By MONICA CANE
Kristina Alexander was just two years old when her parents took her to a rental stable to see horses for the first time. Not long after her dad sat with her in a saddle on one of the horses and in that instance Kristina felt an emotional connection with the majestic creature.
Enjoying every moment of sitting on that horse that first time, Kristina recalls throwing her one and only all-out screaming fit it was time to get off the horse. By the time her parents managed to get their screaming child off the horse, the intense love for the animal was permanently embedded in Kristina’s heart.
As an exceptionally shy little girl, Kristina was uncomfortable communicating with people but found comfort around horses and quickly learned that she could communicate with them in a way she could not do with people.
At 12 years old, Kristina began volunteering her time at the rental stable just to be around the horses. Soon she was pleading with her mom for a horse of her own. In which her mom, not yet realizing just how deep Kristina’s passion for horses truly ran, offhandedly told her that when she was old enough to get a job and pay for her own horse then she could have one.
“All I heard was when you get a job and pay for your own horse, you could have one, so that’s what I did” says Kristina.
Finding a part time job at a fast food restaurant Kristina saved her hard earned money and by 14 bought her first baby horse, Kandi Bar for $600.
“I couldn’t keep the horse at my house so I made monthly payments of $50 to a boarder. My mom didn’t know until (one day) after chores and homework, I told her that I was going to go see my horse.”
Kristina’s mom was initially shocked and angry but overtime came to respect her daughter’s determination.
Spending every free moment at the stables Kristina worked with Kandi Bar. Although she did a lot of reading to educate herself, she knew in her heart that what she had was a gift from God to work with animals and soon that gifting became apparent to others.
By the time she was 18 she had fully raised and trained Kandi Bar and was receiving requests to train other horses the same way. By the time she was twenty, people were praising her for her work and also asking her to teach them how to ride the way she rides. Through the growing recognition, Kristina never lost sight of where her gift came from.
“I am Christian and I believe everyone has given a gift from God. My gift was animals.”
Later, Kristina gained a vast amount of knowledge when she began working at Applebite Farms, a rehab farm for injured racetrack horses. There she worked closely with vets to help maintain the health of some 200 horses in addition to breeding mares along with training and prepping their weanlings and yearlings as future, prospective race horses.
When the farm decided to relocate to France, Kristina focused on her running her own horse facility and was given the opportunity from the owners of Applebite Farms to take with her the granddaughter of “Affirmed”, the 1978 Triple Crown Winner. While some would have used the opportunity to breed race horses from the granddaughter of a prized race horse, Kristina opted to breed her with one of her stallions primarily for barrel racing and simply loves the brooding mare regardless of her royal ancestry.
Almost three decades of sharing her gifting, Kristina now runs her own horse boarding, riding and training facility that specializes in horsemanship and speed events in Manteca, All Star Training.
While the facility offers riding lessons, boarding, speed training, pony parties and barrel racing which Kristina competes in professionally and believes is the only sports where one actually cheers for their competitor, she admits that her facility is about so much more.
“Being around horses is like therapy. A lot of times people call and say, I have anger issues, I’m over weight, I’m insecure or some other problem, and through the horses I can help. I’ve had teenage boys come here with anger problems who had to do 20 hours of service for doing some offensive thing to someone. Working around the horses is relaxing and it helps them. Now some of those same boys are in their twenties and doing fine but once in awhile they will call and say, I’m having a hard day, can I come see the horses and I say, come on.”
As she has gotten older Kristina has come to understand that her gifting was never just for her own benefit but one she was meant to share which she does with those she trains, mentors and interacts with including her two young, very qualified assistants. Shannon Quigly who has a similar gifting with animals as Kristina and Jessica Guzman who started as a student when she was eight and now works at All Star Training as a valuable staff member who helps Kristina with students and growing the business.
Interestingly the training facility is located in the least obvious place, the center of a sub division near Highway 120 and Highway 99 and the nearby neighbors love it.
Being so close to residents one might think the horses would be spooked by sound of cars driving up and down the street but they’re not. As a matter of fact, all the horses, including one she has had for 24-years know the sound of Kristina’s car as well as her voice. The moment she pulls up or begins speaking the horses begin to neigh with excitement as if to say, Hooray, Kristina is home, we love her.
The love horses have for their owners surely develop due to the slow process of connecting with them.
“Horses are not born friendly; they are born wild despite being born in captivity. It’s a step by step process to connect with them. First you being with touching them which they don’t appreciate it, after that you work on putting on a halter. From there you get them comfortable with a small rope to lead them, introduce brushes, teach them how to pick up their feet, how to walk next to you, how to be saddled, have bath and walk in a trailer. By the time their around two that’s when you can start riding them.”
Patience, love and a God-given gift has allowed Kristina to live her dream and gives her the ability to help others do the same.
When asked how the community can be of support to All Star Training, Kristina humbly requests that if anyone is inspired to do so, donating a pony party or riding lessons to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, churches and elsewhere would be phenomenal as being around horses truly are therapy and giving the gift of spending time with horses can help bring healing, hope and encouragement to someone in need.
For more information about All Star Training call (209) 456-3376 or visit www.allstartraining.net.
All Star Training
1765 Bandoni Lane
Any level of rider can take lessons:
Over 7 years old $50.00 (one hour)
Under 7 $25.00 (1/2 hour)