Courtney Hodges is the owner of BW Equine Services which provides lessons, training and massage therapy for horses, based in Union Grove, Wi.
Join me in learning more about her journey toward owning her own business and her philosophy in working with horses and their riders.
Tell us a little about your horses: what breed, age, training level, how long have you been together?
Willow, I believe, is an appendix, she’s 3.5, turns 4 this year, she’s unbroke and I'm working on breaking her out. I’ve had her for just over 1 year and 4 months. Buttons I believe is quarter, she’s about 11-12, she is broke, loves anything to do with speed especially the race track at Dover stables. I've had her for 9 years.
Tell us about your philosophy in working with horses, ie, why are you an equestrian? What do you love about it, what do you hate about it, what's your "why"?
I love having a partnership. Being able to connect & communicate with horses is amazing to me. I love that I’m able to not only connect & understand them but also help them with either expressing themselves, feeling better or help build their bond with others. I love being able to gain the trust of such a large animal and being able to move with them while in the saddle. I hate when one gets hurt. When my mare hurt herself I felt a piece of my heart shatter. It’s the hardest thing seeing them hurt but I shows me how much of a connection I’ve built.
While I was working for my Bachelors of Science in Exercise Science, as well as during my time in PT school, I knew I wanted to work with athletes in some way, shape, or form. I consider horses some of the most incredible athletes in the world. The amount of force & power a horse can produce is crazy. While I might not be working with human athletes, since starting my business, I've been able to work with some amazing athletes (horses).
How did you come to start your business, BW Equine Services?
I have been riding horses since I was about 10 years old & have been training horses for about 6 years. I started to learn how to train horses when my barn owner saved my current horse, Buttons, from a neglectful situation. I learn most of my training techniques from my barn owner in IL, Don. I always wanted to be out at the barn working with the horses, and Don gave me that opportunity at a younger age. He allowed and trusted me to work with his horses, as well as had me work with some of his client horses. I just knew from a young age that I was meant to work with horses.
At the beginning of the year 2020, I was still taking graduate classes at Carroll University for my Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree. As everyone knows this was the year COVID hit us. My classes were transferred to all online classes, this hindered my learning, as I am a big hands on learner. Not only was school taking a toll on me but my mental health started to decline and my anxiety hit an all time high. After summer classes were completed, I took a gap year to regather myself with hopes to return. I spent my time working at the barn where I kept my horses, Buttons & Willow.
At the beginning of 2021, I knew I had to make a decision regarding my future for not only school but in general. I knew I loved helping people return to their normal acts of daily living, but I also knew deep down that I wanted my future to involve a job where I would be working with horses. I researched different colleges and professions I could pursue if I decided not to go back to finish my doctorate degree that would potentially involve both of my passions. I came across Therasage EMC, a massage certification course. I instantly knew that this would be a great fit for me, as I still would get to use some of my schooling background for human rehab towards rehab for horses. This was a great stepping stone into starting my own side business for horse training, lessons, and massage.
How do you further the Equestrian Community?
I love showing others how to better understand and trust a horse. I always have a positive outlook on things. While giving lessons I always give positive reinforcement, this also applies to my training for horses. If you praise the good, more good will come.
Since starting my business, BW Equine Services, I have enjoyed every minute. Seeing how I can help a horse release stress, reduce pain, relax, and just overall feel better is what I think I enjoy the most. I also enjoy introducing my services to new horses/owners & watching them notice the benefits, witness the releases, see the improvements in the horses' knowledge under saddle, or even improving their own riding ability.
Courtney was a pleasure to photograph and had her work cut out for her preparing not one but TWO horses! We completed a variety of photos in hand, under saddle, and with multiple outfit changes/tack changes as well as black backgrounds of her equines. It was a full evening, but the images captured speak to her love and connection with her horses. She was kind enough to leave the following review:
"Jessica made this shoot easy! When I say that it’s coming from someone who had asked to have 2 horses done during a photo shoot that normal people would just ask for one. Super easy and quick with communication & always around to help with picking outfits out that won’t clash with your horses coat (helped me A LOT). I 100% recommend her & her work. I can’t wait to get the rest of my online gallery!"
You can find out more about BW Equine Services here.
To find out more about Horse & Rider as well as Black Background Equine Portraits, visit: https://www.forestroadphotography.com/equine