Love Can for Kjartan

Enter Kjartan, Enter Ashlin 

by Allison Brunelli

written for SNHSA Newsletter June 1

 Kjartan with buddies March 2017

Kjartan with buddies March 2017


Just over a year ago my horse Contigo was diagnosed with Kissing Spines, an injury of the spinal column caused by many years of incorrect training and improperly fit saddles. The space between four of his dorsal spinous processes had narrowed considerably from traveling hollow, showing up on radiographs touching, impinging on nerves and causing extreme pain. Contigo’s diagnosis led to another I labeled as my own: Ashamed, Broken-Hearted, Ready for Change. 

There is nothing like the love of a horse. Love can jumpstart reflection, look for answers, trigger research and home-study. Love can discover causes and offer solutions. Love can create new alignments with sound, proven training standards. Love can earn a certification in classical foundation training. Love can propel a become-more-confident, do-it-yourself approach. Love can set goals to master engagement and stretching. Love can rebuild a back, turn hollow into round, replace pain with comfort.  Love can regain trust.  Love can create strength and suppleness and the ability to carry a rider again. Love can recapture self worth.  Love can even give birth to a second horse and a second chance.

Enter Kjartan.  

Kjartan is pronounced shar-ton and stands for warrior viking king seeking peace and love on earth. He wears a star on his forehead in the shape of a perfect heart.  He is only two and he is sweet and he is sensitive. He shows moments of fear and insecurity but has strong streaks of courage. He lives at Franktown Meadows where he has three pasture buddies and recognizes me as a trainer, leader, and his human. He runs to the gate to greet me. He binges on morning naps.  His back has as many birthrights including the right to correct training and properly fitting saddles. Kjartan has the right to another trainer experienced in areas I’m not.

Enter Ashlin.  

Ashlin’s last name is Bowen.  She is a calm, empathetic hunter jumper trainer. She can be spotted by her thick red hair. She is patient. She is kind. She is an exceptional jumper. She is experienced in young horse training. She is known for sticking when introducing young horses to mounted work. She prefers young horses who are friendly with humans. This made me wonder: Hum… a friendly horse…what, as opposed to a horse who is disconnected, mean or not comfortable with humans? Could horse friendliness be the first signs of a horse showing love for a human? There is nothing like a horse who shows the love of a human. 

Ashlin likes how unfazed Kjartan can be to strange, new things. She finds his overall ground manners polite. She has referred to him twice already as an angel. She’s open to helping me apply my classical foundation training practices for Contigo to Kjartan. In a few years time she will help me teach him pole exercises. She might even support me in my goal to produce in him the best young horse stretch in Northern Nevada. 

Ashlin sees Kjartan and I for lessons every four weeks. In our last lesson Ashlin suited him up in boots, a saddle pad, saddle and girth and accompanied him around the indoor arena. When Ashlin tightened the girth he stood quietly, more interested in a horse and rider leaving the barn than the unfamiliar pressure around his barrel. I’m feeling rewarded now about spending hours brushing him last winter; asking him to stand still while ripping mud clumps from his long winter coat between his elbows and belly has surely helped desensitized him. In our next lesson we will help Kjartan warm up to loading into my tricky reverse slant load trailer.