Helping People and Horses find Harmony
It’s a beautiful summer morning as I travel down a tree-lined country road in West Falls, NY. I am anxious to meet up with Natural Horsemanship Coach Gail Pearles. It’s an opportunity to watch her work with some of her newest clients and to see firsthand a noteworthy Western New York equine property. Apparently music legend Wayne Newton kept over 70 Arabian horses on the property during the 1970’s because of the farm’s proximity to a local trainer that he admired at the time.
Modern technology has led me to a charming white farmhouse, but I can’t see much from the road. I slowly pull into the driveway where I am greeted by a long stone path that meanders up a hill to where Pearles is holding the reins of a stunning white horse. Behind her stands an understated indoor arena nestled into the side of the hill. She’s beaming after a good session with this former dressage champ that happens to have a few handling issues.
“Look at him, he’s incredible. I love this horse!” she says as I approach the 17-hand Dutch Warmblood with coveted lineage. This genuine enthusiasm is not uncommon for Pearles, despite the variety of equine behavioral issues she deals with on a daily basis. Her confidence stems from the more than 25 years of horse training and coaching experience she has under her belt.
Growing up in Kenmore, NY, Gail Pearles was a horse-crazy kid. She purchased her first horse at age 14 with money earned giving pony rides at a summer camp at Lake Chautauqua. At ten cents a ride, it was a long summer that eventually paid off for a young Pearles. Today she travels across Western New York, the Southern Tier and Ohio helping people with their horses. She logs thousands of miles each year visiting a diverse group of customers located at all types of facilities from small family farms to large boarding facilities. She helps people of all ages with any type of horse or discipline.
“It’s all the same to the horse - Western, English - he really doesn’t know the difference. All the horse really understands is feel and that’s what my training is based on,” explains Pearles as she enthusiastically saddles another former dressage champion for his weekly one-hour session.
“Natural horsemanship through feel” is a concept that emerged in the United States in the mid 1900’s in California where cowboys on cattle ranches rode their horses all day every day in order to make a living. Horses had a real job and their handlers understood them thoroughly. Several legendary horsemen of that era including Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Bill Dorrance are credited with developing, perfecting, documenting and sharing their understanding of natural horsemanship through feel before their passing. Pearles has not only embraced and studied their work, she has apprenticed under their former students as well.
Today her “Kinship with Horses” philosophy is truly unique in that Pearles brings together the best practices from a number of current Natural Horsemanship masters including Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, John Lyons, Pat Parelli and others. She is not limited to one particular “brand” of training, but rather pulls from her years of experience and broad knowledge to help both horse and rider have a safe and enjoyable life together.
“Safety is top priority to me. These are very large animals. To think that they can be manhandled is a fallacy. That’s why people get injured. They don’t truly understand the horse and they don’t have a relationship that he actually understands,” explains Pearles.
Pearles often lends books and videos from her vast library to her students to help them with the learning process. Her program is custom fit for each client, dependent upon their situation.
“It’s a lifelong journey,” says Pearles. She continues her own training by attending clinics locally and around the country, having recently returned from the “Legacy of Legends” in Las Vegas - an annual event hosted by Buck Brannaman as a tribute to Ray Hunt and the Dorrance brothers.
With a solid two-hour training session under her belt in West Falls, Pearles is headed to Knox Farm in East Aurora to watch a driving competition with one of her veteran students.
“There is always something new to learn,” she says as she carefully inputs the next destination into her navigation system. “I must admit, though, the horses I have worked with over the years have taught me the most. I am humbled just to be in their presence and work with such majestic animals. Each one is a gift.”
Gail Pearles resides near Springville, NY on her 65-acre Kinship with Horses Ranch. In addition to problem solving and training, she also coaches for competition, assists in new horse evaluation and selection, gives riding lessons and provides recommendations for equine facility design and natural horse care. For more information, visit Gail Pearles on the web at www.kinshipwithhorses.net.