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Acampo trainer Jill Knoll takes horsing around seriously

Local financial adviser is following her dream of training horses — and teaching owners how to better communicate with their animals

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Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2013 12:00 am

Jill Knoll has a dual persona. By day, she’s a financial adviser in the Lodi area. On nights and weekends, she’s in Western gear and tending to her two horses.

Now she wants to take her love for horses to another level — teach people how to have the best possible relationship with their horses. That means training the horse’s owner as well as the horse.

“I’m really into the psychology of the horse,” Knoll said at her 3-acre ranch in Acampo. “The goal is to have a safe and happy relationship with the horse.”

So how do you communicate with your horse, since — with the exception of Mr. Ed of ‘60s sitcom fame — animals can’t talk?

“Horses talk to you all the time,” Knoll said. “You have to look at their body language.”

The first step is for owners to establish that they are the leader.

“Horses look for a leader,” she said. “If the human doesn’t become one, they become the leader.”

Knoll discovered equines for the first time when she was 7, and she fell in love with them. However, her family lived near Lodi Lake, which was too urban a setting for a large animal.

“My parents never supported anything horse,” Knoll said. “My parents wanted me to go into banking.”

After graduating from Lodi High School and San Joaquin Delta College, Knoll got a job as a teller at the former Stockton Savings Bank. She got her first horse at about the same time.

She began riding her horse at age 18 on a ranch on Kost Road in Galt. She learned to exercise horses, and she earned $150 to deliver foals.

Then, former Clements horse trainer Pat Parelli taught her about communicating with horses at the horse’s level.

About five years ago, Knoll acquired 3 acres on Collier Road near Lower Sacramento Road, and built a horse arena and stables. She now has two horses: Speckles, a female, and Budweiser, a male adopted from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Knoll has cared for horses 28 years, but she’s never charged for her services because she wanted to retain her amateur status in horse-riding competitions. Now she wants to make a second career out of what is really her passion.

Knoll offers four basic classes on evenings and weekends: horse psychology; grooming, feeding and bathing; teaching owners to become the horse’s leader; and riding and putting them in a horse trailer.

Getting the horse’s trust is no small feat, Knoll says.

“They don’t like being put in the trailer,” she said. “They are extremely claustrophobic. Even the nicest horse, if you scare it, they will kick you.”

Knoll charges $25 per student per class in a group setting and $35 for individual lessons. She’ll charge $45 per session for particular horse-and-rider problem solving. If it’s not going to work out, there won’t be a charge.

“There are some horses that are not meant to be ridden,” Knoll said. “It’s like people. Not everyone’s meant to be a brain surgeon.”

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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