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Champlain Valley Equine Training Center and CJ Giard

CJ Giard and her horse Diesel prepare for an afternoon of fun.
photo provided
CJ Giard and her horse Diesel prepare for an afternoon of fun.

Tuesday August 5, 2008

By Cookie Steponaitis

   For centuries, there has been a partnership between humans and equines that has survived wars, races, presidential elections, and even many marriages. The bond between an individual and their horse has been the subject of poets, cowboys, world leaders and humorists alike. Mark Twain remarked, “I can always tell which is the front end of the horse, but beyond that, my art is not above the ordinary.” Statesman Winston Churchill commented, “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in a saddle,” and an unknown author put it more succinctly with the reflection, “Feeling down? Saddle up!” No matter the century or the nation, there are people talking about their connections to the horses they love. Since I am also one of the many fanatic equestrians who could ride before they could walk, I can attest to the personal joy that comes from a ride and a relationship with a horse and comprehend the importance of the role of horses in the lives of millions around the world. While it is true that the dog may be man's best friend, horses helped to write history.

    Addison County has a long standing tradition of being equine friendly and there are as many horses dotting the landscape as there are tractors, barns and cows. People have favorites and some are devoted to a particular breed of horse or style of riding. While some horse lovers enjoy riding for show ribbons and others ride just for the sheer joy of it, all share an appreciation for the feeling of freedom that comes from riding a horse. Joining into this long standing tradition of working with horses is Bridport resident CJ Giard, who recently opened the Champlain Valley Equine Training
Center located at 1650 Crown Point Road, in Bridport. CJ brings to the valley a wealth of experience with horses and a unique approach in the training of them that stems from her own experiences growing up.

     When I asked about her entry into the world of horses, CJ was quick to point out two pivotal teachers in her life, Carol Krawczyk and Deb Mazza. “I began riding at age three at the Krawcyzk Horse Farm in Bridport, under the teaching of owner Carol Krawczyk. From then on, I was a daily presence in Carol's life- she couldn't get rid of me. As the years passed I worked my way up from annoying little girl who begged to ride to a teenager who cleaned stalls for lessons. I began working horses,  cleaning tack and stacking hay, all in an effort to get on that next horse. Thanks to Carol, who remains a mentor and close friend, I rode with some of the best instructors in the business. I rode countless horses and hit the dirt countless times. Carol hauled me to more horse shows than I can remember and thanks to her and my ever-patient parents, bought me and sold for me countless horses. At age 15, I moved across the street to Mazza Horse Services, also in Bridport. Under the watchful and encouraging eye of Deb Mazza, I began to learn what it means to start young horses, work through behaviors I had never encountered, and handle a horse out in the back woods on the side of a mountain. Deb opened my eyes to the world of natural horsemanship, and was kind enough and patient enough to let me learn on my own and employ my own techniques and strategies. I soon learned from Deb what it meant to run herd on not only horses, but students as well. My time at Mazza's was one of the most influential, beneficial and meaningful times of my life.  In the spring of 2008, Deb sold Mazza Horse Services, and so began Champlain Valley Equine Training Center. Nineteen years from my first ride at Krawcyzk's, I have begun to give other young, eager girls their first rides and pass along love and skills to others.”

       There is a great deal of specialization in the field of equines so I asked CJ to explain in detail what services Champlain Valley Equine Training Center offers and how her services differ from those of others in the valley. “We offer breaking & training with a focus on balanced, safe and correct riding through classic dressage techniques, with the compliment of modern day yoga for body, muscle and self awareness. We strive to create a balance and understanding between horse and rider by implementing many natural horsemanship skills and using them in a simple, 'make sense' kind of way. We encourage daily learning, the use of many different styles and personalities, and having an open mind. Our horses are pastured in 50 acre chunks of field, with no regimented stall time. Our horses and riders see tractors, trucks, farm equipment and many other "scary" things so that our horses are never ring sour, they learn to deal with almost any situation in a gorgeous environment. CVETC also offers mobile lessons and training at incredible, "can't-beat-that-with-a-stick" prices! CVETC is a different kind of riding stable in that we do not regiment our horses out door time, we listen and learn from each of our clients and we do not run on a "we know all" mentality. Our horses are "real horses" out to pasture, roaming the land, scratching on trees and being with other horses. We strongly encourage all of our riders, boarders and lesson takers to do their own research, ride with other trainers around the county and develop their own style and comfort levels. We are reasonably priced and enjoy our repeat clients- our riders can AFFORD to ride with us! CVETC is a family run business on a fourth generation farm in the heart of cow country. As head trainer and owner of CVETC, I work with horses because there are days when I feel they are the only creatures on this earth I can truly understand. As a great local horseman Pat Palmer once told me 'horses don't lie.' It's the most rewarding experience of my life and something I could not live without. To live without a horse in my life is to live without an arm or a leg. They are vital pieces of my heart, of my soul and are truly my whole life. We all go through life wondering and searching for what it is we are meant to do, I am blessed in that no matter what, horses will always be what I am meant to do. They are my love affair, they are unfailing friends and they are my teachers.”

    So, during this week of Addison County Field Days or any time you have the yen to be around horses, take a ride down to 1650 Crown Point Road and meet CJ. Her spunk, smile, and obvious love of her chosen profession will show you that you can count on her for your equine needs. Her business is open by appointment daily and she can be reached at (802)349-7166 or by emailing [email protected]. Or, if you are at Addison County Field Days, look for CJ in the riding ring, where she and her newest equine Diesel will be starting off on a partnership that this horseman predicts will take them both very far indeed.


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