My horizons were broadened when, at the age of 12, I moved with my family to England. My parents bought me a horse for my 13th birthday. Opportunities that would never be available to me in South Africa were suddenly made possible, and we soon found ourselves owning a pony as well (Pippin was ostensibly bought to keep Blaine company; the truth was that we fell in love with him at first glance!) Keeping these two was a steep learning curve in itself (my mum's horse had been kept in livery in South Africa, and we were to discover that that was a lot different to keeping horses at home in England), but we were also to find that the dealers we bought the horses from had been less than honest. The older family pony turned out to have a very bad back, the youngster had a lot of emotional problems that made him decidedly dangerous for a 13 year old!
Blaine was a lot younger than we were led to believe, and he hadn’t been properly backed. The human associations he had to that point were negative ones, resulting in an extremely fearful, mistrustful, and unpredictable horse. We thought of sending him back to the dealer, but he had won my heart and I really wanted to keep him. It was necessary to get in a horse trainer and begin all over again. She told me that it would take two years before I would ride him - if ever - and she was right.
To cut a long story short (you can read more about it on the 'My Horses' page if you really want to), gaining Blaine’s trust was a time-consuming process. It felt like a nightmare at times, but it has also been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. He continues to be a complicated horse who doesn’t fit into a box, which keeps me thinking and developing! He has taught me to have an open mind, and dealing with his problems inevitably led me to Natural Horsemanship. Studying the Parelli program has been my main focus, and I have gained both my Level 1 and 2, and I am now in the process of studying Level 3. I still love riding, but, to use the Parelli's words, I have discovered that horsemanship is 'way more than riding'.
Parelli is a home study program in the fist 4 levels, but there is also support in the form of courses and clinics. I have had the opportunity to participate in and spectate at many of these events. I have enjoyed learning from different instructors with different backgrounds, as they all put emphasis on different aspects of the program. I am hoping to continue my Parelli training, and eventually to become an instructor and horse trainer. The area that fascinates me the most - thanks to Blaine - is that of helping problem horses. I realise that so many horses are negatively labelled through no fault of their own, and these horses are on a one way downward spiral unless someone has the time, the patience and the love to help them change. Through the Parelli program, I could see myself developing expertise in this area, and eventually using it to help not just horses, but also people who have had a difficult start to life.
Who would think that this is the same deeply traumatised horse that first came to us?
I have also had opportunity to get involved with more traditional organizations, such as the British Horse Society (BHS), and passed my BHS Stage 1 examination without a problem. This qualification has been useful when gaining experience (both voluntary and paid) at different yards, the most recent being an eventing yard. I'm a member of our local Parelli group, and we have managed to get involved with some of the events in our area; pub rides, discussion evenings, clinics, and fun competitions.
On a personal note, I have always been home educated, and my parents have encouraged me to pursue my passions and interests from a young age.
Horses have been my most obvious interest, so a lot of my education has been centered around this. I could see myself making a career with horses, but I have kept my options open by also pursuing my interests in sailing, drama and academics.
I am a member of the Ocean Youth Trust (OYT) South's voluntary sea staff. The OYT is a charitable organization that teaches young people to sail. Being part of the organization has enabled me to complete some of my Royal Yachting Association (RYA) qualifications, including Start Yachting, Competent Crew, Watchleader, Diesel Engine, and I'm now in the process of studying for my Yachtmaster offshore theory. I really enjoy the social aspect of the organization, and feel that I have developed in many different ways, especially in that of leadership. Of course being on a boat for a week, with eighteen people of varying ages and from very different backgrounds, can be a stretching experience at times!
Sailing the John Laing
I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in Youth Theatre for the last three years. We did different projects, workshops, and productions, and this last term I got involved with helping out with one of the younger age groups.
As I previously said, my education has been mainly interest-based, so my curriculum has been based on whatever interests me most at a given time. I chose to take GCSE's in English Literature, English Language, and Drama, and I am in the process of taking Maths. Somewhat to my surprize, I received an 'A' for the first module. I enjoy group learning, and took all my GCSE's with groups of home educators. I'm not entirely sure at this stage where my academic education will lead, but I am considering starting a degree with The Open University.
I see life as an opportunity for learning, and am of the mindset that 'the world is my playground.' As a result, I have an interest in history, art, music, and whatever else is happening, and I like taking short courses and going on outings. Being part of a large family has broadened these interests-there are subjects that I wouldn't naturally be attracted to, but because of a family member's interest in that subject, I develop an interest too.