Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

My Journey

Just a little history and timeline on my horsemanship journey.

I cannot remember a time when I didn't love horses.  My Mum and my Aunty say it goes back to my toddler days.  Anything could be a horse - my Mum's kitchen mop, a swing (with a baby blanket for a saddle) or the back of my gramma's couch.

But unlike most little girls, the love deepened to passion rather than fizzling to mere interest.  I remember asking my Mum to cut my bedroom door in half so it would look like the stall doors in all my books.  When she replied, "Do you want me to throw straw on the floor as well?"  My excited reply was, "Really?"

Growing up, we never had the means or the opportunity to explore my avid interest in horses.  There was a rare ride or two - my uncle's summer camp, a girl scout outing - but most of my equine contact was restricted to sneaking sugar cubes to some horses behind my neighborhood.

In college I took a Horsemanship course for a semester.  It consisted of once-a-week riding lessons at a local stable.  But that was about it.

Until 2001 when, through a series of chances, I began riding lessons with a local instructor.  Just a few months after starting lessons I had the opportunity to go to something called a "tour stop" with "this guy who does this stuff with horses."  I'm sure she told me more but I didn't care - a weekend watching horses was enough for me.

What I attended was one of the early tour stops with Pat Parelli.  To say I was blown away would be a gross understatement.  I went from wanting a horse to needing a horse.

In August 2002 I bought my first horse.  Moose was an 18 yr old OTTB, supposedly "been there, done that" school master type horse.  Right.

Three weeks into my trial with him, I was nearly killed trying to trailer load him.  But I loved him and part of me felt this was my only chance to have a horse.  In November 2002 I went to the Memphis tour stop and bought my L1.

I was pretty sold on the groundwork and practiced with Moose, mostly with the goal of "fixing" his trailer loading.  We got so far on our own but our real progress came when - by any means necessary - I got him to a local PNH clinic with Sam Beechboard.  On day 2, Sam worked with Moose and in 20 minutes had him calmly loading and unloading.

I continued with my "normal" riding, playing with Moose on the ground but largely ignoring the under-saddle portion of the Parelli program.  Until the trail ride from hell.  After that, I realized I didn't have control of my horse and I needed to do something different.

In August of 2003, almost a year to the day after I bought Moose, I passed my Level 1 in a workshop with Sam Beechboard.

Six weeks later, I lost Moose to complications from a severe impaction colic.

In November 2003, I bought Cricket, an unstarted 2 yr old QH filly.

It's been a rocky road with Cricket.  With no real horse experience, I attempted to start a horse.  And not just any horse - a self-confident left-brain introvert with the sensitivity of a right-brain extrovert.

So here's our timeline:

  • November 2: I buy an unstarted, barely halter broken 2 yr old QH filly
  • January 1: I am the first person to ride my horse.
  • June: Cricket and I attend a one day open format workshop with Carol Coppinger
  • July through August: Cricket alternates bucking and headshaking. Fun!
  • October: We attend a L2 Harmony course at the Parelli Center in Ocala

  • mid-Jan through mid-March: Cricket goes away for some better training with a friend and fellow Parelli student
  • March 8: I suffer a serious break to my left wrist
  • May/June: We start filming and passing ground tasks in L2
  • November: We attend the very first Fluidity I: Freestyle course taught by Linda Parelli

  • April/May: Cricket starts suffering some weird foot issues culminating in a major hoof wall separation event and abscess (this takes almost a full year to completely heal)
  • May: I attend a L2/3 camp with a borrowed horse
  • August: Cricket and I get a private lesson with Carol Coppinger (talk about mind-blowing)
  • October: We attend a L2/3 camp with Carol Coppinger

  • April-July: Cricket undergoes a major eye issue which eventually involved 4 weeks at the vet hospital at UT in Knoxville
  • May: I PASS LEVEL 2 (Carol may still have impaired hearing from the ear-splitting screams)
  • May: Cricket and I attend a L3 camp with Carol Coppinger (just after we returned home, she went to the hospital
  • October: We attend a L2/3 camp with Carol Coppinger

  • Spring: Cricket's headshaking returns.  It will take almost 2 years before we get it under any kind of control
  • Fall: I begin treating Cricket's headshaking as a stress response and we make some progress but she's still headshaking
  • October: We attend a L2/3 camp with Carol Coppinger

  • Cricket's headshaking continues through 2008 and into 2009 - this makes progress very slow and very frustrating.
  • July/August: A friend sends me an article with the latest headshaking research; a change in Cricket's diet begins to yield results and with a few weeks to a month, her headshaking is almost completely gone
  • October: We attend a L2/3 camp with Carol Coppinger
  • October: I pass my L3 On-Line

  • January: I pass my L3 Liberty
  • February: My audition is chosen by John Baar to be the very first featured audition on the Parelli YouTube channel.
  • May: We attend a L3/4 camp with Carol Coppinger
  • May: I meet Bleu and bring her to the barn for a trial
  • June: I officially add Bleu to my little fur family
  • October: Bleu and I complete a L2/3/4 camp (mid-way through, Carol changed the level!) 
  • May/July: I have lessons with Wendy Morgan and really feel like things are coming together
  • August: I make the difficult decision to return Bleu to her previous owner
  • October: I complete a L3/4 camp with Carol Coppinger
  • October: I pass my L3 Freestyle and achieve my L3 green string