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Over 'riding' your fears

For some riding a horse comes naturally but for some its a bit scary at first.
Randy Ophus has been training horses for 27 years and has worked with Karen Markle to overcome her fears.

For some riding a horse comes naturally and for others it takes some work, but once you get the hang of it they do a lot of the work on their own, said Karen Markle 61, a Vanderhoof resident who started riding four years ago.

"Before I would sit on horses but I didn't really ride. I wanted to get over my fear so I could help with work on the ranch," said Ms. Markle.

With the help of horse trainer Randy Ophus 43, who owns a horse ranch just outside Vanderhoof and has been training for 27 years, what started out as a desire to overcome a fear swiftly became one of Ms. Markle's favourite past times. "[My horse Gomer] is my best friend. When I'm having a down day I go ride and I am no longer down. When people say isn't it expensive? I say well, he's my therapy class and my gym class so he's not expensive," said Ms. Markle, who had doubts throughout the process but quickly learned that personal doubts make the horse doubt as well.

"The more your around a horse the more you can read what their eyes tell you; if they are calm or wild. The more you trust yourself the more the horse will trust you," said Mr. Ophus.

It wasn't before long Ms. Markle was running through the basics of catching and brushing the horse, putting the saddle on, and putting the bridle in, which is the metal piece put in the horses mouth  essential for steering. After becoming more comfortable she started reining and breaking her horse in with spins, sides and stops, and soon gained full body control.

"You need to learn how to lead quickly because the horse can get spoiled pretty fast," said Mr. Ophus.

Now using one hand or a leg movement, Ms. Markle is able to guide which way her horse goes.

"I can say whoa or use my body, so now when I do both he really listens," said Ms.Markle. Originaly, Gomer was one of Mr.Ophus' lesson horses and started working at the age of two. It is uncommon for a horse that young to help train but his mature temperament was clearly shown through a calm demeanour and quick learning ability. Ms. Markle bought him at the age of three and now at the age of seven he listens intently.

"I love the feel and connection I get with [Gomer]," said Ms. Markle.

Not long after reining the two quickly advanced to sorting and cutting cows out of the herd. They have even started cattle penning, the competitive sport of sorting cattle.

"Randy is just an awesome teacher," said Ms. Markle. "Riding wasn't what I intended or thought but now I'm hooked."