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Hoofbeats and heart: Trainer aims to inspire compassion

Profile image for By Megan Gray / Staff Writer
By Megan Gray / Staff Writer

Inspiration comes in many ways, and Robert Liner says what better way to get inspired than at the fair?

That’s exactly what happened to the horse enthusiast, who has been conducting the popular “Spirit of the Horse” show for six years at the North Texas Fair and Rodeo. The fair’s 85th season ended Saturday.

“I came here when it was just a small fair and it was really just horses and livestock … 20 years ago,” Liner said. “I watched a man do something similar with horses during a show like I did today [Saturday], and it really inspired me to do what I am doing now.”

He said his shows are more about education than flair.

Sure, there is some entertainment, but what Liner really wants is to show the true essence of the horse.

“It’s demystifying some of the typical things you hear about horses and training,” he said.

During his Saturday afternoon show, Liner showcased a 6- to 7-year-old quarter horse named Spice. Although he does own horses, the ones used during the show are mainly from people all over the county who bring their animals to him for a lesson or two.

He said Spice definitely required training, and while she did buck a time or two in the beginning, she started to connect.

His training techniques are more simple than one might think.

Liner believes a horse senses the energy reflecting off a person.

“You might think that a horse knows his/her name when you call it, but really it’s the tone of voice, and the timing of when they are to expect you,” he told the bleacher-filled audience.

A horse requires patience and understanding, which frustrates some people over time, he said.

By connecting with Spice, Liner was able to “walk” her with nonexistent rope around the arena, to the amazement of the crowd.

“We came because we used to ride horses and are just fascinated. … One, he looks like one we used to own,” Little Elm resident Shirley Drayer said.

Liner works with many abused or neglected horses from the Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society, but he also works with “at-risk” or “high-risk” horses — horses labeled not trainable — in many Denton County cities and says he has a 100 percent success rate. He said many people come up to him after his shows and ask for tips on how to train their horses, and he willingly obliges.

“I just love when they come back and tell me it [the technique] worked,” he said.

An animal advocate for years, Liner said he believes showing people the real side of an animal is a way for one to understand the beauty of it all.

“The real beauty of this [show] is horses teach us social order,” he said.

Liner said people have a huge obligation to help save horses. If he can make horses interesting, he said, then a passion will be ignited in some attendees for the very same thing he saw at the fair himself many years ago.

“I just hope some are inspired to look not only deeper into an animal but also themselves,” he said. “Be inspired by the compassion I have shown.”

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.