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Ale & Mike

Gracias a Mike

Yes - it was all thanks to a horse - a horse that stole my heart from the moment I saw him and started me on my journey. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning. I was in Costa Rica when I saw ​Mike and purchased him with the main goal of competing internationally in dressage. Standing 1.70 meters, Mike was a big, handsome horse that was nervous, very reactive, and suspicious of almost everything.

At this point, I asked myself “What have I done? What was I thinking?” When I voiced my concerns to a dear friend, they told me: “You have a great horse and a great problem.” and he was right. Mike had a huge presence and all the qualities required for a high-level horse to compete. Mike had very beautiful, wide, and rhythmic movements. He also had the necessary training to compete in the event I aspired to compete in; the only problem was that he was a nervous wreck!  As I rode him, I thought I was riding a pressure cooker that might explode at any moment. 

​The first time I took him to compete, we were confronted by several important challenges:

  • Mike was afraid of the trailer, and it took about 4 hours for him to load. It was a very stressful and dangerous situation for him and me!

  • When we got to the competition, and I put it in the stable and Mike went crazy! He was weaving and circling, working up a sweat. I didn’t know how to help him and I was afraid that because of the stress he would get colic. It was not a nice experience for either of us.

  • The next day, we were to compete, and Mike was so reactive that I couldn’t even get on him. I knew that any attempt to get on or ride would put us in a dangerous situation and decided it would be best to withdrew from competing. It was very disappointing and a hard blow but the right thing to do.

The entire experience left me feeling a lot of sadness and I questioned many of the decisions I had made. Reaching my goals was very important to me and but I was not prepared for how difficult it would be with Mike. But he was the horse I had and I knew that I it was up to me to try to improve the situation as much as possible.


The relationship with Mike was complicated. It was a long list:

  • Trust – he didn’t have it and I was struggling to get him to trust me

  • Fear – he was very afraid of men even if they were feeding him

  • Nerves – he was nervous of just about everything and everything was difficult for him including being groomed, bathed, and saddled

  • Reactive – when mounted, he was very aware of the environment and was reactive to just about everything – even a butterfly would scare him


After a few months, things started to improve. When I rode, it was better, but he was always tense and reactive. Regardless, I was hopeful and thought perhaps we could compete if I could teach Mike how to load on the trailer safely and quietly. There had to be a book or video that could teach me to solve this problem and allow us to compete.


Searching the internet, I found a video of Pat Parelli on a white horse. He was galloping behind a trailer without a saddle or bridle and with a jump the horse enters the trailer and while Pat hangs on the door – amazing! I had never seen anything like it but knew that I had to do the same! Well – maybe that was a bit extreme for me. All I needed was to teach my horse to quietly get into the trailer.

That day I started reading about the Parelli method and watching every video I came across. I learned that there was a thing called Natural Horsemanship and that there were teachers in America whom I could learn from. I researched everyone I came across and analyzed the programs of John Lyons and Monty Roberts.

Playing at liberty was one of the things that impressed me. I dreamed of a relationship like that with Mike but how… how did they communicate with horses like that? None of the horses seemed stressed and everyone seemed to be having a great time – both horses and humans. It was being able to play freely that made me decide to learn the Parelli method and of course be able to teach Mike how to get into the trailer.

I remember waiting about a month for the equipment and DVDs I ordered to arrive. The first instruction was don’t start with the most difficult horse but of course, I didn’t have a choice so I started doing the program with Mike.

The next exercise was don’t touch the horse until the horse touches you. This took much more work and time than I expected. Mike didn’t touch me. Days and days passed. I tried everything and nothing worked. So I started reading inside his stall and waited... Finally, many hours later, Mike reached out and touched me!


I must confess that during this process many things went through my head. You might recognize a few of my thoughts:

  • I am a fool! How am I going to fix this by watching a few DVDs?

  • My horse is not a quarter horse like those in the video – this method won’t work with him – it’s useless!

  • What nonsense am I doing? Wait until the horse touches me! He should be thankful that he is here with me and that I treat him well! Silly horse!

Well... you can imagine the negative thoughts I had and how frustrated I was but everything changed when I did that first exercise. It was a very new concept for me.

I’ve been surrounded by horses my entire life. I did many things instinctively in a natural way, but I had never seen the world through the eyes of a horse nor did I understand a horse’s psychological needs. With Parelli's natural horsemanship methods, I understood that I could communicate and understand a horse and teach him what I want without physically or psychologically abusing him.

This was what I had been looking for all my life! I remember when I was a little girl, and I asked my dad if there was another way to teach a horse to do an exercise. My dad replied – “Surely there is another way, but I don’t know it.” Well – this is that other way!

I continued studying the method at a distance and then I began to attend face-to-face courses in Ocala and then in Colorado. I went through the levels with Mike, and we thoroughly enjoyed this process so much so that I became a Parelli instructor. Mike and I reached impressive levels of communication, love, and respect. That long list of challenges and self-doubt disappeared.

Today many years later I thank Mike, that difficult horse who was my best teacher. Thanks to him I grew up and learned not to be afraid to experience something new and continue to learn every day.

​I love horses, I want the best for them and their owners. Today, I am very fortunate to have created an amazing career doing what I love. My world revolves around horses, and I practice natural horsemanship at every opportunity. ​I hope that my story motivates you too to look for new ways to relate to your horse and grow personally.

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