Demonstration highlights horsemanship

Staff photo by Ben Baugh Aiken Horsemanship Academy founder Julie Robins, left, conducted a natural horsemanship demonstration at Boots, Bridles and Britches on Saturday.

Ann Gilpatrick has first-hand knowledge of the practical benefits of natural horsemanship. When she heard that Julie Robins, founder of the Aiken Horsemanship Academy, was conducting a demonstration on Saturday at Boots, Bridles and Britches, it was an opportunity Gilpatrick couldn’t afford to pass up.

“I brought my horse to Julie about two years ago,” said Gilpatrick, who found that natural horsemanship proved to be an effective tool in strengthening the bond between horse and rider. “She’s terrific.”

One would think Gilpatrick’s Puerto Rican Paso Fino gelding is calm, and is so most of the time, but every now and then there is a noticeable change in the horse’s demeanor.

“He’s a nervous horse, and when he gets nervous, he becomes mouthy,” said Gilpatrick. “We’re working through that. I can walk out in the pasture and get him. I don’t have to chase him. I think it’s all about the connection I have with him.”

The demonstration provided Robins, who owns Dragonfly Farm in Aiken, a forum for people to learn more about the Aiken Horsemanship Academy, promote the academy’s spring season, to share her knowledge about natural horsemanship and answer questions.

“The Aiken Horsemanship Academy is a resource for problem solving and advanced communication,” said Robins. “We have a few new classes that we’re introducing. We also conduct clinics.”

One of the horses in the demonstration was a 2-year-old filly who hasn’t been ridden, and is in the process of getting introduced to the saddle. Robins said the horse is suffering from what she refers to as precious body syndrome. The demonstration helped the horse progress in its desensitization process. There were a number of items in the demo area including a jolly ball.

“That horse doesn’t want anything to touch her,” said Robins. “She’s very opinionated about everything touching her, and things coming at her, so we use the jolly ball to help her understand that it’s not going to harm her. It will make her a safer riding horse for her owner, who wants to fox hunt. That can sort of simulate a hound coming toward her.”

The Aiken Horsemanship Academy is starting its new season with a horseless series. The focus will be on horse psychology. The four-part program is titled “Between the Ears.”

“We’re going to talk about everything from socialization to understanding the personality of your horse, knowing the personality for better training strategy as well as herd dynamics,” Robins said.

For more information about Julie Robins, visit