Horse-Human conference in Dillon proves big hit

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Horse sense

Retired University of Montana Western Rodeo Coach Iola "Olie" Else (left) offers her views next to the Pittsburgh Zoo's Dr. Barbara Baker during a panel discussion on Defining Humane Effective Horsemanship during this month's Of Horse, Human and Nature conference at the Montana Center for Horsemanship in Dillon. M.P. Regan photo

The Montana Center for Horsemanship staged its inaugural Of Horse, Human and Nature conference this month at its headquarters in Dillon.

And its leaders assure that the ambitious effort will return next year as an annual local event that attracts participants from around the world to Beaverhead County.

“I am also pleased with the turnout, because we had a large crowd, like 150 people here,” said Montana Center for Horsemanship President and Co-Founder William Kriegel on the final day of the three-day event that included, among other happenings, a film festival, symposiums, field trips, horsemanship workshops, a photo exhibit, social gatherings and numerous presentations.

“And I am very pleased with the quality of the speakers, sharing their experiences,” added Kriegel of the conference with a roster of presenters headlined by Dr. Temple Grandin, a worldrenowned expert on autism and animal behavior (see story on page 13).

In addition to Grandin, the conference galloped out dozens of other presenters—experts offering new into the longstanding working relationship between horses and humans that has proved so critical to the history of civilization.

It began with a morning demonstration by some of the more than 100 natural horsemanship students from the Montana Center for Horsemanship (MCH) and the University of Montana Western.

“The center is an education center. We partner with the University of Montana Western, and the community,” said Kriegel of the organization established as a nonprofit with a focus on the La Cense Method of natural horsemanship.

“It was William Kriegel’s vision to establish an education center focused on natural horsemanship, focused on La Cense,” said MCH Director of Development, Communications and Strategic Partnerships Janet Rose of “the only education center in the nation devoted exclusively to natural horsemanship education” and the only one in the U.S. to offer a four-year bachelor of science degree in natural horsemanship.

“La Cense is based on the temperament and psychology and innate nature and personality of horse. It aims to help make the horse a willing partner with humans—whether going into trails, ranching or rodeo,” added Rose of the program established in the U.S. by Kriegel in 2000, 16 years after he’d emigrated from his native.

To further its mission, MCH’s conference this month offered a wide range of presentations, including:

”Galloping Through Cyberspace: Horsemanship in the Online Space,” a forum chaired by University of Montana Western Chancellor Michael Reid that featured, among others, Eric Hoffmann, MCH’s director of horsemanship and head instructor;

*Pittsburgh Zoo CEO Dr. Barbara Baker on using natural horsemanship to manage exotic wild animals like zebras and elephants;

*a business talk by Scott Knudsen, host of the Cowboy Entrepreneur Show, on “How to Be Your Own CEO”;

*a special screening of A Horse, A Convict and a Chance for Change” by Wild2Ride founder Joe Misner, who also served at the conference on a forum entitled “Understanding the Horse-Human Relationship”;

*a Yoga on Horseback” demonstration by Ashley Mancuso, a filmmaker and United States Dressage Federation gold medalist;

*a presentation on “Perseverance Through Horses: The Life-Changing Power of the Horse” by Lauren Reischer, a young woman born with cerebral palsy whose life expanded when her father helped her learn to ride horses, leading to her eventually gaining a spot on the equestrian team at Brown University, the Ivy League college she recently graduated from;

*a forum on “Heart of the Horse Through Literature/Film/Photography”;

*a rountable discussion on “Defining Humane, Effective Horsemanship” featuring Nancy Zeitlin, an Israeli woman who trains young Palestinians to ride and compete in major equestrian events, as well as Iola “Olie” Else, the chair of equine studies and legendary retired University of Montana Western rodeo coach who, along with Grandin, received an Equine Icon and Lifetime Achievement Award at the conference.

“I thought, let’s bring ranchers and neighbors and neighbors together, and let’s do something important,” said Kriegel of the inspiration behind the Of Horse, Human and Nature conference put on by the Montana Center for Horsemanship.

“We wanted to have a conference in Dillon and help make Dillon the center of the world for ranching. We have the ranching community with a great education capacity through the schools and university. That is a unique combination,” said Kriegel, who also experienced a blossoming of his life as a child after being introduced to riding horses.

“When I was a kid in France, I got very sick when I was 11 years old and was out of school until I was about 15 years old. Being out of school made me very upset and unhappy. My condition was not very nice. I was an unhappy kid. So, my parents for some reason brought me to a local horse barn, which I liked,” said Kriegel of his first encounter with a horse who would redirect the course of his life.

“He was a fantastic animal, powerful. And me as a kid who was limited emotionally and physically, I discovered I could be on this horse and that I can work with him. So it gave me the confidence I needed. I thought if I can do that, I can do what I want in life. And that’s what I’ve been doing,” declared Kriegel, who wants to make the Of Horse, Human and Nature conference a regular part of his life and the life of Dillon going forward.

“Yes, I want to do this conference every year, absolutely. I think it’s really important—it’s good for Dillon, it’s good for the community, it’s good for the university, and it’s good for the horses. It’s a win-win-win-win.”