Interview with That Mountain Horse Girl
I have enjoyed following along virtually with Sterre on her trail rides through the mountains of Spain. Her content has always encouraged me to listen to my horse even when they tell me no about something. I’m not so inferior to them that I want them to obey me all the time and not allow them space to have feelings about our sessions or riding.
I was so excited when she agreed to an interview so I could not only learn more about her background with horses, but share with all of you some really great insights. On top of the great knowledge Sterre offers her pictures are worth a 1,000 words. She actually inspired my sunflower pictures I did with my horse last year.
We all have something to share and learn. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I have!
Can you give a brief history of your background with horses?
I’ve always been drawn to horses, but didn’t come from a ‘horsey’ family. I started riding when I was 9 at a traditional riding school.
When I was able to buy my own horse from my pocket money at the age of 15, my search for a different way with horses started.
But, I didn’t have access to the internet, and all I had as a source of information were a couple of books from the library, which I read over and over again.
All I knew was that I wanted friendship and connection more than anything, but I soon found out that the combination with a green three-year-old mare was more than an interesting one 😉
But a start was made, a seed planted and over the many years to follow i developed my ideas about horsemanship and I’m still learning new things every day.
You seem to really try to listen to your horses. How has that improved your experience riding?
It’s everything to me! For me, it all starts with connection and having a bond.
I absolutely dislike getting on a horse that I don’t know. It makes me feel incredibly unsafe and not fun at all.
It’s one of the reasons why I hardly ever ride on holidays. As much as I love the idea for me, it just doesn’t feel ride to ‘just get on’ a horse that I don’t have any kind of connection with.
When I ride out, I want to have a partner at my side that I can trust. One that knows he’s allowed to express his feelings and doubts, and one that equally enjoys going on adventures. Riding should be fun for both horse and rider.
You ride a lot alone in the mountains? Are you ever nervous about that and would you encourage others to ride even when they don’t have a buddy to ride with?
Yes, I ride alone a lot and have always done so. It’s my favorite thing in the world, when it’s just me and my horse and endless adventures waiting for us.
There are always some safety precautions that I take.
First of all, I always wear a helmet. For me, that has nothing to do with trusting your horse, but with common sense. I once had my very trusted, stable horses who I owned for years stumble on a silly rock and cartwheel right over me. It was the scariest thing ever.
I always make sure someone knows that I’m riding out, plus how long, more or less.
My phone is always traceable and attached to my saddle is a little label with both my number and that of my husband, in case anything happens and I get separated from my horse.
But most importantly; when I’m riding out alone in areas, I don’t know I don’t take risks. I always play safe. I don’t take the long route that has no turning back. I rather turn back than climb the trail that looks just a little too steep. I rest when my horse is still fit and always make sure I have enough daylight left or don’t end up having to ride in the hottest part of the day.
Can you give an example of how you’ve learned there is no cookie cutter training method for every horse?
Oh, I can think of so many! For example, working for a cookie. For a lot of horses a treat is a lovely reward and positive reinforcement with a food reward can be a great addition to training.
Zaf included! He loves his treats, it makes it extra clear to him when exactly he’s doing ‘the right thing’ and it absolutely motivates him to go beyond and offer something himself. He loves little puzzles and guessing games, where he has to find out my intention and get a cookie when he does.
For Faro though, treats are not a big motivator in my training.
Faro is naturally more drawn to fitting in and letting him guess can easily make him nervous. He much rather have me guide him through the steps and show him what I mean. He does like his treat afterwards, though.
What is something that people misunderstand about you?
I sometimes feel people can have a hard time putting me in a box when it comes to horsemanship.
I work at liberty with my horses, ride with a rope halter, yet I also ride with a bit.
I do like dressage and find it important as a way to work on my horse’ physical fitness and to help him carry me and himself in a better way, yet most often you can find me on the trails (where I also do dressage, just on the trails).
I find a whip or stick a wonderful piece of equipment that I use a lot, but never ever to hit my horse. Yet, the sight of me riding with a whip puts people off at times.
I don’t go around voicing my opinions whenever I’m around other riders, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything I see.
The current possibility of gaining so much knowledge, though, for example Instagram and YouTube, and wonderful online programs can really help you develop your horsemanship way beyond boxes and prejudices, and I think that’s a good thing! I always like to learn more and I find that in almost every method there’s something found to learn from. The more you know, the more ways you have to tailor what you do to you and your horse. And in the end, that’s what matters.
What has been your most humbling experience?
Every time we climb a new mountain, went up a new rocky, stony tough trail and reach the summit, I look at the view and see how tiny the world looks from up the mountains and I feel incredibly small. That feeling makes me feel more connected than anything. We are all part of nature, and nature is a part of us.
What is the most important thing horses have taught you?
To be patient and to go with the flow. There’s beauty to be found everywhere and in every activity.
If you’d like to follow along with Sterre, Zaf, and Faro, you can find them on Instagram.
I want to thank Sterre for sharing her knowledge and experiences with us. If this doesn’t make you want to visit Spain and ride in the mountains, I don’t know what will.