In January, she’s opening Europe’s first natural horse & life academy for young people. It’s a project that’s about a whole lot more than horses. Ever since she began teaching children how to handle horses in a natural way in 2009, this mother of four sons and boss of Noahs Garden knows what leads young people to success. And not only in riding. In order to cope with life they need physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength.
“The world is changing rapidly”. Today, no-one knows any more what the future holds and what children will need some day. “That is why we have to help them to grow into strong personalities who know exactly who they are,” Karen says.
Schools are only able to fulfil that to a certain extent. They give grades for knowledge about a subject, hard work, cooperation and order. In real life, however, the things that count are entirely different: creativity, originality, humour, charisma, initiative, sense of community, anticipation of good goals and love of people, animals and nature. Horses help these strengths to develop early. The desire to be together with them challenges children. They are the wind in the sails.
Five special people and their projects inspired her to set up the academy; a visit to the Green School in Bali, monkey researcher Jane Goodall with her project Roots and Shoots, the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, the Foxfield Drill Team in California and Pat and Linda Parelli’s Natural Horsemanship. What they all share in common is making nature the guiding principle in all decisions so that our planet has a future.
This is no normal riding school. Everything that life with horses involves is taught here. Ground work and horse gymnastics, bareback riding without a bridle, dressage, communication through body language and mental messages, herbal medicine, shoeing and saddle knowledge. Ability to work in a team, meditation, energy work and the art of sharing what you know with others also form the basis of the training.
Like this, it’s the horse and not the sport at the centre of things. “We want horses to be happy to be together with us. If we respect and motivate them properly, they give us more than just high performance. Closeness, joy and things that we had never taken for possible.”
All activities take place in the afternoon, on weekends and holidays. Learning intensively for an entire year as well as school takes willpower and it has to be demonstrated. Young people can apply with a video and an email. Meaning it isn’t important to show what they can already do. What’s decisive is visible motivation and joy. Alegria: the spark that jumps when we see something that we really like.
By us, Karen means the team and it’s a top-class one. Over the course of her life, Karen has met many great horse people and all of them were delighted by the idea of sharing their knowledge with young people. In addition to regular lessons, weekends are enriched with coaches from all fields. Renowned dressage and natural horsemanship trainers, stunt riders, international liberty dressage stars, animal healers and horse osteopaths as well as spiritual masters and shamans. “Kids are looking for role models so why not precisely the best? Then they’ve got the right thing into their heads and can work on themselves.”
In the academy’s first year there’s room for seven young people with their own horse and 20 children aged between five and 12 years old. In 2016 the entire grounds of Noahs Garden will be made available to the academy. Garden construction will continue to go on, Karen ensures, but we do not need as much space for it. It can be put to much better use: for vegetable gardens, a green cooking school, seminars and events, rooms for therapists, sports and meditation classes and even more space for horses, who live there in paradise. Thatched open stables and meadows where, once their work is done, they can just go back to being horses.
In April the Natural horse&life academy for young people will be inaugurated with a big show that people are eagerly looking forward to. All information about the program, registration and activities can be found at www.alegria-ibiza.org