Tricia’s horses enjoy the natural way

The natural horsemanship method is not widely known as the way to break in and train horses, but one passionate woman in Cayman says there is a need to promote it the best she can.

Tricia Sybersma has been involved with them all her life and in a couple of weeks she will hold another clinic to promote the world renowned Parelli method.

‘What Pat Parelli did is nothing new,’ says Sybersma as she puts her horses through their paces at a field in Bodden Town. ‘What he realised was that there was a huge gap between what we’re able to accomplish with horses and what they wanted to accomplish with them. He brought to light that there were two methods of horse training. One was like the military style based on the fact that they needed to get 1,000 men ready for battle on horseback so they had to adopt some basic principles to do that; stand on one side, put your saddle here, put your bridle here, put your equipment here, get on and go. And if they lived through that experience then their horsemanship would progress.

‘Unfortunately, a lot of the modern-day riding schools have just adopted that first formula. Do that, to this, to that… for every child or adult and have a happy ride into the sunset – which doesn’t happen.’

Sybersma favours the performance horse training method, which originated in Mexico and Spain where the men used to ride the horses acrobatically to impress the women. That involved the horses coming willingly and being enticed to allow someone to ride them. Like humans, who have personalities, horses have their own individual characteristics, too, namely ‘horse-nalities’, she insists. They should be treated individually and not in the same manner, which is why the Parelli system works for her.

‘That is part of the foundation of this programme. It’s not military based. This method appeals to everybody. The first things you’re taught are the basic body language of a horse and how to get an instant rapport. That translates into keeping you safe.’

She has organised her annual Parelli Natural Horsemanship event for the weekend of 8-10 February to pass on her skills to enthusiastic horse riders at Spirit of the West in West Bay.

A member of the Cayman Islands Equestrian Federation, she is supportive of all events at the Equestrian Centre in George Town.

Parelli and wife Linda developed their alternative horse training method, which they have made into a global industry.

Although it has its critics, Sybersma swears by it.

The celebrated Parelli licensed professional Don Halladay will hold clinics, starting with the Colt Start Demo on the Friday. Canadian Halladay is from Calgary and made his name as a rodeo rider. He went to a Parelli clinic 16 years ago and it changed his direction in training horses.

Sybersma, 44, hopes, like in previous years, this clinic will be a huge success.

‘The Saturday and the Sunday are hands on clinics. You can sign on for your horse to participate. No experience is necessary. This is an intro clinic although the people who have done it before are coming back to do it again because there is so much information. It is $200 a day – which is the same price you pay in the US – and to watch it and take notes it’s $25 a day.’

Canadian Sybersma was fascinated by horses growing up in Ontario and worked with trainers and breeders but did not own her first horse, Giselle, until a few years ago when she turned 40.

Giselle was bad tempered and difficult but using the Parelli method they have formed a strong bond.

Her two daughters, Kellie, 15, and Stacie, 17, love all things equestrian too and Kellie has already reached Level 2 as a horse trainer.

Tricia’s husband is an accountant with Deloitte and she jokes that ‘he’s my bread and butter income’.

Like mum, Kellie enjoys being completely immersed in horse muck, so to speak.

She has such an understanding with Chardonnay that it does not budge when Kellie stands on her like a circus performer.

‘I just like the way they’re so willing to do stuff for you once you get their respect,’ Kellie says. ‘You can have such a connection together. If I point my finger she’s willing to jump over jumps. Chardonnay trusts me so much that I can just jump on and ride her without a saddle. I like how she comes running to me when I get out of the car and it makes you feel good.

‘I started Parelli around 2003 but didn’t really get into it until I got my first horse the year after Hurricane Ivan when I went up to Canada. I want to be a Parelli instructor when I’m older and travel around and help others that have problems with their horses.

‘If my horse is ready someday, I’d like to compete but for me it’s not really about showing others I can be the best, I just want to know that I’m the best for my horse. I want to do a bit of everything and not just focus on showjumping or reigning, I want to come out and have fun and play.’

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Kellie has a great relationship with Chardonnay