The Early Years
I have loved horses all my life. My wonderful supportive parents started me in lessons when I was 12 at a hunter/jumper barn nearby, and I have never lost the passion. At one point the barn chose to sell all their school horses, so unless you owned your own horse or leased, you were out. I was unable to lease or own, so I left and spent a little over a year doing other activities. During this time I never lost the "bug" and soon came across an ad for a working student position. Within a few weeks I was truely beginning my horse education from the end of a pitchfork.
Ten Years with Arabians
The woman who took me under her wing was an Arabian breeder and trainer who had been trained in the classical style (dressage). She had done it all in the Arab world and was eager to pass on her knowledge to anyone with sponge like qualities (thirsty for knowledge). It was the beginning of a wonderful 10 year journey that blossomed into a special friendship.
During that time I learned much more than how to ride. It was about the nature of the horse and communicating in ways that respect the partnership between horse and human. In one sense this was mandatory because you cannot force an Arabian to do anything they don't want to do (one of the reasons I love them). So without really knowing it, the foundation was being laid for my current training techniques and philosophies.
I was also developing as an instructor. After about 2 years of being taught myself, I started teaching the beginners. I also took on an assistant trainer role and did lots and lots of lunging, and a little bit of riding beyond my regular lessons. As the years and my skills progressed, I was given more responsibilities to the point that I could be left in charge of the 30 horse facility while the owner was away. I experienced so many things during this time from handling foals and Arab halter training, to starting young horses under saddle and "finishing"* older ones for the show ring. These were the years that made me a horsewoman.
*I don't believe any horse is "finished"; there is always something new you can teach them, or hone their skills in what they already know.
College in Montana
Soon I started college and headed to Montana to Rocky Mountain College in Billings. While in Montana I was exposed to many facets of the Quarter Horse world, but I also brought a little dressage to them. Each horse I rode learned how to leg-yield and shoulder-in, how to respond to a half-halt and how to bend. One of my final semesters was an advanced English riding class in which I rode an American Warmblood jumper. He was a wonderful partner to relearn some of my jumping skills on, and I am proud to say he developed well into a capable dressage mount. At one point I was able to take him to a dressage clinic (yes they have dressage in eastern Montana), and this became a springboard for an internship with Jeremy Steinburg.
For my final semester I was home again and interning with Jeremy for 3 months. This was my first experience working with another dressage trainer long term, so it took a little getting used to, but I appreciated the different perspective. The one thing that I primarily took away from that time was how important it is to evaluate the horse's conformation in relation to what you are asking them to do. Conformation predisposes the horse to a certain way of going and limits their capabilities. Armed with this insight, the rider has a much greater chance of success.
The Story of Whistle Jacket
In 2004 I graduated from Rocky Mountain College with a B.S. in Equestrian Business. On a side note, the name of my business came to me during my time at Rocky. I was taking a Stable Management class in which the project was to create a ficticious stable. As I was brainstorming for a name, I happend to look up at one of my posters on the wall and it was entitled "Whistlejacket". The poster is from the famous painting by George Stubbs in 1762 created for the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham who owned the racing stallion (as seen at right).
After returning from Montana, I continued working for the Arabian breeder, Diana Richards. During this time I also began training horses for a client who purchased an Arabian from Diana. From there the business has moved and grown and in July of 2006 I officially began operations of Whistle Jacket Training. For the rest of 2006 I was a traveling trainer going to my clients to train their horses and themselves. In January of 2007 I was hired at Evergreen Equestrian Center as an interm riding instructor in their riding school. From January to July I taught for the school until their new instructor took over. Happily Evergreen had an empty 10 stall barn that they wanted to fill with a dressage trainer and I was able to stay on at the facility and work out of that barn. Because of this I was able to compete a full show season in summer 2007 with a wonderful American Warmblood mare owned by Goldenrod Performance Horses.
New Places, New Faces
In June 2008 I was informed that Evergreen Equestrian Center, my wonderful home for a year, was being sold and I would need to move to another facility. After a careful search, I settled on Iron Gate Stables in Sammamish, WA. On August 30th, with the help of tremendous friends, I had an easy move to IGS. The facility was a wonderful place where the horses had turnout all day long, and the people were easy to work with. While there I had a great show season with another of Goldenrod's horses who eventually became one of my fabulous school horses. I also began working with Ulla Boysen and Henrik Johansen during that time. I was fortunate to attend two clinics under Henrik's gentle and knowledgeable instruction which has been tremendous in developing my skills as a trainer.
A New Chapter Begins
After 2 special years at Iron Gate, I decided it was time to move again. After a long and difficult search I was blessed to find Lucky Horse Stables in Redmond. It was an exceptionally beautiful facility in a very peaceful and scenic part of Redmond. The owner was very generous to offer me room in her wonderful facility. Lucky Horse was a quiet, private place dedicated to the gracious care of horses and dressage riding. A year and a half later, Lucky Horse was sold. As of April 2012 the facility became Red Fern Stables. The new owners were very excited about getting involved in the horse business and were happily offering the same great service while also desiring to take the property to another level. They asked me to assist in a managerial role while continuing to teach and train. Unfortunately a short time later the owners decided to take the stable in a different direction and I needed to move again.
Winter Pond Stables
Unlike previous moves, this time I decided to give the horses some time off while I was looking for a facility. Three weeks later, thanks to a lead from my farrier, I came upon Winter Pond Stables in Redmond run by Suzy Meory. One short week of preparations and the horses and I moved in. Though the facility is not as upscale as Red Fern, the people at Winter Pond are very nice and the horses are very well taken care of. Having an outdoor arena is a bonus too.
No matter where I am, my desire is to continue learning and growing while helping others achieve their dreams. I love to train and I love to teach so that is what I will continue to do until I cannot do it anymore.
And so the journey continues...