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ON THE SCENE: The horse whisperer

October 4, 2012
NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

For many people, the concept of a horse whisperer was first introduced by the film of that name starring and directed by Robert Redford. The concept of what a horse whisperer does was best articulated when a New York City magazine editor Annie MacLean (Kristin Scott Thomas) calls up and asks the Wyoming horse trainer Tom Booker (Redford), "I heard what you can do for people with horse problems."

"Truth is I help horses with people problems," responds Booker (Redford), who was modeled after the fabled horse trainer Buck Brannaman (see the documentary Buck).

This past week Lesley and John Trevor hosted a "Horse Whisperer" clinic for people with "horse problems" led by Kathryn Kincannon, well known in the community and amongst hoteliers of the world's finest resorts, as the former general manager of the Lake Placid Lodge who oversaw its transformation to a hotel of exceptional caliber that by example stimulated a major rebirth in luxury accommodations in Lake Placid.

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In many ways Kincannon's re-emergence in this unexpected new direction is not unlike the Trevors' Snowslip Farm's re-emergence from being flooded and nearly destroyed by Hurricane Irene into a center for healing and sustainability, which once again will include growing organic foods. In the midst of that terrible storm when nearly 4 feet of dark muddy water laced with tree branches and other debris sweep over the fields, it is a bit hard to say who truly saved who during that ordeal when John and Lesley, lead and were led by their horses through the heavy current and cold waters to safety.

Thus it is especially fitting that this reemergence represented collaboration between horses and people, and featured a workshop by a woman who since her departure from Lake Placid has learned how to listen and respond to horses.

"After being with and watching my husband Chris (Irwin, Canada's leading equine behaviorist) work with horses I got a chance to work with a horse of my own, one that came from the track, which are often basket cases," said Kincannon. "I walked out into that round ring fully believing I was going to be that horse's savior and that didn't happen. I stepped in with my whip relaxed in my hand and the end just lying on the ground. My hands were at my side. I stood perfectly still. The horse started running around the ring like a crazy lunatic. He was not seeing me has his savior. If he could have knocked down or jumped over the fence he would have. I was stunned."

"Chris said, "You might want to tone it down." That was my first inkling as to how I come across. That started me down a whole new path. It has been quite a journey. No day has ever been the same. They have helped me know myself as a person."

On Friday evening, after several days of one-on-one workshops, Kincannon lead a lecture demonstration. To the audience she said, "How do I relate to him (the horse) in a way that earns his respect? Horses are a prey animal. They are aware of everything in their environment, they have to be, their survival depends on it. All of us have the opportunity to be the top dog or the underdog; horses never experience that, they are always the prey. They never know what's going to happen next. We have the opportunity to experience what they experience. Horses have a language of their own, if we don't learn that we really miss out."

"There are forms of consciousness all over the planet. We are not the only being experiencing consciousness. Being with horses provides us the opportunity to experience their consciousness, to learn their language. I will respond to everything he says to me. I want him to understand that we can relate to each other with mutual respect."

"I thought that our natural move to go to a horse's head was interesting," said Stephanie Colby after the demonstration. I learned that it's exactly the opposite of what we should be doing, we should go to the body instead."

"Her presentation was very interesting," said Nancy Hartwick. "I thought you could apply what she taught us to humans or any other animals. I thought the horses would be intimidated by the whip, but they weren't."

"It was interesting to learn that horses have a language of their own," said Ellie Colby.

"I think that the way you should relate to horses is the way you should relate to people," said Tish Friedlander. "You should respect them and if you treat them with respect they should respect you. I also thought it was amazing to learn that horses need to move to relax."

"My sister Katie asked if I want to come to this and I said sure, I want to learn how to communicate with a horse," said Noni Eldridge. "I was interested to learn how much eye contact comes onto play. If you stare at them in face they will think you are challenging them. Learning how to communicate with horses has helped me feel more centered."

"I'm just fascinated how a creature like a horse can be so therapeutic, so connected to your inner self and how they can help you overcome your own inner struggles," said Katie Weaver. "When you come to a gate in your life they can help you over it. You can bond with this giant creature."

"I am so impressed with Kathryn's knowledge with horses," said Lesley Trevor. She gets amazing results. I learned that when you are with a horse you are in a constant conversation."

Lesley and John Trevor and Kathryn Kincannon will be hosting future events and workshops. Visit for future announcements.



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