A Trio of Teachers - Gideon Goodheart, Kim Walnes, and The Gray Goose
Gideon Goodheart is an aptly named seven-year-old stallion, who is a half Connemara and half Irish Sport Horse. Gideon is the protégé of his grand-uncle, The Gray Goose, who supervised his birth and his training with his breeder and rider, Kim Walnes.
Kim and Gray were together for 25 years until his recent passing in June at the age of 30. They are on the cover of Natural Horse (Volume 2, Issue #5), which also contains a tribute to their partnership in the top ranks of national and international Three-Day Eventing and in several well-known videotapes. (See sidebar 1.)
Dawn Hayman, a well-known animal communicator, interviewed Gideon with Kim. Dawn is cofounder and Assistant Director of Spring Farm CARES, a non-profit sanctuary for domestic animals and the world's first center for the teaching of interspecies communication. (See sidebar 2.)
Dawn knew Gray from previous consultations, but this was her first communication with Gideon since an animal communication interview last year when Kim attended a workshop with her son Brian. Kim, who lives in Pennsylvania, called Dawn in New York and described Gideon so Dawn could connect with him telepathically for this interview and act as translator between Kim and Gideon.
Focusing on His Career
Kim explained to Dawn that, although she bred Gideon, he was boarded out-of-state from the time he was seven months old until he rejoined her when he was four to begin his formal training. Kim asked Gideon, "What are your plans for competing in combined training, dressage and reining?" Gideon explained, "I am still developing and dont really know what my plans are. But I think Im doing very well. (Kim agreed.) People tell me I have great potential and someday Im going to be a star. Ive got to work to get there, but some days I forget this. When Im focused Im really good and can stay focused, but once I lose it, it is very difficult to get it back."
Kim asked, "Would you prefer dressage, or reining, or would you like to compete in both, and combined training?" Gideon replied, "Variety helps to keep me focused."
Kim then explained, "The fast stops, quick turns, backing up fast and spinning around and around and around is what I call 'reining'. Gideon said, "I dont know. I always thought I was NOT supposed to do that. This confuses me." Kim laughed, "Please do this only when I ask you to!" and added, "Ill try to make it clearer."
Kim asked Gideon, "Do you want to do the same kind of competition that Gray Goose used to do?" Gideon said, "Yes, Gray told me that was what I was supposed to do. Gray also said I would never be as good as he was. So Ill have to be better! I look forward to competing, but I have to be ready, and I know Im not ready yet. I need practice! I enjoy and feel safe working with Mom, because she really understands me."
He asked, "When does Mom think we will start competing?" Kim replied "I will try my very best to find a dressage competition this fall to start with between my long trips away to teach. And if not, I promise we WILL do something next spring." Gideon asked, "Do you think Im ready?" And Kim said, "Yes, as long as you trust me, and just do what I ask exactly when I ask. In combined training you must be willing to jump strange fences that you have never seen without having a look at them."
Gideons reply was, "Wow, why do they do that? The Gray Goose told me about that. It would make more sense if they let the horses see them first." Kim explained, "It is done this way because it is a test of the trust between the horse and the rider. They want to know if the horse will trust the riders commands and judgement even when it looks like theres no way through an obstacle or as if you are jumping out into space with no landing."
Gideon said, "I will need to practice this." Kim said that hes been pretty brave, but when he is on the trail and sees a strange log, he wants to stop and have a look, rather than just going right along. He does march up to things that catch his attention, rather than turning around to run away. She said, "You will need to be able to trust me when I say its OK, just go on." But she admitted he hasnt yet crossed that barrier and she needs to get him out to some places where they have solid cross-country fences on rolling ground.
Even when ridden with just a halter, Gideon is trustworthy
What did Gideon think of having Kim as his partner? Gideon said, "It is really great, and I am thrilled to put that into a magazine. I am very honored to be her partner. I feel very special because The Gray Goose passed the torch to me and left me in charge of her. I am to watch over her and to take care of her. I think that The Gray Goose knew what he was doing when he gave me this responsibility, and I feel honored by it". And Kim said she felt very honored to be Gideons partner.
Kim said, "Gideon is an amazing protector. He really tries hard to protect me. And even when hes lost his focus he works to stay under me. (And Gideon agreed.) I use him for riding lessons. He is a very good teacher for people who are fearful, and I really honor him for doing that."
Kims forte is using horses to help people discover where they are blocked both physically and emotionally. She has found that stiff muscles are often due to emotional trauma, even if the person does not realize it happened. And when this stiffness is released, so are the emotions that caused it. Then Kim helps people process these emotions. She calls her system "Enlightened Horsemanship" and blends her experiences with Centered Riding techniques, body awareness (incorporating Feldenkrais methods), and sports psychology.
Gideon explained, "I like to calm down frightened riders. I feel that a big mission for me in this lifetime is to teach people how gentle horses can be." Kim agreed wholeheartedly, and told about how everybody says "Oh, my God, a STALLION"! She tells them, "Hes VERY gentle and hes very good with people who are frightened." Gideon explained, "When I feel that somebody is frightened I try to become more grounded. (Kim had noticed this.) I appreciate that Mom becomes more grounded for me when I become frightened."
Kim also said that in addition to teaching on a physical level, there was also a spiritual level to his teaching. Gideon said, "I am aware of this, but I do not have a really good understanding of it. Although I suspect it will develop."
We asked Gideon what he thinks about getting Kim back into competition. (It has been 12 years since Kim competed in dressage or combined training.) He said, "I guess it is something we are doing together. We are a team. This is not just my getting Kim back into competition, because she is getting me started. I am very proud that I am the one she is taking into competition." Kim said, "I wouldnt be competing if it werent for him. I feel he has a mission." He said, "Wow, thats pretty neat."
