Nikki Livermore

10 Questions With Joel Kiesner!

Recommended Posts

10 Questions With Joel Kiesner!

by Stephanie Doyle

Welcome to the second of many features profiling various people in equestrian sport - athletes, trainers and more. The profiles are published regularly in the United States Equestrian Federation's Week in Review e-newsletter.

This week meet Joel Kiesner, whose lifelong experience has evolved into training methods focused on maximizing the best assets and talent of the Arabian horse. His exceptional talent and abilities have resulted in numerous awards - Professional Horseman of the Year in 2006 by the Arabian Professional, and Saddle Seat Trainer Male of the Year for 2006, 2005 and 2003 by the Amateur Horseman Association. Kiesner also has won every major national title in English, country, park and driving.

Joel Kiesner - Fun facts

Nickname: My wife calls me Boog

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite city: Scottsdale

Role models: A lot of them are in my business and are my fiercest competitors. I wouldn’t want to name names because I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out. The only one who is a role model in every way would be Jesus.

Favorite beverage: Starbucks grande latte

Favorite horse: My daughter’s pony, Peaches. There is no greater gift from a horse than to take care of your child.

Favorite movie: “Gladiator” or “Lord of the Rings”

Dislike: I don’t like to get too slowed down

Favorite thing about living in the Great Smoky Mountains: The weather is tremendous. The views are fantastic. We love living here.

And here are 10 questions some USEF Facebook fans want to know:

1) Mallory Krumm, Nicholasville, KY: What has been your biggest challenge to overcome in all the years you have been riding and how did you overcome that challenge?

Life is a process and as soon as you as overcome one challenge you are on to the next one. There are several hurdles to get over. The first challenge is you really have to know how to train horses, which is an ongoing process and I am still learning. Challenge No. 2 is getting your first really good horse that lets other people know, ‘That guy really can train.’ Challenge No. 3 is keeping the ball rolling. It’s a tough lifestyle. Training horses for a living and showing, it’s every single day. There also are challenges with the horse, which is the easy one, there are challenges with people. And it’s challenging balancing it all with your family life. I have a 5- and 10-year-old.

2) Anne Grupposo Morgan, Florida: Would you alter your saddle seat training methods for either the horse or the rider depending on the breed of horse?

They’re all a little bit different. I think all horses basically have to do the same thing. For example, they have to be able to move away from your leg in a responsive and agile way. The only question is what language do you use? Sometimes I have to take different methods to do the same thing. If I am talking to a horse and it is not speaking the language I am speaking, then I need to try to figure out what language they are speaking and deliver them the message that way.

3) Whitney Wright: With your young horses, how do you go about starting them for long productive show careers?

The first thing we do is get them in the barn, get them used to people. Gain their trust. Start teaching them to lunge a little bit, get them used to some tack. Just in general getting them comfortable with the training barn situation. Learning about the walker. Then we just start the process real slow, usually as really young 3-year-olds. How mature they are physically and mentally depends on how far they get. Very few of them will stay in training throughout the whole year. Even the mature ones get short works, weekends off, months off. Because we think any one of these horses might be a superstar, we’re just very, very careful with them and don’t ever go too far.

4) Leslie Berro: What is being done to address any potential abuse in the Arabian show world and how do you act as a role model by preventing such things in your training program?

You really, then, want my whole philosophy on life. We are, as human beings, put here to share the earth with everything and everybody else. We are, however, the only ones with brains and opposing thumbs. We have made most animals, especially dogs, cats and horses, our domain and our partners/servants. There’s somewhere in between. I make a living on training horses to other people’s satisfaction. Personally, I have a set of morals and guidelines that allow me to make decision and guide me in making decisions on where to go, what is too much and what is acceptable. I’ve thought a lot about this and those guidelines comes from nature.

The questions that I ask myself are, ‘Is this sustainable? Can it go on? Can I ask a horse to do something and is it physically or mentally possible – or good – for that horse every day?’ If it’s mentally good for that horse to do and it will build the horse up mentally, that’s the right thing to do. Physically, if what I am doing everyday to this horse is going to break it down as opposed to making it stronger or better, than it’s not the right thing to do. People can force animals into doing almost anything. You name it, we ask it and they do it. I don’t know why God made such a creature for us. They’re incredible. I do this for a living but it is my life’s work, and it’s my passion and it’s a craft. I take a lot of pride in what I do, and try never to force but rather work with their natural tendencies. Xenophon said, “ Nothing forced is ever beautiful.”

