Interview with Krystal Kelly: Game Changers
Juli (J): Hello and welcome to Horse Liberty Training. I’m Juli Baranik, founder of Horse Liberty Training. Today I’m speaking with Krystal Kelly. Krystal Kelly is a Californian, world traveler, yoga teacher and equestrian coach dedicated to women empowerment. She has worked in over 20+ countries on 5 continents over the past 10 years. She is the ONLY FEI Level II Coach from the USA and has worked in many “unique” countries giving her a surplus of knowledge about different cultures and learning techniques. Her quest to visit every country in the world has led her to some unique places such as Yemen, Iraq, Bhutan, Greenland and more. Her personality, personal experiences and character have allowed her to be featured in countless podcasts, magazines, blogs and television series. Founder of “Equestrian Adventuresses” and CEO of the International Equestrian, she is a best selling author, YouTuber, Podcaster and award winning videographer for Equestrian Adventuresses. Thank you, Krystal, for being here today! We’re so excited to have you as one of our instructors on Horse Liberty Training.
Krystal: Thank you so much! I’m super excited!
J: So Krystal, you’ve worked internationally in over 20+ countries and THOUSANDS of students in all disciplines. How do we as equestrians, strengthen our connection with our horses?
Krystal: You know, It’s really interesting, when you start traveling the world, and you’ll notice, like, people have different languages. They speak Italian in Italy, they speak Arabic in Egypt, or they speak Hindi in India, all these different languages. Horses speak Horse. It doesn’t matter where you go. It doesn’t matter what breed they are, what age they are. Horses universally speak one language and that’s Horse. And so it’s a lot of fun going to a lot of different countries, a lot of the times, even with super advanced students that are jumping a meter 30 on show jumping horses or whatever. A lot of times it’s like going back to the basics, and having them connect with their horses in the saddle and on the ground. But there’s a lot of time where we just forget the connection. We forget how to feel and how to connect with them. So to be able to develop that, once you’ve learned their language, this light bulb goes off. Suddenly everything just clicks, and the horse is like, “Oh I like this person!” So it’s a lot of fun.
J: So what have you found in your travels to be the biggest game changes when working with horses?
Krystal: That’s interested, because the biggest game changer, I guess, I talk a lot about this in my course, so there is a technique that I use which is called the air brakes. Basically simplified it’s having a deeper seat and what touched on a little bit, connecting with your horse in the saddle but in a way where it’s almost like your reins and everything are not even there. The reins are maybe 10% of what we do and it’s really being able to connect with your body because what we do affects our horse so much. Everyone knows, if you just look down at what canter lead you are, just shifting your head, that’s putting 10-40 pounds of pressure on their front legs. You might do that 5 times to check your diagonals and you just don’t even think about it. There are so many things that we do as riders that are really subtle and we don’t even notice. It could be the silliest thing, like our foot isn’t positioned out enough or we’re not moving with their movement, we’re moving a fraction of a second behind their movement, or whatever it is. So the biggest game changer is learning what is is that you are doing in your body and how you can master your body and control what you are doing in a way that is beneficial to the horse and is more aligned with what your horse is doing. And again, you might be off by a fraction of a second, but just being off by a fraction of a second, it makes a big difference to your horse. That could be the difference between making it onto the other side of the jump or going around the barrels faster, whatever discipline it is that you call your own, that could really make a huge difference. Just that.
J: So with that, what is your recommendation to keep our emotions under control when working with our horse. Because our emotions, our metal state, is so tied in with how our horse reacts.
Krystal: So I would say there’s three times that riders fall off, and one of them is hugely our emotions. One of the times is our horse wants us off, because they are done with us. We’re doing something wrong or they’re feeling really good. The other time is that we’re not able to move with them and ride the movement they are giving us. The other time is that “unscheduled dismount.” When you have that unscheduled dismount, you have that moment, and a lot of times we don’t realize we are consciously deciding to fall off, but there is this moment where your brain looks at the situation and thinks, am I going to be better staying on or just slamming into the ground, jump, fence, or arena. And a lot of times we do decide it’s better to bail because our brains cannot rationalize that we can actually stay on. It’s a dangerous and scary world up there! So we have to, like you said, mentally reprogram our subconscious, not just what we are consciously aware of. We have to tell ourselves, convince ourselves, we are good, we have a connection with our horse. If the horse want you off, then you are doing something wrong before you even got onto the horse. If you’re in the split second where you’re deciding, do I stay on or do I do an unscheduled dismount, then that’s something in our mental state of mind that we need to address and correct. And it sounds weird, how do I fix that when I’m subconsciously doing that, that’s not fair Krystal. But you can actually reprogram yourself, and a lot of the times when my students are in jeopardy, they’ve lost balance, or they’ve lost a stirrup or they’re hanging on and you can see it in their face where they are about to decide, “do I bail?” As a coach when you say to them, “Sit back” or “Ride it” or “You’ve got this” or whatever encouraging words, they actually tend to stay on a lot more than if you said nothing or if they were up to their own conscious mind to make that decision for themselves. So you see it as a coach, it definitely makes a difference being positive.
