Some people are born horse crazy and others develop the affliction later in life. I belong to the first category, uttering
'horse' as my very first word in this world.
I grew up working on my friends ranch, riding his horses and renovating the barns and fences. I started off with just one horse, but pretty soon I had two...six...nine! The herd kept growing. I had a talent for picking horses with potential, training them in a discipline and then selling them to pay for my education. And I had a soft spot for foals, so each year I usually had a baby to play with as well.
My second horse, and the horse I eventually passed my level 3 with many years later (Bonnie), taught me about the world of showing. She had a Halter and Western Pleasure background as a 2 & 3yo, and we learned to do Hunter & Jumper, Dressage, Driving, Roping, Barrel Racing and Reining together. I didn't really like lessons; it seemed like everyone was always trying to tell me to have a death grip on my horses face and she really didn't like that, so I just kept out of my horses way and that really worked for us. I was galloping around bareback and bridleless on her before I ever knew that Parelli existed! I trusted her and we were a team.
I was living in Australia in 1997 as an exchange student when I finally discovered Parelli Natural Horsemanship. My neighbour, Terry (an American pilot), was Parelli crazy and had tried to convince his 15yo daughter to try it. Good luck! He thought if I got interested maybe she'd follow suit. Well, that didn't happen! But we formed a fast friendship and had a blast going to all the clinics around with his horses. I passed Level 2 eight months and three horses after starting the program.
I returned home to Canada in 1998 and started over with the levels yet again. I had to switch horses and start from scratch two more times before going to Colorado in 2000 to ride with Pat for 3 weeks in his level 3 class. I couldn't leave! I talked them into letting me stick around for the rest of the summer and then went back in 2001 for six months, which is when I passed Level 3 and was invited into the Instructor Program.
I originally became an Instructor because I knew it would improve my horsemanship and my understanding of the program. I wasn't altogether sure that I would be any good at it, to tell the truth! I had always been a rather shy kid growing up and now I was making a career out of working with people. But my first three level 1 grads helped convince me that I should definitely quit my day job. *smile* And so I did, becoming an instructor full-time in 2002 and dedicating the majority of the next 3 years studying under some of Pat's best mentors and Proteges - Ronnie Willis, Steve Byrne, Larry Stewart, Glenn Stewart, Jonathan Fields, Aimee Brimhall, Bruce Logan, Michael Wanzenreid and many, many others.
The journey never ends!
Nothing has ever challenged me so deeply to reach inside of myself and become the best person that I can be, for the horse,
for my students, for myself, as Parelli Natural Horsemanship. And my little buckskin, Billy, taught me how to let go and
truly trust. The most amazing part of being a Parelli Instructor is having the opportunity to witness and facilitate others
journey to realizing their dreams (and more!) the way I have.
I began my Instructor Training in 2001. In addition to advancing my horsemanship, I was also required to study business skills, adult learning & education, presentation and leadership skills.
I assisted as many of the other instructors as I could during my time as a 1 & 2-Star trainee. Pat told me one day, "Take care of your horsemanship and your horsemanship will take care of you." I took him seriously! I graduated as a 3-Star Colt Starter and Foundation Trainer in 2004. I was determined to learn all that I could about teaching and horsemanship.
Stephanie Burns took my understanding of adult learning to a whole new level when I participated in her series of courses in 2003. We were taught all about how our brains help and hinder us, strategies to set and achieve goals, how to motivate ourselves and our students to make it through the program (especially level 2!) and how to deliver a presentation that captivates the audience and prepares them for learning.
I remember hearing the words 'Fluidity' for the first time back in 2001 when Linda was just putting the concept into a form that we could teach as instructors.Three years later I had the opportunity to observe Linda Parelli present the first 'Fluidity' courses ever taught at the International Study Center in Colorado. Few things have affected my style of teaching to the extent that studying with Linda was able to. It took awhile, but I finally realized that sometimes the best thing for my horse was for me to just get the heck off! It's amazing how much calmer and more confident you can be for your horse when you get on him with the attitude that you'll get off if things start to feel unstable. If I'd learned that lesson a few years earlier I would have saved myself a heap of 'flying lessons'.
