Education & Experience

My education has been unconventional, to say the least.

On the horse-side of things, I began riding at about 8 years of age, when my parents could no longer stand my begging and pleading.  I became a barn bum every day after school, joined Pony Club, read everything I could find about riding and training and horses in general.  I had keen interest in other animals too… read about marine mammal training and dog training.  Joined Junior Kennel Club, trained hunting bird dogs with my dad, played with goats and parakeets and rats.

Detour through crazy-land

Academically, I completed high school in 3 years with freshman college credits, and at age 16 entered the University of Arizona with a full scholarship.  But this was the 1970’s, and a troubled home-life prodded me down a different path.  At age 17 I dropped out of college and joined a religious cult in Texas.  Yep, not joking.  (It does make for a great drinking story.)  Despite the nuttiness, I always had a voracious appetite for information, especially all things related to animals and science.   (My continued self-education had to be a bit clandestine in that particular environment!)   The group owned a rural 500-acre ranch.  Shortly after I arrived, they decided the ranch should be filled with animals to become self-sustaining prior to the end of the world.  I was about the only person with animal-handling experience, so I was kind of in charge of the animals the leader decided to buy.  Yep, it was way wacky.   Soon the ranch was home to a small herd of beef cattle, a couple of dairy cows, chickens, dogs, cats, and the passion of my life – horses.   It was crazy alright – but during those years I had a wonderful “wet-lab” for experimentation, working with and training a variety of species.  Pretty cool when you think about it that way.

Serendipity leads to a life-altering friendship…

About 8 years later when I re-entered main-stream society (married with a toddler and another baby on the way), animals and science remained my deepest passions – but “real life” meant I couldn’t return to college.  So I continued my self-study education, and found a meaningful way to make a difference:  I founded the Richmond VA chapter of Greyhound Pets of America, a rescue organization dedicated to finding homes for retired racing greyhounds.  Through a serendipitous string of events, I started a collar-making company in my spare bedroom, and wrote an instruction booklet for a humane training product for dogs.  My little company grew, and soon we were supplying products to hundreds of dog trainers and pet supply stores.  In 1991, Dr. R.K. Anderson read my booklet, and asked to meet with me.  He was co-inventor of The Gentle Leader Headcollar, and the meeting ended with him asking me to manufacture and distribute for him.  From that moment, my life changed forever.

…and extraordinary learning opportunities

R.K. took me under his wing, and provided me with an education broader and deeper than any I could have envisioned for myself.  He introduced me to the movers and shakers on the forefront of animal behavior research and application.  He took me along on his own private behavior consultations.  He arranged for me to attend numerous professional meetings and courses that are normally limited to veterinarians or PhDs.  Together we went to universities to speak to and demonstrate for the veterinary students, and journeyed as far as the UK, Japan and Australia to conduct educational seminars for professionals.  Each year I attended multiple continuing education conferences, learning in lectures and participating in wet-labs.  I completed a variety of advanced courses in animal training, behavior and management.

A philosophy for training… and life

One of the many profound concepts that RK taught me applies not only to dog and horse training, but to our interactions with people as well.  He said:  “It’s not good enough to tell a dog what ‘not to do.’  We need to show him what we want, make sure he can be successful, and reward him for it.”  Positive reinforcement was a way of life for R.K.  He made a point of finding the good in everyone.  His life was dedicated to improving welfare for animals, and promoting humane, positive training principles.  His philosophy for changing the minds of those who preferred harsh/aversive methods:  “Let’s find something good they are doing, and build upon that.”

All in all, I cannot imagine a more varied and comprehensive educational experience, and shall be forever thankful to my mentor and spiritual father, Dr. R.K. Anderson (1922 – 2012).

Certifications / Memberships

  • Certified Horse Behavior Consultant, International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)
  • Practitioner Member, International Society for Equitation Science (ISES)
  • Life Member, Baroque Equestrian Games & Institute (BEGI)

Continuing Education Conferences & Courses Attended / Completed

  • American Animal Hospital Association Conferences (AAHA)
  • American Association of Equine Practitioners Conference (AAEP)
  • American Veterinary Medical Association Conferences (AVMA)
  • American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior Annual Meetings (AVSAB)
  • Animal Training and Management Course, Shedd Aquarium, Ken Ramierez
  • Association of Pet / Professional Dog Trainers Annual Meetings (APDT)
  • Baroque Equestrian Games & Institute Symposiums and Clinics (BEGI)
  • Chicken Camp (Terry Ryan)
  • Clicker Expo Annual Conferences
  • Interdisciplinary Forum for Applied Animal Behavior Annual Meeting (IFAAB)
  • International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants Annual Meeting (IAABC)
  • International Society for Equitation Science Conference (ISES)
  • Living and Learning with Animals Course (LLA), Dr. Susan Friedman
  • Mid-West Veterinary Conferences (MVC)
  • Natural Encounters, Steve Martin
  • North American Veterinary Conferences (NAVC)
  • Technical Equestrian Course, Real Escuela, Jerez, Spain
  • Western Veterinary Conferences (WVC)
  • Wolf Tour / African Wild Dog Tour, Dr. Peter Neville

Those I’ve Learned From…

Many on this list I count as good personal friends, as well as professional colleagues who’ve taught me in so many ways – both in theory as well as practical application.  Most I’ve had the privilege of personal discussion, and/or attending their public presentations.  A few I’ve “met” only via their wonderful writings, and hope someday to meet in person.  I highly recommend each and every one.

  • Dr. Roger Abrantes
  • Dr. Julia Albright
  • Dr. R. K. Anderson
  • Dr. Patricia Barlow-Irick
  • Dr. Bonnie Beaver
  • Dr. Marty Becker
  • Cindy Briggs
  • Dr. Pete Borchelt
  • Dr. Walter Burghardt
  • Dr. John Ciribasi
  • Dr. Sharon Crowell-Davis
  • Dr. Sagi Deneberg
  • Dr. Nicholas Dodman
  • Dr. Ian Dunbar
  • Sharon Foley
  • Dr. Robin Foster
  • Lauren Fraser
  • Sr. Bruno Gonzalez
  • Dr. Benjamin Hart
  • Dr. Lore Haug
  • Dr. Suzanne Hetts
  • Peggy Hogan
  • Dr. Debra Horwitz
  • Dr. Katherine Houpt
  • Dr. Wayne Hunthausen
  • Shawna Karrasch
  • Alexandra Kurland
  • Dr. Gary Landsberg
  • Dr. Andrew Leuscher
  • Debbie Martin
  • Dr. Ken Martin
  • Steve Martin
  • Dr. Andrew McClean
  • Ken McCort
  • Dr. Sue McDonnell
  • Dr. Paul McGreevy
  • Dr. Patrick Melese
  • Dr. Jacqueline Neilson
  • Dr. Peter Neville
  • Dr. Mary Lee Nitsche
  • Dr. Karen Overall
  • Dr. Chris Pachel
  • Karen Pryor
  • Ken Ramirez
  • Dr. Marsha Reich
  • Dr. Ilana Reisner
  • Karen Rohlf
  • Kathy Sdao
  • Dr. Lynne Seibert
  • Julie Shaw
  • Dr. Barbara Sherman
  • Dr. Helen Spence
  • Tina Cristiani Veder
  • Dr. Vint Virga
  • Dr. Victoria Voith
  • Hannah Weston
  • Dr. Clive Wynne
  • Dr. Sophia Yin