Updated: Jul 16
In today's JAR interview, we gallop into the intriguing world of the horse & dog trail sport with Jaime Keijzer, a pioneer of this relatively new discipline in the Netherlands. This unique sport, popularized in Germany, combines equestrian skills with canine agility on trail obstacles, drawing inspiration from the symbiotic working relationship of American cowboys, their horses, and dogs. Jaime, along with her companions - a Dutch Shepherd named Dio and an American Paint horse affectionately known as Smiley - navigates a course that tests obedience, trust, and harmony. Our conversation delves into the challenges, joys, and misconceptions surrounding horse & dog trail and how Jaime is promoting it in her country. Saddle up as we embark on this fascinating journey, exploring a sport where human, equine, and canine bonds intertwine in an extraordinary dance of coordination and cooperation.
Key Takeaways from Our Interview with Jaime
Horse & dog trail is a rapidly growing sport where horse, rider, and dog navigate a course together. This sport emphasizes teamwork and builds a strong bond between animals and their human counterparts.
Ensuring safety is a top priority in this sport. Jaime emphasizes that her horse and dog know each other so well, they become a safe haven for each other. Also, as a competitor, she is vigilant in preventing overstimulation or overheating during events.
Despite the sport's appeal, it's essential to acknowledge the complexity of training two animals simultaneously. Every animal has its personality, and it's critical to ensure a good match.
Q: Could you briefly describe the sport of horse & dog trail for those who might not be familiar with it?
A: In a trial, your dog must run loose next to your horse, and you encounter various obstacles, such as a small bridge that your horse walks over while your dog must wait until you call. Then, the dog should also neatly walk over the bridge to join you. Opening and closing a gate where your dog should also wait nicely is another part. A small jump is usually included for the dog in a trial. There are different levels in this sport, so you can continuously train and grow together.
Q: How did you first become interested in horse & dog trail?
A: During a western show, I came across this sport. I thought it was awesome, but I didn't have a dog with whom I could do this at the time. Besides, Smiley isn't a big fan of dogs, so I never thought I could do this until Dio came to me. When Dio just arrived, I took her to the stable, and a big pink cloud* appeared between Dio and Smiley. This was also the moment for me to look into training for horse & dog trail. Since this is a sport not widely practiced in the Netherlands, I started working on this with the two of them.
Q: How do you ensure the safety of your horse and dog (Smiley and Dio) during events?
A: The safety of the dog and horse is my priority! Dio and Smiley are so attuned to each other that they provide a safe haven for each other. Where Dio is, there is Smiley and vice versa. During events, I ensure rest for both before we perform, and we limit contact with visitors as much as possible to avoid stimuli. After our performance, visitors can ask questions and pet Smiley and Dio. What I pay particular attention to are the temperatures. If it's very warm, I shorten the demonstration and ensure there is water in the arena for Dio. Dogs have difficulty releasing their heat, so I always consider this. The same goes for Smiley.
Q: What measures do event organizers usually take to ensure the safety and welfare of the animals involved?
A: Event organizers ensure there is enough water and shade on the premises. Visitors are kept at a distance where necessary. The events I've attended usually manage this well, but I mostly look after the welfare of my animals myself. No one knows them as well as I do :)
Q: How has the sport been received in the Netherlands so far?
A: People react enthusiastically, they find it wonderful to see how nice a collaboration between dog and horse can be. But above all, the joy radiating from both animals is what they find truly fantastic. Many people would love to do this but don't know where to start, plus it does take a lot of time and energy, which you, of course, have to be willing to invest.
Q: What are you doing to popularize this sport in your country?
A: Currently, I'm promoting the sport via Instagram (d.s_horse.and.dog.training) and trying to participate in horse and dog events to give demos. I often reach out to horse owners, most of whom already often have dogs or are animal lovers. In addition, I sell t-shirts and bandanas with our logo on it as promotional materials.
Q: Can you share a memorable experience of participating in a horse & dog trail event?
A: On July 2, we rode our first horse and dog trail competition**. It was super fun, and the jury was extremely enthusiastic! During this trial, Dio got a bit of the zoomies... she just loves to do it, but after a lap of running, she came back nicely, and we were able to complete the rest of the course very well. It resulted in a shared first place! I'm, of course, very proud of this.
Q: What are some common misconceptions people may have about horse & dog trail?
A: That it's easy to work with two animals simultaneously. Each animal has its own character, and it must, of course, also match between the animals.
Q: Could you share some tips for someone who is interested in participating in this sport?
A: The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the collaboration between yourself, your dog, and your horse! If you want to start with this sport, get well-informed and really start with small steps. First, go for a walk with your dog and horse, let them get used to each other and don't force anything.
(*In Dutch culture, the phrase "a big pink cloud" is often used to symbolize a state of bliss, euphoria, or 'falling in love'. It's used to describe a period when everything seems wonderful and rosy.)
(**The competition referred to by Ms. Keijzer is the Western Ruiter Associatie Nederland (Western Rider Association Netherlands) Dutch Open, which took place from June 30th to July 2nd at the Ruitersport en recreatie centrum 't Keelven in Someren.)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Just Add Rover. While we strive to present accurate and reliable information, Just Add Rover does not endorse, approve, or certify such information, nor does it guarantee the accuracy, completeness, efficacy, timeliness, or correct sequencing of such information.
© 2023 Just Add Rover. All rights reserved. This interview has been conducted for www.justaddrover.com and is protected by copyright law. Reproduction of the interview, in whole or in part, is prohibited without prior written consent from Just Add Rover.