Friday, December 14, 2012

Feature Friday – Bobbie Jo Lieberman –Teaching Better Ways

Howdy Folks,

Bobbie Jo & Flite
Bobbie Jo Lieberman, managing editor of Trail Blazer Magazine, has a devotion, a mission, to teach better ways to care for our horses' physical needs – nutrition, hoof care, exercise – and to make life interesting, varied and "nonhabitual" for our horses. As she explains, horses are thinking, sentient creatures who need mental stimulation, just like we do, for optimal health. Whether it's learning to step up onto a pedestal, walk through a labyrinth, or experience true "connection" with his person, horses are capable of much more than many people realize. The results of working with horses in such creative ways, and sharing insights with others, is one of the things most rewarding to Bobbie Jo.

Through her career in equine journalism, spanning an impressive forty-plus years, Bobbie Jo has had the privilege of working with many people who are shining a light in understanding how horses learn. People like Linda Tellington-Jones, Peggy Cummings and Suzanne De Laurentis.

Her journey began as a child with an imaginary horse named Bright Angel. As a young girl Bobbie Jo and Bright Angel would compete in races, shows and even start a breeding farm. Finally at 13 and after much persistence, she "convinced" her parents to buy her a pony, Little Stormy. Stormy taught her much and together they won their first trophy. After Stormy came Flip, a half-Arabian who excelled at barrels and poles. Only during her college years did Bobbie Jo go horseless. Then, in her senior year, she found Khabur, an Arab colt.

Annakate & Bobbie Jo flying
Khabur never put much stock in any, "in the ring stuff" and one day, Bobbie Jo flung open the gate and across the fields, up and down hills they flew. It was Khabur who started Bobbie Jo on a lifelong love affair with Endurance Riding. Endurance riding is the sport that most closely mimics the lifestyle of horses in the wild—covering long distances in the course of a single day at moderate speeds. "Endurance will teach a rider more about equine physiology than any other horse sport, and developing fit equine athletes is very rewarding," says Bobbie Jo. It was Khabur who first planted the seed in Bobbie Jo to share that knowledge with the world for the sake of the horse. Later, she would write a column called "Equus the Foal," continuing that real-world focus on learning and growing.

Rushcreek Caribou & Bobbie Jo
When she went to work for EQUUS as the founding Editor in 1977, Bobbie Jo met Medical Editor, Matthew Mackay-Smith, DVM, who was already in the endurance riding American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) Hall of Fame. Bobbie Jo had done one competitive trail ride in Minnesota in the early 70s with Khabur (they were having so much fun that they missed a trail marker and ended up in Wisconsin!) so was already intrigued with long-distance riding. Matthew and his wife Winkie became her friends and mentors in the sport. Those were the days of burgeoning knowledge in equine sport science, and Matthew was a pioneer in the “gate into hold” concept that is still in use in AERC. The defining distance was 100 miles in one day, and the supreme test in the East was the Old Dominion 100. Bobbie Jo and her mare Rushcreek Ingrid, finished 5th on their first Old Dominion and third that same year on the Vermont 100. She's logged over 5,000 AERC miles so far and hopes to ride many more.

EQUUS’ early motto was “the voice of the horse,” and that is the banner Bobbie Jo has always carried in her heart. She's emotional when it comes to the care and treatment of any animal. She's an advocate for holistic therapies for horses, barefoot horsekeeping, minimal vaccinations and training methods that honor the intelligence of the horse.

Teammates Perle & Bobbie Jo
One of the most difficult moments in Bobbie Jo's horse history was losing her beloved mare Perle to the bite of a green Mojave rattler in 2006. Perle had been the focus of a series in EQUUS and proved to be a challenging horse to train—meaning she had many lessons to teach. She emerged from her early trials as a willing trail partner and had just completed a series of competitive trail and endurance rides when tragedy struck. It took Bobbie a long time to come to grips with losing her and ultimately discover Perle as her spiritual guide. Years after the event, Perle’s full sister Permynta “found” Bobbie  from across the country and came West to live with her, bringing them all full circle in the journey of love and life.

For as long as Bobbie Jo can remember, she wanted to write about horses. Opportunities to do so were slim in the early 1970s. For the first decade or so of her working life, she was a newspaper and sports editor and wrote feature stories about horses whenever she could. Bobbie Jo's first two freelance articles appeared in Hoof Beats magazine and Western Horseman during her university years. Then, in 1977, she was invited to become a founding editor of EQUUS—the first magazine devoted to the health and care of the horse. EQUUS was a breakthrough in equine journalism…. In fact, it defined the genre for many years.

Later she would spend a decade as Editor & Publisher of Modern Horse Breeding, a journal written for breeders, veterinarians and farm managers. As managing editor of Trail Blazer magazine for the last four years, Bobbie Jo plays a major role in shaping the editorial direction. Trail Blazer's publisher, Susana Gibson, was a highly successful endurance rider back in the day as well as the manager of the legendary Race of Champions. They were both “students” of Matthew Mackay-Smith, and his wit and wisdom continues to inform and inspire their efforts.

Bobbie Jo has coauthored two horse books: “The Ultimate Horse Training and Behavior Book: Enlightened solutions for the 21st century,” with Linda Tellington-Jones, and “Connect with Your Horse From the Ground Up: Transform the way you see, ‘feel,’ and ride with a whole new kind of groundwork,” with Peggy Cummings. Both books were the result of years of writing, refining and experiencing the work with each author. She writes these books to give people a way to work with horses that is safe, effective, stress-free and honors the individuality and intelligence of the horse.

She also coauthored a human-health book called “Heart Sense for Women,” with Steve Sinatra, MD and Jan Sinatra. Bobbie Jo and her husband, Kenny Weber, are also working on a book right now featuring a fun, sassy, easy approach to healthy nutrition. 

Bobbie Jo Lieberman has devoted her life to giving horses a voice. Her efforts as a writer and editor extraordinaire have helped spread the word of a better way to live with, take care of and have fun with our horses.  Join her on Facebook and get to know one wonderful woman.

For more information:

Dutch Henry


  1. Great insight again, into one of the leaders and champions, in the equestrian world. Thanks so much for sharing this with us all!

    1. Thanks Odee, She sure fits well into the Feature Friday family of those "People & Horses Helping Horses & People" doesn't she!

  2. Being fairly new to horse-ownership, I love learning about people that have an interest in the WHOLE horse. Not many people where I live believe that horses are sentient beings, but rather disposable once they've met the humans needs. I am considered the outsider, which is fine with me. I know I am giving my horses a much better chance to live a long, happy and healthy life. Pat Parelli says, "If you always do what you've always done, you will get what you've always gotten." I follow Joe Camps philosophy of no shoes, no blanket and no barn. Thank you, Dutch, for enlightening us to another natural and remarkable horsewoman.

  3. Lauren, Thank you!... Thank you for caring for and loving horses, and thank you for being part of our Coffee Clutch! ... It's an honor to share the beliefs and efforts of those folks who are, "Teaching Better Ways."