Marni feeding Dex.
Polished. Professional. Perfect. The show ring… the open stage of the equestrian world where horses, riders, drivers and handlers, depending on the discipline, perform and shine. Awards are won, and lost, in a heartbeat. Dreams are realized or delayed. Either way, those in the spotlight don’t get there on their own.
Behind the scenes the equestrian tapestry of achievement is woven with the blood, sweat and tears of a formidable team of unsung heroines (and heroes). These are the grooms, farriers, chiropractors, massage therapists, coaches, barn help, veterinarians, nutritionists, etc. who work tirelessly to help create the optimal health, wellness and fitness of both horse and rider for success in the show ring.
This series of interviews is designed to acknowledge and celebrate some of the skilled and empathetic people working tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the equestrian dream alive.
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Last time Dorothy Chiotti introduced us to Marni Reimers. Today, we conclude Dorothy’s story of Marni’s deep love of horses and learn about Marni’s philosophy of horse care, her Andalusian gelding, Amigo, and the life lessons Marni has learned from her horses.
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Our second Unsung Heroine is horse trainer, stable hand, groom and Standardbred foster mom, Marni Reimers of Majic Horses Training Farm in Mono, Ontario. Marni owns and operates this small rescue, rehab and boarding facility with the help of her supportive husband, Jan, and from the moment you meet her the depth of her passion for the horse is obvious. I caught up with her for our photo shoot on a chilly winter’s day, and with the help of BoBo the farm dog and Pigeon, the barn cat, we captured a few memories.
Here’s [the balance of] her story ...
What does a typical day at your farm look like?
The horses live outside with shelters for inclement weather and, of course, blankets and heated water in the winter. They have 24-hour access to either hay or grass depending on the season. In the morning I check on them and feed morning grain. They live naturally as small herds. It’s fascinating to observe the hierarchy. I never have issues with fighting over grain, etc., as they all know they’ll be fed in order of their place in the herd. Water troughs are cleaned and topped up. On a training day I ride several horses and, depending on their training level, do ground work, flat work, or jumping, etc. Every horse learns to hack alone and with others, and to explore new terrain calmly and confidently. Of course, my day includes normal barn chores ~ tack cleaning, mucking out shelters, fixing fences, mowing grass, etc. I’m fortunate that my hubby, Jan, is home full time and helps with a lot of the heavy work. In the evenings I spend time with the horses, petting and talking to them, and asserting my place as herd leader. This is important for my safety, so I know I can be in the paddock with up to eight horses and never be crowded or in the way of a skirmish.
What's your horse care philosophy?
I want the horses to live as naturally as possible. I provide huge pastures, herd living, and low stress. Of course, I attend to hoof health, deworming, dental work, vaccinations, bathing, grooming, etc., and ensure each horse has a bright, happy eye. Any wounds, weight problems, or herd issues are quickly addressed. My feeling is we’re honoured to have these magnificent creatures under our care and must ensure they’re as happy and healthy as possible.
Tell us about Amigo ...
'Migo, as I call him, has the registered name “Carajillo.” Loosely translated from Spanish it means "Little Brat!” He’s is a five-year-old grey Andalusian gelding I met at a ranch in Ajijic, Mexico in December, 2017, when I also met the ranch owner, Lupita. She and I hit it off from the start. It felt like we’d known each other forever ~ and so it was with ‘Migo. He was four and a stallion; proud and arrogant. However, there was something about him that called to me, and from the moment I first sat on him, I could feel his brain reaching out to connect with mine. Again, like we already knew each other. I fell in love, and rode him for the six weeks we were in Mexico. I wasn’t looking for a new horse, never mind a grey one. Had never considered one of the Spanish/Iberian breeds. And certainly never considered bringing a horse from Mexico to Canada. But Lupita, who is as passionate and intuitive about horses as anyone I know, saw my connection with ‘Migo, and when it was time to return to Canada, she said, "You know you have to take him with you." "Whaat??" I said. "He has chosen you; he needs to be with you,” she stated simply. I soon realized she was right.
So began the journey of bringing this magnificent boy home to my farm. ‘Migo’s sperm was collected, and he was gelded. Once healed, he began the arduous road trip home to me. I fretted the entire three weeks. Jan and I went with truck and trailer to meet him in Chicago and brought him the rest of the way home. He arrived in mid May to a whole new life. We're now in dressage training, taking it slowly, and looking forward to celebrating our partnership. ‘Migo arrived when my personal riding goals aligned with his potential ~ to dance a Grand Prix Kür one day. That day is far in the future, but I plan to enjoy every moment of the journey!
What life lessons have horses taught you over the years?
What life lessons have horses taught you over the years?
In no particular order:
- never lie
- be honest in your relationships with others
- be playful
- be grateful for your comforts ~ enough to eat and drink, shelter from the elements, the
- companionship of others, the opportunity to exercise and test your limits
- be confident, but always be aware there may be a lion lurking in the woods
- be sensitive, but not over-sensitive
- appreciate the small things in life ~ a good back scratch, warm sunshine on your face, a small treat when you least expect it.
Any advice for those interested in working with horses?
If you want to get rich quick, don't consider a career in horses. However, if you know that horses are your true passion and want to work with them, don't let anyone talk you out of it. Volunteer, be a working student, get a job with a professional horseman or facility you respect, and listen and learn. Soak up all the knowledge you can. Be a professional yourself, in whatever capacity makes sense. Opportunities open up if you stick with it. Take a college course in the equine industry if that appeals to you.
Favorite Colour: Liver Chestnut
Favorite Breed: Standardbred, and most recently, Andalusian!
Favorite Book: My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
Favorite Movie: The Man from Snowy River
Favorite grooming tool: A good 'ole steel shedding blade ~ the kind with teeth on one edge and smooth on the other, that can be used straight or bent into a loop.
Personal hashtag: #dreambigbutbepresent
Quote for life: “A horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care. “Pat Parelli
WHO IS DOROTHY E. CHIOTTI?
Dorothy E. Chiotti is an accomplished writer and fine art photographer based near Orangeville, Ontario. Her equestrian photojournalism video, Unsung Heroines of the Horse Industry, a spin-off from her photo project, Barn Mavens, featured at Toronto’s Urban Gallery “Women at Work” exhibit during the ScotiaBank CONTACT Photography Festival in May 2018, is a selection at Equus Film Festival 2018 in New York City. For more information, visit www.aimwellcreativeworks.com