I was born in the Netherlands. As a young child, my family immigrated to the US and settled in Tulsa Oklahoma, where I was raised. When I was 13, I started taking English riding lessons at a hunter/jumper stable. I worked cleaning stalls to pay for my lessons. When I turned 15, my parents bought me my own horse, a 3 year old thoroughbred mare off the racetrack. Boy, she was pretty, but I remember not being able to walk in her stall because she was so afraid of humans. I spent every minute I could with her and somehow ended up re-starting and gentling her myself. I wasn’t afraid of anything and could ride her anywhere. However, no one else could ride her. She definitely did not trust other humans, just this human. Looking back now, I realize I was just really lucky I didn’t get hurt. She was struck by lightning a few years later. I then got out of horses and went off to college.
I earned my BS degree at UCSD in Animal Physiology and Neuroscience, wanting to become a vet. Putting myself through college with bills piling up, I decided I didn’t really want to go to school 5 more years, so I decided to look elsewhere for what I could do with animals. I was fortunate enough to become an animal keeper at the San Diego Zoo. What an awesome experience it was. I cared for and trained many animals from apes to bears, big cats to river otters. I shared my knowledge with the Zoo visitors by giving tours and presentations and wrote articles for the Zoo News magazine. I worked at the Zoo for 15 years, eventually becoming a Senior Keeper.
While I was still working at the San Diego Zoo, I met my husband Mike. He’s the one who brought me back into horses. In 1995 we bought a small ranch outside of San Diego and settled into the country life, but we didn’t have any horses. He had ridden horses as a kid, but never owned one. To make a long story short, we bought a couple of young horses and started raising them on our own. A friend or ours had Pat’s Western Horseman book and let us borrow it. We read it cover-to-cover and applied what we learned on our young horses. We found the web site, contacted a “Level Two” instructor ( back then there weren’t that many instructors around), passed our level one and got our Red Strings.
I met 5 *Parelli instructor Dave Ellis, early in my education and he assessed our level two and eventually my level 3. This was back when instructors could assess in the field. Since then, Dave has become my mentor and dear friend. I’ve spent a lot of time with him at clinics and at his ranch near Porterville, California. I have been attending the University at the Parelli Center every summer since 2001. The one exception was 2003, where I spent a month in Montana with Ronnie Willis starting colts. I passed my Level 3 in 2003, and in 2004 I became a 1* instructor. In 2005, I became a 2* instructor and 3* in 2006. I passed my level 4 in all 4 savvys in June of 2012. I spent a month riding with Pat Parelli in the Mastery Program in 2010, where I again learned a lot of Level 5. In 2011, I did a Game of Contact course with Linda Parelli where I was allowed to bring a stallion, Panadero. In 2012, I attended a month long Advanced Horsemanship class with Linda Parelli, learning about Level 5 and Contact. 2013 and 2014 I was able to teach a 4 week Fast Track course and in 2015, I taught liberty, Fluidity, and Trail Riding at the Parelli Campus. I grew as a teacher being able to teach on campus in Colorado. 2016 I was promoted to 4 Star Senior Parelli Professional. In 2010, I took up the discipline of Dressage and competed in Open Division. Many championships were won in San Diego and 2016 competing at 4th Level. I also have also been lucky to have participated in “Road to the Summit” for the 3rd year now. A selected few of us donate our time developing and starting an Atwood Colt as a yearling into its two and three year old year. At the Annual Summit in Colorado, there is a challenge to showcase our colt and an auction goes up. All money is raised to go to the Parelli Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps therapeutic centers, rescue horses, youth, and scholarships. It is a never ending journey, this learning of horsemanship.
I love every minute I get to spend teaching students to be perfect partners with their horses. I am so blessed to have this be my profession. Horses are amazing creatures that have been put on this earth to teach us so many things about ourselves. Like Tom Dorrance once said “the outside of a horse is good for the inside of the human”. Mike and I live on our ranch in Valley Center, California. We have recently purchased a second piece of property that we hope to build up to our dream ranch with horsemanship students. We have a few horses here and are lucky to both enjoy them together.