CONWAY — They call her the horse listener — not to be confused with horse whisperer.
Paula Lambie-van Bemmelen of Center Conway has spent a lifetime listening to the silent language of horses.
Together with husband Pete Lambie, she runs Human Horse Balance, which they opened at the former Hidden Hollow Farm riding facility off Odell Hill Road that they purchased in 2013. The business trains both horses and riders.
"It was owned by Colin and Annette Preece. We owe our thanks to for helping us getting started," said Paula.
Married in 2012, Pete and Paula met on a spiritual dating website when Paula was living in Holland, where she had been involved with horses since age 6.
During a recent tour of the property, accompanied by the couple's dogs TJ and Spike, the Lambies noted that they are each other's "twin flames," as opposed to soul mates.
"If you're soul mates, you still have karma while you're here and that's why you're attracted to one another, whereas with twin flames, you're just here and try to be there for one another and be connected to put out positive things," said Paula.
That sums up their relationship — and their nonjudgmental way of interacting with both humans and horses.
Pete is a practicing Buddhist as well as a Reiki practitioner. Paula notes that he has an "open, sympathetic and understanding heart and ear and is loved and respected by many."
As for Paula, throughout the years she has developed a way to deeply communicate with horses. This ability developed while giving Reiki to horses and further fine-tuning telepathic/intuitive ways to interact. She has her master's in certified integrated riding instruction in integrated horsemanship.
According to her website, she has been able to reach, heal, relax and help horses in many different ways.
Her goal is to solve problems, helping restore the bridge of communication between rider and horse.
She had a long-established business in Europe and now in the United States, giving integrated riding instruction, groundwork, horsemanship and training as well as clinics and workshops such as those she gave last month in Center Conway.
"Integrated riding is a way to ride with your horse from your body posture (seat bones and abdominal muscles) in fluid harmony from intention, visualization, mutual respect, understanding and a communication that is inviting to the horse to fully work together in common balance," Paula says on her website.
Since starting her Reiki practice in 2000, she has helped people young and old find spiritual growth, as well as healing and overcoming anxiety, depression, grief and anger.
Paula moved to the United States in December 2012.
The Lambies' facility provides summer horse-riding camps and grooming clinics. Paula also hopes to launch a clinic with war veterans to enable them to heal their souls through working with horses.
"The 'Balance' in our company's name is all about having balance in your life, in your emotions, in your riding, in your body and energy," she said. "It's also about the balance with the horses, and for them to feel safe and good.
"For me," she continued, as she showed visitors the corrals, where nine horses, five of them boarders, "training a horse is not so much teaching a horse anything, because the horse knows everything — it's more about getting the horse back into balance so being proud of himself and feeling comfortable and good. So, I muscle him up, relax him and give him structured, everyday work that he understands and gets comfortable in.
"Then," said Paula, as a nearby horse seemingly grunted in agreement from its pen, "I transition what I do to the owner, the rider. So I restore the communication between the two. That's really what I do, because it's already there — the only thing I have to do, if there was a fall, is to bring that trust back, to restore it."
But how does she do it?
Paula used as an example her client Lori McAleer of Jackson.
McAleer, now 68, and a retired aerobics instructor, had been riding since getting her first horse at the age of 11. But at 14, she was seriously hurt when the horse she was riding got kicked by another horse, and she was caught between them.
As a result, she lost her passion for riding, though rediscovered it when she was 50, buying a horse, Scout.
Then she had a fall on her horse while in Massachusetts six years ago, breaking one of her vertebrae. In 2013, she experienced another fall on Scout.
When she and husband Chris retired to Jackson last year, they discovered Human Horse Balance.
"She changed me from riding English to riding Western," said McAleer, mother of former Women's Pro Tour ski racer Jessie McAleer. "It was a totally different approach to riding. She and I worked together, and she took away my fear. I can ride again!"
Paula said she first worked on McAleer's fears about getting back in the saddle.
