| PET HAPPENINGS
- OCTOBER 2001
A Horse, A Horse, My Kingdom For A
by Carol Nabrotzky Wells
last winter, I was invited to go horseback riding. I was excited
to go since I hadnt been on a horse in a long time. During
the summers that I was in junior high, I used to go horseback riding
almost every weekend. I thought I knew what I was doing. I love
horses, and have dreamt about owning one for a long time.
So there I am, paying close attention on how to saddle the horse
that I would ride, and Im a little nervous. We start out on
a trail. When we get to the clearing, my horse senses whats
up....that she has the upper hand. She bolts in the exact opposite
direction of where we were headed, and I have no control. Im
flailing, flopping around in the saddle, barely keeping my feet
in the stirrups. Ive got a rein in each hand and Im
pulling back on them, my arms way out, up by my ears. Im yelling
whoa, but nothings happening except that Im
praying I dont just fall off. Actually, I dont think
I was even in a frame of mind to be praying. My horse finally stopped
on the top of a hill, and when my companions had caught up to me,
they congratulated me for staying on, and getting the horse to stop.
They were being kind. The horse stopped on her own accord, not because
I had anything to do with it.
It was an odd experience; kind of like being on a roller coaster
ride. As panic stricken as I was, there was also a feeling of exhilaration
and sheer joy about moving that fast on the back of an animal. After
that little encounter, it was apparent to me how clue-less I was.
I decided I needed lessons, and I definitely wanted to lose the
fear. But I didnt want to learn from friends. Friends are
well intentioned, but most often they forget to teach you, what
for them, has become second nature. Being a rider over 40, I wanted
to make sure Id get someone who could really teach me.
found an awesome teacher, here in Moab. Her name is Kelsie Backus,
of KB Horseman. I remember telling her how little I knew; how I
wanted to learn about horses, not just how to ride them. That I
had even bought the book Horses For Dummies, and could
she take me on as a student? Thank God she did. Its been one
of the best experiences of my life.
Part of learning how to ride well, is finding the right teacher.
In talking with Kelsie, I found out that her extensive background
with horses and her horsemanship is part of what makes her so great.
Kelsie is a born and raised Moab gal. Her grandfather
was bestowed the Centennial Ranch award and was one of the original
ranchers in Moab. Her father farmed most of his fathers land
which included the portion where Moab Valley Inn now stands.
Kelsie began riding her grandfathers pony at four years old,
and rode in the rodeo parades. At age ten, she was tired of riding
a pony and was ready for a full size horse. Her grandfather had
sold all his horses except for two mares which he had bred. One
of the offspring, Funny Face was the horse Kelsie rode and used
in 4-H. She also took care of her sisters horse while her
sister was away at college. It seemed Kelsie was just one of those
girls that was born horse crazy. For taking care of
her sisters horse, her sister awarded Kelsie with a horse
of her own.
By the age of 18, Kelsie unwittingly began collecting horses. She
had always been more interested in caring for them than being on
them all the time. Some, she got from people who just wanted her
to take them off their hands. Others, she bought cheaply, broke
them, and then sold them in hopes of turning a profit. At one point,
Kelsie owned eleven horses.
Throughout high school, Kelsie had competed in shows and ridden
in the high school rodeo. But it was difficult and challenging with
the horses she had when competing against others who owned top quality
Then, came an opportunity to buy a cadillac of horses
in terms of conformation and disposition. Kelsie bought a quarter
horse by the name of Diamonds. During a horse clinic she attended,
Kelsie was offered $3,000 for Diamonds. Unfortunately, Diamonds
died abruptly, and an autopsy yielded no clues for his sudden death.
Kelsie sold all her horses attempting to regain the capital to replace
For a time, Kelsie and her family lived in Blanding, where she worked
at Umetco Minerals. There, she earned money for college and also
learned how to weld. This welding know-how later came in handy when
she welded her own corrals from pipe to board horses on her Mom
and Dads property.
