Horse whisperer emphasizes communication


Staff writer

She's not your ordinary cowgirl. In fact, what she does isn't related to the work of a cowgirl. She's a horse whisperer. And no, she doesn't whisper sweet nothings into her horses' ears. She trains them to communicate.

"Being a horse whisperer means I train a horse in a language more natural to the horse," said Clark.

From the time she was a small child, Clark has been around horses. Her parents owned a small horse farm in Maryland where she grew up. By the age of six, Clark was showing ponies and by age 10 she was fox hunting with her father. At 12 she broke her first horse and used "natural horsemanship" out of necessity.

In 1989, Clark moved to Kansas. In 1990 she married Tom and in 1998, they purchased his family's homestead. Shortly after the purchase she got a grade mare. In 2001, the Clarks adopted three wild mustangs. After the adoption of the mustangs, Clark felt it was important to learn a better way to train them, which led to her in-depth study of natural horsemanship.

In order to accomplish that study, Clark saw Dennis Reis, a trainer from California, on RFD-TV. She was impressed with his knowledge of classical horsemanship so she began his home study courses.

In August of 2006, Clark started getting her endorsements for the home study courses. In order to complete the courses, she had to complete certain tasks in four courses and obtain four endorsements for at total of 16.

Clark completed the requirements in 2007, to become an instructor for Reis.

When working with her horse Maggi, Clark wants to have a relationship with Maggi so she knows that Clark is 51 percent boss to her 49 percent. "I have to reaffirm that I am in fact boss."

What Clark does with Maggi is unique. "I have to want her to be with me. She has to listen to my body."

Clark uses "flags," which are extensions of her hands, to help Maggi get a feel for her body. "I have to gain her respect by being a leader. And then I have to gain her trust by being a great leader," said Clark.

"I teach people to communicate better with their horses. You have to use body language because that's how horses communicate. They have limited verbal expression."

For example, Clark tries to teach horses in terms they understand, not forcing the horse to learn human vocabulary as we do when we teach a dog to react to verbal commands.

Not only does Clark work with the seven mustangs and mule that she owns, she travels around the country hosting clinics. She teaches people how to be better companions with their horses.

"What I really love about it [the program] is I can take horses that are scared to death and train them," said Clark.

She said there was one instance when a woman raised a horse in her kitchen. The horse didn't know she was a horse, and Clark trained her in four hours just by teaching her [the horse] how to communicate.

Clark will host a horsemanship clinic Saturday and Sunday at her ranch south of Florence. The clinic will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you can visit for more information and to register.

Clark's personal view on being a horse whisperer is that, "Anyone can get respect from a horse, but a horse must give his trust. It's all about respect, communication, and trust."