I first started riding horses when I received riding lessons as a Christmas present at the age of 11. I remember being so upset when my first two lessons were cancelled due to weather and my soon-to-be trainer getting sick. I just couldn't wait to get started!
I began riding a beautiful Arabian school horse at Pringle Arabians on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia, Canada. I soon graduated onto leasing a more sensitive and talented horse, Kassera. I spent hours at the barn, preferring to spend more time with my horse than at a chaotic home. My peers at school teased me about how much I loved horses, but I was happy to be known for that. I didn’t have a ton of friends growing up because I was a sensitive and quiet child—a perfect combination for working with horses.
My first show experience took place at a local fair. Before I knew it, I was travelling to bigger shows on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and I even participated at what I remember to be a larger than life show in Cloverdale, British Columbia. I enjoyed showing in the Arabian shows, but I found myself most intrigued by the dressage classes that took place on the first day of these shows. I had also had a brief exposure to dressage when one of my mother’s friends showed me a video of some freestyle routines from an International Grand Prix. That’s all it took and I was hooked!
After moving to Vancouver Island, British Columbia in 2000, I was tasked to find a new barn. Luckily, I found one that was accessible by city bus: Beowulf Farm owned by Ann Bater. Being short on cash, but high on time, I got a job at the barn that allowed me to pay for my lease and also provided me the opportunity to have numerous lessons on a variety of horses. I quickly became a regular at the barn which led to opportunities to catch ride many horses. I jumped at every chance to ride anything that neighed!
I competed in my first dressage show at training level with a lease horse named Djebel. As it turned out, dressage was a lot harder than it looked! I decided that it was time to get some focused work in during the summer when a woman at my barn approached me about becoming a working student at Queenswood Stables in Navan, Ontario. I accepted the opportunity and received an unsurpassed level of mentorship there. It was here that I learned the value of hard work and exactly how much time, effort, energy, and knowledge it takes to become a Grand Prix dressage rider and coach.
I returned home after that summer with an intense focus and heightened determination. I took on three jobs and approached my father about purchasing a young horse to bring up through the levels. That’s when we found Hunter (aka Feinaly). We purchased her when she was three years old, and she was just the right mix of safe and sass to make life interesting. At the time Hunter came into my life, I was training with Lisette DeRooy who thoroughly taught me the intricate basics of bringing up a young horse. Lisette spent hours with me, teaching me the biomechanics and muscle building required to develop a sound, healthy, athletic horse. Tragically, Hunter passed away in a freak trailer accident the day after her fifth birthday. I wasn’t sure if I could recover from this loss, but I received incredible support from my local horse community as I was showered with words of encouragement, heartfelt condolences, and unparalleled strength. Lisette, too, was not going to let me fade away from my passion, and she pushed and pushed about a horse she wanted me to bring along. Without these people, my heart might have stayed broken forever.
After bringing along a couple of project horses from a breeder, I came across Murphy. He was a sweet 4 year old with a lot of talent. I purchased him, and shortly thereafter, I was given the opportunity to buy another horse. As a family, we decided to make the huge trip to Holland to find a horse with a little more training and upper level talent. There I found Superman (aka Rockefeller), and I quickly fell in love with this quirky horse. It was clear he had a good foundation with movement to spare, so we made the decision to bring him back with us to Canada.
Superman ended up being quite the handful! I enlisted the help of Lisette as well as the help of a round penning professional, William Clinging, who gave me a better understanding of Superman’s reactivity and spooking behavior. I also took clinics with Shelley Lawder who helped me to understand how to keep hot horses working for me. Superman was terrifying me with his movement and I was terrifying him with my fear. Over time, though, we learned how to keep out of each other’s way and how to work together.
I had shown Superman at and level when I decided to put my riding and our relationship to the test. I decided to start training with well-known rider and Grand Prix trainer Hilda Gurney. Hilda looked at my riding from a detail perspective, breaking my riding down to build it back up ten times better. She emphasized extremely correct movements, worked on my seat, and would let me ride some of her school horses as she watched and corrected me. She even gave me the opportunity to start some of her young horses and ride some of her upper level horses. The year I spent with Hilda was life changing. Hilda has an amazing way with horses and an even better way with teaching lessons. I tried to absorb as much as I could from her—her techniques, her processes, her approach with even the most difficult and hot horses. Hilda helped me to compete up to Intermediare 1 with Superman, and she taught me how amazing my horse is.
At the end of my year with Hilda, I was offered a job riding upper level sale horses for Dutch Dreamhorses in Aromas, California. This was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up! I moved to Aromas and focused all of the learning I had obtained by putting my training into practice with multiple extremely talented horses.
I now train horses out of Gilroy, California. As a trainer, the most rewarding thing for me is to guide people to breakthroughs that allow for a greater understanding of and closeness within the horse-rider partnership. I have received some amazing teaching throughout the years, and my goal is to pay that forward to anyone I work with.