Tribal King at the Pinto Worlds.
Taurie Banks has the best possible addiction: an addiction to learning.
For the owner of Kings Corner Training Stable in Ventura County's Fillmore, this has resulted in a long resume. Most recently, Taurie rode two stallions, her own and a client's, to two championships and three reserve championships at the Pinto World Championships in Tulsa, OK. She has an eventing/Pony Club background and runs a U.S. Pony Club Riding Center at her stable. Taurie is certified through the US Eventing Association Instructor's Certification Program and she's active in ETI Chapter 126, along with other organizations.
She owns, campaigns and breeds her Pinto and Paint-registered stallion, Tribal King, and is a mentor in sports psychologist Daniel Stewart's Ride Right techniques. Her most fun of the many hats she wears is that worn while portraying Shotgun Sally, a character in the Headless Horseman Family Dinner Train. This live action performance is part of an annual October event staged by the Fillmore & Western Train Company, aka the "Movie Train." Taurie and fellow ETI members have been doing the act for several years as a Corral fundraiser.
"I've always been a student of things that interest me," says Taurie. "I love going to clinics, to association meetings with speakers and any other place that might offer a different avenue of knowledge. I figure the more I learn, the more I can pass on to my students."
Jillian Morris and Jack's Wild.
That mindset led her to the new discipline of western dressage, in which she earned one of her two championships at the Pinto Worlds. Introduced in 2010, western dressage advocates the common training techniques and objectives of classical dressage from Europe and American cowboy horsemanship traditions. (See separate story, page 10) Although still in its infancy, the discipline is getting popular fast, Taurie observes. At the Pinto Worlds, the day devoted to western dressage competition ran considerably longer than the next day's slate of Open english classes.
Taurie describes western dressage as great for herself, her horses and her students and she encourages all to "not be intimidated by the term 'dressage'."
"You can do it with whatever horse you have and it's a friendly sport. If you go off course or pick up the wrong lead, you're not eliminated." The blending of western and english struck Taurie as natural. She took her first lesson, in an english saddle, while visiting her grandmother in England. When she returned home to start riding regularly, the plan was to alternate weeks of the area's more prevalent western instruction with a week of english lessons. She soon gravitated to the area's then-new Pony Club and got started on an eventing path that involves the three-discipline diversity she still enjoys today. US Eventing Association president Brian Sabo was a big influence on her riding during those formative years, as was 1974 dressage Olympian Hilda Gurney.
Headless Horseman Train ETI Corral 126 members. Photo ©2008 Studio386
Although she studied dressage for several years, Taurie says many training advances have come from looking at western techniques. "They were getting the softness and collection without forcing the horse onto the bit and holding it there," she explains. "I felt like I was getting happier horses."
Taurie admits that when she first heard about western dressage, her knee-jerk reaction was, "Oh my god: it's a bastardization of the sport!" That changed when she reflected on her own experiences with blending both approaches. "Even when I was reining and doing other western events, it was easier for me to school my horses with dressage techniques."
Sue Fleczok, owner of Taurie's second star mount at the Pinto Worlds, reconnected with the trainer when she returned to California after 10 years back East. She moved into the Bridle Path Equestrian Community in Simi Valley, where backyard stabling was unsuitable for the Paint and Pinto stallion, See En Magic. Seeking a home and the right trainer for him, Sue found Taurie, with whom she had been familiar through earlier involvement in the American Paint Horse Association. Sue is now president of the Greater Los Angeles Paint Horse Club.
Taurie giving JJ (Court Jester) a pep talk at a show.
"Taurie's place is not fancy, but the horses are treated very well and treated like horses, which has made my stallion very happy," Sue explains. See En Magic and Tribal King are good buddies and their owners enjoy the surprise on most show goers' faces when they discover that the calm, good natured steeds their mares have been hanging out with are, in fact, active breeding stallions. Sue attributes much of that to the relaxed environment, quality care and patient training Taurie provides at Kings Corner.
"Taurie is great about listening to the horses," Sue says. "My horse is half Thoroughbred, and he can get very worried about things. Taurie works through it without ever pushing or forcing."
The trainer is wonderful with kids, too, Sue reports. "She's like the pied piper." Taurie is thrilled to carry on the Pony Club principles that shaped her equestrian upbringing. "It's like 4H on steroids," she says of the program's comprehensive approach to teaching horsemanship knowledge and riding skills. "You can become a phenomenal horse person through Pony Club, no matter what discipline you go into." She sees it as a realistic way to reverse an oft-noted trend toward declining horsemanship that some say correlates with declining international competition results.
Western Dressage at the Pinto Worlds.
A "B" Pony Club graduate, Taurie returned to active leadership when the U.S. Pony Club started its Riding Center program. It allows trainers to incorporate the Club's teachings into their existing lesson programs, making it far more "user friendly" from a logistics standpoint. She launched the Kings Corner Pony Club Riding Center two years ago. Naturally, she welcomed the embrace of western instruction recently approved by the national organization and Kings Corner offers both.
Kings Corner students range from total beginners to experienced kid and adult competitors. Keeping things affordable is important. Taurie strives to mix and match horses and riding opportunities in ways that fit her students' varying budgets. She wasn't a rich kid herself and doesn't expect to become so as a trainer, but highly values the gratification that comes with enabling horses to work their magic on people. "Especially with children, the confidence that comes from having a relationship with something so much larger than you is wonderful. I have seen so many people blossom through their relationship with horses."
Despite her accolades and accomplishments, Taurie still sees herself as a small-time trainer. It was "quite a surprise" to wind up in Tulsa, OK, period, and more so to come home from the Pinto Worlds with top honors. See En Magic won the Open First Level Dressage and had top 10 finishes in Open Hunters Over Fences, Open Jumpers and Open Hunter Hack. Taurie and her own Tribal King won the Open Western Dressage Level 2 World Championship, plus Reserve World Champ in Open Jumping and a fifth in Open Working Hunters.
See En Magic with Bailey, Taurie, Richard and Sue.
"It was a bit intimidating to go into something like that," she confesses. "But Sue and I went with the attitude that we would do the best we could and have a great time." Worst case, the long trip from California would result only in exposing Taurie and Sue's sires to a new audience. When the unimagined best possible scenario resulted, the California girls were over the moon and not shy about showing it. The trainer, it seems, made her mark on the Pinto Worlds in ways beyond winning.
Acknowledging the win as a team effort, Taurie asked groom Bailey Brantley to take Tribal King in for one of the award ceremonies, then couldn't resist running in to shower her horse with hugs and kisses. Afterwards, a competitor sought Taurie out to compliment the performances of Taurie's horses and to relay how touched she was by that show of unbounded joy.
Driving home with the happy burden of championship hardware, buckles and jackets, Taurie reflected on her good fortune. "I've had a lot of people who've believed in me and have been very helpful to me along the way. I love the horses and the sport and I hope that I can continue to be sort of a philanthropist, helping make it possible for people to have horses in their lives."