Nacho in the park
Helping a student get the feel for a leg yield
Horses have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child growing up in rural Wyoming, I spent every moment I could on the back of a horse, often from sunup to sundown, and the intuition and "horse sense" I gained from those early experiences were well worth the time investment.
My first competitive experiences took place on the local 4-H show circuit with my pony Frosty, and by the age of 8 I had aquired my first "real" horse, who carried me to my first "real" ribbons and prize money in rodeos and a few local horse shows. On my tenth birthday, Frosty gave birth to the colt who two years later would become the first horse I broke to ride.
I was fortunate to have a mother who not only supported but encouraged my horse habit. She provided the means necessary for me to ride and own many amazing equine athletes and patient four-legged teachers. She also valued a well-rounded education (both in and out of the saddle) and subscribed to the philosophy that there's always more to know. Largely due to her influence (not to mention her checkbook), I dabbled in as many disciplines as were available in the small, rural community where I grew up. By the time I graduated high school I had gotten to ride with many exemplary instructors and trainers and participate in a wide range of equine sports, including barrel racing, pole bending, working cow-horse, goat tying, reining, roping, natural horsemanship, English and Western equitation, jumping, dressage and endurance racing. Of all of these disciplines, dressage and endurance racing have continued to hold my interest to this day.
At the age of 13, I was hired for the first time to train a horse for someone else, and from the realization that training just the four-legged part of the horse/owner equation was insufficient grew my desire to share my love and knowledge of horses with others. It became my goal to give those whom I work with the tools necessary to enjoy these magnificent beasts as much as I do.
When I moved to Laramie to attend the university I of course brought my horses with me, and through sheer luck I happened upon the person who would become one of my most valuable mentors in the horse world--Donald Pratt. Through his florid yet comprehensible descriptions of the meaning behind Dressage I came to see this sport as more than a quaint discipline practiced by rich people on the East coast, and once my eyes were open to the advantages of subscribing to this training philosophy I couldn't ignore what I saw.
What I learned was that Dressage, in its purest sense, is born of a profound love and respect for horses and the desire to see them live up to their full potential as individuals and not only survive in captivity as a beast of burden, but actually thrive and live longer, healthier, happier and more useful lives as a result of their relationship with humans. If one believes that horses deserve no less than this, then the resulting logical and sequential approach to training that works towards this end is indeed dressage, no matter what kind of saddle is sitting on the horse's back.
When I met Michelle in 2016, I had already been working as a riding instructor almost full-time for close to two years and I couldn't believe that with her academic and professional background and extensive knowledge of all things "horsey" that she wasn't teaching, also. I convinced her to join me (before someone else snatched her up to put her to work as a riding instructor!) and M&L Horsemanship was born.
Currently, my competitive interest lies in Endurance Racing (visit aerc.org for more info). While Dressage has been the guiding principle in my training, teaching, learning and riding over the last decade, I have no interest in it competitively.