Foto: Jasmin Ziegler
Foto: Jasmin Ziegler

I’m a thirty-one year old dedicated horsemanship student and I’m involved with horses since I ‘m very little. My grandfather has always had six draft horses which he needed to pull trees out of the forrest or to pull carriages. He used to give me the reins in the carriage or let me sit on the horses after they had finished work, he showed me how to brush them and what to feed them - for me that was heaven on earth to share time with the horses and my beloved grandfather.


At the age of 5 I started vaulting in a vaulting competition group which I did till the age of 14 and I got a Shetland pony which was, from  my nowadays knowledge, a left brain introvert and I really had to be “fair, firm and friendly” with her – especially firm as you can imagine.

My father bought himself a Hanoverian mare and an Arabian mare for my mother and they also started to breed with these mares. 


With time I also rode my mother’s Arabian mare, which was a right brain extrovert, which kind of freaked me out in the beginning because running hasn’t been an option for my pony…


When I was 10 I even founded my own pony club, which had 50 members, and I started to give riding, vaulting and driving lessons to all of my friends (at a very low level, but hey that was what I loved to do).


Over the years I read every book about horses that was available, I took various clinics with trainers from different disciplines, I started all of our colts, helped to sell our horses and did various badges in vaulting, carriage driving, dressage and jumping.


But it was not before I started competing that I realized that that was not what I really wanted. Since I’ve seen Fury (like the Black Stallion) on TV I’ve always been looking for a way to ride horses freestyle and to have a bond that’s stronger than any rope could ever be.


While attending a clinic that in 1996 I saw a video with Pat, riding freestyle, doing all these cool things including jumping into the driving horse trailer at the canter. I was in awe – that’s what I’ve always dreamed of!!!!!


I registered for a Level 1 clinic and was very disappointed and frustrated afterwards. I thought we could start with that cool stuff right away. “I have a faible for high level dressage and was able to ride with my father’s Hanoverian mare Shoulder in with shanks and here they come and tell me that I have to start on the ground????” - That was in my opinion something that only people do with horses they have problems with. Yes, I know that was very cocky. Little did I know how much that “ground work” could help me making progress ten times faster than I did before.


I’ve always dreamed of visiting America and I took the chance when Ulrike Giseke offered a round trip, including the Savvy Conference, in 2000. It was there where I found the missing pieces of my puzzle. I now understood the secret of isolating, separating and recombining when Pat demonstrated the Piaffe with Casper first online through the Yo-Yo Game and than under saddle. From now on I was converted.


We owned about twenty horses when I got into Parelli including an Arabian stallion for breeding, six draft horses, Hanoverian and Baverian warmbloods and Arabian mares, foals, a pony and a donkey – plenty of horses –sorry little donkey- to play with. Together with three friends of mine we started to convince our smart and demanding horses.


A year later all four of us had successfully completed Level 1, we could ride bareback and bridleless and we were pretty proud about ourselves.


On my way to Level 2, I finally noticed that playing with twenty horses taught me a lot but it didn’t quite accelerate my way to Level 3 and I ended up practising with one of my Arabian mares.


In 2002 I changed schools and had to learn French, but because I didn’t want to abstain from learning more about Parelli I applied as a Working Student at Haras de La Cense during my summer holidays.


In 2003 my mare had serious problems with her hind legs and it turned out that she couldn’t be ridden anymore. After my stay at Jean Claude Dysli’s place and former vacations in Spain I was madly in love with andalusians (- horses of course… what else?) so I persuaded my parents to sell some foals and to buy me an andalusian and I started to look for  one everywhere around Europe.


Long story short, I finally found my dream horse even thinking how clever I was not to buy the 3 year old that has never been ridden but the nine year old high level dressage horse- Boy was I wrong again.


I thought by buying a horse that is at that Level I could just go on where I had to quit with my mare, but that horse taught me that everything I have learned so far was not enough.


He seemed to be the sweetest horse. When I had him at home, he turned out to be a nightmare. You couldn’t put him in a herd with other horses because he was so aggressive that he almost killed himself fighting with one of our draft horses. He was covered with blood and wouldn’t give up, he couldn’t be ridden outdoors, he would piaff all way long and he wasn’t used to walk on uneven soil so he got really bad problems with his feet. But the worst thing was his aggressiveness, his over impulsiveness, and that it wasn’t possible to handle him because he would jump everything that was in his way – and I thought after I knew Parelli there is no more problem to come…


After a few months I was so frustrated and desperate that I decided to sell him if there could be no one found that could help me with that crazy horse. But I gave him a last chance and drove for one year over 6.000 miles around Europe from one Parelli Instructor to another, from one clinic to another. When the year was over I had passed my Level 2 with him and I also sent in the Liberty and Freestyle tasks of Level 3. (which I also passed;-)


During my year abroad I started studying Behaviour Therapy and Psychology for animals what only confirmed what I have learned so far from Parelli.


In winter 2005 I boarded my horse in a luxurious private riding stable with a horse clinic next to it in order to proceed with my Level 3. After the summer the owners told me that they want to rent the stable, because it’s too much work together with their horse clinic.


Having my own riding stable has always been my dream and for one year I managed that private riding stable including 17 horses and their demanding owners ;-).


During that year I became a friend to a veterinarian who boarded two of her competition horses at my place and who was a very successful three-day evening rider at the highest Level. I spent every free minute with her, training the horses and learned a lot about this sport. I also accompanied her to the clinic customers and helped her to supply the injured horses when my time allowed it.


In the summer of 2007 I attended the 6 week cycle at the ISC in Pagosa, which gave me the last input to finish my Level 3.


After the successful completion of my first University module in 2008 I worked at Luis Lucio’s barn in Spain for 5 months to get a deeper level of understanding of dressage techniques and technical modules to improve the horses physical fitness.


My goal for the future is to learn as much as I can from traditional tribes about horses.  Those successes that I have with my own horses I wish for everybody else to have and it leaves me with deep satisfaction when other people can also fulfill their dreams in regards to being harmoniously with their horses and when I can be of service and show them the way.




Susanne Neff

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Susanne Neff