Catherine (Ascher) Wyngarden
In many ways, I’m probably just like you! I’ve been in love with the idea of having a horse since I was a kid but didn’t get one of my own until my kids were grown. I’ll tell you my story just to reassure you that, even if you begin later in life, you can still become an excellent horseperson.
All my life, I wanted to be with horses but never found the opportunity. It wasn’t until 1995, when I was 35 years old, that I received my first riding lesson as a gift from the man who would later become my husband. From that, we went on to a dude ranch in Tanque Verde, Arizona; then with hired wranglers and a string of pack animals into the Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana, the Sawtooth of Washington State, and the Chilcotin of British Columbia.
Then in the fall of 2003, when I was 43, my life’s path changed and another journey began. After we moved from Louisville, Kentucky, to Orcas Island, Washington, as new empty-nesters and basically retired, I did what so many do at this time of life: I began re-creating. So, I decided to try riding lessons again. An article appeared in our local paper about a gifted horsewoman in our area, Susanna Kellogg. I excitedly made arrangements to meet her.
Teaching others what I have learned became my path in 2010. I suppose when you’re really passionate about something, you have no choice but to share it with others.
We were standing in a pasture near Sus’ barn when a 17hh dark bay gelding with a star on his forehead, “Drum”, came walking up. Drum and Sus proceeded to show me what true partnership really looked like. With no halter or lead line to connect them, wherever and however Sus moved, Drum moved with her. After watching wranglers knee horses in the belly as they cinched up girths, commenting on how stupid horses are, I was absolutely amazed and had tears running down my cheeks while I watched the two dance together. I humbly asked Sus, “Can you teach me how to do that?” Thus began my five-year apprenticeship of taking lessons and clinics with Sus Kellogg.
It was about two years into my training with Sus when she retired her schooling horse, my friend and gentle teacher, “Chinook”. A friend of ours who bred Friesians then asked me to help train one of her young mares, which I did for a time before volunteering to work with the winter horses of a local summer camp. But I was frustrated. I wanted more consistency, more intimacy, more of a bond. Lo and behold, my loving husband said, “I think it’s time you had a horse of your own.” I never thought this was in the cards for me, but we made it happen. On April 11, 2005, a five-year old, bay Appendix gelding, “Tobias” became part of our family.
They say green + green = black & blue. And Oh My! did I still have a lot to learn! Tobias became my greatest teacher. He was a young, athletic horse who didn’t give anything easily—especially his trust. He challenged me every moment we were together. If I was going to have a partnership with this magnificent creature, I was not only going to have to work really hard, I was going to have to change.
I had to become a fair, kind and consistent leader. It was not an easy road to travel.
I continued to take private lessons and attend clinics with Sus, but she lived on San Juan Island and we were on Orcas Island, which was a half-hour ferry ride away. So I joined the Parelli Savvy Club, attended their annual expositions in Washington State, and became obsessed with their home-study courses (my favorite being their “Liberty & Horse Behavior”). I attended clinics with Barb Apple (who had studied directly under Pat Parelli in the early 90’s), and a few other trainers along the way.
I continue to read books and watch videos done by famous and not-so famous horsemen and women and incorporate many of their techniques and philosophies into my own practice. To this day, I continue to take lessons and attend clinics.
Having moved to Colorado in 2009, I’ve attended clinics and/or taken lessons with Roger Kyle and Corrine Fierkens; and classical riding with Michelle Wright (CO) and Patrice Edwards (UK). In 2013 & 2015 I audited Buck Brannaman’s clinics in Kiowa, CO; and in 2014, 5-star Parelli Professional, Dave Ellis, in Parker, CO. The Winter/Spring of 2014-15 I found myself taking classical riding lessons with Frances Carbonnel over at Mariah Farms in Franktown, and summer of 2015 in a Ranch Cow Working Clinic Ault, CO, with Trevor Carter.
I am not a Parelli certified professional (although I’ve been told I’m better than some who are). While I respect what they do, I don’t want to be limited by Parelli techniques, tools, patents, copyrights, dues … and clothing. I prefer not to be branded.
Teaching others what I have learned became my path in 2010. I suppose when you’re really passionate about something, you have no choice but to share it with others. Each person and horse I work with continues to teach me something new. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for you and me to learn from each other! Check out the “Services” page for more information.