"The first step with Lori was to get her on a horse that I had trained — to get her comfortable on a horse that does nothing," said Paula. "Then I trained her horse Scout not to get spooked again and to be comfortable with doing anything and riding on the trails. And then it's about getting those two back together and being comfortable with each other. So, there's a trust and mutual understanding and trust and respect."
Every one of her lessons begins with ground work — literally.
"I work on exercises with the horses that have specific goals for certain muscle groups: the hind quarter, the back, the shoulders and the overall condition of the body. I build up that muscle tone again and make the horse feel good about himself or herself, and responsive to what we are asking of the horse," she said.
Once she has that connection on the ground, she doesn't have to explain it in the saddle anymore once she mounts the horse.
"If I am walking alongside, and I say 'Whoa' with my body, the horse stops because he knows my body language, he knows the word and knows what I am telling him. So," said Paula, "when I am riding, and I say 'whoa,' the horse stops — I don't have to pull the reins, because he knows my body, he knows the word, he knows what I am asking."
Asked if horses have the same innate desire to please that dogs have, Paula said it's different.
"Dogs are here to serve and please, and get the human comfortable and happy, to make them smile," she said. "Horses are here to teach us things. So, if you have a fear, they teach us to look into that fear. If you have a lack of patience, like I used to have, because I'm a perfectionist, they taught me to get patient, because I'm going to test you and test you, and it took three years for me before I got it."
The Lambies stopped by Esprit, a 15-year-old mare of the Haflinger breed, who was traumatized by getting whipped in order to force her to jump.
"It destroyed everything within her. She didn't trust anybody and she didn't want to do anything anymore," said Paula, entering the corral and patting the now trusting mare.
In an interview the day before, McAleer noted that Paula speaks to the horses most loudly when she says nothing — like a musician who pauses between the notes, the silence adding to the overall impact.
"Not only did she change me, she changed my horse," said McAleer.
Likewise, Mary Jane Weigert Beattie of Madison, who boards and rides her horse, Hank there, spoke of her close, unspoken bond with Hank. Beattie, a talented local photographer, often posts photographs of her and her horse on her Facebook page.
Asked to comment on how she gets horses to work with her, Paula smiled and said, "I ask them (the horses) to come into my energy. I give them a visual, because the horses are telepathic. I give a visual of line where I want them to stop and then I shut my eyes. Then, trusting the horse and myself, we get to that spot and I say, 'Whoa,' and they stop, and they get it."
She said with both Esprit and her mother, a horse called Tasja, she could ride just by communicating silently.
"I could ride her on my thoughts," said Paula, "just bareback in the woods. We could ride and have the thought, and she would stop because 'Oh, we're there.'"
Sadly, due to a hoof disease, Tasja had to be put down in 2004. But a few months later, a friend saw an ad for a Haflinger — which turned out to be Tasja's daughter, Esprit, a horse Paula soon acquired.
The two recently put on a display of ground work in the riding ring, first going clockwise, then counterclockwise, with Esprit following Paula's walking moves of stopping and half-steps. Paula then mounted the horse bareback and rode her without reins.
"They pick up on your thoughts and your images in your head and what you want," she explained, "as well as your energy. When you visualize where you are going to stop, your body starts to respond to that, and the horse feels that, too."
She stressed that it's all about being consistent.
"You're firm. Just like with kids. You have a set structure for them, one that they know they are safe in, and you let them know what you want of them, and that together, we're going to do a lot of fun things. It's the same for the horses — the more structure they have, the more they feel safe, the more willing they are to work with you."
That's a far cry from the days of traditional horse training.
"So we don't use whips," Paula said. "We don't use spurs; we don't even use ropes if we don't need to. I can walk my horses; I can ride them with no bridle as my Facebook page shows, and no reins — just from my body language, my core, my energy, and my intentions. So, I can make them stop, I can make them back up, I can make them transition into a trot, whatever, without using equipment."