GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Kelsey Woolsey is one of the top competitors in her sport, but even she knows her success goes only as far as her partner.
“Yeah, it’s a lot different than even football,” said Woolsey. “You’re on a team, but you’re communicating with other humans that speak English. We’re communicating with animals that don’t speak a language.”
Kelsey’s partner is a horse, or in some events, a mini mule. Still, relying on an equine teammate comes naturally for Kelsey.
“I’ve been raised around them so I have the natural instinct about how to handle and lead them,” said Woolsey.
In fact, Kelsey’s experience goes beyond just being around them. She actually trained her horse Lakota and her mini-mule Emily.
“She’s done everything with Lakota on her own,” said Kelsey’s mother, Ann. “In the beginning I supervised it a little bit, but now I don’t hardly pay any attention to her at all.”
“It takes a while because they have to learn, and especially when they’re young, it’s like teaching a kindergartner at first,” said Kelsey. “They don’t understand. You have to do baby talk with them, and then they advance, and you can start forming sentences and words with what you’re teaching them. So it’s a fairly long process, and it’s never ending, which makes it even better.”
Better in part because the process of training and forming a bond with the animal takes her accomplishments to another level.
“I think it gives her a huge advantage,” said Ann. “The natural horsemanship aspect of it and that bond you develop, instead of using them as a tool, they’re your partner.”
“Training them I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” said Kelsey. “Yeah, it’s better than just jumping on something someone else has trained because I don’t feel as rewarded because I haven’t done anything.”
“It’s special to watch the growth and development, to watch the effort the effort that she’s put into it and where it’s gotten her because it’s been a big work in progress and it’s taken a lot of time,” said Ann.
Kelsey will compete with the Hidden Valley Equestrian team in at least six events at the state meet in May. Despite the competitiveness, for Kelsey, it begins and ends with love.
“Horses need love, language and leadership,” said Kelsey. “The fact that the animals can love back and they’re living, breathing and feeling, it makes it so much better at the end when you know what you have done is good for them and you.”
“She sticks to those principles and won’t breach those in order to get the quick solution,” said Ann. “I think in the end she has a better relationship with the horse and a stronger foundation.”
Not surprisingly, Kelsey plans on becoming a veterinarian. It’s a fitting future for such a strong foundation.