Retired Mukwonago teacher trains horses for long-distance riding
Bonnie Mielke's face lit up as she spoke about her love of horses. She was at the Mukwonago Community Library wearing a jacket with the name of her horse, Loki.
Loki is a fifth-generation of horses that Mielke has trained to do long-distance riding. Mielke became involved with the sport in 1974.
The retired Mukwonago teacher recalled growing up on a farm and hearing her mother talk about horses and cowboys. She wanted a horse but her family couldn't afford one.
Mielke's dad told her to finish college and buy a horse herself after she had a job. "So I did," she said.
She purchased a horse named Mitzi, an unregistered Arabian, because the horse was beautiful. Mitzi was Loki's great-great-grandmother.
In 2016 Loki was the regional champion for the American Endurance Ride Conference, Upper Midwest Endurance Competitive Rides Association champion and Arabian Horse Distance Riding Association part bred and grand champion.
Mielke said Loki is the first horse in the history of long-distance riding to win a championship in each of the three categories: endurance, limited distance, and competitive.
"Loki has the gene power, he is a cool guy," she said.
Loki is named after the Norse the god of mischief. Mielke describes her horse as very outgoing, always wanting attention and perhaps a treat.
"He is the king of the farm and knows it," she said.
Philosophy of teaching
Mielke is still active in education. She teaches classes which are a part of the Mukwonago Area Schools Special Services programs.
There are parallels between instructing students and animals.
"It is about consistency and building trust," she said.
In her current work with high school students, the goal is to see them graduate.
Mielke believes her students can be successful in school, they just need to do it. She had an eighth-grade student who was failing and was put in easier classes.
Her advice was to find what the student enjoyed and take an advanced course in the subject. His family listened to her suggestion.
"He is now doing great," Mielke said.
Although horses and students are different, in both cases it is about pinpointing their needs.
Loki has a tremendous amount of energy. Mielke uses dressage to help him reach his full potential. In this type of training, Loki and Mielke are expected to memorize a series of movements.
She attributes her educational skills to distance riding and working with animals. Sometimes when she having a problem teaching a student, she will go riding, which relaxes her and allows her mind to go into neutral.
"Suddenly the bubble bursts and then I know what I need to do," Mielke said.