J: Absolutely! I’ve been in that moment too. I think we all have been.
Krystal: Exactly, and then you’re limping for a week, and you’re like why did I decide to fall into that?
J: So in your liberty training, what have you found is the biggest misconception you’ve come across?
Krystal: I’m in a lot of Facebook groups, and there’s a lot of people and a lot of times they say a lot of similar things and they have a lot of issues with their horses and I think a lot of it starts with your groundwork and your connection with the horse. Kind of like what I just said in the saddle, if the horse doesn’t want to be with you or if the horse doesn’t trust you, everything becomes aware as soon as there’s nothing keeping him there. So the second you’re lunging them without a rope, if they don’t want to be there halfway through the circle, they’re going to go find better things to do. I think it’s really obvious and in your face, “Oh my god, my horse doesn’t think I’m as cool as I thought they did.” But a lot of mistakes is that they give up, or think it’s not working, and they don’t try to address what they are contributing. They might say, “oh my horse doesn’t do that or like that.” Instead should be thinking, “Ok, what did I do in my body language in that moment, on that lunge circle, that my horse decided, ‘Meh, I would rather go over there.’” Do you know what I mean? So to look at ourselves first, I would say is the biggest thing people can improve. To check yourself and see what it is that you’re doing and what you can improve, and just taking the horse’s feedback, whatever it is they are giving you, whether it’s good, or bad, or whatever, and you just really have to try to figure it out. Like ok, where were my shoulders, how was I standing, how was my energy, was I emotional, what did I do, was I holding the whip or stick, what did I do, to really reflect on ourselves.
J: Definitely, so when you feel like you’re not getting the results that you wanted, what’s your advice to keep up motivation, to keep moving forward, keep that focus?
Krystal: I think that goal setting and planning is huge, and especially writing everything down. Even if you feel like you had a bad day and are a total failure, go home, write it down, because a lot of time when we write something down, it’s never as bad as we think it is in that moment. So when you write it down and you can explain to yourself, “Oh well, today this didn’t really work, I’m not 100% sure why, but I’m going to try again tomorrow and see if I can notice something.” So when you can write it down, and write down your goals, “So today it didn’t work, but tomorrow I’m going to try this exercise, or I’m going to reach out to a mentor, or whatever it is.” You’re going to come back the next day with a plan and a strategy. Again, mentally you’re going to be excited because you have a plan, “ok it didn’t work, but today I’m going to try this and that, and if that doesn’t work, I have plan C & D…” so it’s a fun experience and you’re not just dragging yourself down.
J: And you don’t feel so helpless because you actually have an action plan.
Krystal: Exactly, yeah.
J: So having grown through your career, you’ve traveled all over the world, what’s your advice to trainers that are trying to grow their own training, and their coaching and career?
Krystal: A lot of people, they don’t have horse business sense. Because we all love horses and we want to be around horses, so when it comes to the business side of things, I see a lot of people not treating it like a business. And I don’t mean in that dirty way where oh, I only see horses as a money machine, I don’t mean that. But what I mean is you need to have some pride in yourself as well. Educate yourself, go to clinics, invest in your own education. Attend other coaches. I have a whole lot of mentors in my entire experience, I never feel like I’m done. Educate yourself, always be in the loop, always be open minded to try new things. If something doesn’t work reach out to others. Also take your business a little more seriously, yes you do it because you love it and want to help people and you want to help horses. But you also need to understand that you’re providing value. What you’re teaching is very valuable. You don’t want to get into that situation where you’re broke and you can’t pay the bills because guess what, then you’re not going to help anyone. So you do need to have value. And there’s extra things you can do, I remember I saw someone who commented, “Everyone around me is trying to charge really cheap for lessons, what should I do?” And my reply was, “Why do you want to compete with people giving cheap lessons? Let them give the cheap lessons.” Personally if you came to and said, “Hey, I will give you a lesson, it’s going to be $100 per hour. But you’re going to have a hot tea waiting for you at the end of every ride, and I’m going to map out for you a lesson plan, and we’re going to strategize, and once a week I’m going to call you on the phone and make sure you’re mentally you’re in the zone and keeping up with it…” If you came to them and said all of this stuff, I would drop $100 for you like that! So have value in yourself, and understand that you have to help yourself if you want to help others, definitely. It’s ok to get paid for that. That’s fine!
