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The Greenhorn Chronicles 11: Kailin Howard on Horse Ownership and Care


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

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

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2022/06/22


Kailin Howard is a horse owner and assistant trainer at Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre. She discusses: horses; first horse; factors to consider when buying a first horse; get a horse to learn the basics; earliest dreams; the importance of the social activity; build rapport with a client and with clientele; important lessons; bottom-up care; the industry; the stewardship of Nadine Bollig; student-teacher relationship; the competitions; horse trainer for a living; and involved with equestrianism.

Keywords: equestrianism, equine, horses, Kailin Howard, Nova Scotia, Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre, trainer.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 11: Kailin Howard on Horse Ownership and Care

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you get interested in horses?

Kailin Howard[1],[2]*: I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember. They were my favourite animal as a child and even as an adult I get that excited feeling when I drive by a field and see them grazing. The little girl inside me still goes “Look, horses!” My parents made my dreams come true when I was 8 and put me in lessons and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’m 29 now and the dream is still very much alive.

Jacobsen: When did you purchase your first horse?

Howard: I bought my first horses when I was 21. I had been leasing and showing one of my coach’s horses for a few years at that point and he was the horse I had always wanted. I ended up purchasing him and his pasture companion, a miniature, as a package.

Jacobsen: What are the factors to consider when buying a first horse compared to a second, third, etc., horse? Things like financials, age, quality, breed, pedigree, etc.

Howard: Some major things to consider are just the environment you are providing. Do I have adequate shelter, food, water, and space for them to move? Horses are also a herd animal; they don’t thrive when they are alone. So, when buying that first horse, you also have to consider the fact that you’ll need companionship for it. Or will you board it at a facility? A huge issue we’re having in Nova Scotia right now is that there is a major vet and farrier shortage. So, is there access to emergency medical care? Can my horse get regular trimmings? Finances are, of course, a big consideration; horses are not a cheap animal to have. The older they get the more care they’ll obviously need so in the long term; can you support that horse through every stage of its life and through the problems those stages may have? Pedigree is absolutely something great to search through if you have access to that information. Medical histories, neurological issues you may encounter, all better to know that ahead of purchasing. Picking the right horse for you and where you are at or want to be is crucial. For example, I wouldn’t purchase a horse trained for show jumping to be my cattle penning horse. Get the horse that’s suited to your level of horsemanship. Consult with your coach, trainer, vet, farrier. Use the resources available to you and get those professional opinions.

Jacobsen: How do you get a horse to learn the basics of what a rider needs them to do?

Howard: The basics in getting a horse to understand what I need them to do for me always starts on the ground. Horses rely a lot on body language and reading energy. They’re a flight animal, so training them to go against those natural instincts is not started by throwing a saddle on and climbing up. They react to pressures and a feeling, they’re extremely intuitive. You’ve likely heard the term “horse whispering,” which is both comical and kind of accurate. You can say “go to the right” all day and a horse is not going to move, so you have to communicate with a language they understand, which sort of looks like you’re ‘whispering’ to them. I use a series of exercises on the ground to get them to understand the give and take of pressure, so that when I get to the saddle and I ask them to go to the right with my body; they have an idea of what it is I’m asking them to do. That’s very summarized! Training some takes longer than others, even the basics, can vary greatly from horse to horse.

Jacobsen: What were your earliest dreams with horses as an early equestrian?

Howard: Just being around these animals was enough for me, I never had specific dreams in mind. I was just obsessed with all thing’s horses. My biggest goals once I started riding were mainly jumping related. I thought the older girls were so cool and had no fear when they were doing a course and I wanted to be able to do what they did. They were always riding multiple or different horses as well and I remember wanting that confidence and that knowledge to adjust to each horse just like them.

Jacobsen: What is the importance of the social activity and aspect of equestrianism? I notice this with women equestrians, trainers and clientele. When tacking up, just small chit-chatter is huge, it’s not only a hobby or preparation for competition. It’s a social club.

Howard: It really is! My closest friends are all horse people. The equestrian world in Nova Scotia is fairly small, so everyone pretty well knows everyone; and it’s not hard to get connected to others if you start asking around. You’ve got friends near and far so when we meet up at shows or events it could be the first time you’ve seen that person in years; and it’s like you talked to them yesterday. It’s very timeless in that sense. It’s also a great way to bounce ideas around business wise or for your own personal equestrian journey. Horse people are a different breed; it doesn’t really matter what might necessarily be going on in your personal lives, when equestrians get together you all have a huge common interest that connects you, regardless of even what discipline you are in. We also can’t seem to stop talking about horses. You throw a couple horse people in a room and they’re going to be going on and on for the next few hours.

Jacobsen: How do you build rapport with a client and with clientele as an assistant trainer?

Howard: Staying open, honest and friendly to questions, concerns or any discussions they may want to bring up. Having just as much patience to the learning experience with the clients as we do the animals, a lot of the clients I’ve met over the last few years need to learn the questions I’m asking the horse just as much as the horse does. We don’t believe in just training the horse, but the clients as well.  We can teach the horse how to carry the rider or work on whatever the issue may be but if the client doesn’t understand how to ask the question, how does the horse know how to answer? Like having all the power tools you need to build a house, but no idea how to use them. If the horse has all the answers, but the rider isn’t asking them correctly then that leads to frustration; and you could be taking more steps back than you did forward. Which then leads to an upset client, it comes back on the trainer. Having the client be a part of the training process is critical in my opinion, it sets both horse and rider up for a more successful relationship in the future.

Jacobsen: What are some of the more important lessons taught by the more senior trainers?

Howard: To have patience no matter how you’re feeling. Your feelings don’t matter, you have to leave them outside the ring. Horses can feel your emotions by reading your energy and body language. If you’re already frustrated or anxious, the horse thinks they have a reason to feel the same thing, they mimic us. They look to us for security; this comes back to the herd mentality. If I’m worked up, then they think they should be as well. The old saying goes, “If you act like you have all day, it will take 5 minutes. If you act like you have 5 minutes, it will take all day”. All horses have a learning curve, just like people do. One horse might catch on faster to what it is I’m asking than another horse will, and where one is better at math, the other is better at science, you know? You also may need to ask the question differently, because that horse doesn’t understand even though the last 10 horses did. And just when you think you know it all or you’ve seen it all, a horse comes along to remind you that you haven’t. Stay humble! The learning never stops, there is always something new to learn or a different method to acquire.

Jacobsen: For those who don’t know, what is the bottom-up care required for taking care of a horse? I’ve most consistently heard of equestrianism as a “lifestyle.” In that, one must live this day-in, day-out to properly care for the horse(s) and maintain standards as a rider.

Howard: There is more maintenance in taking care of horses than people realize but there are 3 basic things they need. Food, water, shelter. Some horses are what we call more easy keepers than others. Some just have that more fit physique no matter how much they eat and others just breathe on grass and they’ll be on the thicker side. Having good hay or forage is the most important, horses are grazers, so they eat constantly, having access to forage 24/7 is the most ideal to prevent health issues, such as ulcers and colic. That’s also considering a horse is getting exercise as well, because eating too much can also create health issues. You may need to supply a grain regiment if the quality of your forage isn’t fantastic because they’ll be lacking on a lot of nutrients and vitamins. Access to lots of fresh water, helps keep their guts moving and processing that food, so they don’t colic. Finally shelter, horses are tough, but they need that shelter to get a reprieve from the elements. Depending on the climate of your location they may need to be blanketed if they don’t grow the best coat. It’s more desired to let the horse live as naturally as possible, but human intervention over the last 100 years has changed that and some horses are just not built for that ‘natural’ way of life. They need their feet trimmed around every 6-8 weeks, some grow a better foot than others, so depending on that and the level of exercise they are getting; they may need to be trimmed less or more often and some may need shoes. Medical checkups every year for teeth and vaccinations. This is all just the base essentials that they need.  The tip of the horse care iceberg.

Jacobsen: How does the industry look to you, at the moment?

