The members of my team here at A Horseman’s Pursuit are such an amazing group of people that I thought it was about time I introduced them to you. We’re going to start with an interview with Brooke Rempel, a gifted trainer and clinician who was an apprentice with me for many years and who is now an advanced instructor in my program. Brooke gives live clinics and also teaches Level 2.5 on my membership training website, focusing on helping riders understand and deepen their relationship with their horses.
Q: Brooke, how long have you been involved in horses, and how did that involvement start?
Brooke: I’ve been involved with horses most of my life, starting with lessons at 4 or 5 years old.
Q: What disciplines were you involved in? Did you ever compete? If you did, do you still, and if not, why not?
Brooke: I started out riding as a hunter/jumper and rode both recreationally and competitively up until I was about 16. I competed for about three years as a teen in the hunter/jumper circuit. I left the competitive circuit for various reasons, but mostly due to the fact that I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I had a great coach, but I felt as if something was missing. I left horses for about 10 years and didn’t get back into riding until about 2006. At that time, I aspired to enter the dressage world and bought my first Friesian.
Q: When did you become a professional in the horse industry, and how did that come about?
Brooke: I’ve been a teacher, trainer and clinician for about 8 years now. It was not my intent to become a teacher when I got back into horses. I had a successful career in logistics and no thoughts of riding horses for a living.
Q: What is it about horses that makes you want to make them such a major focus in your life?
Brooke: Horses are an unbiased partner. They are the perfect reflection of our inner selves. They show us all our qualities and help illuminate where we still need to grow. They boost us up in some areas and keep us humble in others.
Q: How did you first get to know Josh, and what was it that drew you to his teaching?
Brooke: I met Josh through riding instructor Deb Alexander many years ago. The Friesian I bought as my dressage prospect was a challenging guy and my conventional knowledge about horses wasn’t working. In fact, he was getting worse. Deb started giving me some lessons and began teaching me about what it meant to soften a horse. She mentioned in passing one day that Josh was coming in to teach a clinic. I had no idea who he was, but at her recommendation, I took the clinic. I could barely get my horse into the round pen on the first day and I remember how terrified I was (I’d had some pretty interesting coaching experiences in the past). Josh has a way of calming a situation and I remember how grateful I was that he was able to help me feel safe and bring a level of peace to my horse that I’d never seen before. I ended up in four clinics that first year as I was instantly hooked!
Q: How has working with Josh for so many years changed who you are as a trainer and perhaps even as a person in the non-horse areas of your life?
Brooke: This is a thick question! I remember that first clinic (I think on the last day), he said “Your horse will only ever be as soft as you are”. That one statement overthrew everything I’d been brought up to believe was right and acceptable with horse and human interactions, and it began the unravelling of my whole life over the next few years. As my career was on the rise, I was more and more unhappy until I finally left my job. How could I be soft and compassionate with my horse while being asked to be and rewarded for being the exact opposite interpersonally at the office? It was 2010 when I started my apprenticeship with Josh.
The next two years for me with Josh were a complete dismantling and restructuring of everything I knew regarding horses, the way I perceived them, of myself, of the way I interacted with other people, energetically, spiritually…it’s hard to even explain the scope and depth of the changes I experienced. I finished up those 2 years a much happier, more confident person with a passion for teaching and a drive to help people.
Throughout the subsequent years, as Josh’s understanding of the classical school and balanced based relational horsemanship evolved, every time I would ride with him, I would come away with deeper understanding of what it meant to meet a horse’s needs on a deeper level. This transferred to all aspects of my life as I began to understand that his philosophy with the horses was really about a way of being, not just a task to complete or a maneuver to execute. Josh helped me begin my journey towards who I am today and continues to be a mentor to me as I advance on my journey.
Q: In bringing Josh’s work to other people, what is your greatest challenge? What is the greatest reward?
Brooke: My passion for Josh’s work is probably both my challenge and my reward. In the past it was easy for me to overload people with all of the amazing opportunities for growth, both with the horses and personally. I love seeing people grow and develop on their horsemanship journey and feel so blessed to be a part of it. I love seeing the “ah-ha” moments and the breakthroughs. I love when people are able to understand what it means to the horse when we can meet their needs and then see the product of their good work. My challenge has been in breaking the essence of Relational Horsemanship down into bite-sized pieces that are easy for people to digest.
Q: If you could tell every horse person just one thing, what would that be?
Brooke: When the horse chooses us as their safe place and mentally releases their self-preserving thoughts, allowing us to carry the mantle of their worries about the world, the gift they give us freely in return is their strength, agility, beauty, and grace.