Hi! I’m Tanja….

Welcome To My Story

The horse may not be doing the thing that is the right thing for what the rider is asking him, but as far as the horse is concerned, he is doing the right thing.”

~Tom Dorrance

I moved to the USA from Switzerland when I was two and a half years old. My stepdad at the time had a house with a barn underneath, which was the beginning of my love for horses. I’m sure to this day my mom regrets that move as for the next 25 years of my life, for every birthday/Christmas when asked what I wanted, I answered what all horse-loving young girls did: a horse!

My early riding years were spent learning how to ride at Mt. Holyoke and Smith College in Massachusetts. I remember asking to be dropped off at the barn on a weekend morning and picked up as late in the day as possible as I would muck stalls, clean tack, or do anything to be around the horses. Shortly after, we moved to Boise, Idaho and I joined the Pony Club and continued my riding education. When we unfortunately moved to Fresno, California (those of you familiar with Fresno will get what I mean) my riding paused for 5 years.

MY FIRST BUCK BRANNAMAN CLINIC

Fresno introduced me to volleyball, and I followed that path into college and played intercollegiate volleyball at UC San Diego where I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. While at UCSD, I decided to find a job to return to my true love – horses. I found a job giving pony rides on weekends that enabled me to take a lesson a week at a local hunter-jumper barn in Del Mar, where I became a working student for numerous trainers over the next few years as I received my Teaching Credential and Master’s Degree in Education from San Diego State University.

Upon graduation, I taught 5th grade. This was when my dad bought me my first horse. All those years of asking FINALLY paid off!! “Louie,” a 17.2-hand thoroughbred who never made it to the track, was still going strong in retirement. Louie was only three years old when I got him; he taught me so much! We became quite a team, successfully competing in jumping and dabbling in dressage. He was one of those horses who really needed to trust his rider and was always easier for me to ride than my trainers. If I could slow him down enough, he easily cleared every jump. But, before I knew better, I rode him with draw reins, severe bits, martingales, anything to slow him down. Lou was so athletic we could do a bounce in one stride and make it look easy!

Meet Louie

After teaching elementary school for a few years, my children, Calvin and Alina, were born. I stopped teaching to be home with them and started tutoring. During this whole time, I was still a working student as I always loved teaching and the challenge of riding many different horses. During these years I got into sprint triathlons and even represented the USA in 4 sprint world championships. This was also when I met my current husband, Vince, who became my coach and my best friend. The rest, as I guess they say, is history.

One day I came across Buck Brannaman’s documentary, which changed my path in horses forever. I was so intrigued that I knew I had to attend a clinic. So off I went on March 2018 to Arizona for my first Buck Brannaman clinic! Wow! My brain was exploding with information. I felt a bit overwhelmed, but I was a sponge and wanted more and more. I brought another OTTB (off track thoroughbred) named Fantastic Pick to the clinic, and we were the blind leading the blind. But at the end of the clinic we were a better pair. That weekend, I decided this was the path I would follow. Why would I do anything else? This technique was the path for me if I never had to use a martingale, flash, draw rein, or harsh bit again! Buck Brannaman’s method was what I was seeking but had not found until that weekend.

During this time, I became a ranch manager and started formally using my new knowledge. I attended as many of Buck’s clinics as I could. I rode with Dave Gamble, Doug Jordan, and other horsemen of similar style. I started to get thoroughbreds off the track and re-train them for their 2nd careers, and I was just amazed at how well natural horsemanship worked. Around this time, a group of 5 hunter/jumper riders from another ranch approached me to train them as their ranch was shutting down and their trainer was moving out of state. This is how “True Feel Horsemanship” was born.

Over the last few years, I still have felt a missing link in my education and working with horses, but I could not put my finger on it specifically. Enter Dr. Steve Peters, who is an equine neuroscientist. When I met him and hosted him for a seminar, all the puzzle pieces started falling into place. Why do horses behave as they do at times? How are their brains different than ours? How do I make it the best learning environment for my horse? How do I know if my horse feels safe in the environment I have for them? How can I bring them from their sympathetic back down to their parasympathetic nervous system? I found I was naturally doing many things, but now I had a why and how for what I was doing, a better understanding, and much more information.

Even now, I have just the tip of the iceberg, and I’m eager to continue to grow and learn from my equine partners in the future!

 

A peek into my life outside the horse world

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