My name is Allie Booth, and I work with horses. They have been part of my life for more than 30 years. I was one of those annoying children who harass their parents for a pony every Christmas and Birthday. Since I lived in the middle of suburban Adelaide, it wasn’t until I was 12 that I finally got Woofy – poor fellow. So old he was, over 35. But still, it was the start.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in getting my horse to go better, to be a better ride, to jump higher, be easier to stop, to get on a float easily. I’d spend hours looking for flat areas I could ride on to practice, and any log that I could jump. In fact, anything at all that looked like I could try, I did. Pony Club was a big thing. My local club, Mylor Valley was no great competitive force, but there were some good riders there, and I learnt quite a lot and did a huge amount of eventing and jumping at that stage. Eventually, of course, I grew up, and grew out of Pony Club.
During this time, before I could drive, I had to depend on the generosity of people to get to events. The kindness of so many people, very few of whom accepted payment, I owe so much to. Thank you to all of you, many who won’t remember me, but it doesn’t matter, your kindness I remember. Once I could drive, and had a float (no great shakes – it cost $600), I travelled to events even more. I competed over most of South Australia. One of my favourites was Moonta – a nice weekend away, fun course, and the drive-in on Saturday night.
When I was 21, I moved to Whyalla, where distance to events was challenging, so I competed less. I also grew past my horse Duke, and bought my sixth horse, a race horse off the track. Such a pretty boy – but never going to be an eventer. Way too scared of his own shadow. So I turned to dressage and showing for a while. I called him Spaz, and I journeyed with him for 12 years. He was very successful in the show ring, but I preferred dressage. There I learnt a huge amount, and had some very successful years in the competition arena, before I went to university as a distance student. The year I started to study, my competitive riding fell apart in a big way.
By the end of the year, my competitive nerve was so bad, I was thinking of giving it up. I came down to asking myself – Why was I doing this? Did I want to win (which meant sell the horse and get another one), or did I want to learn how to ride better, which meant keep the one I had and learn what I was doing wrong. For me, I wanted to learn. So I stopped going to competitions, and started going to schools, taking lessons, reading and practicing until I knew I could be confident that I was doing the right thing. From Spaz, I learnt that aggression was not going to work, and that gentle persistence was much more effective, and more fun, and safer. And of course my horse was happier.
By this stage, I had been working and schooling horses for friends for many years. I have always been fascinated by horses and their attitude. It constantly amazes me at the generosity and willingness of horse’s to co-operate with humans. By taking the approach that most horses, given a chance, will try and please a human, when this doesn’t happen, I look for the reason why. Generally, humans have not explained properly to the horse what is wanted. Horses are not capable of speaking human, so it is up to humans to learn to speak “horse”. After all, we are supposed to be more intelligent, aren’t we?
I moved to Wagga NSW, found a great coach there, took weekly lessons, and learnt more. After a 7 year break, I was ready to try competing again. I had my plan, I had my goal, “Do a calm test”, so armed with what I learnt, I succeeded in achieving my goal – a lovely calm test without me or my horse panicking. WHOO! I was back in competition again.
Then, disaster. My lovely boy Spaz started to go lame. Not all the time, but enough to be unreliable, and occasionally he was so sore that I couldn’t ride. With x-rays, he was diagnosed with inflammation of the pedal bone, a chronic condition caused by flat thin feet being asked to work on hard ground too often. Now, I’d put synthetic shoes on him, but then, there was no choice. I retired him and started looking for another horse to take me on.
5 months later, my old friend Michelle was boasting about how good the horses in Tasmania were. “Prove it” I said, so she did. From a video and photos, I bought Powder Monkey as an unbroken 2 yr old. Now I have a love affair with the Cleveland Bay breed, which nearly became extinct. Monks has become my heart and my soul. With Monkey, I have learnt accuracy and precision, timing and feel. I have let other people learn why a dressage horse is just so much better to ride – no matter what you are asking them to do. Why dressage is a tool designed to make your horse be better, both physically and mentally. Why my successful Medium level “Dressage horse” can trail ride, do games, go to Pony Club, carry my dog when his legs collapse. Why dressage has given me a horse that I can ask to teach just about anyone, from first time beginners, to riders who have years of experience. In each case, they have gone away have felt positive, encouraged and having learnt a huge amount. In some cases, I have had students tell me they have learnt more in one lesson with me, than they have in years of going to many other instructors. If that is so, then I am doing a good job.
In 2004 I became professional and started giving lessons on a formal basis. Through our business, Powder Monkeys Business, I offer lessons in horsemanship, dressage, harness and anything to do with horses. I train and re-educate, I start young horses off, and am building a herd of horses I can use for lessons and occasionally for sale (to appropriate homes). Currently, I have 2 competition horses, Cheeky Monkey for kids, Night Monkey for harness work and Chunky Monkey the Clydesdale to work in chains and provide some heavy labour. Night Monkey and Cheeky are ready for new homes.
