April 2008

Kerri Joosten and the Power of Positive Learning

Horses, dogs, cattle and cowboys
Kerri and her partner, Pal

Kerri Joosten has loved horses for as long as she can remember. It's a love she hasn't outgrown over the years, even though her involvement with horses has morphed and she is now one of only four 3-Star Parelli trainers in the state of Texas.

Joosten can't remember exactly when her love for horses began, but she started riding at 10 years old.  On her 11th birthday she acquired her first horse, got her second horse at 13 and from then on she's owned a string of horses.

As a child and young adult Joosten participated in local Hunter/Jumper shows in Maryland.  At 15 she started breeding and training ponies and horses - mostly Hunter/Jumper types.  She used her own method of gentleness and understanding to develop a partnership with each horse.

At 15, she was also teaching at Camp Bombadil for dyslexic children that her mother, Joyce Bilgrave started. At 16 she was the director of the riding program and had a string of lesson horses and ponies that she used with her private lessons as well. 

When Bilgrave co-developed Jemicy School, a private school for dyslexic children, Joosten became the Director of Horsemanship for that as well... at the ripe old age of 17.  She finished high school part time and conducted the riding program in the afternoon.  After two years at the Jemicy School she left the east coast for skiing in Colorado and while in Aspen she developed an English riding program at T Lazy 7 Ranch, dude ranch located high above Aspen. 

The horses of T Lazy 7, Aspen, Colorado

"They set me up with all the reject dude horses," said Joosten, "I turned their rejects into pretty nice lesson horses and trained some of them to pull sleighs for the winter dude ranch guests." Joosten also went home to Maryland and transported a few of her own horses to T Lazy 7 Ranch for the endeavor. 

Upon leaving Aspen, Joosten returned to Maryland.  She started Phoenix Equestrian Center, her hunter/jumper barn where she taught, trained, started yearlings for the track for a Thoroughbred farm and also returned as Director of the Horsemanship Program at Camp Bombadil during the summers. 

"Pat Parelli has been the most influential person in my career," said Joosten. "When I saw him in 2000 in Louisville, Kentucky, he blew me away. Parelli knows how to communicate with horses in a way that I had never seen before. When I saw him I told my kids that I had finally found what I had been wanting and looking for in 30 years of working with horses."

Joosten started his program seven years ago and has never looked back. "It is unbelievable," said Joosten, "I absolutely love sharing this incredible knowledge with other people." 

Joosten currently trains and teaches at Trails End Equestrian Center outside of Leander, Texas. Her current string of horses totals eight.  Her main partner is a little 13-year-old grade Palomino gelding named Pal.  She has Pal playing in Parelli Level 4. Tony is a 7-year-old Tennessee Walker/Quarter Horse gelding, currently playing Parelli Level 3.  Dunn Dee is an 8-year-old Appendix gelding playing in Level 3 ridden by Joosten's daughter. Lakota is a 13-year-old Quarter Horse gelding playing in Parelli Level 3 and is also available as a lease horse for clinics and private lessons.  Harriet is a 19-year-old Quarter Horse mare, playing in Level 3 and is also a lease horse and dam of two of Joosten's young horses.  Air Raid is a 19-year-old Thoroughbred mare that Joosten's son, Reese uses for Polocrosse (15-year old Reese, is one of the highest ranked under 21 Polocrosse players in the United States.)  Lynx is a 2-year-old Quarter Horse mare that has been started from day 1 in the Parelli program.  And last, but not least, is Peppy a 1-year-old Quarter Horse gelding who has also been developed on the ground using Parelli Natural Horsemanship. 

Joosten's most memorable horse was a large pony named Bombadil. "I bred my Chincoteage pony, Cindy to a very nice Arabian stallion," said Joosten. "I played with Bombadil every day until it was time to get on him. What I didn't realize was that I had the most important work of his career before ever getting on him. We had a relationship that people dream about. I never had to train this pony. We just knew how to communicate. I was 16 at the time and Bombadil was an incredible athlete. We did hunter/jumper shows, fox hunted, pulled sleighs and buggies, deer and elk hunted in the Rockies, packed out game, competed in play days, and I taught all four of my children how to ride on Bombadil.  He was wonderful and he is buried out here at Trails End Equestrian Center." 

The most challenging horse Joosten has owned is Air Raid. "She is a very athletic right brained extrovert Thoroughbred," said Joosten. "When Pat and Linda Parelli helped me with her, everything started to change. I learned that she is so sensitive that I had to become aware of and manage my energy. Just this one thing started to change our relationship. She is now my son, Reese May's "A" grade Polocrosse horse. Boy does he love this horse and Air Raid plays her heart out for him." 

Joosten considers a reliable horse to be a horse using the left side of his brain...the partnership, thinking side. He has his go = whoa. He enjoys being with humans. He knows his responsibilities, which are to act like a partner; be mentally, emotionally and physically fit; don't change gait; don't change direction, and to look where he's going.

Joosten says Parelli understands horses and his program teaches people how horses communicate and how we can communicate with them in their language. His teaching methods explain horse psychology and what matters to horses. "Parelli teaches us how to be fair and effective with horses," said Joosten, "and most importantly what he teaches us changes us and how we interact with horses and even carries over to our human relationships."

The highlight of Joosten's long career in the horse industry was achieving her 3-Star Parelli Natural Horsemanship status, and she is currently working towards her 4-Star PHN.

Joosten and her husband, Ben have been developing Trails End Equestrian Center into a wonderful facility for humans to achieve their dreams with horses.  They offer a bed and breakfast for their clients for their weekend clinics, which they offer almost every weekend of the year.  They also offer lease horses for the clinics or lessons for those who many not have a horse. 

Even with most of their weekends booked, the Joostens take at least 3 days for private training and lessons and squeeze in developing their own horses in between everything else.

Joosten loves to teach and she loves to ride. "I am living my dream since I have become a Parelli Natural Horsemanship instructor," says Joosten. "Horses were always my best friends growing up and now I can give back to them by helping their humans understand them."

For more information, contact Ben or Kerri Joosten at 512-267-3921 or visit them at https://www.facebook.com/trailsendec/

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