An Interview by Sharon Greene of the Oakland County Press with Kimba & Kevin MacRitchie of The Next Step – Horseplay for Equines
When did you start this program ?
This program found its foundation in 2010 when we came together and invested in jointly training a young horse we acquired in Wisconsin and brought it here to Michigan. We learned a lot about each other and the unique skills we each bring to the education of horses and how we can complement each other’s ability to produce an excellent and confident horse.
Since this is just before Thanksgiving2013, tell me what you are thankful for as it relates to your history of working with horses and mounted division and preparing for this program.
We are most thankful for each other. That is certain. In this business it is hard to find people that will be there for the long run as a partner and hold the interest around their horse endeavors through thick and thin. Our relationship as husband and wife grows stronger every day and we are blessed to have the opportunity to work together with the animals we love. We have also centered the rest of our life around ensuring our ability to learn, and grow our passion grows with us. We ranch buffalo in Southeast Michigan, Northern Michigan, and in South Dakota. For this we use our horses which requires us to keep them in shape and well trained for the unexpected. We are thankful for our work in law enforcement and riding all over the country bringing us new opportunities to expose our horses, learn from them, and channel that into new horses and less confident horses to help them grow as well. We are thankful for the motivation we have to take as much training as we have and continue to take more. While with OCSO Mounted we spent our own monies to train and learn from outside experts in order to gain the many skills that simply cannot be obtained from a single approach including obstacles, scenario based training, and much more. We are thankful for the many people we have met who have made us better and for meeting each other as a part of our equine and Mounted Law Enforcement training and work. We are thankful for the property and home we have found to live, work, play and learn even more at and the abilities to create a cool new business together of our own. We are thankful this is fun and its why we do it.
You say you are from two different walks of life. What were they?
Kimba has spent her career with horses as a trail guide, then studying several different methods and schooling techniques such as Parelli and Stacey Westfall (to name a few) , and in numerous mounted law enforcement equine training programs around the country in order to develop her formal skills to asses both the horse and the rider. Kimba ultimately led the Oakland County Sheriff Department as the Lead trainer for the unit based on these skills.
Kevin spent his years learning by doing. In his early years he helped his uncle break horses to work on a farm, hauling logs and firework and occasionally riding for recreation. As he grew his interests and passion for both horses and livestock, and from his years of always using a horse to accomplish a goal, Kevin focused on livestock management with the use of horses. Experimenting early with cattle and soon after becoming one of the county’s best buffalo herding teams with his horse Sedona. Kevin has spent his career training horses to accomplish a task, do what is asked, cross any obstacle, and be ready in order to not fall victim to an angry Buffalo Bull. Once Kevin joined OCSO Mounted Unit, he too traveled around the country in law enforcement training leveraging his tactical skills for crowd management and other tactics.
It is the joining of these skills that make us an incredible team.
How long were you each on the mounted?
Kimba served for 12 years and Kevin served for 4 years retiring in June 2013.
Did you show? In what?
Kimba spent some time showing in a more formal English environment while Kevin spent some time in western shows, focusing more on timed events and more rodeo style events. Both of us have spent significant time blazing our own trails with our horses in as open, mountainous, and wooded terrain as possible.
Are you trail riders?
As much as we possibly can…Rain, sleet, snow, warm, cold, and even when it’s a sunny beautiful day. It’s the best way to try things out and Make for a GREAT Day. We also take riders from beginner to advanced out with us… including across the country to places like the great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee & North Carolina and Custer State Park & Bad Lands in South Dakota.
How are you applying those skills to this program?
The type of riding we do, herding the most dangerous land mammal in North America (Buffalo), to law enforcement to move an angry crowd, to crossing an unfamiliar stream in a new state is all about building confidence one step at a time. We start with all of this at home and graduate each horse based on their ability. This year we took a two year old horse to South Dakota just to expose him beyond what we can at our Ranch’s in Michigan. We take every aspect of positive re-enforcement and the building of confidence seriously and try to make it fun for the horses so its fun for us too. When you have a horse that likes to ride and loves to experience new things, you have a great day in the arena, on the trail, loading your horse in the trailer, or anywhere else you and your horse may want to go for that matter. Its not about Arena vs. the trail, its about building the confidence for the horse and rider so they can choose the style and the place and have a great day together.
Is this program at your farm?
Primarily. It certainly starts here but each horse has its own needs. Our goal is to find out what they are and develop the strength and desire for the horse to be comfortable with its environment, and as a result, its rider. This means we may go a lot of places once we have built the foundation for a horse to be confident in themselves. It may also mean we just work here at the ranch. Again, we work on what each horse needs most.
Do you board?
We only board the horses we are actively training. We do not do general boarding.
Do you have a lesson program?
We do not have a formal lesson program in place, although we have the experience and knowledge and have done some of this in the past, mostly western and some English. Our program is about exposing horses to as much of the crazy world they may encounter and helping them to trust their rider so both can have a great time together and build those special bonds that only horse and rider can have. We do offer assistance to those individuals whose horses we train so they can better understand the needs of their horse and how to continue the program independently or long term with us.
How large is the farm in acres?
Our Headquarters location in Holly is 10 acres and our Cheboygan, MI facility is 144 acres with access to another 160 acres . As a result we focus on a handful of horses with lots of time. We do not do lots of horses at once in order to give each horse as much of our time as possible.
Is there an indoor arena?
No. Indoor arena riding is no different than outdoor arena riding. We believe all weather conditions are fun to ride and we help horse and rider experience them together in a successful way.
Are there one hour lessons available?
Yes – Currently they are Western.
Do you have Christmas gift certificates available?
Yes. Just Contact us for details.
Tell me about conditioning and a little of how you do it.
We get each horse physically and mentally in shape for the task at hand. We start with ground work to build a relationship, gently moving the horse around and playing games, and building stamina. We graduate from there based on the owners goals for the horse and the horses capacity to move to the next step.
Tell me about the skills you bring to the business end.
We presently own our own businesses and have been very successful in Buffalo & Horse Ranching, our Floral Landscaping Business and others. We are leveraging these skills and investing more in our equine efforts in order to help horses that need a confidence boost. We love it and we love making it fun for the horse as well.
Give me examples of the three elements, exposure, confidence and trust.
Horses look to the herd for safety. When its just the horse and rider, the two of them are the herd. In so much as we can create exposure and a positive outcome in wind, rain, ice, snow, walking/trotting, crossing water, off the trail in the woods, walking over obstacles, brushing up against foreign objects, riding safely through traffic, and more, our goal is to accomplish this in a calm and safe manner for both the horse and rider so that as new obstacles get introduced, the herd of two become one in their trust of each other.
Tell me about the desensitizing part with flares, etc.
In the end, flares, like anything, are simply something new. It’s what happens and how a horse reacts when they come upon something new that we aim to positively affect. We will work horses with flares, plastic bags, flags, teeter totters, bridges, water, noise and more in order to gain confidence.
How will you incorporate fun?
If it’s not fun, we would not be doing it and the horse won’t like it either. We are passionate about this. Much of the fun is also seeing the results and owner and rider taking the next step in their riding career together.
Will you put on clinics or just train individuals?
Individuals primarily, however, we have done clinics and will do them if there is enough interest.
What do you charge an hour? Is there a range? Is it by the week or month?
Our engagements range from 30-120 days. Our fees our $650 per month, which includes board.
Is there an initial evaluation?
There is always one to ensure the horse is sound and ready to learn.
What is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING you want people to know about your program?
Its about fun, learning, and spending time with your horse to be able to go where you want and when you want to go.