what my clients have to say

Ali Calkins has made a difference to a number of horses and their riders! Here are a few shared experiences from her happy clients.

“After getting out of the military and getting back into horses after years away, I needed a trainer that best suited my horse and my needs as a rider. I had taken lessons with various other instructors, and while the lessons were useful, I did not get much out of them. I would leave the lesson either feeling okay about my ride, or worse, even frustrated and questioning my abilities as a rider. Then I met Ali. She has done so much in the last three years that I have known her, not only for me as a rider but for my horse Tigger as well. From the first lesson, she “got” me. I have not met many trainers that truly understand OTTB’s, which my gelding is, and not only does she understand them, she helps you the rider understand.

With each lesson, she communicates how to positively and effectively communicate with your horse. In an “Ali lesson,” (as I call them) I know I will be leaving the arena on a positive note, with progress being made, be it as subtle as can be or a huge breakthrough. While goals are noteworthy, Ali takes the time with you and your horse to ensure the proper and correct steps are taken in order to achieve those goals. I appreciate, respect, and admire that about her. There are no short cuts, no gimmicks, just dedication, hard work, perseverance, and determination. Most trainers are focused on the end result, whereas with Ali, she emphasizes not the goal but the correct road in order to achieve those goals. Not only have I improved and grown as a rider, but she has helped Tigger and I improve and grow as a team. With every dressage test we enter, we always improve our scores, which may not mean much to some, but it means the world to me.” 

Auburn B.

“I’ve been with Ali for a few years now and have nothing but positive things to say. The horse care is phenomenal and I never have to worry when I’m not there; everything is always taken care of and communicated clearly to me. My mare, who is quickly approaching FEI levels, has been in training the last few years as well and has been produced slowly and correctly with kindness and compassion. Lessons with Ali are also very valuable and tailored to each individual with clear and easy to understand instruction. Great barn atmosphere with lovely horses and riders. You won’t find a better group of people and horses!”
Chloe A.
“I am a rather timid rider and Ali has a great ability to inspire confidence and to know exactly how and when to encourage something new, and when to provide reassurance and support. Most importantly she is able to verbalize specific corrections to riding errors that are meaningful to the individual. Together we develop words that immediately translate to a visualization of what is required, and she will repeatedly strive to modify those words and visualization so that my mind and body are able to then do exactly what is required. Her constant advising me on subtle modifications of position during a lesson then translate to immediate positive responses from the horse. As a result I learn how my body must feel to communicate effectively with the horse, and to get the appropriate response, such as having him get on the bit. I feel that I am finally learning how to ride!”
Janet Y.

I started taking lessons at forward strides with Ali in 2019. I hadn’t ridden in years and was a bit nervous but that love of riding never goes away once you have it. Ali put me at ease immediately. She started out reacquainting me with tacking and grooming safely giving me confidence starting from the ground up. Having such a great trainer who explains things so well , puts you at ease , gives you confidence and is there to help you succeed at your pace was just what I needed starting back after a very long time.

In 2020 after being at Forward strides for a year and a half and with Ali’s continuing support I decided to buy my own horse. Ali helped me through this process , was always available and went above and beyond helping match me with Oliver. I am now a boarder at Forward strides and couldn’t be happier with the care that is provided. Ali treats every horse like they are her own. The barn is welcoming , the facilities amazing and I know that if I am away visiting family that I don’t have to worry about the care Oliver is getting. I continue to learn every day whether it is on horseback or on the ground and have become more confident than I ever thought I could. Ali is such a mentor to me and I couldn’t be more thankful to be a boarder at Forward Strides.

Sarah H.

“Ali is a terrific instructor, who provides outstanding instruction with great attention to detail. She challenges and supports my daughter each and every lesson. If you are looking for the highest quality trainer, Ali Is an excellent choice!”
Jeanne R.
“You won’t find a better trainer than Ali. She genuinely cares about the horses and her students. When she teaches, she explains why a gesture, posture, etc. is necessary instead of just saying to do it. I wouldn’t go to anyone else – she’s the best.”
Carissa M.

