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Published September 28 2012

‘Teach the human’

Lisbon, N.D. - As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

If you ask Teena Elijah, though, she might say most people would have trouble with that leading-the-horse-to-water part.

Elijah owns and runs the Hilltop Equine Center at 13210 68th St. S.E. in Lisbon, where she offers a unique take on working with horses: It’s not the horse that needs training, she believes. It’s the person.

Elijah has the extensive background in working with horses to be able to make that claim. Her mother was a horse trainer and a horse breeder.

“Growing up, I had a lot of opportunities to ride a lot of different horses,” Elijah said.

Elijah also spent many years studying the art of horsemanship, especially different lines of study passed down from teachers over the years.

But even with all that knowledge, she didn’t get into the horse business until recently. After working in financial services for 10 years, Elijah said she started realizing that people just didn’t seem to know how to ride horses very well.

“I just noticed over the years, as I’m out riding with people, it’s not always the horse’s training that’s inadequate,” she said. “It’s people struggling with knowing what to do with a horse.”

So Elijah started offering her knowledge to the public, and in February opened the Hilltop Equine Center, where she says her goal is to “teach the human how to better understand their horse.”

The key to that is helping people understand that the interaction between the rider and the horse is like a partnership.

“They have to be on the same page, and be able to understand each other,” Elijah said.

That’s often easier said than done, she said, because riders sometimes don’t realize horses have individual temperaments, characteristics and even their own past experiences that shape their behavior.

“I help riders who might not understand their horses so well,” she said.

Since opening Hilltop Equine Center in February, most of Elijah’s clients are young people who’ve never ridden a horse before and folks closer to retirement age who want to learn how to ride again.

Regardless of skill or age level, after a life of working with horses, she’s more than happy to pass on the knowledge she’s accumulated over the years.

“It’s an ongoing passion,” she said of what she does. “It’s something that I’ll just continue to grow until I can’t do it anymore.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535