When we moved to Cochrane and our daughters got into riding, I found it very difficult to find well-trained ponies. So I started training ponies myself.
One day I received an email that started with "Dear Pony Fairy" and the name stuck. About the same time I happened upon Alexandra Kurland, one of the pioneers of clicker training for horses. I was intrigued, took a clinic and have never looked back.
As a trainer working in traditional methods, I gained invaluable experience with a variety of training methods before discovering a positive reinforcement system of training. With clicker training now my passion, I am a “cross-over” trainer - someone who has switched from traditional horse training methods to positive reinforcement training methods. This gives me insight and experience into the best of both worlds!
I have always trained quiet safe horses who enjoy their work but after discovering clicker training I couldn't believe the difference; ponies running to me to be picked first for a lesson and happily volunteering very difficult behaviours. Their sense of engagement was stunning!
So, after 17 years of being The Pony Fairy it is time for a new look. I am not selling or training many ponies anymore and new pathways are evolving. Thus, EquispeakTM was born. I have quite the collection of ponies here, most left over from my daughters and several rescues as well, including a mule. My ponies will always be a special part of my training and in my heart, I will always be The Pony Fairy
I started riding once a week when I was six. I was born and raised in Banff, Alberta Canada. As a reward for good behaviour I got to go for an hour trail ride at the local stable. I got my first horse, Pet, when I was 10. She was a grade mare who had some major behaviour issues. Trying to solve all them inspired me to read and try many different techniques and instilled in me the belief that force was not the way to train. My age and size ruled out that option and forced me to be creative! Always trying to find a better way to do things, I started developing my tool box at an early age. Even though I was not from a horsey family and everyone said it was just a passing fancy, several decades later it is still my passion.
I have a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and a Bachelor of Education. For several years I taught Junior High and trained horses at the same time. After getting married and starting a family I stayed home and focused my career on training horses for clients full-time. We grow and sell hay on our farm in Cochrane, Alberta where I have a few select boarders, all of them train with positive reinforcement.
Over the years I have received training from many talented trainers. As a professional trainer myself, I have trained numerous breeds of horses in various disciplines: from volteige and trick riding, to jumping, reining, driving, dressage and gaited horses. This gave me a varied background to draw upon to solve problems. I stood two TWH stallions at stud and did all the breeding, training and showing for over 10 years. My TWH mare, My Chocolate Lady, was High Point - Three Gaited Horse in Alberta three years in a row and retired the trophy. I was fortunate to be coach for team Quarter Horse and also team Tennessee Walking Horse at Spruce Meadow's "Battle of the Breeds.”
I have over the last several decades (since I was ten and got my first horse) trained every day I could and during my professional training several horses each and every day. This wealth of training hours with many, many different horse gives me a huge background to draw upon to help you solve issues that may come up in your journey.
I have written clicker training articles for the magazine Saddle Up. Writing these articles have been my way of helping to spread the word about positive reinforcement training. Recently I have also started writing for Horse Canada. Articles are in the Blog section of the website.
Over twenty years ago, Alexandra Kurland was holding a winter time clinic in Alberta and I braved a long drive through freezing rain and snow in order to attend. I wanted to find a softer way to train. That day I saw some things that intrigued me enough to sign up for the next clinic. I went to every one of her clinics that I could and eventually hosted her clinics at my farm. Alex invented the moniker “The Click That Teaches” and I am now Canada's only TCTT Coach. She helped me to discover the tools to train horses in high school dressage in a unique and engaging way that resonated both with me and the horses. Alexandra Kurland's clicker work and balance work and her great knowledge of classical in-hand has allowed me to go places I only ever dreamed of and to get there in a way I love; training based in proven scientific methods using positive reinforcement to teach horses anything they are emotionally and physically capable of learning! I will always be grateful to her for that start but I know I like my students to take my work and make it even better, to make it their own and that is what I have done with my Equispeak program.
My first positive reinforcement student was Snowy, my daughter's “shut down minimalist pony” (as her pony club coach called her: she would only do as much as needed.) Those early days taught me some of the best behaviours to teach first and the importance of emotional control. Positive reinforcement turned a minimalist into a pony who will readily offer her version of passage and numerous other behaviours while walking next to anyone!
The focus of my journey is on bringing positive, science-based horse training to the forefront and working with people interested in discovering this powerful tool. Having seen the joy that positive reinforcement training brings to both partners in the horse - human relationship over the past 20+ years, there is no going back.