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The Greenhorn Chronicles 3: Nadine Bollig on Equestrianism and Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2022/02/22


Nadine Bollig is the Owner – and a Trainer, Coach, and Instructor – at Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre. Her biography states: “Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre has been successfully owned and operated by Nadine Bollig since the spring of 2000. Nadine has been involved with horses since the age of 9 when she started to take lessons at a local stable, and within a year had her own first pony, an Appy mare named Sassy who is still a successful member of the school string at the ripe age of 24. Having nearly 20 years of horse experience, Nadine is a current certified Instructor, Equine Behaviourist and Trainer through the Nova Scotia Equestrian Federation and Equine Canada, a certified Level 1 Coach with NCCP Canada, and is currently working to achieve competition coach status. Nadine has been showing competitively since she was a child and showed in many disciplines including dressage, western pleasure, reining, english, hunter, jumper, driving, and even some barrels and poles. She was an active member of Pony Club and 4-H well into her teens. She uses her extensive experiences and her own training, and puts her heart and soul into the operating of the stable to bring out the best in all of the students and horses at Reaching Strides. Nadine has worked with several trainers throughout her career on the methods of non-resistance training through Natural Horsemanship and implements this into every horse or pony that comes through the training program at RSEC. Nadine acts as head coach and trainer for the stable and continues to enjoy competing, now mainly in the hunter discipline. She acts as competition coach and travels with students at all levels and disciplines to competitions from fun/schooling shows to Provincial Bronze and National Gold competitions. Horses and Equestrian are her business and her passion, and she is proud to provide to the stable an environment that is family-like, safe, and friendly, and treats all clientele – whether they are horses or people – with open friendship. One of her biggest beliefs is ‘you walk into the stable a stranger, but you leave as a friend’.” She discusses: the first lesson in riding or working with horses; best moment with Sassy; formal qualifications; long periods of work; the “feel” of working with or riding a horse; the Pony Club and 4-H; the method of non-resistance in natural horsemanship; Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre; educating different students; the state of horsemanship/equestrianism in the far East Coast of Canada; proud moment of competing as an equestrian; and the importance of the provincial/territorial/national equine organizations.

Keywords: Canada, equestrianism, equine, Nadine Bollig, Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 3: Nadine Bollig on Equestrianism and Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Since age 9, you have been involved with horses. What was the first lesson in riding or working with horses for you?

Nadine Bollig[1],[2]: I loved horses all my life, it was the first thing I drew as a young child, I was hooked from the first moment. My neighbour in Germany had two ponies. I had my first pony ride on one of them. I used to walk all on my own to the local stables to see the horses. They didn’t offer riding lessons, so my first actual riding lesson experience was once I moved to Canada.

Jacobsen: What is your best moment with Sassy over all these years?

Bollig: My best moment with Sassy aside from seeing all the smiles she put on thousands of lesson students once I started using her in the riding school over all these years, was the fact that my son got to ride her in a lesson before she passed away. I lost her last summer at age 36 and knowing that I gave her the best possible life a horse could have made the passing a bit easier.

Jacobsen: How does an individual in the Canadian equine industry acquire formal qualifications as, for example, an instructor, equine behaviourist, and trainer? How do the federations (councils, etc.) and Equine Canada set the standard for qualifications?

Bollig: Unfortunately, in Canada there is not a actual requirement to become certified in order to teach lessons. However, in order to be an actual certified coach or instructor, we follow the Equestrian Canada guidelines of completing the rider level program (10 levels in total, 8 of which must be passed to become a coach or 6 of them if to become an instructor). Following along with a mentor and taking training clinics both on line as well as in person, and always remembering that we must continue to learn no matter how much knowledge we acquire. With horses, you never stop learning. 

Jacobsen: What can one never learn about horses, except through long periods of work with them?

Bollig: When it comes to horses, the learning never stops. They have their own individual personalities, and they are each their own unique character. What works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for others. Horses communicate through body language and for those willing to open their hearts and minds and really learn to listen, the experience is something so profound, it’ll blow your mind. They are intuitive, they mirror back our own emotions and force us to live in the now. Horses don’t lie, being around them and really allowing them to open our hearts and soul, is an experience that is more rewarding and more eye opening than anything else I’ve experienced in life. 

Jacobsen: In the interviews and in informal conversations with equestrians, they, often, talk about the “feel” of working with or riding a horse. How would you describe this? I recall Ian Millar speaking to this, too, in media clips. 

Bollig: When they discuss the “feel” it can be as simply put as in us as humans learning to let go. Our number one goal as riders is to learn to work in unity with our horses. Humans are very much control freaks, for lack of a better word. We find it difficult to allow ourselves to get into a situation where we are not fully in control. Learning to have a “feel” is learning to trust your equine partner and move with them in harmony. What I mean by that is, we want to always control what the horse is doing and make them move and work in a certain frame or pace, etc. but if we allow ourselves to move with the horse and feel what that horse is doing under us, and staying out of the way and become one with that horse, your ride becomes a dance of you and that horse moving together, feeling what each other is thinking even before one of you moves in the direction of asking for it. That’s feel!! Some folks are born with the feel and others have to work their butts off to get there. The one thing that is for sure is, the second you feel it, you’ll never forget that moment.

