About Kate Cooler
As a girl growing up in New Jersey, Kate plastered her bedroom walls with pictures of horses. She watched every horse movie she could find and even created a jumping course in the backyard. She leaped over the fences and obstacles herself, imagining she was sailing over them on horseback.
When Kate was nine, she took informal riding lessons with a woman who owned several horses. These weren’t traditional riding sessions in a ring: Kate got to explore the property on horseback alongside her “instructor.” She spent afternoons and weekends riding bareback, hands tangled in the horse’s mane, bare feet dangling. “I always wanted to ride off into the sunset,” Kate recalls. “Looking back, I realize how lucky I was to get to ride in such a pure, simple way.”
After her horse mentor moved away, Kate started taking lessons at a more traditional barn. She rode her bike to the farm in the morning and spent all day there; she couldn’t get enough, even if it meant scooping endless mounds of manure. At fourteen, she finally convinced her parents that her love of horses wasn’t going to waiver and got her own horse, a black Percheron cross named Bentley. “He was green and stubborn; everyone said he was too much for me to handle,” Kate remembers. She persisted, spending time each day with Bentley, until they developed a working partnership. As Kate got older, however, she spent less and less time with her horse, and the relationship suffered accordingly. He became what everyone had predicted: too much to handle. When Kate left for college, she gave Bentley to someone who could give him the time and care he needed.
Kate attended the College of Charleston and then became a massage therapist. In 2005, while working in Bluffton, South Carolina, she decided get back into riding and rediscovered her old passion. At the same time, she met a lanky Montanan who’d recently moved to South Carolina. His name was James Cooler, and he claimed he’d grown up riding and training horses. Kate thought it sounded too good to be true—until she saw him ride.
“He hopped on without using a saddle or a bridle and rode in perfect synchronization with the horse, using just his seat to guide him. I’d never seen anything like it. I was instantly hooked.”
James began to teach Kate about natural horsemanship, an entirely new concept to her. The more she learned, the more she realized it was what she’d always longed for—an enduring, trusting, willing relationship between horse and human. Practicing natural horsemanship was another matter: Kate got frustrated time and again as she challenged herself to gain control of new equipment and get her feel and timing in synch with the horse. One day James pointed out how many times she had said “I can’t.” From that moment on, Kate shifted her attitude to “I can.” and realized it wasn't about how fast you got there or how perfect it all went, but about the process and what the horse teaches you during it.
Learning this new way of being with horses was more than Kate had imagined it could be and she was hooked! All she needed was now was a horse to not just call her own but to grow with and learn from as she continued to advance her knowledge. Then... a gorgeous, high-strung Friesian-Arabian mare with a damaged spirit badly in need of nurturing arrived for training, and she and Kate formed an immutable bond. Kleopatra is now part of the family and continues to teach Kate how to be a better horsewoman every day.
In November of 2009 Kate and James got married and embarked on their dream of teaching horsemanship and sharing their experiences with their personal horses through demostrations and videos. Kate is James’ full-time partner in Cooler Horsemanship, where she trains horses, teaches students, films for the online video libary and serves as the heart of the “barn family” she and James have created, using her own recent journey into natural horsemanship to encourage, empathize, and inspire.
Kate, who now rides Kleo bridleless, say she is living the dream she had as a girl, only it’s better and truer than she ever imagined. “Learning this other way of being with horses has completely changed me,” she says. “It’s brought me back to my more authentic self and my horse certainly lets me know when I am not in that state of mind. That is what I love most about horses, you can't hide your true emotions from them and just as we think we are "training" them, they are actually helping us figure ourselves out. Well, get us closer anyway:)”