I had the joy of meeting and interviewing a woman of remarkable talent: Sandy Miller, owner of Miller Equestrian Farm located in Central City, Pennsylvania. I drove to her facility where she shared her background and vision for her horses and how she does what she does. And what she does is nothing short of phenomenal!
The facility itself is like pages out of a magazine. The farm is picturesque with two beautiful training barns situated on lush green pastures and not far from the training barns is the stable where her herd is in residence. The barns were impressive with discernable attention to detail. Most notable in the indoor arenas is the surface from Attwood Equestrian Surfaces. This footing is superior and virtually dust free. It does not need to be watered and no dust in the riding ring benefits horse and rider.
The stables and barn interiors were all thoughtfully built and immaculate. There is even a kitchen and retro signage on the barn walls that were really a neat addition to the center.
Vintage signs from the past and all the state of the art options in this modern facility left me in awe to the nth degree!!! If all horses could have barns like these to live and train.
Sandy Miller is a calm and confident woman who not only enjoys observing horses and how they behave within the herd dynamic, but she understands their communication. Armed with that knowledge, she has been able to successfully train horses in a way that they can understand – being calm, confident, consistent while gaining trust and respect. This is not an overnight thing either, it takes considerable time to develop this type of understanding and relationship with the horse.
Success is more assured when both the owner and the horse have the same training and understanding. We must be able to control the energy and ultimately how things go on the ground will show how things will be in the saddle. It is important to do things right on the ground initially.
The time I spent with Sandy on that morning was valuable because I learned how what we do as humans or perhaps more notable not doing can impact the horse’s response. To get the appropriate response, we as their human leader need to gain their implicit trust and give them confidence to give their trust willingly and it all stems from our behavior and actions with them. This is not easy to do and takes time because horses are naturally prey animals and they follow the leader of their herd.
You must prove to them you are their leader and that you are worthy of their trust. In a herd situation, the group follows the leader and trusts the leader with their very lives. As Sandy put it, if the leader runs, the group is going to follow and run too. Do we as humans have that type of affect as leaders with our horses? That is a question and an important one. When we think about taking riding lessons, there is much more to it than just hopping in the saddle. To be a truly great horseman or horsewoman, we need to put the time in to understand human and horse behavior and how they work together to make it effective and meaningful.
Sandy shared how safety and awareness is key in training. It is important to understand how our body gives off energy that the horse reads. Consistency is very crucial. Horses need to have confidence in you and feel comfortable with you. Feeling safe and comfortable is important to us but equally important to horses.
Keeping the horse focused on you and not something outside the riding ring enables a stronger connection and foundation for the horse to learn and ultimately respect you and your space. Stability is very critical and by that, I learned that we need to ensure what we say and do match. We cannot say something and then convey the opposite through our actions. That would confuse the best of us and especially our horses.
Sandy also demonstrated indoor arena work with one of her horses with what she teaches. Her horses are all very well trained and it was impressive to see. She makes it look effortless, but the reality is that is does take considerable time and patience to achieve. She stressed that continual learning is important to the student instruction both in the ring but also outside! There is a tremendous amount of information online to supplement the student experience and physical exercise is valuable riding horses in correct balance takes a lot of strength. Horse’s mouths and bodies are very sensitive and respond to even the slightest flick of our fingers! Imagine that. We do not need to tug and pull hard to get the necessary responses during our groundwork or rides.
Sandy Miller is very passionate about her work with horses, and it was so obvious to me during the interview that she loves her horses and is so proud of them. She has accomplished a great deal with them and now she trains others to learn how to communicate effectively with their horses and understand their behavior and why they do what they do. She explained that spending time observing her herd of 5 is not only fascinating but provides extremely valuable information on how they communicate with each other and the hierarchy of each herd member. She also includes observation time with her students as part of their instruction too. I would surmise that would be a favorite part of the lesson plan!
Sandy shared that she loves to teach others. Building relationships with horses is the cornerstone of her lessons. To learn more about the facility, Sandy, and her training her contact information and website:
Anyone that wants to have a solid foundation to build on with their horses will greatly benefit from training with Sandy at Miller Equestrian Farm. Trust, respect, and confidence will yield tremendous results as you learn to communicate with your horse in the best way that they can understand. Safety is stressed here as well, and every precaution is taken here to assure a positive experience for students and horses.
I commend Sandy and her staff for the value they bring to the horse industry. I am so happy to have had this opportunity to meet Sandy and her herd. A day I won’t forget, and I look forward to future visits!!