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My Mentors and Influences
While you are developing your horsemanship, it's important to remember where you started and who the people are who have helped and influenced you on your journey.
My first mentor comes in the form of my mum, the pony club and the hunting field. I was very fortunate to grow up with a horsey background, and between my brother and me we had some very good ponies. I had good show ponies, jumping ponies and hunting ponies. My mum taught me to ride, and the pony club was excellent for developing a competitive streak. My biggest influence at that time was hunting, especially Jim Lang, Huntsman of The Burton Hunt. Hunting as a child teaches you 'how to ride!' It taught me manners, and courtesy, as well as bravery. The start of a good foundation!
On my pony 'Georgie' when I was 6 years old.
As a young teenager, the best thing my Mum did was send me off to the late legend, John Pocklington of the Magna Stud. He got me riding horses before I grew out of ponies and introduced me to hard work. He gave me the opportunity to ride some quality horses for jumping. It was with John that the late Tim Grubb and world champion Dermot Lennon started their apprenticeships.
It was whilst with Mr P that I gained experience and knowledge for the first time in developing horses for a job, other than just for pleasure. I stayed with Mr P for several years and was heart broken when he died. He was a tough man with a strong work ethic, and he really toughened me up. I think of him often and there is definitely some of him, in me.
My next mentor, and most significant, was my master farrier, Mr Stuart Spence. I was young and tough, but with a strong case of young boys disease, and it was Stuart who began to knock it out of me. I did not realise that a seventh generation farrier had actually trained boys like me before, and he knew exactly how to sort me out. Hard work! Stuart had a very strong work ethic, and was very tough on us, but all of his lads were very fond of him, and although the days were long, the five years I was with him went very fast and in the end, he turned me into a competent farrier that was mentally, emotionally and physically fit. However it was the opportunity that arose from my time with Stuart that I will be forever indebted to him for.
It was around the first year of setting up my shoeing business when a difficult horse led me to Parelli. And it was Charlotte Dennis, former 3 Star Parelli Instructor who gave me my first lesson, and offered me an apprenticeship with herself and Master Horseman David Stuart, former 5 Star Instructor and Horse Specialist. I quit my shoeing business (much to my Mum's horror), and went to stay with Dave and Charlotte in Devon for a year.
With Dave when he visited JRFS in October 2010
Charlotte Dennis, a great horsewoman, helped me realise how Parelli and performance could be linked, and it was Dave who taught me to be particular and stay focused. Because of these, I am truly grateful. They also gave me the opportunity to travel to the US, and to study directly with Linda and Pat Parelli.
By this time however, I had now developed a strong case of Young Man's Disease. Luckily I had Rob McCauliffe and Pat, and Neil Pye to sort me out! Rob was the toughest, most hardworking person I knew, but also a master horseman himself. He chewed me up, kicked my butt and put up with me, and at times I wanted to shoot him for what he did to me! I didn't of course, and now regard him as one of my closest friends and even still I know I can rely on him to put me in my place. I can't imagine that this will ever change.
With Rob at the Parelli Ranch in Colorado
Neil Pye taught me about professionalism - and my lack of it! Our conversations together put me in the right direction to being a better me. His stories inspired and empowered me and I think of him as an uncle, who taught me so many important life lessons.
But it is Pat and Linda who I owe the most. The Parelli Programme, the philosophy, the knowledge and ambition they have instilled in me has set me up, and will continue to do so. Their own dedication and love of horses and drive to learn and share to all is empowering, and I'm proud to be part of their organisation. Pat's discipline, work ethic and his talent keep me focused, and he knows me enough to push me enough to keep my young man's disease to one side.
With Pat coaching me through a very tricky session with Becks at the 2011 Celebration
After learning the principles needed to develop a foundation for all horses, I have now got back into showjumping, and we have a string of promising young showjumpers to develop and compete with my partner Vicky Craig. It will be an exciting future and we have found two new coaches we really respect. Wendy Schaffer is an international showjumper, on the Australian team and she spends several months of the year here in the UK. We are also lucky to have coaching from Jay Halin, world reknowned coach and competitor.
We have enormous respect for all our mentors, and we could not be where we are without their guidance and support.
Finally, and so far as I am in my journey and because of my profession, I get the opportunity to ride hundreds of different horses every year. The horses are my greatest mentor, and teacher, and each one offers me a new lesson, every day. Some lessons come just at the right time, and some remind you of a lesson at the right time!
My other human influences and teachers:
Over the years I have been greatly influenced by certain people, either by personal interaction, through books or through conversation. Here are some of them, and I look forward to adding to this list.
"When you want to learn, your mentor appears"
"When you're green, you're growing, when you're ripe, you're rotten"