BELCHERTOWN, Mass. (WWLP) – A Belchertown woman teaches people how to build close interactions with horses before engaging in horseback riding.
Certified horsemanship trainer and horseback riding coach, Claire Walton has been using a technique known as desensitization, which helps horses become closer to the human that is in front of them.
Walton introduces children to the idea of having horses build trust and become less afraid. The different components of this are using body language and energy to speak with the horse. The goal of this technique is to get them used to certain touches and noises.
“Kids and horses can really understand each other, so for me, it was natural to want to do some kids program with horses but around body language, body attention, and energy. It really helps the kids to grow and really understand their body emotion and not just be shut down by the society we have here sometimes,” Walton expressed.
Walton’s love for her horses began when she lived in France where she grew up with a family of animal lovers. Horseback riding became familiar to her at the age of nine, but after so many bruises, she slowly became afraid.
She then watched and supported one of her sisters compete in show jumping. She honored her sister by grooming her horse or walking it before or after completion. This would then change her relationship with horses.
“For me to have a connection with them and to be able to understand them, it just makes me happy to be alive.”Claire Walton
From 2008 to 2011, she acquired her first training for horsemanship and horseback riding coach license in France.
Soon enough she would then travel the world and work with horses in New Caledonia, Australia, Spain, India, Czech Republic, and then eventually came to Utah in the U.S. and then create a new adventure in Belchertown, Massachusetts. Her journey with horses has been never-ending. In Belchertown, she purchased a horse property located on 111 Federal Street and named it Clairly Differently Stables.
On this property, Walton uses groundwork, liberty training, and riding to help her students build deep understandings, discipline, and safer trail rides with their horses.
Groundwork is all about building a foundation for a horse to make them more confident and behaved. Groundwork becomes essential to helping riders become closer to their horse since a lot of times they spend time on their backs.
Groundwork helps the horse see the human more clearly and feel more comfortable around them since they are reading any human movement. Essentially, it is distracting the horse from any objects and bringing the attention onto you.
Liberty training consists of working with a horse without any reins or ropes. In an enclosed gate, Walton is able to dictate the horse’s movements and enable the horse to come in her direction. Walton uses talking mechanisms to help bring the horse even closer since they can also sense emotions.
However, it is also made clear that horses will need their space, but it’s important for humans to set any boundaries. When the horse becomes closer to the human, then riding begins.
She says horses can help those with anxiety, depression, or looking for self-development. “When you are in a depression or when you are in a whole new stage of life, where you have a lot of anxiety, the horse will fill it. The horse will really start to act up high with their head and start to want to run away from you and be filled with anxiety. So my job is to translate the language of the horse to the person, so I’m the one to translate the body language,” Walton said. “And then I help the person find a way to take a breath, to relax their shoulders, to picture anything that will feel good with their body and their mind to have some tool in their daily life to just remember this moment of this big mirroring time from the horse and to come back to relaxation.”
Walton believes horses can help heal other people, just as they have helped her heal. “My biggest goal is to see people bring back their smile to horses and bring a trust of life.”
Walton’s intent is to create a safe space for the horse and humans to express themselves.