Kim explained that her body is older now and not as eager and ready as her mind is. She has been through a lot of wrecks, not just on horses. She really appreciates that when she gets flustered Gideon does not. He said, "Oh! Well, I can keep doing that!" She explained that when she was teaching him to jump sometimes she would feel physical fear, and Gideon would communicate to her, "Oh come on, Mom, this is supposed to be fun!" And she would think, "Im having a hard enough time just breathing." Gideon said, "Sometimes I breathe for both of us!"
Kim reminded Dawn that when she and her son Brian attended one of Dawns animal communication workshops, they had a consultation in which Gideon said, "Just hang onto my mane and well run like the wind." Kim said, "We have done that a time or two. He obviously really had fun doing that. And I enjoyed it, too."
The Gray Goose as Advisor
Gideon told Dawn, "Gray gave me LOTS of advice. He talked to me ALL the time." Gray had known Gideons mother, The Lady Destiny, since she was born, and watched from outside her stall when Gideon was born. Gideon and Destiny were turned out with Gray the first day. Gideon spent almost three years living in a run-in in Virginia and Maine before being reunited with Kim and Gray in Pennsylvania, a little more than two years ago, to begin his formal education. Then he and Gray had adjoining stalls, although by then Gray, at 27, was too frail to be turned out with other horses.
When Gray was loose he always came to the ring when Kim rode Gideon, or stood up on the bank as a visual buffer between the young stallion and the mare pastured in that field. Whenever they jumped, Gray came inside the ring. If Kim asked Gray to explain a technique to Gideon, Gideons actions always changed immediately, for example, getting closer to the jump before taking off, instead of taking off from the long spot and flying through the air.
Gideon said that Gray told him about competing and travelling. Gray had said, "It is important to stay grounded, but yet be able to fly over the fences and run fast, while staying calm. And I was very good at that."
As to flying in an airplane, Gray also told Gideon that it feels kind of wobbly, but then it feels fine. Even though Gray could not look outside, he was aware that he was airborne. Kim confirmed that Gray was excellent at both kinds of flying. Gray also told Gideon that sometimes it takes a LONG time to get there. Kim said he was referring to the two-day flight to Australia. There had been some problems and some horses arrived in bad shape.
Kim told Dawn, "Gray truly did fly. The longer we were in the air the more he liked it. It was just a real high to sit up there and go with him on that. And Gideon has that in him, too. Its a little more than my body can handle right now, but I know we will work our way up to that."
Gideon said, "Gray told me, Trust did not come easily for me, I had to learn to trust people. In my early life I was with people that I did not think were going to make me a star. The people treated me badly, and they were going to get rid of me. No one wanted me anymore. So I got angry and defiant and bitter because I did not trust people. Mom saved me, but it took me a while to work through my anger and to trust again. Mom brought out my creative side, and I am very proud of that."
Gideon also said, "Gray told me I would have to work hard, and I am prepared for that." Kim confirmed that Gideon always worked as hard as she asked him to. Kim asked, "Did Gray tell you there would be times when you wont think you could go on? You wont think you can breathe because it is hot and humid. But if you keep going then you break through to the other side and it gets easier again." Gideon said, "Gray told me about that and wants me to do that too, to never give up." Kim said, "Gideons mother tended to give up easily, but Gray never gave up. I think Gideons father was probably like that, too."
Kim asked, "Is there anything else Gray told you about competing that you want to share?" Gideon said, "He said the ribbons are really great. And it is also really great when people yell your name." Kim said that people did do that with Gray. " Did Gray tell you about the victory gallop?" Gideon said, "No." So Kim explained, "At the end of a combined training competition which has show jumping as the last phase, the horses who get ribbons do a lap around the arena in the order in which they finished. So, if you win and you do everything really, really well, and the judges like you, then you get to be the one in front. You get to be the leader." Gideon said, "Wow! But Gray also told me that sometimes the judges dont make any sense." Kim admitted, "This is very true. There can be a halo effect. Sometimes judges give famous people a higher score than they might truly warrant. But Gray and I made it up there and we were nobodies. And you can do that too. Also, your Mom isnt a nobody any more. We have that going for us. But they will be watching you very carefully. Also, you are unique in and of yourself. I sense that you are as great as Gray. But I do not expect you to step into Grays shoes."
Then Kim asked, "Do you want to have your own colors, or would you like to carry Grays colors of black with orange trim?" Gideon thought he should carry Grays colors. And Kim said she knew Gray was happy about that. Gideon happily said, "It is like a good luck charm."
When she started his formal education Kim found that Gideon did not respond well to the traditional methods of starting a horse. He was fine about leading, but the concept of steering from behind using long lines did not make sense to him. Therefore she had to find a new way to train him. So she learned about natural horsemanship. Kim has audited clinics by Ray Hunt, Leslie Desmond, and Buck Brannaman. She said, "I learned tons of useful things, and then Gideon refined them."
Kim asked, "What do you feel when we get around someone who hits a horse hard, or kicks them hard, or does something thats a little more aggressive?" She thought she felt in him, "Oh, MOM, DO something!" Dawn confirmed that it does bother him. Gideon said, "I see that it breaks the spirits of the horses and I feel really bad about that. It is not fair to compete against them when they are like that. They are not going to even try because they feel so defeated all the time. They should not feel defeated by the person who is riding them and working with them, they should feel elevated by that. It makes me sad when I see it."
Kim asked, "Is there anything else you want to say to the readers?" Gideon said, "You dont have to be tough, just work together."
Dawn and Kim said, "Thank you very much for this interview," and Gideon replied, "Youre welcome."
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