Jill Knolls knew she wanted to work with horses from a young age, but it would take years for her dream to come true.
Once a champion in the horse show arena, she now operates Knolls Basic Horsemanship from a ranch just outside Lodi. Her main focus is getting her students to understand these animals on a very basic level in order to develop relationships.
Knolls, who works as a financial adviser at a local bank during the day, teaches horse classes and provides private riding lessons weekday evenings and on both Saturdays and Sundays.
She teaches four classes which include horse psychology, basic horse care and handling, round pen, ground school and riding demonstrations. She also offers horse and rider problem solving and new horse owner support and guidance, and will do special requests to meet client needs, she said.
“I like to work with students that would like to do some type of higher competition because those type of trainers do not teach the basics or how to have a balanced seat,” Knolls adding of riding.
The Acampo resident recently answered a series of questions about herself, her horsemanship business and what she can teach even a novice.
How did you get involved in this training?
When I was 7 years old, I walked up to a horse for the first time and this large beautiful animal came over to me and put its nose through the fence so I could pet it. I knew at that moment when I grew up I would have a horse and win ribbons on it. At that time everything had to have a horse on it. We lived in town and my parents would never support my horse addiction.
I have been working with horses for 29 years and have worked with many different trainers ( some good and not so good) and would really like to teach children and adults what you should know before you ride or buy a horse.
Many trainers just put people on a horse for a lesson without giving the knowledge of how the horse really works and why they react to things the way they do.
What’s your equestrian background?
I purchased my first horse in 1985 and showed in western pleasure. I went top five at the Region III Arabian horse show in 1988.
After that, I felt to be a good horseman you needed to learn how to train a horse from ground up. Luckily, the trainer that I had at the time was into natural horsemanship which is that you train a horse using respect and communication versus force and fear.
I did get to work with (natural horse trainer) Pat Parelli when he was in Clements and was fortunate enough to watch (the late trainer and clinician) Ray Hunt when he was out there too. I also showed horses in reining from 2002-08 which I did qualify for the West Coast Reining Horse Association regional finals.
In summary, what are basic horsemanship skills?
My skills focus on working with a horse using the way they communicate with each other. I want them to feel that you are their leader and to teach people how to do that. I want to have a relationship with a horse that we are so much in harmony that you can ride without a reins or a bridle, and they enjoy your company.
The ultimate goal is to teach people to have a safe and happy relationship with horses.
How do you teach this?
It all starts with the ground work. Horses are always looking for a leader and if you do not prove to them you are they will start to become pushy and domineering.
It starts in the round pen were you would determine their direction and speed of their hoofs which is how they determine who is the leader in their herd environment.
How many horses do you personally own? Do you have a favorite?
I own three. Speckles is 14 and is my former reining competition horse. She now is my lesson horse and I do my bridleless riding demonstrations on her. Bud is 8 and he is a mustang that I adopted from the BLM wild horse adoption program. Rocky is 11 and is a project horse.
Hard to say which is my favorite since they are all special in their own ways but the mustang was my dream horse. I got my own place six years ago and was able to get him. I got so lucky, and he has turned out so nicely.
My daughter loves horses. Do you ever allow people to pay to ride yours?
Yes, I do give private riding lessons to children and adults. I prefer ages 12 and up but also like to make horse dreams come true. I do have a few 9 year olds that I have been working with.
I do like to focus more on the classes since I am limited with my horse time and can only do so many lessons a week with one horse.
What kind of recommendation would you give to an adult who wants to ride but had a bad childhood experience with a horse?
What I would do is teach people how to understand the horse and how the horse can understand you which can be accomplished by taking my four classes.
What I am trying to do is prevent people from having a bad experience because they didn't have the knowledge they needed.
Did you watch the recent Belmont Stakes? If so, did the horse you wanted to win do so?
Yes, I did and of course I wanted California Crome to win. (He didn’t.)
I do feel that he did give it the best he could do. Running all of those races in such a short amount of time is a lot to ask for a horse.
For more details on Knolls’ classes or to contact her, visit www.knollsbasichorsemanship.com.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.