Rick and Kari Schmitt own and train at Schmitt Training Center, a beautiful full-service horse facility located in the rolling hills of Somerset, Wisconsin. Raised in horse-involved families, they have both been dedicated to the world of horses from a very young age. Together, they have brought many horses up from the starting stages of training to the show ring or as wonderful pleasure/trail horses. They also skillfully share their knowledge with the horses’ owners and riders; teaching them how they can improve their relationship and communication with their horse…the goal always being to help them become better handlers and riders FOR their horse, no matter what discipline.
As they continually evolve with their studies, their program has developed over the years while consistently blending natural horsemanship and the mental comprehension abilities of the horse with that of dressage; never compromising their training beliefs and values, including avoiding gadgets and quick-fixes. The foundation of their program, Steps to Success, has always been and remains being training from the horse’s point of view.
Much of Rick’s life in the early years had revolved around riding and driving his family’s horses and ponies and the steers he and his brother raised (as they did for about 25 years). He eventually acquired his own horse as a teenager; a mare who was known as being “difficult.” This didn’t bother Rick as he was just happy enough to have his own horse. What he was able to accomplish with this mare, however, resulted in attention from others and quickly lead to a client list. Gaining a reputation for being able to help “difficult” horses directed him to a number of competitive dressage riders who were searching for help with their own equine partners. This motivated him to figure out a program where he could blend what he knew of natural horsemanship and dressage.
With his physics background, Rick insists that things must make sense. This benefits in his abilities for problem solving, understanding how horses and riders learn, and seeing things from their point of view. During their lessons, he asks his students many questions so they have to think about and see where the horse is coming from. He strongly believes students absolutely must comprehend what they are learning and teaching the horse.
Rick has used his talent to start and train a great multitude of horses of various breeds and disciplines and has instructed just as many students…some to reach their goal of having a harmonious relationship with their horse whether on the trail, in the arena, trailer loading and/or groundwork….others to reach the heights of Regional and National USDF and Arabian (AHA) titles.
No matter what the goal, Rick believes in the intelligence and ability of the horse to mentally connect with the rider/handler, and once that connection is solidly established, the sky is the limit!
Kari grew up living a young girl’s dream of riding her family’s horses bareback on the trails of California. Being that a couple of their horses were Arabians, her 4-H leader/trainer introduced her to Arabian shows, thus solidifying a deep-rooted love of the breed. She eventually had the opportunity to apprentice with a wonderful trainer who taught her the ins and outs of showing Arabian trail; a path that lead her to multi Regional Championships and Canadian National Top Tens. From the breed shows to the open shows, she was able to venture into a variety of disciplines, gaining great experience in different areas of riding. After earning a WSCA Championship in hunt and Reserve in tandem bareback, she was proud to represent the large horse association twice, as Miss Horsemanship and as Princess.
In 2003, as a recently-purchased family horse (a half-Arabian) proved to be a bit of a test for Kari, she decided to pursue the suggestion of a friend to meet a trainer who might be able to help. What she learned from Rick changed everything and gave her a new understanding of horses. Throughout the years, with his guidance and assistance, Kari has ridden her own horses (including that half-Arabian), as well as their client horses, to many Arabian (US and Canadian) and USDF Regional and National Championships, Reserves and Top Tens in every level of dressage from Training to Intermediare 1. She experienced the proud moment of winning a USDF Midwest Championship with her Arabian and has had the great fortune to earn four trips to the USDF Finals with four client horses (one started by Rick) from Training to 3rd Levels, winning a place in the awards ceremonies five times.
As quite a thrilling endeavor, she earned her USDF Bronze and Silver medals on a client’s horse whom she and Rick have brought up from 1st Level, and they are currently taking time to carefully learn the steps and progress from Intermediare 1 to Grand Prix.
Kari is extremely grateful to have had so many positive influences and diverse opportunities in her life in a world that she is passionate about. She enjoys sharing what she has learned with her students and horses, and helping them become the very best they can be.