Tanja Kraus has a deep connection with horses and loves to share her horsemanship skills and philosophy with others all over the world through workshops and events. FOCUS finds out more about good horsemanship and how Tanja can help you and your horse better communicate.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
I moved to the Coffs Coast from the Gold Coast 11 years ago. My partner, Phil, and I had been doing the long distance relationship thing for some time, and someone had to move. I loved Coffs Harbour, so I made the move and have loved it ever since.
How did your passion for horses begin, and what part have they played in your life since?
I have been obsessed with all things animal for as long as I can remember and when I was three, my parents bought a block of land opposite the Currumbin Horse Club. While they were busy planning where the house was going, I was across the road visiting the horses.
I was horse mad growing up, following my friends around on foot while they rode their horses. When I was 12, my parents finally relented and bought me my first horse.
Can you tell us about some of your horses?
Between Phil and I, we have 10 horses of varying ages. I own and use as four of those horses as part of my team. Cooper is a 10-year-old Paint Horse and my number one demo horse and Boogie, my second in charge, is also a Paint Horse. Squizzy is a Quarter Horse X riding pony, who will come back to work in winter and Galliano, a Warmblood mare, is the latest addition.
How would you describe horsemanship? Is it something anyone can learn?
It is definitely something that everyone can learn, and I would say that it is simply a way for us to communicate with our horses at a deeper level. Whilst I teach skill sets at my courses, really I am sharing a philosophy and a “way” to interact with your horse. Once you understand how your horse thinks, and why he does what he does, it makes training him a lot easier.
Horsemanship is a philosophy that can be applied to any discipline, and it opens up ways to interact and enjoy your horse that we may not have thought of in the past. We go beyond having a horse to just ride it.
What is your philosophy behind good horsemanship?
Taking the horse into consideration and putting the horse first. We (the human) always seem to be able to tell people (or horses) what it is that we want to achieve, but often the explanation makes no mention of what is in it for the horse. Once we begin to realise that the horse is a thinking, feeling “being”, and we want him to enjoy what we are doing, then we experience things we didn’t think were possible.
What kind of training have you done?
Because my parents had no idea about horses, they insisted that I got lessons each week, so from the time I was 12 I was training in dressage, jumping and flatwork. In my early 20s, I bought an off the track Thoroughbred, whom I wanted to compete on in dressage. He was not easy to train in the traditional way I had been taught, so we were struggling. He led me to my first horsemanship clinic because I wanted to try to “fix” him. This opened up an entirely new way of training and communicating with my horses, and I found myself getting to as many horsemanship clinics as I could. I did this for about 10 years before I started taking in horses for training at home.
You have been travelling a lot lately. Where have you been, and what have you been doing?
Most recently I was in New Zealand teaching my first clinics there and attending their first ever Vaquero Gathering, where Phil was a presenter. Most weekends I am teaching in different locations Australia wide, and in July I head to the United Kingdom for the first time. In August I head back to New Zealand, and in September I am off to the United States.
You offer quite a range of services for horse riders and their horses. What are some of your favourites?
Starting horses under saddle is still one of my favourites, and liberty clinics (without leads or halters) are always fun. Teaching people how to use their body language, and read their horse’s body language always has some pretty amazing results. I also really enjoy helping competitive people get along with their horses better, and showing them that there is a kind way of creating a performance horse.
How important is it for a young horse to have a good experience when starting under saddle?
Giving a horse the right start can set them up for life and is something I consider to be one of the most important things we can do. You are basically showing the horse how to be when he is under saddle, so the way I see it is if the start is “rough and tumble”, then that is what the horse thinks that riding is.
You held the first Australian Vaquero Gathering in Australia with your partner, Phil Monaghan. Can you tell us more about this?
Phil: It could be said The Vaquero Traditions are the foundation of today’s modern Horsemanship ideas. Starting in Europe with a strong influence from Spanish and Moorish horsemen, it was then taken to the Americas, where it made its way up through Mexico and into old California and developed into a cattle working system of horsemanship as the need arose.
I have been passionate about this style of horsemanship for many years now, mainly due to its empathy towards a gradual progression of the horse. The other idea that is a little different is that the hackamore and bridle are to be used for communication more so than control, with the equipment being signal devices, not leverage devices.
As a means to bring other enthusiasts from around Australia together, we decided to hold a gathering last year. It was well received, and we plan to hold another event this year and have had interest from New Zealand and the USA. The concept behind the gathering is just that, to get together, have some fun and enjoy our horsemanship, without it being a competitive environment.
Where can people find out more?
People can connect with us on Facebook and Instagram – Tanja Kraus Horsemanship. Our website is www.horsemanshipforperformance.com and we also have a Youtube channel. We are very active online. Every Monday night at 7pm we do a Live Show on Facebook, we send out a newsletter on Wednesdays, and every Friday we upload a new YouTube video.
Thanks Tanja and Phil.