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Get to know Ashleigh Sanderson - Horsemart Blog Contributor

So, Horsemart have very kindly offered to host some of my random ramblings here on their page – how awesome is that?  I guess I should begin at the beginning – just who am I? Well, lots of people know me as Kuda Guru. What? Who?

A long, long time ago, I owned a yard and did normal things – I had 80 horses at the craziest stage, and we turned our hands and hooves to most things.  There were youngsters growing, ponies being backed, ponies teaching kids, ponies loaned out to kids to do Pony Club and compete, as well as my own horses, who I competed in Eventing, Show Jumping, Dressage, Showing and Equitation.  All of this was going on in Zimbabwe (Where? Southern Africa, next door neighbours to South Africa). And then, politics happened, eventually I moved from there to South Africa – 42 horses, 2 dogs, 3 cats, moving 3,500km, just another day at the office.

After a few years in SA, I decided that it wasn’t really my place.  There were some great times there – days with the riding school, days competing, a highly entertaining camp in the snowy mountains, and a couple of years riding for the South African Lipizzaner’s, the only team recognised (and partially trained) by the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.  But, time to move on. Now, where to go?

At the beginning I began to take contracts – Malaysia for 3 months (which actually became Malaysia for a year), Bahrain and UAE for almost a year, the Caribbean for a year, Bali for a year, the list grew.  After my spell in Bali, I decided that I really didn’t want a boss, or to be tied to a yard or a contract any longer, time to go it alone.

Kuda Guru was born, the name coming from the grooms in Malaysia.  I didn’t know until late in my term there, but they called me Kuda Guru – Kuda meaning horse – so, the Horse Teacher.  This came about since I didn’t just teach riding, but, more about the horses. How to care for them, how to treat them well, how to read them better.  (On one memorable occasion, teaching the “farrier” that the hoof is not solid, there are bones, soft tissue and blood supply in there). I turned this around to mean, the horse is the teacher, all I do is translate…  Feel your horse reach into the rein? That’s because your seat is more balanced, allowing his back to lift, etc.

For the past four years, I’ve been full-time tourist, nomad, peritectic, professional at playing with ponies.  This awesome adventure has taken me to almost every continent, with lots of countries, many adventures and even more 4–legged co-teachers.  Where do I live? Officially UK, but in practice? Where am I sitting right now? 2 full passports and 500,000 air miles later… I say I live at 38,000 feet, and I’m only half joking….  

I love that I have time for adventures.  I love that I am constantly learning and growing, as a coach, as a horse’s friend, as a human.  I love that my human friends include young and old; rich and poor; black, white and Asian; all walks of life, all religions, all races, creeds and diversity.   I love it, that one week, normal is sitting by the fire with a cat, eating home-cooked goodness, and a week later, normal is take away pizza and eating by the river with a bunch of friends.  I love that all of the horses are different and that all of the horses are the same. If you treat a horse with kindness, respect and understanding, they will always mirror that back, no matter what language they understand, or how expensive or not they were, or how impressive or not their pedigree.  If you sit like this, they will do that. If you change that, they will mirror with this. And, I love that owners, riders, people, are always teaching me. Did you know, in Asia, they feed the horses the coconut shells, after you’ve drunk the water, to help keep their teeth in good order between dentist visits?  Or that in Costa Rica, the favourite horse snack is mango, and the most troublesome issue is vampire bats? Did you know that in the Middle East, the most treasured horses wear a green ribbon around their pastern to protect them from the Evil Eye, and in Bali, they use seaweed as an electrolyte? Did you know that in Gili, they burn the old, dried coconut shells and use the cold ashes as a wound powder, and it’s awesome!  There are always people who know, traditions to learn, good and bad practices to understand. Yes, some things are not great, but many others are amazing.

What do I teach?  Well, what do you need to know?  Sometimes, it’s quite main stream….  Being qualified with the British Horse Society, the South African Equestrian Federation, the International Group of Equestrian Qualifications, The Pony Club, I can do normal and mainstream.   But I tend towards an eclectic soup of things – as an accredited Ride with Your Mind coach, a scuba diver, TEFL, various odds and ends of body work, I tend to play. What does your horse need?  What does the rider need? Let’s start there.

Are you keen to join me on my journey?  Come on then…