I’m Valentina, an Equine Behavioural Psychologist, and I have a massive passion for horses; the way they behave and the reasons behind their behaviour. My interests however weren’t always so focused and clear, so to introduce myself I’d like to tell you the story of why I chose this path and what, or more importantly who, led me here.
I’ve been riding horses since I was a young girl and have had nearly twenty amazing years so far to work with these animals and learn from them. I was privileged enough to begin my love for horses at a stable yard that celebrated the animal spirit and allowed horses to be horses. We worked hard, mucking stalls and helping the grooms, riding until we couldn’t feel our legs anymore, but most importantly we played and learned to enjoy horses for the majestic animals that they are.
Over the years I never owned a horse. I always asked, but the answer from my parents was always the same. Not right now. Later on, when I started working with horses, it was never a priority to me to own my own as each school horse or private horse I met over the years and worked with have been a joy, each one teaching me something different.
In 2011 I finally decided to take the plunge and buy my own horse. I searched for nearly a year as I had a very clear image in my mind of what I wanted – an older, schooled gelding, with a nice jump and gentle nature. Quite specific, I know, so you can see why I searched for so long.
Around May 2012 my old instructor called me up one day and said she had a client who was selling her horse and thought I might be interested. All I knew was that he was a young Saddler. So I went to the stables to meet up with my instructor and see the horse. She was late so I walked around trying to figure out which horse it could be on a yard with over seventy horses.
I came around to the back of the stables where they had two longeing arenas, one of them a double. There in the double ring was a huge stallion, gleaming chestnut, and racing around the small ring, nostrils flaring, tail up. He was the most intimidating horse I’d ever met but I felt the click. This is the horse I’ve been searching for. I hoped he was for sale.
When my instructor finally arrived and showed me the horse for sale, it ended up being that wild, spirited chestnut stallion and I bought him on the spot. In the end I ended up with the opposite of what I initially wanted and a whole lot more! Not an older, schooled gelding, but a very green, straight-from-the-stud 2 year-old stallion with serious human-aggression problems. Not so smart when you look at it from this angle but I looked for that ‘click’ for nearly a year and didn’t find it with any of the horses I looked at, until I looked at him.
This long story has a point, which I will get to now. Joey taught me three very important lessons in the year’s we’ve been together:
Follow your heart, never give up and always believe in the impossible.
I hope that my journey will inspire you to not give up when things become difficult with your horse, and to always believe that anything is possible if you believe in it.
Joey grew into an amazing, energetic and extremely intelligent horse that surprised me daily and enjoyed his life. From a horse that was unapproachable, aggressive, dangerous, and deemed ‘not worth it’, to the amazing partner he became. I will always owe him more than I can ever repay in this lifetime.
Qualifications and Accreditation:
- Professional Diploma in Equine Science (L3) – Oxford College
- Professional Diploma in Equine Psychology (L3) – Oxford College
- Certificate with Distinction in Basic Animal Behaviour specialising in Horses – The Ethology Academy of South Africa
- Certificate with Distinction in The Horse Course: Introduction to Basic Care and Management – The University of Florida online
- Certificate in Equine Nutrition – The University of Edinburgh online
- Connecting with your horse workshop – Milyn Brazier Physiotherapy
- Counseling Skills Course Module 1 – Animal Behaviour Consultants of Southern Africa
- Equine First Aid and Emergency Treatment – Beaulieu College Equestrian Academy
- Bachelor of Commerce Honours Degree in Marketing Management – The University of Pretoria
Membership – Professional Associations:
- The International Society For Equitation Science (ISES),
- International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE)
- Animal Behaviour Consultants of Southern Africa (ABC of SA)
- European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP)