Originally Published: February 15, 2008 7:14 p.m.
When she was 16, JoAnna Carrillo suffered serious injuries because of a bull-riding accident. That has not kept her out of the saddle, however. Carrillo, now 19, lives and works in Chino Valley training horses and offering classes to riders.
"Pretty much the basics are to make the horse respect you," Castillo said. "It's respect for respect, just like a relationship with a human. If you beat them up, you can't expect them to be friendly."
Carrillo said she was "born into" horse training, and began her ranch work around age 5, in California. She has worked at numerous ranches since then, but says that when it comes to horses, there is always something new to learn.
"When training a horse, you usually want to start them from the day they're born," Carrillo said. "You give them a couple of hours with their mother, and then get them bridled; let them know the halter won't hurt them."
Carrillo said that people shouldn't actually ride a horse until it is about 2-years-old, 4-years-old for Arabian horses, due to their slighter frames. During that time she focuses on getting the horses used to human contact, and teaching them boundaries.
"They're big and gentle, but in the wild, they're wild," Carrillo said. "They'll always be a little wild. You've got to teach them not to step on your toes. If they do, I give a little smack; there's a big difference between that and beating the horse up. But you've got to let them know that's not OK."
In general, Carrillo says that positive reinforcement is more effective than negative, and that she prefers to reward horses with treats and rest for doing a task right the first time over striking a horse that fails to perform.
"Part of what she does is 'de-spooking' the horse," said Danielle Wanner, Carrillo's roommate. "She'll wave a bright flag in front of the horse's face, and then pet it to let it know everything's OK. It gets the horse ready for the surprises that'll happen out there, so it won't get spooked and freak out."
Wanner explained that she will often buy horses and Carrillo will train them. They sell the horses and split the profits, or keep the horses, in some cases.
"Most of our horses are named after famous artists," Carrillo said. "Except for Durango; he's named after a truck. Durango's last owner tore him up real good. He's an awesome horse, but it's going to take some work to get him rideable again."
Wanner said that many people who are not familiar with horses are needlessly fearful of them, and that people require training, just as horses do, for safe and successful riding.
"Sure, they're 2,000 pounds, it's a big animal," Wanner said. "I've gotten braver around horses, thanks to Jo, but not stupid brave. You can't be scared, but you have to be careful. Learning how to deal with horses teaches patience, respect and discipline. Those skills help with interactions with humans, as well."
Carrillo warned that to properly take care of a horse, it requires a lot of time and money.
"Horses have short memories," Wanner said. "You have to spend a lot of time with them, reinforcing what they've learned, or they'll forget it."
Carrillo estimated that caring for a horse costs between $200 and $400 per month, without factoring in any emergencies.
"It's always been worth it to me, though," Carrillo said. "I love horses. I really believe they're therapeutic. They're gentle, and good listeners. In the old days, it was, 'Do what I say or you're glue.' Now, it's more about making the horse want to respond, just like teaching a child, and I like that a lot more."
For more information, contact Carrillo at 308-3642 or e-mail email@example.com.