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August 11, 2022

New Nonprofit Aims to Spread Joy Through Horsemanship

A woman who owns a holistic horse-riding business in Felton has launched a nonprofit to spread the joy of horsemanship to people who don’t normally have access to equines.

Kristin Praly established Horse Sense Education and Advocacy as a 501(c)3 charity earlier this year and is planning to offer a range of programs, including for veterans, children with families going through the court system and students of all ages.

“I’ve noticed that there’s more anger and divisiveness showing its true colors now, in this time and place, so I felt that it was important to bring acceptance, inclusivity and kindness to those that have been more subject to that anger and divisiveness than the average person,” she said. “How do you combat somebody’s anxiety, depression—wondering what’s happening to the world? Well, you bring in an animal that’s firmly grounded in the world.”

Praly, a former barn manager at UC Davis, has been operating out of Covered Bridge Equestrian in Felton for about a decade “Helping People Speak the Language of Horses,” as her website puts it. She forms a key cog in a storied boarding facility tucked away along the perimeter of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park that’s older than many of the community’s residents.

Through her “Horse Sense” lessons at the private facility, she focuses on highlighting the intricacies of the human-horse dynamic. 

“I ask [people] to leave [their] troubles at the gate; I assure you they will be there when you get back,” she joked, emphasizing the importance of tuning in to the frequency of the horse. “If you’re busy in your brain thinking about everything else, that gets in the way of that relationship.”

She previously brought four-legged friends to Scotts Valley Unified School District elementary classes for show-and-tell and introduced a horse named Rusty to San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District students. Praly says as a nonprofit, she’ll be able to expand her outreach.

“We’ll be setting up a series of events, and we would welcome volunteers,” she said. “It’s about a higher purpose, and for that I need people to be a part of it.”

Patrick Boole, 80, has lived on the ranch since 1978 and runs it with his 71-year-old wife Tamara.

He says he’s glad to see Praly bestow the gift of horsemanship on the wider public.

“Horsemanship isn’t just hopping on a horse and riding,” he said. “It’s learning how to care for a horse’s welfare.”

About 80 horses currently live on the property, which functions as a community within a community.

“Most of the people in Felton don’t even know it exists here,” he said. “Owning a horse is quite a commitment. People down here that board, this is the majority of their free time that they have.”

Diane Gleason, 63, from Sunnyvale, was recently at the ranch for a Horse Sense lesson about how to wrap the legs of a Quarter Horse named Ginger to prevent injury.

“It’s not just getting on the horse’s back and riding,” she said, considering what horsemanship means to her. “It’s learning very, very subtle things.”

Chermé Wurtz, a 48-year-old from Felton, has been coming here for about 15 years, starting when her daughter fell for the equestrian lifestyle.

After her daughter moved away, she got a 19-year-old Missouri Fox Trotter named Cheyenne for herself.

Even though she’d been around horses for years, Wurtz didn’t exactly feel comfortable interacting with her new mare.

“I just wanted to get to know her from the ground up,” she said, explaining why she signed up for lessons with Praly. “Christine’s program made it really easy because she speaks horse.”

Wurtz says it took about a year-and-a-half to build a solid foundation with Cheyenne.

“Every stepping stone, something clicked,” she said. “I want her to know that I have her back.”

Wurtz says she hopes people outside their inner horse-lover circle will be able to experience a similar joy through Praly’s nonprofit.

“I really admire everything she does for the community with the horses,” she said. “She doesn’t bring ego to it. She shows up and she’s here for the horses.”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected]

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