.Dutra said her horses teach her something new everyday.Its a road thats never going to end, she said.For more information about Debbie Dutras Better Horsemanship, check out her Web site, http://www.naturalhoofcare.com or call 582-0343.