Jacobsen: How were the Pony Club and 4-H helpful in developing as an equestrian?

Bollig: Both of these are excellent programs. There is always so much stuff to learn when it comes to horses. Both Pony Club and 4-H have a set standard of levels to go through where you gain the knowledge of not only riding, but also all the other stuff. In my opinion the biggest problem in the horse world is a lack of the basic knowledge. The off the horse stuff is way more important to learn than the riding portion. But of course, most kids, especially now a day, want to learn how to ride, but feel the rest is not as important. A lot of facilities are so busy that they skip these vital lessons of horsemanship, stable management and the basics of horse care. Programs such as these, are an excellent way to teach our budding equestrians the importance of those steps.

Jacobsen: What is the method of non-resistance in natural horsemanship?

Bollig: So, when it comes to horse training there’s your traditional trainers that work on breaking the horse, which in turn breaks their spirit and turns them into almost a trained machine, because they quickly learn that pain or fear happens if they don’t cooperate. A lot of the time with this type of training, they rush through the process and don’t give the horse a chance to learn at their own pace, forcing them to cooperate or else. Basically, the trainer is the aggressor and because horses are prey animals they tend to give in to the abuse. With Natural Horsemanship we work with the horse at their own pace, and we communicate with them through body language. We establish trust, respect and a bond, and move forward when we know they’re ready to learn more that day, or we take the pressure off if they’ve had enough. The non-resistance part is that they are not forced to do something if they’re not ready for it. It’s all about applying pressure when needed, and backing off and releasing that pressure when they tell us. Reading their body language allows us to know when to apply it and how much of it to apply. In turn once you’ve established that trust, and the horse is not afraid that if they make a mistake that they’ll get punished, they become a willing, loving partner.

Jacobsen: What inspired founding Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre in the Spring of 2000?

Bollig: I always knew I’d do something with animals when I grew up. I had thought about becoming a vet for a while and upon graduating from high school and after checking out several vet programs, I decided it wasn’t for me. I worked at a few big stables and started teaching lessons at one of those. Doing this made me realize my passion was to teach people to become the best horse people they can be.

Jacobsen: As a head coach and trainer at Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre, how do you approach educating different students? 

Bollig: Over the past 21 years I’ve worked with students of all kinds. Kids, adults, seniors, folks with physical and mental exceptionalities, troubled teens, Veterans suffering from PTSD etc. One thing I’ve learned from this and from working with horses is that patience is a virtue. Not everyone learns the same way, and certainly not at the same pace. If one way doesn’t work, it’s my job to explain it, show it, or approach it in different ways until it clicks in.

Jacobsen: What is the state of horsemanship/equestrianism in the far East Coast of Canada?

Bollig: Here on the east coast the horse world has become HUGE, especially in the last 10 years. I feel even though there’s been such an increase in involvement, we are in a bit of a crisis when it comes to actual Horsemanship and basic horse care. There has been a lot of big, beautiful barns with expensive horses and tack that have popped up everywhere as well as some back yard stables that only teach a few etc. The biggest thing that has been brought to my attention, especially in the last few years is that there is a HUGE lack of proper education when it comes to the basics of horse care. Even just proper feeding, hoof care, a total lack of understanding of how important it is working with the horse on the ground to ensure their manners are in check before climbing in the saddle. I feel that we need to train students not just to be riders, but to be horse people that understand the importance of all the stuff it takes to look after these beautiful creatures, and not just learning to ride.

Jacobsen: What is your most proud moment of competing as an equestrian, or a moment – or set of them – of greatest accomplishment, to you?

Bollig: My proudest moments in the show ring have been showing up at these big competitions with our rescue horses and students and beating the butts off those with $40,000 horses, that laughed at us as we got there. They soon learned it’s not how expensive your horse or tack or horse trailer is, it’s the proper training, and hours put in to perfect that training and our riders’ skills that wins the ribbons. As an equestrian myself, I guess I can say some of my proudest moments is when I look up at the smiling faces of my students when they finally figure out a challenge they’ve been working on and when there’s that lightbulb moment and you can see it all over their face. Also, working with rescue horses, my proudest moments is when I finally break through that fear and terror and see them for the first time in their lives allow themselves to trust a human. IT still gives me goosebumps every time.

Jacobsen: What is the importance of the provincial/territorial/national equine organizations?

Bollig: The importance of these organizations is that they are there to help educate folks. They offer programs and learning opportunities and do extensive research on the sport to improve our knowledge on an annual basis. Education is key! I always say, that the second we think we know it all, a horse comes along and teaches us otherwise. I’ve been involved with horses for over 30 years now, and I haven’t stopped learning yet. If anything can be said about them, it is they truly ensure we stay humble and in the moment.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Nadine. 

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Owner, Trainer, Coach, and Instructor, Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre.

[2] Individual Publication Date: February 22, 2022:; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2022:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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