Q. Tell us a little about yourselves?
David: I grew up in Switzerland, loving the outdoors. After school, I became an apprentice toolmaker and had oil and iron in my blood for 10 years, but I also discovered riding and Parelli Natural Horsemanship. Working with Pat Parelli in Colorado, I really caught the horse virus and eventually became a Parelli professional. Alison and I met in Colorado, and she is the reason why I’m now in the UK. Together we run The Horse Place in beautiful Devon and I concentrate on starting young horses, teaching clinics and making western saddles. It’s a great way to live!!
Q. Why live in Devon?
Alison: I am from Devon originally, and that is where I discovered Parelli - by going to work for an eventer and finding out she was a Parelli instructor. I left Devon to work in Cheshire at the Parelli centre there, many years ago. My degree in Equine studies took me to Essex, where I stayed for 4 years and although I did get used to civilisation (having pizza’s delivered, your Chinese still being warm when you get home, having a big shop within an hour round trip), my heart has always been in Devon. The place where we are now has one of the most beautiful situations of any horse property, with views of the sea and Lundy Island from the arena. Although it may not be strictly the best place to have a business that takes horses from all over the UK and Europe, Devon is as good a place as anywhere else…and of course, an amazing place for a holiday when customers come for handovers.
Q. Who/what do you take inspiration from?
Alison: Pat Parelli is the person I take inspiration from. I have seen him make amazing changes with horses, with what looks like very little effort. He also has an amazing way in big presentations of entertaining the crowd, while actually timing his entertainment to the horse's needs and getting the crowd involved, although most people do not know he is doing it. I also admire Pat, as he does not restrict himself to a technique or tool but will use anything that he thinks will help the horse understand and find peace with humans.
Linda Parelli, I think has an amazing position that she can study Pat, but she can pick information out, break it down and explain this in a way that people can understand.
My amazing friend, Sue Edwards, ex-international eventer, who inspires me to be a better rider and coach. Sue has helped me greatly with competitive riding, in dressage, encouraging me to take my connie x to advanced medium, and my PRE X British eventing. I have really enjoyed the few I have done in the last 12 months! I love learning more about sport training and how to set it up for the person and horse, which of course gives increased understanding of the foundation that horses and people need to have, to feel successful in sport.
David: I take inspiration from people who are so good at their trade or craft that they seem to do it effortlessly or even a bit by magic! It doesn't necessarily need to be horse-related; it can be an accountant who really understands the system, an engineer who designs and make things that really work, or the farmer down the road who always seems to cut the grass just at the right time. In the horse world, it is horsemen and women like Pat and Linda Parelli, Ray Hunt, Ronnie Willis, Mike Bridges, Dave Stuart, Buck Brannaman, Eugen Wirth, Sue Edwarts, Berni Zambeil and many more, who have helped me along over the years!
Q. Both of you on one property - husband and wife working together…how does that work?
Alison: As long as David lets me do everything I want to do, it works just fine!! Seriously though, it does work really well, as between us we have so much complementary knowledge and interest. David starts young horses, helps challenging horses to find peace with humans, drives, harrows, enjoys Vaquero style riding, ranch work- roping and generally having horses being helpful. He also makes western saddles as a hobby!
I enjoy sharing and am fascinated in how to help people understand and achieve more. I also enjoy competition in dressage and eventing, and developing presentation skills both with horses and finding ways of expressing things that will resonate with the audience.
We are both willing to ask each other for help depending upon our expertise and share our opinions with each other and our clients. On a daily basis, the customers' lessons or horses are the priority, and after that, our own and working students’ horses can then have time and use of the facilities.
Q. What do you enjoy most about working with horses?
David: The moments of absolute silence, when it seems the horse reads my mind, and when it is not clear if myself or the horse came up with the idea first. The moments where it feels we came up with the idea together; when it feels like we operate beyond aides or pressure, and get a real sense of ‘unity’. It can happen in a first ride on a young horse, doing relatively simple tasks or with an advanced horse during more advanced movements. That's what really motivates me to spend time with horses. On the other hand, if I see my customers enjoying their recently started young horse, or riding confidently into the sunset, that also makes my day!
Q. What is your top tip for horse owners?
David: Stay independent of fads and fashion. There is nothing wrong with fashion, but it is easy to get dragged too deep into it, and forget what we already know and where we want to go with our Horsemanship journey. In other words, find a mentor/teaching program you can really trust and then stick to it for a long while, until you have a good understanding and RESULTS! Then look for another mentor for the next leg of your journey if you wish. That seems to be the fastest and least confusing way forward, for the owner and the horse as well.
Q. What is your favourite quote?
David: "The horse is always right". Ray Hunt told me this during the opening talk of a colt-start class. As simple as it sounds, and contradictory as it may appear at first, what a great reminder it is! No horse tries to be wrong, they all “live what they learned and learn what they lived” (Ronnie Willis). It is our responsibility to influence the horse in such a way, that he can be right and do what we wish him to do, at the same time!
Q. How do you define Horsemanship?
David: "The understanding and skills necessary in the human and the horse to have a foundation, then to be successful in practical work, sport or entertainment". Of course, every job or sport needs its specific training; some more, some less. Horsemanship covers - in hand, liberty, freestyle and finesse riding techniques. Also, it will touch on most practical work and sports to some degree, so the speciality training should fit on seamlessly.