Kelsie finally bought a three-year-old palomino that would take
her to Rodeo Queen status. To bring in a flag at the rodeo, you
have to compete in try-outs and Kelsie never missed bringing in
a flag at the rodeo with this horse. His name is Sundown, and he
would also become my first riding horse as a student.
Sundown went to college with Kelsie during her sophomore year at
Utah State University. Though he stayed in a field while she attended
class, Sundown was there throughout her college years and tryouts
for Rodeo Queen. In 1993, the first year she showed on Sundown,
she won the novice all around division for the open horse show.
majored in animal science at Utah State, with a minor in horsemanship.
She was head of the animal science club, attended rodeo queen clinics,
tutored students and taught classes. She even made a beginners
riding training video for the college. She had also put together
a training manual for Rodeo Queening. Just a few classes away from
a degree, and a bit burned out, Kelsie decided her major
was of the type that is often categorized as a basket weaving
major. In other words, what does one do with such a degree?
And so, she decided to change her major to nursing.
On her own, Kelsie had taken a truck and horse trailer with Sundown
to Salina for the Rodeo Queen tryouts. She wanted to go to state,
but had already been accepted into the nursing program through the
College of Eastern Utah in Price. Because of that, she fully committed
herself to the program, and after working a few years as an L.P.N.
for Allen Memorial Hospital, she decided to go back to school and
graduate from the R.N. program.
But in the back of her mind was always the dream of teaching horseback
riding and being around horses.
In 2000, with a full time nursing career, and a family of her own,
she and her husband, Brian along with their two little girls, moved
to their current home in Spanish Valley. Being supportive of Kelsies
dream, Brian is probably the backbone of the operation. Brian finally
gave Kelsie the Nike challenge...to stop talking about her dream
and just do it. Lucky for me, she did. KB Horsemans
ad was what I noticed and called on.
I wasnt on a horse for the first lesson. Kelsie is all about
safety. Knowing how to approach a horse, where to stand, where not
to stand and why, is part of learning what horses are about. Just
learning how to walk with a horse and keeping them out of your space,
for safety reasons, helped me gain confidence in riding. With the
help of Kelsies handouts, I learned the basics of horse anatomy,
so that Id know what she meant if she referred to, among others,
the cannon, withers, or fetlock,
on a horse.
I remember the first time we used the lunge line. A lunge line is
a cotton or nylon rope ranging anywhere from 15 to 30 feet in length.
One end attaches to the horses halter or bridle. The other
end was in Kelsies hands. This was awkward for me at first
because I had no reins to hold on to, and that was the point. I
gained a sense of balance, and a feel for the horses movements.
She had me close my eyes and stretch out my arms, and little by
little, I became less stiff, and less afraid. One of my lessons
even included how to anticipate the horses gait for stepping
over something like a fallen tree trunk.
Kelsie alternated my riding between Sundown and another horse named
Rio. She explained that every horse is a little different. Riding
different horses keeps you on your toes. When youre learning
to ride and you become familiar with just one horse, theres
the tendency to become complacent.
I dont pretend to be an expert now, but at least I dont
look at the horses neck anymore when I ride, I look straight
ahead. I still need to work on my mounting up, but I know how to
ask the horse to back up and turn and stop with enough follow through
to make it happen.
I dont have room to recount everything Ive learned or
all the great experiences Ive had taking these lessons, nor
is that my purpose. I would however, highly recommend to anyone
thinking about acquiring a horse or even just wanting to lose your
fear about riding horses, to educate yourself. Find a good teacher,
like Kelsie Backus. Its worth more than the money youll
Do I still want a horse? YES! But Im considering it more carefully.
Right now Im content to learn about equine health, behavior,
and working on getting galloping down, from Kelsie.
Kelsie is a tremendous teacher not only because she has the skill
to impart the knowledge she has acquired, but also because she has
patience, and instills a sense of confidence and trust.
Kelsie Backus teaches children and adults beginning at four years
old on up, and every level from beginning to advanced, as well as
rodeo queening. She also boards horses, as well as offering weanling
and yearling ground training, plus equine education. If youre
thinking about learning how to ride or even just tuning up your
riding ability, you should consider giving her a call at KB Horseman:
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