5) Mike-Christa Kannenberg, Edmonton, Alberta: What I love about Joel’s horses is that they have such a steady head and with a fairly loose rein. Is there a specific technique you use to achieve the steady head and the horse being off the bit?

Yes, there is. It’s very specific. For horses to carry themselves smoothly … I like to think they are not only moving from their head, but their bodies, too, from their rear ends to their head. If their body is moving into their head, it will make them smooth in their head carriage. That comes from them thinking that they need to be going forward into their heads and forward into the bridle all the time. It doesn’t just come from their face. If you think about it that way, the opposite will happen. If my horses are becoming unsteady and moving around too much, I know they are not getting to the bridle enough.

6) Cynthia D. Alexander Garrett: How do you go about picking that "special" one horse to train?

There are certain things I look for in horses that I sort of can’t live without. I start with physical traits because I usually find the horses when they are very, very young and it’s hard to tell what their personalities are. I look for a well-proportioned body. It doesn’t have to be perfect but well-proportioned. And a really well-set neck. You can have a perfect body and a poorly placed neck and we will struggle forever for our horses to do what they do. I also look for loose, symmetrical and fluid motion, without any hesitation in their legs, just really fluid. They don’t have to have perfect legs but they have to have legs that don’t look like they are going to break.

7) Megan Manning, Arizona (who shows Arabians): Obviously show horses need to be kept in a safe environment as to not harm themselves, but do your horses ever get out in a pasture to play without pads and weights on their feet so they can enjoy just being a horse?

Yes, they do. We’ve got a flat sand paddock that we turn them out in during the day. When I turn them out I always turn them out with their plates on, and maybe one leather pad. All winter long they get to be turned out, and after Nationals. In the middle of the show season they don’t get turned out as much.

8) Beth Kuykendall Lowrey, Arkansas: What feeding program do you use to keep your horses healthy, ulcer free, and in good condition? When you travel with them, do you do anything different to keep them healthy?

We feed alfalfa and grass hay depending on what the horse needs. We feed Strategy as well as whole oats when required. We feed Platinum Performance, which I have used for about 10 years now. We love Platinum. We feed rice bran as well if they need weight but not energy. We also feed some Succeed to horses that scope clean but I still think they could have better health and possess better temperament. We scope our horses routinely. If there is any change in condition, if their coat is not up to par, and I know their feeding and training program is all appropriate -- any change and we get them scoped. At the beginning of the year we find out what we may be dealing with and do follow-up checks to make sure their stomachs are in good order. Gastro-Guard is the product we use to deal with any gastric ulcer situations.

When we travel we give probiotics and oral electrolytes a couple days early. And when I go to Scottsdale, for example, we do it in three legs so the horses don’t get over tired. I untie them so they can eat off the ground. Every time we stop we temp them and make sure they are all happy, and we keep them well-hydrated.

9) Also from Beth of Arkansas: Do you use special products to produce and maintain the long thick full manes and tails?

It starts with a good feeding program. We use Mane ‘n Tail and Healthy HairCare. We also redo their tails once a month so they don’t rot inside the bags. Whoever does it puts a date on it and signs it so we know who is responsible for that tail. Don’t do it too close to the bone, one or two fists away from the bone.

10) Chris Brigham Wagner, Vancouver, WA: I have owned Arabians all of my life, and I want a new saddle-seat horse. I’m looking at 1/2s but maybe I should go back to just purebreds, what do you think?

I love purebreds and I grew up with Arabians. They certainly are the smartest and they can be reasoned with more than some of the other crosses that I have run into. You can make mistakes with purebreds and back up and fix it, and sometimes with the halfbreds it’s harder to talk them out of it. For a saddle seat horse and a purebred Arabian just make sure you get a nice tall neck.


Photo by Stuart Vesty


Is there someone you would like to know more about? Email your ideas to Then, stay tuned to USEF's Facebook page where you can submit your questions.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now