Michelle Welton, Mornington Peninsula, VIC
Michelle Welton, Mornington Peninsula, VIC
Growing up in a small, rural community in South Africa in a non-horsey family, my journey with horses started out in a very unconventional way. I found every opportunity to be around horses and thankfully there were many such opportunities. I have fond memories of visiting family friends on their farms and waking up at the crack of dawn to catch the best horses to sneak out for a ride before the adults woke up. Learning to ride became a matter of stay on, keep up or get left behind. Most farm kids could ride just about any horse. We would set up obstacles and “practice” for the local gymkhana games, we would ride out, bobbing and weaving through farms to find the perfect gallop and we would spend hours discussing our next adventures. Amazingly, we survived.
At 16 years old, my constant nagging for a horse of my own finally paid off and my parents asked a local horseman and farmer to help out. I finally had a horse of my own and I had to learn fast. He was a 4-year-old Boerperd x American Saddlebred chestnut gelding. My riding consisted of rides to the nearby beach and sand dunes, rides through the local farms and rides into the town, mostly bareback, barefoot, and carefree.
The major equestrian sports in our local community were gymkhana games, polo crosse, agricultural shows, endurance riding and “commando” out rides. My horse and I tried them all with agricultural shows and “commando” outrides being our favourites.
The time came for me to move to the city. By this time, I no longer had my gelding and I now owned two mares. Nikita, an Anglo Arab chestnut mare and Mystery, a Boerperd x American Saddlebred chestnut mare. A whole new world emerged when we entered the city life, and I became obsessed with showing and dressage. I worked in Corporate Finance and suddenly my horses were at a yard where their existence became vastly different to what we had before. They were stabled at night, kept in small day yards in the day, fed concentrates twice a day, groomed to a sheen and all exercise was through ridden work or lunging. Mystery and I competed in showing and dressage. I loved the competitive scene and the process of training my horse to perform well. During this time, I was offered a co-ownership in the local riding school. I jumped at the opportunity and loved sharing my knowledge and experience with young people whenever I could in between my full-time corporate career and riding my own horses. An opportunity to purchase three unhandled young warmblood horses arose and when they arrived, I chose the 3-year-old chestnut mare for myself. Her name was Really a Star, sire Ramirez Furi (KWPN) out of a thoroughbred mare. She was spectacular. I started her from scratch using all the knowledge and experience I had gained along with invaluable guidance from my riding school business partner. I backed her myself and started taking her on many trail rides and in-hand shows and then found out I was expecting my first child.
When my first child was born, I realised that I was not going to be able to manage a corporate career, motherhood, and horses, all to the level of commitment that I wanted to achieve. I made the incredibly tough decision to exit the world of horses completely.
We immigrated to Australia in December 2013 and when we had settled into our new lives, I knew I needed horses in my life again. This time, I had a visceral yearning for knowledge, and I wanted to learn as much as I could about sustainable Horsekeeping, best practice horse welfare, ethical horse training and classical dressage. January 2020, I purchased my first horse in Australia, a young and green, Warlander Gelding. I had so many doubts about whether I would be able to manage not only a young green horse after so many years out of the horse world, but also in a new Country. I was introduced to Equitation Science International by a friend who suggested I look up some YouTube videos and read the book, “Equitation Science.” I had found what I was looking for. I immediately started having regular lessons with Manuela McLean, both groundwork and ridden, attended as many clinics as I could and completed the Diploma. I studied all literature I could find on classical dressage, equitation science and equine ethology. This has been an incredible journey back into the world of horses. My primary career remains Corporate Finance, but I welcome the opportunity to share my equestrian knowledge with HRCAV, Pony Club and recreational equestrians of all ages as follows:
- Finding confidence through science-based training principles.
- Handling horses safely through effective application of learning theory – groundwork training.
- Assessments of horse’s welfare to help address behavioural issues.
- Inspiring riders to enjoy their recreational equestrian pursuits.
- Demonstrating and educating on how to give horses a life worth living in a domestic environment.
Michelle is a member of Progressive Equine Partnerships and a Practitioner Member with ISES.