Carol Schley spent a large part of her young life trying to get as close to animals as possible. Her first dream job was a wildlife photographer, a passion she pursued after receiving her first camera at the age of 14. She still recalls the first wildlife picture she captured; a gopher that she coaxed out of its hole by a special whistle taught by her father.
This ability to get close to animals ran in the family, as recounted in tales about how much all animals seemed to gravitate towards both her grandpa and her dad. “My desire to work with wild horses,” she jokes “may partly stem from my second cousin, who was a famous lion tamer. Maybe some of that DNA rubbed off on me.”
Carol sought to improve this ability to get close to animals as she packed up her trailer in Reno this August for her third trip to the Madison, Wisconsin area. This time, she came to participate in a Four Week Mustang Taming and Training with Ryan Rose. Carol has studied with Ryan, an accomplished Natural Horsemanship trainer, twice before as a student in his month-long Horsemanship Experience Course. She knew she couldn’t miss the opportunity to be a part of this Mustang Taming and Training Course, the first course of this type for the learning and growth that would undoubtedly accompany it.
The irony is not lost on her in regards to traveling all the way from Nevada to Wisconsin, since Nevada is home to over 40,000 wild horses. But, it was important to Carol, a lifelong student of the animal, to make this journey to gain the hands-on experience from a mentor like Ryan Rose.
Carol relates that while these learning opportunities are exciting and priceless, they are still difficult. She admits, “the biggest challenge about going on these trips is having to rearrange my whole life in order to take such a significant amount of time for learning. However, I try to focus on little steps to achieve a goal or plan, and before I know it, I have reached it. This allows me to live in the moment and keeps me learning a never-ending and exciting journey.”
The value of this method of taking bite-sized pieces was illuminated when Carol acquired her first mustang, Austin, in the fall of 2014. Austin had previous training from his time in the Carson City Mustang Program, but had sat in a pasture for a couple of years prior to her buying the mustang. She said it was difficult at first to be effective to train Austin to become a partner because he was a horse of extremes. She utilized the skills she has learned in these courses and has a found a communication with Austin that he can understand.
These skills improved her relationship with her mustang drastically, and the lessons learned from her time spent with Ryan Rose have now been applied with even wilder and more extreme horses. In fact, the proudest moments of hers from this course are working with one of these extreme mustangs, Cedar.
Cedar is a dun mustang mare that was incredibly reactive in the beginning of the course. While she would accept the human in very small doses, any movement that was made too quickly or seemed too loud to this mare would send her off in a gallop or an attempt to jump the panels. With the help of the participants, this mare soon realized humans weren’t all bad.
However, no student was able to halter her at liberty because the person would have to make contact in order for her to connect with them, but she wouldn’t let them close enough to do so. Despite this, Carol was able to use her skills learned about reading even the smallest change in body language and rewarding the slightest try in order to be able to enter the horse’s space and halter her with no assistance from a neck rope.
She was the first person to accomplish this with this sensitive mare, and it had a lasting impact. Even before this big moment of haltering her, she was able to lean on her back and touch her all over the neck and shoulders at liberty, as well as have Cedar follow her around the round pen. Ryan praised Carol for her accomplishments, telling her “I’m super impressed with the progress you’ve made with every horse I’ve given you to work with.”
Carol is grateful to be able to continue to learn from these horses and hopes to utilize these skills to help others with their own horses. A natural teacher, she loves sharing her experiences and knowledge to help everyone she can through lessons or horsemanship training. If this course is any indication, the practice Carol has logged in order to get as close to animals as possible has paid off; in Carol, the horses can find a leader and a friend.
Carol Schley is based out of Reno and offers lessons and horsemanship training. If you are interested in connecting with Carol, you can reach her at: email@example.com.
Story by Erin Paul
Photos courtesy of Carol Schley