For over 20 years the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) has been educating all levels of eventing instructors to confirm their knowledge base, both theoretical and practical, upon which they will continue to build throughout their teaching lifetime. The USEA is now shining the spotlight each month on some of the 300 ICP Certified Instructors. Click here to learn more about the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program.
Get to know a few of the ICP Instructors from Area VI, which includes California and Hawaii.
Auburn Excell Brady is an ICP Level III certified instructor who operates Excell Equestrian of Sycamore Trails Stables in San Juan Capistrano, California. "I coach riders of all ages and abilities," she shared. "I have several riders who have gone on to the North American Youth Championships (NAYC) for Area VI and many who have taken top placings at large recognized events. My philosophy is to produce competition horses and riders that are well rounded and confident in the three phases of eventing."
ICP Level II certified instructor Susan Friend LeTourneur teaches out of Goldspirit Farm outside of Los Angeles, California. "Over the years, I have noticed that riders with confidence issues often end up at my barn," LeTourneur observed. "I love to help people learn to have confidence, believe in themselves, and overcome literal and figurative obstacles in riding. As a rider whose confidence was my weak link, I understand their fears and insecurities. Nothing beats the smile on a rider’s face after they accomplish the seemingly impossible, whether it is cross-country schooling, jumping at home, or simply learning to canter."
"Safety first; that’s part A of my philosophy of riding," she continued. "I teach my riders that safety comes from balance and leadership. To me, leadership is like taking the lead when ballroom dancing. Together, a couple dancing looks magical. The same should be said of a horse and rider. Leadership is creating the quality of stride in the horse. To remember the qualities we want to get from our horse, I teach my students to ride their 'B.E.S.T. forward.' Best stands for balance, engagement, straightness, and tempo; the qualities I believe the horse needs to have."
"Part B of my philosophy is understanding that riding is simply talking to the horse. I joke and say that I am not a horse trainer, but rather a linguist. I believe that each body part on the rider corresponds to a body part on the horse. The more we understand what it is we want to say and how we use our body to say it, the more effective and safer we will be in riding."
In addition to training horses and riders, LeTourneur runs a senior dog sanctuary on her farm. "We have 18 senior dogs," she said. "Since we started Golden Years Dog Sanctuary in July 2018 we have saved over 40 dogs. That may not seem like many, but we have to wait until one dies to save another. Once these crippled, on-death-row dogs reach our farm, they seem to have a new lease on life and live longer than expected. No complaints here!"
James Alliston, an ICP Level IV certified instructor, operates Alliston Equestrian out of Shiloh West Equestrian Center in Castro Valley, California. "We have a riding school so are able to teach people from their first lesson all the way to the top levels of the sport," Alliston said. "We have a great group of riders who compete at the shows together and support each other in a fun and encouraging way. I try to instill confidence in riders and horses as I believe that is crucial to success in the sport."
"I also get great pleasure seeing my upper level partners teaching young riders the ropes in their retirement," he added. "I love still having them around and I think they are fantastic teachers and love showing the next generation how it’s done!"
Jennifer Wooten Macouzet, an ICP Level III certified instructor, operates Trinity Eventing in Buellton, California. Wooten Macouzet is a CCI5* eventer and has her United States Pony Club ‘B’ rating. "I specialize in producing successful upper level riders, young riders, as well as adults," she said. "The Trinity Pony Club Riding Center is an integral component of Trinity’s riding program that includes a growing group of horsemasters along with young riders. I specialize in coaching young riders and have had two of my riders compete for their area at the North American Youth Championships."
"My program teaches preparation, patience, and persistence to my riders, all-important characteristics of solid horsemanship. The lesson program is not a one size fits all mold since different riders need different plans to achieve their goals. Each rider’s plan is tailored to their individual goals that take into consideration their natural capabilities and tendencies."
"I specialize in difficult horses, and horses and riders that have confidence issues," Banks shared. "Using balance, and biomechanics in general, I can eliminate many behavioral and communication problems. I create happy horses and riders who feel confident in their abilities. I customize training programs to fit a variety of needs and budgets. All ages and abilities are welcome."
"I believe in breaking things down to create clarity for the horse and rider. This will reduce and eliminate stress and anxiety in both horse and rider. My goal is to get the horse and rider working as a team and in harmony. Once this relationship has been established progress can be made quickly and riders and horses can progress up the levels safely and successfully. Happy horses with happy riders will always find success."
"I competed at my first horse trials at the age of eight after only riding for six months!"
ICP Level III certified instructor Natalie Brady runs her Four Star Farm out of Valley Dressage and Sporthorse Center in Dixon, California. She also holds USEA ICP Young Event Horse Instructor and Professional Horse Trainer certifications and is an L graduate with distinction for dressage judging. She breeds Trakehners, standing the approved stallion Virginian Sky Pb* at her farm.
"I understand the riding and horsemanship skills required to move up through the levels," said Brady. "When teaching, my starting place is in rider position and creating deep body awareness. I enjoy helping students achieve lightbulb moments - breakthroughs of understanding, and teaching them how to recreate these successes. I take the time to celebrate each riders’ achievements as they progress. With riders in training, I help them focus on the bigger picture while assisting with the smaller steps to help achieve their goals. I believe that horses teach much more than riding: persistence, resilience, and patience are lessons that can be applied to all areas of life.
