Over the course of my life I have found that my understanding of training has evolved further and further into a holistic approach. I look for an organic balance, chiropractic alignment, psychological, physical, and spiritually balanced horse. Otherwise training can stagnate or turn into negative behaviors. These imbalances often lead to further interference in horse/rider harmony. So my training will begin with a thorough evaluation into all of these components.
Many of the horses I have trained to FEI were rejected by their trainers or owners, because they were deemed unfit mentally and/or physically to go on in their training. The lessons I learned from these horses have been my biggest gifts!
History of trainers and how they relate to my present philosophies:
Julias Von Uhl (6 yr to 11 yr)
I began riding very young; vaulting, eventing, hunter/jumper, dressage, gymkanas and doing some point to points. With Julius, I learned to fall off correctly!
Ulrich Schmitz (11yr to 18yr)
Ulrich was very involved in Trakehners in Germany, and had prepared many of these horses for auction. I credit him with lot of knowledge about Trakehner bloodlines, and for giving me a proper dressage beginning. Ulrich was my Young Rider coach several times, and the first year I was 4th in the team test and earned the Bronze Team Medal.
Ulrich coached me on my very first Trakehner mare, "Wogena." We evented some, but our love together was dressage. With Ulrich's coaching, we went on to two Young Rider competitions, many regional finals wins, and to compete FEI PSG by the time I was 16. I didn't really know then that this was quite good! Wogena went on to become an "honor roll mare," and to have ten wonderful foals! Wogena died on Christmas day, 2005, at the age of 31.
Karl Milkolka (during college)
Karl had a vast repertoire of exercises. Brilliant in his application, he would not compromise proper training for force.
James "Shea" Walsh (1991-93)
I credit Shea with improving the elasticity/following in my arms and therefore, this was my first taste of true seat riding.
Peggy Flemming DVM (1993-present)
Peggy owns and operates the Florida Equine Acupuncture Center, in Dade, Florida. I have worked with Peggy for over 15 years. She has been Valhalla's unsung hero behind the scene. I found that when a horse would plateau and/or become stuck, I could run them down to her clinic and she would help them to realign their energy, and soon they would be moving ahead once again in their training. Iris and I were lucky to attend her lectures on Acupuncture in 2007. I have come to deeply value eastern Medicine, and truly know I would not be where I am without it!
Reiner Seemann (1994-1999 part time in Germany)
Reiner works the horses from a back first basis, he is an advocate of deep riding. I learned during this time that the horse could learn to further carry the rider more comfortably over his back. This helped me re-school several horses that had been ridden without the back for long enough to develop physical issues, and therefore emotional problems. General synopsis of this methodology; all horses should be capable of stretching through the entire topline. Without this element, full elasticity is never fully achieved. However, this ability should be developed over time, and not ever forced!
Martin Schaudt (1998, 6 months in Germany)
Martin is very disciplined in his approach. He is out on his mountain in Germany in all weather, and it does get cold! Martin is quite skilled in his preparation for the show ring.
Linda Tellington-Jones (1999, TTouch certification)
T-Touch is a wonderful methodology that is of the utmost kindness to the horse. This left the ever mindful impression, foremost we must know where WE are at every second emotionally. This has left a constant tracking system in place to this day. If I am not emotionally fit, then better to go do something else that day!
Walter Zettl (2000-present)
Walter is one of the kindest trainers I have ever known. He always trains from a "horse first" basis. His love of horses is infectious, and he taught me how to ride with a very lovely light quality, while still getting the most out of every horse. His term "open the door," was a crucial element in understanding how often we get in the horse's way. This gave me a much truer feel for self-carriage. I believe Walter is one of the "true masters" of our modern day. The lightness he brought to my riding has proven to be the biggest "light bulb" for me...
Herwig Radnetter (2000-present)
Herwig has been riding with the Spanish Riding school in Vienna for over 30 years. He teaches from a very thorough base, always relying on "the Pyramid" as the basis with every horse. So relaxation and rhythm always come first! Which simply allows all the other teaching within the lesson to flow... Herwig is very positive in his teaching style. I learned that it is relaxing to say "good," even when a moment is not perfect, and then try for better the next time. Just this simple attitude prevents the rider and horse from tensing when it may not be perfect, enabling the rider to perhaps do it perfectly the next try.
Betsy Steiner (2004, spring show season, USDF sumposium 1994, 2005, 2007)
Betsy has been my role model for correct and truly beautiful, beautiful position since I was a teenage. Betsy was my coach for the USET qualifiers with "Limbo King." This was definitely a confidence building experience, Limbo and I never placed lower than fourth in these competitions. And we earned scores in the 70s from several Judges!
Iris moved from Germany to America in 2007 to work at Valhalla Farm. She had shown and trained through FEI in Germany. She is accredited with her "A license" and "Silver Medal" in Germany. She is a USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold medalist. Iris' sister, Baerbel Eppinger, has been her role model in Germany. Baerbel is ranked in the top twenty FEI riders in the world. I am so happy that Iris is here to share the rather huge responsibility of training the horses for sale and showing, since we have over 60 horses in training! She has been a huge blessing for me, and a skilled partner!
Conrad Schumacher (Clinics in Santa Fe, NM (2004-2005)
He is a very tough coach! However, he took what I knew about deep riding and then took away the hand and leg component, which forced me to ride even more with my seat! I though prior that I had a pretty good idea of deep riding. Conrad improved this ability further.
Pat Parelli (2006 to present)
This was really fun! I became an advocate of this thought provoking ground work. I have been integrating his techniques with all my horses, this has improved every horses' manners, confidence, trust, and rideability. This training has been evolving ever since...
The biggest learning was from this comment from Pat, "dressage is like college, what about the horse's pre-college training." He taught me there is another world of pre-dressage education and this has greatly enhanced my foundation with all the horses!