2021: Coordinator ST Evaluators & Mentor Trainee Evaluators & ST Academy Coach
2022: Coordinator ST Evaluators & ST Academy Coach
“I would love to introduce myself to you and share how I discovered Straightness Training and how it changed the whole trajectory of my career and my work with horses:
I live in South Africa and have been involved with horses from a very young age, competing as a child into Juniors and Adults in Showing, Dressage, Equitation, and Showjumping. I rode mainly Thoroughbreds off the track, and through word of mouth, I began helping other riders train their horses for competition as well.
I loved my horses and I was passionate about training them and teaching people. My approach worked well with some horses and riders, but with others, no matter how hard we tried, there always seemed to be constant roadblocks. These took the form of stiffness, heaviness on the shoulders, and lack of balance, which would lead to some difficult behavioural issues and stress in the horses, although I didn’t know this at the time.
I hit a plateau with my then main competitive dressage horse, a Thoroughbred gelding named Topaz. He was such a super horse, but none of the usual tools and techniques I had at my disposal at the time worked and, try as I might, I just could not bring out the best in him or us as a partnership. We struggled with tension in his body and mind, explosiveness at our dressage shows, and the beginnings of some unsoundness creeping into his way of moving. I couldn’t figure out what I was missing and it led to a lot of feelings of frustration, self-doubt, and confusion.
Eventually, I reached a tipping point where I desperately wanted to change the situation we were in. I didn’t want to keep going in circles, repeating the approaches that just weren’t working for us and for the other horses and riders like us. I needed to look for something different, something I hadn’t seen or tried before, so I went on the hunt for an answer…
I started to explore different avenues of liberty work but I didn’t want to sacrifice the physical benefits of the dressage exercises, so I kept searching. This led to a student at the time sending me a Youtube link of a trainer doing all the dressage lateral exercises with her horses at liberty. It was exactly what I had been looking for! This was my first introduction to Marijke de Jong and the Straightness Training program.
I went onto the ST website, watched and read all the free content, learned about my horses’ natural asymmetry, and started to apply the basic groundwork concepts.
I was amazed at the difference I saw in just a few weeks! All my horses started showing more suppleness through their bodies, stretching over their top-lines, moving in a more balanced way – and this was just by applying the basic groundwork exercises!
After a few months of this approach, Topaz started to move more soundly and we got to a point where I was even able to ride him calmly in walk, trot, and canter in a bareback pad and a cavesson – which is something I never would have thought possible before because of his previous tendency to lose his balance and explode into spooking, bucking, and bolting.
I started to incorporate what I had learned from ST into the lessons with my students, and to my great excitement, they too started seeing results with their horses!
Because I was new to any sort of training from the ground, I trusted the horses to let me know that I was on the right track, and as both my own and my students’ horses continued to blossom under this new approach, I became more and more convinced that I needed to learn more.
This is when Marijke opened up the first of her 1-year ST Mastery Program courses, and I immediately jumped on board! I spent the year preparing my then young Delightful, an Irish Sport horse – Thoroughbred cross, for our first Touchstones. We followed the logical steps through the five pillars of Groundwork, Longeing, Work in hand, Liberty, and finally Riding. Through the feedback from these Touchstones, I learned so much about the essences of the exercises and how to improve them even further, but there was still so much more to come!
Once I had graduated Grade 2 with Delightful, I was invited to join the ST Instructor Program, and once again, I jumped in with both feet. This decision changed the trajectory of my career in horses.
Over the years, I grew into becoming an ST Evaluator, the ST Evaluation Manager, and then into an Academy Coach in the Scholar Program. Thanks to these opportunities, my skills as a coach have developed and evolved and continue to do so. I have become much more aware of being able to change my own internal landscape into a more empowering space which has given so much back to the students that I now coach, both in-person and online.
Since I discovered ST, Delightful and I have grown all the way to graduating Grade 4 in all five pillars and he has emerged from the process as the most magnificent version of himself. We are continuing to explore ST in our journey together and he has grown into his namesake – a literal ‘delight’ to work with!
Topaz has since passed away, but our final months together were of the most beautiful and harmonious we had ever spent together. I hold these vivid memories of him deep in my heart because they remind me of what changes are possible between a horse and human when we use the training to give back to our horses, rather than using them for the training. Realising my dream of being able to bring out the best in him and in our relationship is the most precious gift and a daily reminder of where my ‘due north’ is.
More horses have also joined the family, including Moon, my Appaloosa gelding, and Tiger-Lily, my Thoroughbred mare off the track whom you can see in the pictures.
Thanks to ST, I can be of much greater service to them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and the transformations in their bodies and minds continue to amaze me as we progress together.
I think back to that email with the Youtube link, (I still have it!) and am immensely grateful for the path it sent me on.”