Clarence and Lee Walerius have acquired extensive horsemanship skills over the 60 years they have been breaking and training horses. They currently have a herd of 60 quality-bred paints and quarter- horses, and in the past have also raised and trained Appaloosas and Arabians.
“We use natural methods in our training,” says Lee. “That means building a strong rapport between the horse and the person. Connecting and building this relationship has a lot to do with respect, and understanding the animals.”
“Horses have their own personalities and are much more intelligent than we give them credit for,” adds Clarence. “A lot of problems evolve because people don’t understand their behaviour. We’re invading their territory when we work with them, so they need to be treated with respect if we want them to co-operate.”
Both Lee and Clarence, who ranch north of Martensville, Saskatchewan, are certified in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL). Lee judges 4-H and western shows and does clinics for training both horse and rider and also is certified in Equine Massage Therapy. Using her skills developed with EAP and EAL, Lee works with at-risk youth that come from dysfunctional homes.
“By paying attention to the way the horses react to the actions of these kids, I can tell whether they’ve had a bad day and when there’s a lot of anger coming out. The actions of the horses tell us a great deal if we are willing and open to listen. So understanding the psychology of the horses gives me insight as to where these kids are at and how to help them.
“A person who is stressed or has suffered a loss and is hurting — perhaps the death of a parent or grandparent — will generate a response from the horse. The horse or horses will gather around for a group hug. They’ll approach very softly and stand there for the longest time. Or if a youth is acting tough and macho, or has a wall up, the horse could run off, bucking and kicking, in effect saying, ‘you’re not being your true self.’ So again that tells me a lot. It’s very interesting,” says Lee.
Lee also uses Equine Assisted Psychotherapy or Equine Assisted Learning to work with corporate groups to do team building exercises or to assess the dynamics among their staff.
They concede their work is at times draining, but is always rewarding and exciting. “I think it also gives us an insight into life and helps us appreciate what we have and the relationships we have with other people.”
Clarence and Lee are also skilled leather craftspeople and recently decided to open CR Ranch Saddle and Gift Shop on their property. Both have been doing leatherwork for over 40 years — repairing and rebuilding saddles and making their own tack, reins, bridles and halters and other leather products.
When Clarence retired from his city job about five years ago, he decided the time had come to pursue his dream of making saddles. After completing a course in Elko, B.C., he came home and was soon receiving orders for his custom-made saddles.
The saddle-making process is labour intensive and requires many hours of moulding, sculpting, machine and hand stitching, and tooling. It’s a joint venture — Clarence does most of the building and Lee concentrates on the tooling and carving. They make a variety of saddles — roping, reining, pleasure and barrel saddles.
They prefer to use all-natural materials for the benefit of the horse and the rider. “We use cowhide leather and a sheepskin underside. No synthetic materials are used except for maybe the tree and the foam in the padded seat. I like the wool saddle pads for several reasons. The wool compensates for the differing sizes and shapes, from the mature horse to a colt that’s slightly smaller. The wool also absorbs moisture and breathes, so for long rides, the horse will be more comfortable,” Lee says.
Besides the tack and saddles, the couple also makes and sells a variety of other leather products such as purses, belts, home décor items, jewelry and chaps.
They also raise a small flock of sheep, which supplies the wool for the saddle pads and other items such as mitts, socks and boot liners that Lee makes and sells in the gift shop.
“I’ve always said I was born 50 years too late,” Lee says with a chuckle. “The things I enjoy are what our grandparents and great-grandparents had to do. It’s an awesome opportunity to be here on the ranch, and make a modest income from doing what we both love.”
“We work with many families in 4-H and the horse industry, and want to provide them with the quality products they need for their horses and for themselves,” says Clarence.