Role models are very important in every child’s life. Many of my role models were people involved in the horse world–often instructors or barn owners. The best role models were people who worked at Camp Anna Behrens. I never knew what a truly strong, independent woman was until I went to Girl Scout Camp and saw females in charge of everything. Yes, we had Ranger Carl, who took care of the heavy lifting, but girls and women were in charge of everything else.
I learned so much from the people at camp. The counselors all had silly names like “Beaker,” “Aero,” “Hoops,” or “Bono.” They loved the camp and showed me how life in the middle of mosquito-infested woods could be magical. Perhaps we were crazy, but it was heaven on earth to us.
I had many instructors over the years, some good, some bad. I learned from every one of them, though. Two of the fun instructors that come quickly to mind are Julie McDermid at Forest Hill Farm in Grand Ledge and Mya Wood at Shades of Grey Stable in Charlotte. Both have excellent farms, and I still think fondly of them when I recall our lessons.
As I grew older, I wanted to be like all of my positive role models. I needed the ability to influence youth and guide them to make good decisions. I eventually became a counselor at Camp Anna Behrens. My camp name, “Blaze,” was because of my fire-making abilities (one match!) and the facial marking on horses. I learned so much through the camp system; training horses for others, and taking lessons over the years. Once my husband and I were married and settled, he bought me Melody, my first horse. She is intelligent, fun, and a perfect partner. She made me want to be a better horsewoman.
I received a teaching degree from Olivet College and graduated near the top of my class. However, when graduation day came, I knew where I wanted to be. Pat Parelli was going to be in Detroit graduation weekend.
Instead of walking across a stage to accept a piece of paper, you can guess who I went to meet. When I told Pat about my choice, he announced it over the loudspeaker, embarrassing me.
Overall, a positive role model is who and what I want to be. Horses at my barn deserve the best. They shouldn’t settle, not now, not ever. Neither should the people who come here to ride. I have attempted to live up to my motto, created when I was a senior in high school. Who else could be voted “Most Likely to Create a Utopia Where Horses and Humans are Equals”? I’m planning to create a banner of that saying and put it up over the doorway to the indoor arena. My senior class didn’t know it at the time, but they were correct.