About Us

Free Heart Stables is Stephanie Walker’s training and lesson program based at Whispering Hills Ranch in Milpitas, CA. Our mission is to provide a place where equines are given the best-possible care with a focus on their mental and physical health, which is often right where the horse is currently located. For that reason, Stephanie travels within the area and treats each horse in our program as her own to ensure that their individual needs are met. Stephanie has extensive equine experience including a Bachelors of Science in Equestrian Studies from Wilson College, located in Chambersburg, PA. However, Stephanie’s experience and knowledge is not just limited to her school work. She also has years of experience working at barns, owning horses, teaching lessons, and training horses.

Equine Experience

Stephanie has been riding since she was 6 years old. She first learned to ride Western, then entered the dressage world. Stephanie transitioned to riding hunter jumpers in her early teens and began working as a groom.

When Stephanie was 14 she became the proud owner of her first horse, Zephyr. As Stephanie struggled with what quickly became a very shut-down, scared horse she began to explore different training techniques and discovered natural horsemanship. Stephanie studied the philosophies of Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt mainly through Terry Church and Gail Ivey, although she also attended numerous clinics and supplemented her learnings with readings on both natural horsemanship and classical training techniques.

Stephanie continued to shape her philosophies in college while studying Equine Science which focused on classical horsemanship techniques, horse management, and biological sciences. Stephanie joined Pony Club and quickly became a C2 / HB pony clubber. She dabbled in Eventing in college and now primarily competes in the Jumper ring.

After college Stephanie started Free Heart Stables while furthering her education by working for Amber Lydic and retraining off-the-track Thoroughbreds for resale. Currently Stephanie runs Free Heart Stables full time, taking everything she has learned from her mentors and applying it to the horses she works with in her own unique way.

Teaching Experience

Stephanie gained valuable teaching experience in college through hands-on and theory classes. She also worked summer camps and taught beginner lessons for several years for other programs. Stephanie has since developed her own method of teaching that focuses on feel, timing, relaxation, and correct position. She realized that her students needed the same attention to their physical and emotional well-being as her horses in order to reach their full potential. Stephanie has been running Free Heart Stable’s lesson program since 2015.

When teaching, Stephanie focuses on maintaining a soft, effective, correct position in order to deliver clear and effective aids. Her keen eye for balance and bracing makes her good at correcting even slight positional issues, which often have a great impact on the horse. Stephanie also easily sees when a rider’s feel and timing are off, resulting in the rider being too harsh or not effectively correcting their horse leading to an upset, scared, or shut down partner.

Stephanie’s soft approach builds trust with her students and her focus on the basics builds confidence. Stephanie’s background with difficult horses lends itself to working with riders who are struggling with a horse’s behavioral issue. Stephanie has a lot of experience teaching first-time riders and riders looking to improve their technique. Stephanie includes ground work in all of her lessons to help build an effective partnership between horse and rider as well as improve the rider’s feel, timing, and general horse handling techniques. She primarily teaches in the English disciplines, but is able to help any rider looking to establish soft, correct aides and a solid position with a focus on feel and timing. For more information about our instruction at Free Heart Stables, please see our Riding Instruction page.

Training Experience

Training a green horse to relax while stretching forward and down.

Since 2014 Stephanie has been training off-the-track Thoroughbreds for resale as well as taking in client’s horses. Stephanie specializes in starting horses, working with “problem” horses, and continuing horses’ jumper educations due to her calm, unflappable nature and her ability to combine classical techniques with a thoughtful, natural horsemanship approach. She has experience working with nervous, aggressive, explosive, or shut down horses and can help you with any problems you might be having with your equine partner. Stephanie can also start your horse from the very basic ground work all the way through working under saddle on a loose rein to gathering the body and collecting softly into the bridle, giving your horse a correct, patient, and thoughtful start in his career.

When working with a horse, Stephanie pays special attention to movement and works with each horse to improve their natural stride by increasing balance, releasing braces, and encouraging engagement of the hind end. Stephanie’s background in natural horsemanship reminds her to be patient, keep things simple, and listen to the horse. As Tom Dorrance says, “Make the wrong things difficult and the right things easy. Let your idea become the horse’s idea.” With these techniques, Stephanie is very successful at transforming difficult, shut down, or arena sour horses into reliable, willing mounts that look forward to being worked.

Stephanie also has experience starting young horses and uses her techniques to ensure the horse has a solid foundation from the start. She starts her horses slowly, making sure that they are relaxed and comfortable with each step before moving on. Once under saddle,
Stephanie leaves the reins long to encourage the horse to move forward and find his own balance. Horses are introduced to trails to encourage them to move forward and increase their exposure to new situations. By the time Stephanie asks for work on a short rein, her horses are working through the body and gently accepting the bridle. For more information on our training services at Free Heart Stables, please see our Training Services page.

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We would love if you would come check us out and see what Free Heart Stables is all about with your own eyes. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a visit, please get in touch with us via the Contact page.