Living the Dream

Faith

When you walk to the edge of all the light you have 

and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown,

you must believe that one of two things will happen:

There will be something solid for you to stand upon,

or you will be taught how to fly.  (Patrick Overton)

As far as I know I’ve been crazy about horses since I was born. Until college, I had to make do with hired horses at local stables and the two ornery Shetland ponies that my grandparents owned, Salt & Pepper. In college I began taking riding lessons and working at the stable and the dream was born, to work full time with horses.

Back when all the cool people wore riding chaps!

1989: Back when all the cool people wore riding chaps!

1996: Beach ride on the Pelion Coast of Greece

1996: Beach ride on the Pelion Coast of Greece

I have shared lots of great riding adventures with my parents.

I have shared lots of great riding adventures with my parents.

At the age of 29, I was given my first horse, a rescued 4 yr old Appendix QH named Romeo. Unfortunately, four months after Romeo arrived, he was shot in a drive-by shooting and suffered lifelong back pain that became, in the end, debilitating.  He never really got the chance to fly…..

My first horse, Romeo

My first horse, Romeo.

Meanwhile, I had continued in the banking career that got me through college and advanced to branch manager but it just wasn’t where my heart was. Every day I prayed for an opportunity to work with horses. I interviewed with several of the top “natural horsemanship” trainers in the industry but none seemed to be the right fit, as I did not want to leave my horse and my dog behind. Finally, at the age of 34, I was accepted as an intern with Equine Extremist Tommie Turvey. I quit the bank, sold my house, and in February 2006 I packed up all of my belongings, my horse and my dog and headed to the WAHL (clipper) Equestrian Center in Sterling, Illinois.

2006: Tommie succeeded Clinton Anderson as the resident trainer of the WAHL Equestrian Center.

2006: Tommie succeeded Clinton Anderson as the resident trainer of the WAHL Equestrian Center (Double G Farm).

40 acre show facility with 200 stalls and heated indoor arenas

40 acre show facility with 200 stalls and heated indoor arenas.

In the middle of winter in Illinois my first home was a travel trailer parked in the indoor warm-up arena between weekend shows.  It was actually pretty cozy 🙂   Later that year, the Turveys rented a house in town and accepted more interns.

My first home in Illinois

2006: My first home in Sterling, Illinois.

Tommie Turvey and his sister, Karen Turvey Marshall, operated Equine Extremist Entertainment and Training.  Their specialties were liberty, roman riding, jumping over fire, racing chariots and performing a variety of tricks such as the laydown, situp, bow, etc, but we learned so much more.   For 4 years I traveled with them around the U.S. performing in horse expos, clinics and evening shows.  On nearly every trip we were treated to a nice shushi dinner and the company of whomever was in town at the time (William Shatner, Josh Lyons and Priefert’s Texas Thunder, among others).

Karen (left) is riding Joker's Wild. I am riding Blade (mustang). The rest of the horses are chariot horses being ridden by interns

Jacksonville, FL: Karen (left) is riding Joker’s Wild. I am riding Blade (mustang). The other 4 are interns riding chariot horses.

Harrisburg, PA: Demonstrating the laydown with Paints Joker's Wild and Ace in the Hole and Mustang Blade

Harrisburg, PA: Demonstrating the laydown with Joker, Ace and Blade.

Jacksonville, FL: Warming up our team of Morgans, Zeus & Apollo, for the chariot race

Jacksonville, FL: Warming up our team of Morgans, Zeus & Apollo, for the chariot race.

Sterling, IL: Taking our new team for a test drive. Haflinger/QH crosses, Caesar & Spartacus

Sterling, IL: Taking our new team for a test drive. Haflinger/QH crosses, Caesar & Spartacus.

Learning to vault on American Cream, Sugar Cookie.

Learning to vault on American Cream, Sugar Cookie.

Raleigh, NC: Learning roman riding.

Raleigh, NC: Learning roman riding.

 

Practicing fire bolos for a performance.

Practicing fire bolos for a performance.

Harrisburg, PA: Getting ready to perform trick-roping and bullwhips.

Harrisburg, PA: Getting ready to perform trick-roping and bullwhips.

Performing as the Headless Horseman for our haunted corn maze.

Performing as the Headless Horseman for our haunted corn maze.

 

Learning liberty work with Ace.

Learning liberty work with Ace.

 

 

Syracuse, NY: Skiing behind Caesar.

Syracuse, NY: Skiing behind Caesar.

In 2008 I was named as a trainer for Equine Extremist Entertainment and Training!  I had the honor of working with a variety of horse breeds including Georgian Grande, American Silver, Trakehner, Gypsy Vanner and Friesian.  I also worked with Sherman, the kangaroo and Popsy, the zebra, as well as riding a Watusi bull, and somewhere in there was an appearance on Clinton Anderson’s TV show “Downunder Horsemanship” 🙂

trainer

friesian 1

Eve at the start of her training

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Billy the Kid, better trained than most horses Ive ridden

Billy the Kid, better trained than most horses I’ve ridden

In 2005 a BLM Mustang adoption was held at the WAHL Equestrian Center.  Tonto was adopted as a yearling and became my training project the following year.

Wild mustangs at adoption. Tonto (left) and Spirit (center) were adopted.

2005: Wild BLM mustangs for adoption. Tonto (left) and Spirit (center) were adopted by WAHL and later given to Tommie for training.

2 yr old Tonto in process of being gentled

2006: 2 yr old Tonto in the process of being gentled

America's heritage. 3 yr old Tonto was started bareback instead of under-saddle.

2007: Representing America’s heritage, 3 yr old Tonto was started bareback instead of under-saddle.

