The Head Honchos at the Farm
A developing passion for horses began at the age of 7, and did not wane over the years. Horse farms to hang out at always presented themselves in whatever location her father, who was in the Armed Forces, was transferred. This love of horses resulted in the purchase of her first equine at the age of 15, and she was required to pay for all the costs…which of course meant a part-time job after school as a car hop at A&W. Years later, a marriage, a child and a subsequent divorce meant she was horseless for some time, but she yearned endlessly. An opportunity to yet again own a horse presented itself some years later, and with support from her father, she was able to purchase an off track Thoroughbred at a local auction in Shawville, Quebec. And thus began a renewed relationship with horses. Sadly, and very shortly afterwards, her father suffered a massive heart attack and died. With her inheritance, Tanya took a one year leave of absence from her federal government job and attended as an in-resident, the first ever Equine Coaching and Rider Development Course at Kemptville College. There was an ambitious curriculum covering everything from biomechanics, nutrition, barn management and safety, communications/media etc., on top of riding, stable chores and learning coaching techniques. She worked very hard. She also took her horse with her, now named Kipling in memory of her father who was very taken with the poem, IF, and provided her and each of her siblings with a framed copy when they were very young. Guidance for living a good life, he said. After graduating with a diploma from this program in the spring of 1987, and having passed the examination for her coaching certification, she had a renewed and more directed passion for a future life with horses. Tanya returned to her government job, and began coaching at the National Capital Equestrian Park (now known as Wesley Clover), in the evenings, and weekends, and she boarded her horse at Marchcroft, riding in the jumper discipline under the skillful coaching of Vicki Andrew. While there, her horse Kipling suffered a life ending kick and was humanely euthanized. A move from Ottawa to a 5 acre home with a small barn close to North Gower followed, and then an acquisition of two Thoroughbreds, one of which is buried in the back fields of the current home of Kindred Farm and a change in coaching venue to Pinecrest Farm. A change in discipline to dressage and countless hours of riding/coaching improvement in the form of lessons and clinics continued over the years under such coaches as Ruth Koch, Jerry Ogilvie, Sue Leffler, Ron King, Susanne Dutt-Roth, Robert Gharibzadeh, Andrea Bresee, along with numerous clinics by other clinicians. A move to a larger property down the road, allowed for the construction of an indoor arena, and the grand opening of Kindred Farm Boarding and Lesson barn, which operated until 2011, when, with retirement from government, Tanya decided to take some well-earned down time, closing the barn and retaining just her own four horses. It wasn’t long before she was again yearning for something more….and came across an ad on Facebook for horses that were in the hands of a kill buyer, but had been given a reprieve of time to find homes before they were taken to slaughter. She was aware of the glut of horses on the market and the impact that track closures was having on that community, and subsequently on the market as a whole. Three unhandled ponies arrived at Kindred Farm shortly after, and thus the beginning of a new adventure.
Liz Tompkins (as written by Tanya)
Liz arrived at the farm as a potential volunteer in the spring of 2013. She had some significant past experience with horses, but had left that life some 10 plus year prior. Her love for horses, however, was still there, and her skills with horses had not diminished one iota. This became evident to me very quickly when I introduced her to one of our most difficult horses. Asher, as we named him, was a former Mennonite Dutch Driving Horse, and was as handsome and stunning as a horse could be, and that was just standing in his stall. To see him out moving was truly poetry in motion. He was, however, terrified of everyone and everything, regardless how gentle we were him. He was absolutely traumatized. He had been at the farm since just before Christmas, and progress was slow. I was worried he would never again trust humans. Everything we did with him made him fearful and his reaction was to throw himself against the back wall of his stall and shake in terror. It was truly heartbreaking to see how damaged he was. Upon his arrival at the farm, our first task was to remove shoes that were many sizes too small, and were nailed on with spikes…or so it seemed. Those shoes were never going to come off those feet. In the end, we had to tranquillize him and over two farrier visits, finally got them off. Months passed with only small changes. I was worried for him.
Anyway…to get back to Liz. Liz arrived with a background of Standardbred horses, having lived on the track and travelled the world as groom for decades, with some of the most famous horses and trainers, back in the day. I thought that since Asher was a driving horse, that perhaps she might be interested in working with him and helping him to gain some trust in humans. I wasn’t holding out much hope, but it was worth the try. Upon introduction, it was like they both were being reunited with their long-lost best friend. Asher actually looked at her…something he avoided at all costs. And she looked at him, and he reached for her, and she responded in kind. Well…I never…I thought to myself. It was most emotional to watch these two souls re-connecting…although they had never met. I need have no worries..I thought to myself, and I left her with him in the barn. My presence was no longer required…..Liz had found her heart horse, and Asher his human. Liz now lives on the farm permanently, commutes to her day job in Ottawa as a chef for a senior’s residence, and has undertaken the role of Barn Manager, Therapy Program Lead, Hostess for farm visitors, and horse whisperer extraordinaire. On top of that, she also makes beautiful bracelets from horse hair donated by our rescued horses, and hand painted silk scarves for fundraising. Further, she makes sure I eat, and eat well. A talented woman with many roles, all of which she accomplishes with care, consideration, a very large smile and a hearty laugh most generally..:)…and above all, commitment and passion. And she and Asher hit the roads when there is time, in an old driving cart that formerly belonged to one of the most famous bouncers in Ottawa…back in the day….Gerry Barber, his name still etched in the shafts. Most appropriate.
With some 25 horses to care for, the Head Honchos could not keep up the farm without their dedicated team of volunteers. There is no shortage of barn chores and these animals need a lot of TLC. Volunteers range in skills and experience from those who have not had much time with horses, to trainers and seasoned riders, and even some mother/daughter teams. We all work toward the same goal — keeping the horses safe, healthy and happy, until they find a forever home.