Tracy Porter
John Lyons Select Certified Trainer“Herstory
  Hi, I’m Tracy!
God protects fools, and was working overtime when I rode my first horse with my mother. I was two years old and screamed “WHOA SCOTCH, WHOA!” the entire time.

If that wasn’t enough, I was still on the protection program when my parents bought me my first real horse, a 2-year old grade appaloosa named Topper. Personally, I think they were trying to do me in!

 

Topper turned out to be my best buddy; we spent lots of time together riding with my friends and their horses. We played tag, hide and seek and raced our horses riding forward, backwards and double. We set up a jump course of tree limbs; the jump standards were cement blocks and 55-gallon drums. Since we were lazy, we never used saddles when we rode. I spent many hours swimming on my horse, so not only was he in great shape, but sleek and fit as well!

After hearing us say how much fun it was to jump, my mom decided to try it one day. Her ride ended abruptly, as my horse went over the barrel jump; mom slid right off his back! That was her first and last attempt at jumping!

After Topper there was Hafid an Arabian and Rusty, a half Arab/Saddlebred. Those horses were instrumental in providing me with a good foundation. In 1977, my mom bought a Paso Fino. Having had trotting horses and now having a gaited horse too, I never really thought there should be a big difference in what we did with them.
  Gee, both pulled the same toboggan down the road!
But other people were bothered by the lack of trot. You’d thought we were riding a strange creature from another planet. The only limitation to riding a Paso Fino, or really any breed, are the limits that others set for us, telling us what we should use them for and what we shouldn’t. Since they could be taught just like a trotting horse, I threw all the confusing mumbo jumbo out of the tack room! The bottom line was and still is…I want the same thing out of my partnership with my gaited horses as I did with my first horses that trotted.

My interest in horses has been with me since I was young but it wasn’t my only interest. I discovered water skiing when I was 4 and it really played a major role in my life. By the time I was 12, I had discovered a ski team and continued to compete on various teams at the National level until 1992.

  At the 1980 National Tournament, I was the first recipient of the prestigious “Willa Cook Award” for the best female perfomance. Now with receiving this award I found that others expected me to keep performing at higher and higher levels. This meant that I continually had to keep developing a harder routine. New maneuvers and variations were hard enough, but now I also had to think how to break them down as to explain it better to the less experienced skiers.  Our director was phenomenal at encouraging us to always reach farther. It was mostly because of him that I continued to strive for better performances. He even calculated how we could break the World Record for most skiers behind a towboat.
At that time I realized not everyone has to be an over achiever. Although we did complete the record, it could have been done on the second try with a lot less griping if everyone had just given 200% effort and did their job. This was my first experience with using motivation, what I learned is that what motivates one person, doesn’t always motivate another. I also spent time skiing professionally as well as writing a book on the sport.  I still love to ski and always am looking for someone who will simply say…”Hey want to skiing!?”

From my early days, teaching has always been something I like to do. Along with my best friend, a skiing colleague, I taught specialized water-skiing for a number of years as well as a winter in Colorado teaching downhill skiing. Well, enough of the non-horse history, I just thought it may give you an insight to where my horse thinking developed from.

I learned about John Lyons on best tv box sets when I lived in the Florida Panhandle but I didn’t get to see him in person until 1993 when I moved to North Carolina; there I learned about the Certification Program. I was so impressed with what I saw, I had to know more, and I just knew one day I would do it!

  Before I went through “Cert”,
I was fortunate to ride in several clinics with John Lyons.
Over the years, his son Josh has
given many clinics at
The Farm.
 
These methods made sense to me. I could see a natural progression. I liked that there was a lesson plan with steps that would eventually get me to my goal. I liked that I could improve many areas of my horse simply by working toward one specific goal. I also learned that riding problems are rider instigated and I was the one responsible. When I accepted this fact, things began to change.

Now I teach people. I help them acquire skills and insights on how to safely and effectively communicate with their horses. My classes don’t end after a few days. I try to spark a desire in my students to want to learn more about their horse. The result is they get more from their horse. Any breed of horse and every discipline from basic trail riders to dressage and reining enthusiasts can use these basic principles to create a better athlete physically, mentally and emotionally.

Although I can help horses and their owners individually, in most cases a group class is the best learning environment. Students get individual attention and still get to watch others; learning from them as well as by doing themselves. Repetition is important in both the handler’s and horse’s learning process, group classes allow for this important practice time.

I offer a variety of classes in various levels: Riding, Ground Control and Round Pen. Classes meet during the week and some on weekends. Class lengths vary from half days to 5 days. First time students are encouraged to participate the multi day classes to get the most exposure to the training methods, this means they leave with a broader base of understanding. If this is not possible, and a shorter period is more practical, students are encouraged to come back within a week or two to continue learning at their own pace. I like being able to see a student’s progress and enjoy getting to know my students as people and hope to make a positive difference in their relationship with their horses.

For the multi day classes, I hand out discussion notes and when possible, task notes. To help students know how they are progressing, I supply them with a checklist to help them track their progress and use as a tool to refer to at a later date.

Articles I have written have been printed in regional publications: Horse Sense Magazine of Minnesota, The Libertyville Sentinel and From the Horse’s Mouth in Illinois and Horseman’s News of Wisconsin. They’ve also graced the training column in The Paso Fino Horse World magazine.

 

  In the time spent with our horses: trail riding, parades, drill team, competitive & endurance, roping, penning, reining or dressage, or maybe it’s just swimming in the lake or gathering sheep…the important part is we enjoy their company and they enjoy ours! I love horses, the people connected with them and helping them reach a better level of mutual understanding of one another!