by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Regardless of your equine discipline, Barbara Bordonaro of River House Farm in Port Byron, NY, wants to help you and your horse perform better together. She’s one of the region’s few instructors certified to teach Obstacle Training Mounted Police Style™.
Mounted Police Style involves teaching riders how to create a deep bond of trust between themselves and their horse. Unlike some gentling methods, it’s not necessary to individually train each horse. The rider can learn how to improve his relationship and teamwork with any mount.
A session typically starts with formation riding. This helps the horses focus on their riders. The trainer may introduce obstacles to allow the students to try out the techniques the trainer recommends.
“Head away,” for example, directs the animal’s hip towards the unfamiliar or fear-inducing object while its head is angled away at 45 degrees. Obstacles could include noise, such as a gunfire or banging a lid with a spoon; movement, like a flapping tarp on the ground, fluttering ribbons or rolling ball; tactile encounters as with a wading pool, or combination items such as ground flares or walking on bubble wrap.
Training in Mounted Police Style uses reward, reassurance, and tapping into the herding instinct to help build trust.
Some of the techniques Bordonaro uses involve making obstacles less frightening to horses, diversion and, most importantly, creating such a tight bond of trust that horses will choose to tolerate frightening stimuli and respond as the rider wishes, instead of giving into their instinctual fear.
Bordonaro, a lifelong rider in hunter, dressage and trail disciplines, has won in United States Equestrian Federation events, Trail Trial and National show circuits. Her national honors include 4th nationwide for the Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America and U.S. Equestrian Horse of the Year.
She learned Obstacle Training Mounted Police Style from Joann Long, owner of Gentle Dove Farm in Bloomfield, NY, who developed the method. Long learned about it while she served as a non-police member of the volunteer mounted police units in Seneca and Wyoming counties in New York. She is certified in National Mounted Police and Toronto Police services. Long also competed in international horse events. That’s where she experienced the epiphany that her mounted police training greatly enhanced her ability to connect with her show horses.
Many people watching her compete wondered how she trained her horse and asked for her advice. She realized that she could share what she had learned to help other riders. In 2009, she began offering lessons and clinics on Mounted Police Style.
“There are strategies, methods and options to get your horse and you to have good communication and trust,” Long said.
Long has successfully competed in international mounted police events and earned multiple Grand Champion titles at the North American Police Equestrian Championships. She also won the Brigadier Memorial Champion Award and four NYS Police Olympics gold medals.
After extensive traveling to conduct Mounted Police Style seminars, Long decided she wanted to stay closer to home. In 2017, she trained and certified Bordonaro to offer seminars hosted at various venues (though Long still offers lessons, but only at her farm).
Bordonaro offers both private lessons and clinics. She enjoys working with equestrians of all levels of experience.
“I’ll get some beginners that are intimidated by what I do, thinking they can’t do it,” Bordonaro said. “It’s unfortunate they think that way because they would benefit the most. They can make it so simple for their horse to accomplish what they want.”
Typically, Bordonaro’s clinics last four hours and workshops last two. They can be one- or two-day clinics, according to the host farm’s wishes. Riders or hosts provide the horses; Bordonaro brings her own and most of the obstacles.