"My extensive experience starting horses and bringing them up from un-broke to the Advanced level gives me a comprehensive understanding of the developmental steps, both physical and psychological of a young horse, as well as the importance of establishing a trusting relationship," she said. "I have a method and program for young horses, but understand that they are unique individuals requiring adaptability and patience in the training approach. I believe in giving every horse an opportunity to do well and specialize in quickly identifying and resolving problem areas in their development. Horses four to five years old are a particular focus, as I enjoy watching them go from inflexible and lacking understanding to performing collected and lateral work, flying changes, jumping, etc."
During quarantine, Brady shared, "I am learning to play the guitar via YouTube and taking singing lessons!"
ICP Level III certified instructor Shannon Lilley operates Team Lilley Eventing at Bonny Doon Equestrian Park in Santa Cruz, California. "I teach all levels and all ages - young riders and amateurs," Lilley said. "Currently I have an enormous amount of young riders who are progressing up the levels of the sport. It is fun to coach these teenagers because I get to help them navigate through various aspects of life in addition to riding and competing. I get to watch them turn into young adults and see how the influence of horses and eventing have a large impact on them. I love my handful of adult amateurs as well. There is a lot of reward in watching the adults, who work so hard and sacrifice so much to do this sport, accomplish their goals."
"I pride myself on customizing each program to fit the client’s needs in order to achieve each rider’s goal," she continued. "I have experienced how being a part of a team creates an atmosphere of success. Goals, that would otherwise be insurmountable, become achievable. Together, with your goals, the support of your peers, and the guidance of me as your coach, each individual rider becomes exponentially better and the team becomes unstoppable!"
"I love riding and competing myself as much as I love coaching. I also take pride in giving back to the sport in the tremendous amount of committee work I do."
Jaimi Martin is an ICP Level I-Training certified instructor who operates Skye Valley Training at Kismet Farms in Martinez, California. "Our specialty is providing a customized training program designed for each horse and rider so they can reach their goals, whether they are just starting out or stepping into the FEI ring," Martin said. "Our barn culture emphasizes inclusivity, education, horsemanship, and sportsmanship and a positive approach to instruction is the best way to motivate and grow successful horse and rider partnerships."
"I have three children (ages 10, 10, and 13) who all currently ride and compete on their ponies that they have started with help from scratch."
Terri Rocovich is an ICP Level I-Training certified instructor that runs Rocovich Equestrian out of her own Rocking Horse Ranch in Ramona, California, although she teaches clinics nationally. "After many years as an event rider, I currently compete solely in dressage with several client horses at the FEI level and my horse, Uiver, at CDI Grand Prix," she explained. "I am a graduate from the USDF L Program with Distinction and am awaiting the start of my "r" program. This gives me a unique perspective to assist my eventing students to ride and train for the dressage phase to their and their horse's best ability. I emphasize the fundamentals and mechanics for dressage and jumping to all ages of rider. I am a USPC National Examiner, teaching and prepping candidates for certifications around the U.S., and have had many students achieve national level certifications over the years. I have taught for Young Rider camps and have had three of my students compete at the North American Youth Championships for Areas VI and VII."
"I believe first and foremost in advocating for the horse," Rocovich continued. "Their nutritional requirements, health, soundness, saddle fit, and the mental well-being of the horse comes before all else. I feel that riding a horse at any level requires developing a partnership as well as an understanding of how the biomechanics of the horse and rider must work together. It must also be fun! With competition comes elements of stress, that is a reality, but it also has to be fun for both horse and rider. This is true at even the highest levels. Why else would these amazing animals try for us? Horses and their riders are not trained out of duress, they are trained out of kind, repetitive learning, confidence building, and mutual respect."
"I started riding at age two and rode in my first horse show at age six. As a child, I rode western, competing in gymkhanas and barrel racing on the rodeo circuit. I did not ride English until my late 20s when I was introduced to eventing in 1988. Standing in my first start box for cross-country I was hooked and never looked back!"
Darla Opava, an ICP Level I-Training certified instructor in the Santa Clarita Valley of Southern California, operates the Opava Equestrian Training Center and Opava Eventing. "I have developed a reputation of being honest, fair, and technically attuned to each student," Opava said. "I am completely hands-on with all training and lessons, plus I run my own facility. Many of my students and client’s horses come to me after being rushed, mistreated, and/or incorrectly trained, so I take the time to step back, analyze, and create an individualized solid, correct, and flexible program to slowly reestablish a good base on which to build. I am grateful my clients are willing to take the time and make the efforts."
"I teach and train to develop confidence in a relaxed manner where progression is not measured by a competitive scale but by my clients’ needs, comfort, and ability level. I love using humor and lots of compassion. My clients are partners with me in their own and their horse's training and I love the teamwork between us."
"I still have my very first event horse, Halie, who is 32 years young! In our heyday, we qualified for the inaugural USEA American Eventing Championships (but couldn’t afford to make the trip). She’s been an awesome mother, a great lesson horse, and now lives a truly deserved life of leisure!" Another fun fact Opava shared, "Everyone brings me their recyclable bottles, cans, plastics, plus we have recycling at the barn, and then I turn them in and supply our rider’s lounge refrigerator with free water, drinks, and adult libations for all clients! Our rider’s lounge has also acquired the monikers 'Husband Hut' and 'Stable Stud Stall.'"
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