J: And focus on providing more value, not just making your customer the cheapest people who don’t want to pay.
Krystal: Exactly. Yeah. You don’t have to compete with that.
J: So of the people you have worked with, who would you say has been the most influential in your life?
Krystal: So as far as coaches, I have a lot. So one of the first international jobs I had, was with a 5 time Olympic eventing rider, and she I amazing and she was coaching me a lot, but also she had a coach. Imagine the coach of the 6 time Olympic rider. This man, I can’t even describe him. He’s one of those people who should be in a movie. He’s just unreal. And you would be riding and he would walk in the arena, and every horse in the arena NEW he was there. And he would be on the other side of the arena. I remember once he was giving lessons to another girl, and it was a very tense lessons, she was trying to do something and was having a hard time. And he stopped her, I’m on the other side of the arena watching, this is amazing! And me and my horse were doing our thing, and he goes up to here and he just breathes, it was so powerful. Her horse breathed, she breathed, my horse breathed, I breathed, and I wasn’t even in the lesson. His back was to us, but my horse when…. (Inhale exhale) and I remember thinking, I want to be a coach like this guy someday. And he was definitely amazing. I’ve had a lot of others and I’ve learned something from each of them. But that was very memorable.
J: So of the many things that you do and have done in your career, which one makes your heart beat the fastest would you say?
Krystal: You know, I guess that’s tricky because I love a lot of things. So I love show jumping, that’s my jam. I love jumping big jumps. You feel very free when you’re jumping big jumps on these fabulous horses. But also I love because I travel a lot, and I love when you’re out in nature and there’s no cell phone signal, you’re hours away from people, and you’re out on the trail with your horse and it’s just the coolest thing ever. That’s why I love to travel to all the places that I do, because you get to see stuff on horses that you would never see. I’m not a hiker, I don’t hike, I don’t see the point. But on a horse, I can go to so many unique places and I’ve seen untouched nature, and I think, “How many people would have been here? A handful.” It’s a very cool experience and I really love that.
J: Awesome! So you’ve had lots of interviews throughout your career I’m sure, but what is one thing that you’ve always wanted to share with fellow equestrians?
Krystal: Ooo hmm… that’s hard, because there’s a lot of things that I would love to just shake them sometime, just do this! And I think one of these things is to first of all, stop taking yourself so seriously. I know as equestrians, we want so badly to be amazing riders, we want that Black Stallion galloping across the beach with no bridle, it’s a wild horse but it just magically bonds with us after day two. We all want that, but the movies aren’t true. That does not happen in real life. It takes time, you’re gonna fall off, not everything is going to go perfect, not every horse is going to have the same copy and paste training techniques or personality. But just don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s ok and it’s a learning process and we’re never done. I’ve seen the best riders in the world fall off. It happens to everyone. Horses are amazing creatures. We’re going to learn, we’re going to try again. And the most important thing is to just have fun. That’s why we’re doing it. We do it because we love it, because we have fun, and we might have to work hard to get to that moment where we feel like Black Stallion. But when that moment does come, no matter how long it takes you to get there, if it ever comes, whatever relationship you built with your horse, it’s worth it! And it’s amazing, and it’s going to change your life! Just have fun with it and build that connection with your horse.
J: And that keeps you in the game longer because you don’t get discouraged, down on yourself and your horse.
Krystal: Yeah, and then you’re always comparing yourself to others, like how come she’s doing it… but you don’t know her story, you don’t know how long it took her to do that with her horse, you know her horse’s personality or background, you don’t know. So to compare yourself to someone else’s journey, there’s just no point. Honestly. And Instagram photos, they look pretty, but it’s just a picture. That’s not real life.
J: So we love your courses, your focus on air brakes, soft hands, sticky seat, so for anyone who is interested in hearing more about that, check out Krystal’s courses. And where can we find you and follow you online?
Krystal: So if you are loving horse travel adventures and you want to listen to our Podcasts or read some of our books, true stories about really cool horse travels, then you can find me at Equestrian Adventuresses. If you are more interested in my coaching techniques, then I have a YouTube channel, you can find me at the International Equestrian or you can find me a the InternationalEquestrian.com.
J: Fantastic! Well thank you so much for your time, Krystal! We really appreciate it and it was great talking to you today!
Krystal: Thank you very much!