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home : business : business May 23, 2016

3/18/2014 12:51:00 PM
Trainer teaches natural horsemanship
Marion Shepard and ShahSeyn, the horse that changed her life. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
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Marion Shepard and ShahSeyn, the horse that changed her life. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

Before moving to Sisters in 2012, Marion Shepard worked 60 hours a week as a computer software engineer for 20 years; she had no real balance in her life. Then in 1999 her father and sister decided to send a grey Arabian gelding her way in Carlsbad, California.

"Receiving that horse was a life-changing event for me," Shepard recalled.

She named the 14-year-old Arabian "ShahSeyn."

Since Shepard owned her own computer software business, she adjusted her schedule to learn everything possible about horses.

"I had a lot to learn, so I started attending equine shows looking for the right program. After attending a local Parelli Natural Horsemanship clinic in San Diego, I changed my direction in life to work towards becoming a professional instructor," said Shepard.

The Parelli program of natural horsemanship was founded in 1981; its goal is to help raise the level of horsemanship worldwide for the benefit of horses and the people who love them. The program starts with understanding the basic nature of your horse. Horses are prey animals, hunted in nature. Safety is their main concern, and fear is their primary reaction.

"Each horse has a different 'horsenality,' and it helps to understand their different personality types. It's the psychology behind the training," Shepard said.

ShahSeyn had not been socialized well and distrusted humans before she adopted him.

"I wanted to find out why horses do what they do. I needed the best partnership between my horse and me," Shepard said.

She attended workshops on weekends to learn more.

"I spent time at the LS Ranch in Porterville, California training with David Ellis, a Parelli Natural Horsemanship five-star, master instructor. Then in 2005 I headed off to Parelli University in Pagosa Springs, Colorado and spent 12 weeks training with ShahSeyn in an intensive program."

In 2006, Shepard went to Ocala, Florida and spent eight weeks at the Parelli center, learning rider biomechanics.

"I spent many workshops mainly with four- and five-star instructors from Parelli. In addition I have trained at natural horsemanship workshops. I believe in continuing education, so that I can bring the best back to my students," said Shepard.

Shepard found her way to Sisters in 2012 and began as a horse trainer at Shilo, a private ranch in Sisters, which offers multiple dry pastures and pine trees which she uses as a natural training environment. She owns three horses, which includes ShahSeyn, who is now 28 years old.

Shepard teaches workshops, private and group lessons. She helps riders with individual horse challenges, and this spring she will be hosting spring tune-ups for horse and rider.

"I try to emulate more of a trail experience. The setting provides more of a natural environment, and the horse doesn't get bored. It's a creative space for horse and rider. I also have the traditional arena and round pen. It's a good transition for those who haven't been out on trails. It's a natural setting in a controlled environment, so it's safe, and when my students are ready to go explore on their horses, there are miles of forest trails," said Shepard.

Shepard's philosophy on training horses is that both the horse and human have to have responsibilities for the partnership to work. The training focuses on the relationship, helping humans to understand the intrinsic nature of the whole horse: mind, body and spirit.

"Creating this emotional connection is the beginning of establishing a trusting and willing partnership. Understanding the bio-mechanics and how to be in harmony with your horse physically provides the best opportunity to share a bond and influence movement," she said. "Unlike the traditional methods of training or even conventional methods of natural horsemanship, my approach is to empower you to explore your relationship with your horse."

This year Shepard is bringing two top-level instructors to Central Oregon for three- and six-day workshops focusing on intermediate horsemanship and cowboy dressage. For more information visit www.shepard

Shepard began her career as a part-time instructor in Escondido, California, in 2006.

"I moved to Bend to help my ailing parents by managing their ranch in 2008 and started full-time training and instructing," she said.

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