One of my challenges was learning Sign language so I can communicate to 2 students who are unable to talk or hear. Since teaching is about communication, and horses communicate strongly with body language, learning sign language is a very appropriate addition to my skills – and a lot of fun!
I took what I liked about instructors I had been to, and what I didn’t like about them, and use that to develop my own style. My focus is on positive encouragement. People ride for enjoyment, so lessons must be enjoyable. I don’t care if people compete or just want to learn more about horses. I love to teach, and to see my students with either two or four legs achieve things they have never done before. With my love and admiration of horses, and my experience of riding over the years, I hope that I can share this knowledge and help other people to enjoy being with this amazing species.
Since 2004 I have started over a hundred horses, worked countless students and helped solved many problems people are having with their horses. Sometimes, it was in fact solving the problem horses were having with their people. All in all, I love my job.
Allie Booth has been working with horses since 1974. With a continual obsession in improving her horses, she has a passion for training which has covered many disciplines. From eventing initially, Allie competed in ODE's and 3DE's for many years, before turning to dressage full time. Her horse Powder Monkey has helped her advance up to official Advance Tests and unofficially PSG with the Mudgee dressage group.
As well as dressage, she has returned to jumping, both cross country and show jumping in the later years. A return to the adrenaline of the cross country course has reignited a passion for jumping.
Allie will willingly have a go at any discipline, believing that a horse that is well trained should be able to turn it’s hoof to anything at any stage. Powder Monkey, her first part bred Cleveland Bay, is proof of this as he regularly teaches students of all levels, competes dressage, show jumps at 1.2m, and came third in his first ODE, aged 19. He also does a neat and tidy job bringing in slightly feral cows on the side when asked. We suspect that might be one of his favourite tasks.
Allie has trained horses for 35 plus yeas and starting horses for the past 18 years. She believes the best gift she can give a horse is a good start. Horses that are calm confident and approach work with a good attitude are more likely to have a successful long productive life in loving homes. Helping a horse become happy to co-operate with people and to try for people is a huge buzz!
Allie is happy work with all types of horses, from small ponies and miniatures through to the HUGE Shire horses, from OTTB to warmbloods and Arabs. Each type of horse brings something new to learn.
Allie also believes that different owners require different outcomes from the starting process. A horse with a highly experienced owner heading to the show ring, needs a different focus to a kids pony or one for a nervous rider. Because of this owner involvement is highly encouraged, especially for owners who may never have worked with young horses previously. Tailoring a horse's education for the rider is a must for a successful outcome.
Problem solving is also very welcome, identifying the cause of the problem is the focus, as this leads to much higher success rates in solving any issues. One of Allie's total favourites is teaching horse to load onto floats.
Allie has always enjoyed teaching. It runs in the family, with every family member at some stage being involved in teaching in their chosen field. Allie's chosen field is with horses. She teaches with an open mind to technique - "Whatever technique is successful is the correct one". She has in her repertoire classical dressage techniques, show jump exercises, sporting games and camp drafting movements. She also frequently draws skills from the western horsemanship line and the natural horsemanship side.
Allie started teaching riding many years ago, turning professional in 2004 (prior to that she worked in laboratories as her main profession). She qualified as Senior Instructor with Horse Safety Australia on her first go. As a student, Allie learnt what she did NOT like about instructors, and what she DID like. She likes instructors who give lots of feedback, instructors who explain, who recognise the effort, and also recognise limitations, whether temporary or long term. If a student is trying, then success is a matter of effort and time. And although many students are highly ambitious, some students are happy to be safe out trail riding.
Although Allie does love her dressage, she does understand it is not everyone's goal. She encourages dressage to be functional throughout her teaching. Often to keep you safe on the trail, or to improve power and balance on show jump course, or to calm a young horse who is scared. This applies to riders too, so while Allie loves a student who embraces the technical side, teaching a student to use techniques not to be technically correct, but for safety or to promote a mental improvement in horse and rider is just as important.
Allie has students competing in all fields from camp drafting to dressage to show jumping to eventing and showing. Previous students have gone onto professional jobs as horseman, and horses she has helped educate have achieved at the Sydney Royal and HOTY shows. In dressage she has had students competing successfully at Medium level.
Allie also has many students with high anxiety and has a high level of experience and success in assisting students to develop skills and confidence to minimise or eliminate anxiety where ever possible. Keeping everyone as safe as possible is very high on her teaching list.
Good horsemanship and good riding throughout it all is the goal.