“When I brought my horse to Forward Strides, neither she nor I were happy, and I knew that if I didn’t bring her to Ali she would not have gotten the care and attention she so desperately needed. My horse was lame as no farrier could keep a shoe on her. She had a bad flare up of Lyme's Disease, had developed bad ground manners, and was unmountable. We also determined she had back pain due to a poorly fitting saddle. With Ali’s skilled, professional, and dependable team consisting of her farrier, vet, acupuncturist/chiropractor, and saddle fitter, I had a whole new horse in a matter of months.

Next, Ali began working on her ground manners and mounting issues. Ali has such patience and skill working with all horses, but she gets the A+ award when it comes to retraining. She took whatever time was needed with my horse to reassure her that nothing or anyone was going to hurt her. She wasn’t rushed into anything.

She now stands confidently and quietly to be mounted from either side and is much more respectful and quiet on the ground.
My horse has been in training with Ali for over a year now and you would not believe it’s the same horse. I am a believer in Ali’s horsemanship and loving care. I would never let another trainer teach me or my horse. I am so grateful for all the hard work she puts into her horses and her clients. For Ali it’s all just in a day’s work.”

Bonny S.

“My horse Athena has been under Ali’s care for years, but a couple years ago, I moved to out of state and made the decision to move Athena with me. Since I had never experienced another boarding/training environment, I naively assumed every stable would be the same. It quickly became apparent ﷯that few people care for horses with the same attention and love that Ali gives to her charges. I realized after just a few weeks that the barn I had selected had a different definition of “care” than I did. I visited several facilities but simply couldn’t find a place where I was comfortable leaving my horse so I made the decision to send her home to Ali. While it broke my heart to be so far away from my horse, I was finally able to rest easy knowing my “princess” was being incredibly well-cared for. Ali never, ever takes the easy route when it comes to horse care. She will always do what is best for the horse, even if it means staying late on an already long day, checking on a sick horse late at night, or trudging out to the field to switch blankets because of an unexpected weather change. Luckily, I was able to move back to the area about a year later, but the experience taught me how rare it is to find a place that offers the level of care that Ali consistently provides to her clients.”

Katie A.

“Ali has shown me a whole new side to what it means to ride a horse. She helped re-educate me after years out of the saddle and takes the time to explain everything in a way I can understand. After months of taking lessons with her, I knew she would be the right trainer to help me find the right (first) horse for me and he would be in the best care possible at Forward Strides. Since purchasing Dante, she has helped me grow as a rider and him as a dressage horse!”
Katrina W.
“Forward Strides has been a great fit for our quirky OTTB mare. The barn is pristine, and the care top notch. As a trainer, Ali really has a way of understanding that each horse is different and can tailor a lesson to meet those needs. She is very positive and encouraging while still making sure that you meet all your goals. We highly recommend her for anybody, from beginner riders to those struggling with training issues.”
Stefania S.

“We have been working with Ali for many years now, 10 I think! Wow! We adopted our wonderful OTTB in 2011, my daughter planning to take him to college with her in a couple years. We realized after a bit, that this new team needed some help to get ready for a transition like this. Since Disco came from Days End Farm Horse Rescue, and Ali had trained for them, she came highly recommended by the trainer there, and what a match this has been! Affectionately known as our ‘delicate flower’, Disco has managed to run through all the pitfalls a horse can manage, from a difficult colic that sent him to Leesburg, recovering from ulcers from his starvation history, fracturing a coffin bone, ringbone, and so many more.

Ali has managed to see him through it all, and to support my daughter in her riding, and through her own injuries and doubts. Ali has been able to support them both in a new and needed direction, given Disco’s legs, and they are both enjoying their dressage training and even showing some! Not the journey we planned on, but definitely the best journey and the best guide along the way. Ali approaches all of her horses with kindness and humor, appreciating all their personalities and quirks, even if one, who shall remain nameless, prides himself on pooping in his water bucket if you’re too slow with the hay! Ali is always so patient, cares so deeply. The facilities and care are top notch. I cannot imagine this journey for horse or rider without her expertise and support!"

Karen S.

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