And then there's Pat; the Colt Starts, Level 4 classes and summer days spent sitting under the Aspen trees with Pat, watching him play with Casper in the roundpen or do imprint training on a newborn foal...he truly is a Master. There are few people that can teach the way Pat can and get the results that he does, with people and with horses. I was fortunate to be at the ISC during the 'Golden Years' when Pat had the most exceptional group of horsemen studying under him that I have seen. Pat inspires me to continue to strive for excellence, in everything and everyday. I know no one else who has such dedication, passion, generosity and perseverance. He is addicted to learning and is the most progressive horseman I have ever encountered.
I would like to acknowledge the following people, each of whom inspired or mentored me through my journey to becoming the horseman and teacher that I am today;
Pat Parelli - for his never ending devotion to structuring a program and finding easier ways to teach it to people and horses. For allowing me live my dream and find my calling. For transforming my life forever.
Linda Parelli - for teaching me how to empower my students and teach with a gentleness and degree of knowledge which continues to amaze me.
Ray Hunt - one of the 'Godfathers' of Natural Horsemanship in my lifetime and a man who played a very large role in the inspiration and education which led to the Revolution in Horsemanship.
Michael Wanzenreid (4-Star Instructor, Switzerland) - for constantly managing to inspire me with his horsemanship; for seeing potential and helping to direct it; for being a person I could always go to when I needed help navigating!
Steve Byrne (former 4-Star Instructor & Horse Specialist) - for demystifying colt starting for me and showing me how and where all the pieces of the start lead into the finish.
Larry Stewart (former 4-Star Instructor & Horse Specialist) - for teaching me to do less and expect more and for being my friend. He is a master and truly on another plane of awareness than most.
Aimee Brimhall (former 3-Star Instructor)- for proving that a young female has the capacity to be one of the best instructors in the world, and for helping me to understand level 4 on a whole new level. Also, for teaching me to trust my inner 'natural-ness'.
Ronnie Willis (deceased, mentor of Pat) - for patience and a level of gentleness combined with firmness that I hope to one day comprehend and which the horse instantly respected and appreciated, as did all who knew him.
Honza Blaha - for inspiring me with his creativity and helping me to think 'outside the box' more.
Karen Rohlf (Parelli Dressage Associate) - for giving me the language and the tools to connect Dressage with Natural Horsemanship, and for helping me to save my horse, Billy. She first taught me what 'free flowing forward energy' meant and that changed my life with horses.
Walter Zettl - what an amazing man! And an inspiration of kindness, respect and compassion. Thank you for being a kind and patient teacher and for devoting your life's work to the art of classical dressage. Thank you for the huge investment you have made to the Parelli Finesse program and for taking my understanding of the elements of classical dressage to a whole new level. There is still SO much more to learn. I feel honored to have been graced by his knowledge.
Buck Brannaman - for all the details that put all the pieces together. For all the subtle nuances on timing, position, feel. For teaching me about the romance of the Vaquero style of developing a Bridle Horse - a time honored tradition that I am grateful he has devoted his life to passing on.
Although horses are my passion and the one thing I have dedicated my life to achieving excellence at, I have many other
interests which help build my horsemanship skills while away from the horse!
Next to equines, dancing has always been my passion. My favourites are the latin dances (tango, salsa, merengue), but I love the excitement and the skill required for swing. And although all of these dances help to build one's leadership and following skills (hence fluidity!), I would have to say that I was quite surprised to learn just how much Bellydancing can help to unlock stiffness in the body! That is ultimate fluidity on the dance floor!
When I'm not on a horse or on the dance floor I love to excercise my balance and bravery skills on my Yamaha 225 dirtbike. It's a great way to scout out new horse trails and it also helps to constantly remind myself of what an unconfident student goes through (Thank you Stephanie Burns for 'Move Closer, Stay Longer'!). Learning to ride a motorbike has been something I'll never regret and always enjoy.
In the summers we invariably have periods during the day, or even for weeks at a time, that are unbearably hot. On these days you will find me on one of our amazing rivers with my kayak, preparing for next winter when I hope to be able to escape the snow to go Whitewater Kayaking in Chile or Costa Rica for a few weeks! Once again a sport that has tested my emotional fitness, kayaking has shown me that the skills I aquired studying adult learning can be applied to anything. When I mastered my 'roll' the very first try, I said a secret 'thanks' to Stephanie Burns and Linda Parelli!
Art, music, writing, photography and fire poi are my more neglected hobbies and interests, but ones that I truly love as well.
But the horses always get me first!