I started my hands-on equine life when I was seven. Neither of my parents had horsey connections, so when I expressed a wish to ride, they assumed that I was just going through what my father calls the "Hipppopause". More years on than I am admitting to in public, I am more hooked on horses than ever.
I continued riding all through my school years and once I left 6th Form College I went to work on a stud which bred and showed top class Show Hacks. I continued to work in various showing yards, but after a few years, and after getting some BHS exams under my belt, I was very disillusioned with the whole horse scene.
It wasn't the horses, it was the way a lot of the people assumed that horses were stupid and that if they didn't do what they were "told" to do, they must be shouted at and smacked. None of this was done intentionally to be cruel, but simple because "that is the way you do it". I felt there had to be a different, more effective way, but as "that is the way you do it", I got out of horses altogether. Later, I worked on a Welsh pony stud whilst learning about the sheep and beef cattle on the farm. I went to Agricultural college in Sussex to study general agriculture, and shepherding, and the sheep and cattle took up the next few years of my life. The odd horse popped up here and there, just to show me what I was missing ( I worked at the Equine Veterinary Hospital at Liphook for a while before returning to the sheep!).
A Chinese proverb says "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear". For me this happened in 1998 when a friend bought me Monty Roberts' book 'The Man who Listens to Horses' (purely because it had a horse on the cover!).
Suddenly it all fell into place. All the things I had observed over the years were there in black and white, and they all meant something really important. I was gutted that I had mis-read horses so often in the past. For me, Monty Roberts was the picture on the jigsaw puzzle lid. I had always known I had all the pieces (what had been termed as "a way with horses" - empathy, understanding, sensitivity), I just hadn't a clue how to put them together until I saw the picture on the lid.
In 2002 I passed my Monty Roberts Preliminary Certificate of Horsemanship (studying under Kelly Marks), and in 2003 I became a Recommended Associate of the Intelligent Horsemanship Association. I now have the best job in the world and my goal in life is to make myself redundant!
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the horses and people who I have worked with over the years. Each one has taught me something, and each new acquaintance, both equine and human, continues to teach me something new.