4 yr old Tonto - advertising an upcoming show where all the interns performed. I jumped Tonto bareback over fire.

2008: 4 yr old Tonto – advertising an upcoming show where all the interns performed. I jumped Tonto bareback over fire.

In 2008 I traded a pay raise at EEE to be able to call Tonto mine forever.  Without prior knowledge I intercepted his sale to another person that very day (sorry to whomever you are – there’s a joke about mustangs that “they tend to bond to one special person and you’re not that person” – I saved you from a lengthy learning process 🙂 )

In 2008 I traded a pay raise at EEE to be able to call Tonto mine forever.

In addition to being an equine entertainer, Tommie also performed as a stuntman and movie horse trainer and I was able to accompany him or his horses to several film sets, including Larry the Cable Guy’s Witless Protection.  (Romeo was going to be an extra but the stunt rider couldn’t handle him and got tossed so Romeo appears during the credits footage, tied to the trailer 🙂

Someone needs a photography lesson!

Someone needs a photography lesson!

In 2009, I had the privilege of not only assisting in the training of two movie horses for “The Greening of Whitney Brown” but attending the filming in Atlanta and becoming the stunt double for the lead actress, Sammi Hanratty!  The experience was surreal with personal assistants, private dressing rooms, and a virtual 7-11 supply of food.  I performed about a dozen stunts including falling off a log into a river, falling out of a tree, galloping bareback in a prom gown and heels down the streets of Atlanta at midnight, galloping up to a moving train and climbing on and crashing onto a buffet table.  All of the riding was bareback and I loved my stunt horse, Mariah!   She was formerly a brood mare and within 4 months we had her fit, riding and jumping 3′ effortlessly as well as performing all of the above stunts without blinking an eye!  That’s girl power for you 🙂   On the set, we had to paint her nose to match Odd Job Bob’s markings.

On set with (L-R) stunt horse Mariah, me as assistant trainer, Head Wrangler Doug Sloan, transportation Cindy Burroughs, Odd Job Bob and trainer Tommie Turvey.

On set with (L-R) stunt horse Mariah, me as assistant trainer and stunt double, Head Wrangler Doug Sloan, transportation Cindy Burroughs, the star Odd Job Bob and trainer Tommie Turvey.

(L-R) me as stunt double, Melanie as photo double, and lead actress Sammi Hanratty on Gypsy Vanner Odd Job Bob.

(L-R) me as stunt double, Melanie as photo double, and lead actress Sammi Hanratty on Gypsy Vanner Odd Job Bob.

Preparing for a scene with Brooke Shields. The saddle will slip and I will fall off the horse. The director and assistant director are in the background.

Preparing for a scene with Brooke Shields. The saddle will slip and I will fall off the horse. The director and assistant director are in the background.

Warming up for the train scene. The film truck and assistant director are in the background.

Warming up for the train scene. The film truck and assistant director are in the background.

The train is moving at approx. 15 mph which is a full gallop for Mariah to get me to our mark.

The train is moving at approx. 15 mph which is a full gallop for Mariah to get me to our mark.

A ladder was specially mounted for me to climb onto the train. Most scenes, including this one, are filmed a minimum of 6 times to account for changes in lighting, angles, etc.

A ladder was specially mounted for me to climb onto the train. Most scenes, including this one, are filmed a minimum of 6 times to account for changes in lighting, angles, etc.

Bob (the horse) just pushed me onto the buffet table. The assistant director and Bob's owner, Sue, are in the background. AND, I'm wearing shorts!!

Bob (the horse) just pushed me onto the buffet table. The assistant director and Bob’s owner, Sue, are in the background. AND, I’m wearing shorts!!

I was also the stunt double for Charlotte Matthews

I was also the stunt double for Charlotte Matthews

Galloping down the streets of Atlanta at midnight

Galloping down the streets of Atlanta at midnight

Cast (L-R): Odd Job Bob, Brooke Shields, Sammi Hanratty, Kris Kristofferson, Aidan Quinn.

Cast (L-R): Odd Job Bob, Brooke Shields, Sammi Hanratty, Kris Kristofferson, Aidan Quinn.

After filming wrapped up in 2009 it was time to move on from EEE.  There were lots of highlights but Tommie was a very unhappy person to be around so I had paid my dues and reaped my reward and looked forward to my freedom!   My friend invited me to move to Virginia so this time I packed up Romeo, Tonto and Duke (my dog) and headed to Blacksburg, VA.   I landed at Paris Mtn Stables where I currently work and train.   In 2012, Tonto & I auditioned for ACTHA’s America’s Favorite Trail Horse competition.  You can view the video entry on my video page.  The winner was chosen by popular vote and Tonto & I placed in the top 5 in the U.S. (my friend in Wisconsin had a better voting campaign, congrats Tracy!)

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A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves – strong, powerful, beautiful…. (Pam Brown)

In addition to trail riding, swimming in the New River and showing, one of our favorite things to do is travel, demonstrating liberty work, bareback and bridleless riding and tricks to inspire others to set their expectations high and reach for their dreams!  I love working with all of my clients, turning problems into partnerships, cheering them on and celebrating their victories together!

Swimming in the New River

Swimming in the New River.

2012: demonstrating liberty work at the Great Outdoor Expo

2012: demonstrating liberty work at the Great Outdoor Expo.

Pedestal

Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try

Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

2015:  With the passing of time, I said goodbye to Romeo and Duke.   Last year, Tonto and I welcomed a new addition, Boxer puppy Chase.

Duke

Duke

Chase, 5 wks old.

2014: 10 yr old Tonto and 5 wk old Chase.

6 months old

6 months old.

2015

2015:  I am truly blessed 🙂

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.” (Erma Bombeck).  To Him be the Glory.