That’s the way life started out for Kim Berkley, and at the
tender age of four, with the arrival of her first pony, she got
her wish. Nine years later, when she was 13, Kim got her
first horse, which she stabled nearby. Caring for Tami
was her responsibility, and Kim spent every moment she
could with her new friend. Each morning, she jumped on
her bike and took off for the stable. From there, she rode her bike to school, then back to see Tami after school, and then, at day’s end, back home again.
She hired out as a babysitter to pay for Tami’s upkeep, started taking riding lessons, and soon began competing in neighborhood fun shows.
Her initial enthusiasm for horses never dimmed. Kim got her first Arabian when she was 16 and plunged into the intricacies of mastering both the Western and English styles of riding. With her new Arabian, Tinah, she again made the rounds of all the local fun shows, but by this time, her position in this world had begun to shift. For by now Kim had developed a considerable store of knowledge about horses, and added to her intuitive grasp of what would and wouldn’t work in training them, she was ready to become a trainer herself. Her business grew quickly, as did her own success in the show ring.
Championships, at a price
Kim’s personal goal was to win a national championship, and she made it partway there in 1984, securing a reserve national championship with her Arabian Show Hack, JJ Beau Jangles. Five years later, Kim captured her first national championship with Koko Captain. Then in 1992 she won the National Champion in Costume competition with the stallion Focus Alimus.
The riders she trained – both adults and children – were also starting to win big. By 1993, horses she had guided from ponyhood were winning national titles. Kim was proud of the horses she trained and very proud of her students. She found
that she could learn something from each horse and rider
she trained. The horse from whom she learned the most,
Euphemus, will always hold a special place in her heart.
This was a period of great accomplishment and great
pleasure. In 1994, Kim won two national championships,
in Arabian Show Hack and Side Saddle. The next year
brought two more triumphs – National Champion, first
level, and Reserve National Champion, second level,
both in dressage.
Training horses was beginning to take a toll, however.
“Horses are much more fragile than dogs,” Kim explains,
and the work could be quite dangerous as well. The
combination of stress, danger, and the fragility of her
charges made Kim wonder how much longer she could go on.
In the meantime, Kim had gotten her first taste of the radically different, but just as exciting, world of competitive dog sports. In the early 1990s, she got her first dog, a Great Dane, Aalaina Zar, who turned out to be a fine pet but a poor obedience prospect. Still, working with the Dane gave Kim valuable experience, and her next dog, an Australian Shepherd named
Mr. Personality, did well in the obedience ring. Taking dog training lessons herself, Kim trained Mr. Personality – Cody – to his UD title. And she began to think seriously about exploring this new direction in her life.
Her successes in the horse world continued unabated. In 1992, though, Kim was forced to take a hard look at her priorities when a horse fell on her, nearly killing her. Her recovery from the accident took months, but what caught her attention was her reaction in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
MEET KIM BERKLEY
Leaving behind an enormously successful business training show horses, in the early 2000s Kim Berkley set about forming what would become Dog Sports at Kim’s. That dream is now a rock-solid reality, with the training facility she created serving as gathering place and training ground for the largest group of serious dog trainers and handlers in the St. Louis area.
With three OTCH dogs of her own and a fourth well on her way, Kim sets the standard for skilled, committed obedience and agility training. Her own continuing education is ongoing, and she encourages her students to share their training successes and support each other through the training process. There are very few egos at Dog Sports at Kim’s. Instead, there’s a treasure trove
of experience that members are willing and eager to share.
Bring Out the Best in Your Dog!
If it's happening in dogs
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it's at DSKDogs.com!
Just nine minutes from the Gateway Arch
1951 Townsley Lane 618-293-1750 Caseyville, Ill. 62232
“I remember riding in the ambulance,” Kim says, “on the way to the hospital, and I was in terrible pain, yet all I could think about was that I was going to miss dog class that night.” A number of months later, when Kim had finally recovered, she was ready to start thinking, at least, about trading in her reins for a leash.
Getting there, slowly
The process took quite a long while, as it turned out. In fact, Kim’s last great champion horse – a mare named Vivacious Leigh —
wasn’t even born until 1994. In 2003, ViVi turned the rare double trick of winning in a single year the Arabian English Show Hack national championship, with Kim in the saddle, and the youth national championship, where ViVi was ridden by a young woman Kim had trained.
By the time ViVi made her second victorious canter in 2003, Kim’s reputation as a dog trainer had gained traction and was growing. She made her final appearance at the Arabian horse nationals in 2006, leaving behind a generation of grateful owners and young riders. When
TCE Balastrana, a horse Kim had trained for eight years, became the Arabian Horse Association’s top champion in 2005, Bally’s owner, Mercy Burwell, touched on one of the keys to Kim’s success.
"[N]ot everyone learns the same way,” Burwell said. “Kim understands this and works with each individual's learning process. She's one of the most patient trainers I've ever encountered."
Perhaps dog and horse training are not so different after all.
Like-minded people and their dogs
About the time Bally was being coronated as top Arabian horse, Kim was putting the finishing touches on her transition from horses to dogs. She purchased the building that now houses Dog Sports at Kim’s and set about creating a place and an atmosphere in which like-minded people could come together to train their dogs.
“You learn in training that you need a balance between reward and correction,” Kim says. Many DSK handlers find a similar balance between obedience and agility, having come to enjoy both sports.
“I think my dogs are good at agility because I first made them good obedience dogs,” Kim points out. Other people start in agility and add obedience after they notice how much fun the obedience handlers are having, and how dogs, properly motivated, seem to warm to the sport.
‘When you’re one as a team’
“What I like best about dog training,” Kim says, “is the feeling you get when you and your dog are one as a team.” It’s the essence of what she teaches all her students. “I love helping people learn to be successful with their dogs, passing on what I’ve learned from the many great dog and horse trainers I’ve been lucky enough to work with.”
If you’re serious about having fun with your dog, if you want to enjoy that sense of teamwork and teach your dog to be a winner, there isn’t a better place to train than Dog Sports at Kim’s.