Two-Legged Instructors

Meet the Instructors

Robyn Smith – Instructor and Equine Life Solutions Director

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From “Fearless” to “Fearapist”
I have been involved with horses for over 40 years. As a teenager and into my early 20’s I rode primarily QH/TB and Appaloosa crosses, competing in rodeo games, high speed relays, and bareback barrel racing. This training developed the extreme balance needed to compete in such challenging sports I would be involved with later. My highly competitive “no fear” nature led me to sports such as Endurance, Competitive Trail, and Dressage.  
naturalhorsemanship-4After owning multiple horses over the years, mostly rescues, I encountered two particular “crazy” horses that led me to the wonderful world of Natural Horsemanship.  I now view the Parelli NH system as the most comprehensive way of communicating and “being” with horses. As a result, I have learned through the Parelli Principles how to appreciate and respect horses as they are (their horsanality) not what I expected them to be (performance).  The most important lesson I have learned:
wp7f0016f2256“I was not here to “fix” horses, I was here for horses to “fix” me!”  
I have spent the past 20 years on a journey from a primarily “competitive, performance-driven horsewoman to a balanced, more appreciative partner of this great animal we call horse. Now I help others find the most amazing partnership where horse and human compete cooperatively, on the ground and riding, in jobs they truly enjoy with their humans.
 
As a Registered Nurse with a background in anatomy and physiology, I fully support the importance of balanced, centered riding through Natural Horsemanship training.

 

Kabri Hilgers – Instructor

Kabri_Magic1_smallI have always had a love for horses…Joining the Equestrian Team in my sophomore year in college, I took weekly lessons and eventually three to four weekly lessons…I was hooked! After graduation I knew I didn’t want to lose my connection with horses. Fortunately, I found Equine Life Solutions and the ELS Herd and haven’t looked back. These goofy horses have taught me so much more about living, life, and riding since I came.
I currently teach human students of all ages, from beginner and novice adults to experienced riders who want to learn more. One day I hope a special horse selects me and a new journey will ensue. For now I am satisfied and privileged to have a whole herd of horses to learn from and team up with to give lessons. Incidentally, my lifelong obsession with giraffes still has me hoping Robyn will get one for the farm.
Thanks to the ELS human community and horses who have welcomed me with open arms, I have had countless opportunities to grow and help define who I really am becoming…
 

Lyra Freedom – Instructor

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I have no idea when or where I became interested in horses, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawn to them. Horses are a part of my earliest memories, before I had even seen one in person! I started learning to ride at 5 years old.  Funnily enough, these days I love helping people of all ages navigate the same fascination I’ve always had to learn about these crazy cool creatures.
I never thought I’d end up a teacher, but today I find myself intrigued by the individuality of people and the wide range of different ways they learn. I enjoy learning how to better teach people as unique individuals.
Like people, I find horses each have unique personalities and learning styles. As such, I’ve found a special interest in training horses. The ability to communicate with these over-one-thousand-pound animals blows my mind every day.
I was a wandering equestrian in search of a job. I had no idea that I’d end up at a wonderful place like ELS. It’s a great feeling to be part of such an amazing team of people in such a community-oriented, positive learning and working environment. I find that following my passion never lets me down.

 

Amy Johnson – Assistant Instructor


Robbin_AmyAmy is a valuable member of the Pony Partner Lesson Program and teaches groundwork classes. She attends a local college and is found more often than not hanging out or working at the barn. Amy has been at ELS since 2006. Her favorite equine partner is Robbin!

 

 

 

 

 

Joslin Starkey – Pony Partner Instructor

max_smallMy parents signed me up for riding lessons in third grade. They finally got the hint after I requested to go riding for every birthday and vacation. I took lessons through high school, and as an adult, I continued to search out trail rides at every travel destination.  After graduating college with a degree in Elementary Education and settling into my career, I realized I needed horses more regularly in my life. Google helped me stumble upon ELS. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities and experiences I have encountered here at ELS. I have learned more in one year here than I did in the 10 years of lessons as a child.
I currently teach Pony Partner Club on Saturdays for children ages 3 – 10.       I adore the little riders and feed off of their enthusiasm. It brings me great joy to share this experience with  kids since I know that for some of them this will be a lifelong passion, as it is for me.
Outside of teaching, my partner Maximus, and I are starting from the beginning to really fine tune my riding fundamentals with a focus on how to best communicate whether it be in the saddle or on the ground.
Many thanks to Robyn and the rest of the instructors at ELS for taking me under their wing. I am forever grateful.

 

Cory Amundsen – Instructor Intern

I grew up in California, graduating from Rio Mesa High School followed by Moorpark College where I majored in Early Childhood Education and Art. Both of these subjects lead me to teaching young kids, from toddlers up through grade school. 
Horses have always been a passion of mine. I know it all started when I met my Aunt Sue’s horse, Cimmaron. From there I started riding lessons at four and a half years old, beginning with Western, then moving on to English discipline. These lessons opened the door to participating in Hunter Jumping, Eventing, as well as showing in Stadium Jumping and English Equitation. I leased my first horse in Junior High at Rocking R Ranch, a cute little red roan POA/Quarter Horse gelding with 4 white socks and a blaze who’s name was Sox. Year later I got to work with an incredible bay pony mare named Nina (short for Assassanina) and trainer Darci Phelps. I learned so much over my 8 months with her that helped me get to where I am now.
In February 2017 I found ELS and obtained my dream job combining kids and horses! I’m learning to be a youth riding instructor. I’ve learned so much about natural horsemanship at ELS, especially coming from a traditional riding world.  I still have so much to learn from Robyn and I can’t wait! Here at ELS I met a special mare named Angel, who I call “Angel Bangel.” We’re still trying to understand one another and I know we’ll learn more together!

Sharon Strang – Instructor Intern

I fell in love with horses when I was 2 years old. I started taking lessons and riding regularly at 8 years old. I joined Pony Club when I got my first horse (Rusty) and competed in jumping, cross country, dressage, drill, and gaming events with the Washington High School Equestrian team all four years of high school. Unfortunately I had to sell my Rusty so I could attend college and felt pretty empty without horses in my life. I volunteered at the Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center throughout college to fill that void! There, I realized that helping people through horses is what I wanted to do.
I just graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in psychology and somehow ended up at my dream job with ELS!  I am so thankful to learn from Robyn and the other instructors and my end goal is to become an equine-assisted therapist.
I never thought I’d be drawn to another horse like I was with Rusty, but then I came here and met Misty.  We are still trying to figure each other out but we have made a lot of progress; patience is key.