Howard: The horse world can be sort of “cliquey”, there are a lot of equestrians that think their equestrian lifestyle is the one and only lifestyle, but I find that’s slowly changing. The world is getting bigger and there are more options for equestrians in NS to choose from. As in what kind of relationship or discipline they want to embark on, people are becoming more open to trying different things. I’m hopeful for what’s to come in the future in that aspect. Something I’m seeing a lot of unfortunately are people buying horses with almost none or very little prior horse experience. It sounds like a lovely dream to own a horse, but it’s not just a matter of giving them food and water every day. You could have a horse that is harder to handle and end up getting seriously hurt. You panic, sell the horse, and the next person gets hurt or the horse gets hurt, or that horse gets shuffled around for the next 10 years and has a very erratic life. It’s a story I’ve seen too many times over the last couple years: Getting a horse is not like getting a dog. They NEED training and if you don’t have any, then you need training too. That’s such a no brainer for me. To not only keep people safe, but to keep the horses safe as well.

Jacobsen: Also, how did you come under the stewardship of Nadine Bollig?

Howard: I’ve known Nadine since I was 11, when I started taking lessons at her stable just outside Antigonish. When I became a more advanced student, I rode a few ‘green’ horses for her to help them further along with their training, mostly putting some miles on them. I also worked for her as a farm hand from age 16-20. When she relocated to her new place about 10 years ago, I ended up buying my show horse from her and we stayed in contact even though at the time I couldn’t be a full time student or employee anymore. In 2020 she asked me if I wanted some part time work putting some exercise rides on a couple horses for her and now here we are!

Jacobsen: How has your student-teacher relationship evolved over time?

Howard: We work really well together. I’ve known her for so long and she’s been a friend to me for years; we really balance each other out and we pride ourselves on being honest with each other. Over the last year, we’ve been reinventing the business plan and the goal is providing a facility for what we’re calling horse lessons as opposed to just riding lessons. Helping people build relationships with horses whether that’s something they want to do in the saddle or just on the ground. Nadine’s biggest passion is training and when I started riding those greenies for her at 15, I found a passion for it as well. It’s come full circle, the horses taught me and now I’m teaching them. It’s very rewarding! Nadine has been passing all of her knowledge onto me ever since I was little and we’re also gaining some new skills together, she’s given me this opportunity to learn more and she has pushed me to really believe in my abilities, so I’m very grateful for her.

Jacobsen: What have been some of the competitions you’ve taken part?

Howard: I’ve been showing since I was 12, mostly competing in local shows and fairs. I’ve done a few higher-level jumping competitions, but nothing seriously on the circuit. Mainly hunter/jumper shows. I have a healthy fear of jumping, but also a love for it. It’s quite addicting holding on for dear life on the back of a 1500 lb animal running at obstacles.

Jacobsen: How do you intend to become a long-term horse trainer for a living?

Howard: Living in rural Nova Scotia and trying to live the dream of an equestrian takes a lot of balance. It’s not easy. Stables are far in between, and every facility offers something different. Training and looking after horses is my dream job and I still have that, but living where I live you have to have a job that supports the dream job. Nadine’s given me that chance by letting me become a part of her business, letting me work with a few of her clients and helping me build up my skills and methods. She wants to see me succeed and she’s very supportive. She’s always thinking of the horses and if there’s another trainer out there available to the horses and the people who need them than she’s happy to help me on my journey. I’m also always open to learning, you have to be, I think, to be a reputable horse trainer. There’s ALWAYS something new to learn. I hope one day, further down the road, to open my own little barn and facility where others can come to learn.

Jacobsen: How can people get involved with equestrianism or with you?

Howard: Research a stable that has a program that works for you. Ask around, find out what different barns offer and decide based on your level and what you want to learn. Be honest about what you know and what you want to learn, even if you’re starting from scratch, there’s no shame in it! Everyone starts somewhere. If it’s something you really want, the enthusiasm is very appreciated. I operate mainly out of Reaching Strides, but I have travelled locally to help people with small issues out of their own backyards. I’m not an expert by any means, but I have a strong intuition. I’ve worked with many, many different horsey personalities, so I have confidence in my own skills and if I don’t know the answer; I’m not shy to admit it, and I’ll work on it and get back to you.

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

Howard: Thank you for the opportunity, Scott!


[1] Horse Owner, Assistant Trainer, Reaching Strides Equestrian Centre.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 22, 2022:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 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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