"Being a rider since I was 7 or so, I have owned a couple of horses starting with an old horse. When I considered I was experienced enough, I wanted to try to have a young horse but I did not succeed as much as I wanted with this young horse. As I want to be able to handle all kinds of horses, even the difficult ones, I thought natural horsemanship might help me. Even though it has always seemed very attractive to me, it looks like there is a gap between sport and horsemanship. Either you show or you play games on the ground with halters. Then, I decided I needed to try to find a place with a traditional rider who practices natural horsemanship so that I understand how the two disciplines can be complementary. Michelle's place was exactly what I was looking for.
The first day there, I started playing games, it was quite new to me the way to move the body and the use of energy but it was nice to be able to move the horse on the ground with so little. Second day, I practiced a bit more and started thinking, 'It is so easy to get the attention of the horse and would have been so useful in certain circumstances with my other horses'. Then, after a few days comes the moment to ride without reins, only with the weight and the energy. After a while, the conclusion comes, ' If horses are so sensitive, why are we all taught to kick on and on to have a horse forward though using energy can give so much?'.
One of the first noticeable thing in this farm is how quiet all the horses are on the ground (staying tied up, loading in the trailer, very obedient...). The next piece evidence came the first time I went schooling on the cross country with one of the horses. Just using energy up and changing the position of the body was enough to manage the speed and the balance of the horse. It is a comparable to riding a Grand Prix dressage horse that knows everything and you just have to be careful to what you ask. If the horse is sensitive to the weight and energy, why not removing the bridle or the halter? This was probably one of the best moments to jump bridleless, with nothing else to direct the horse but a carrot stick and the body : the feeling of liberty is awesome...
Once I have practiced on school horses, I was ready to try and teach young horses. This was also interesting to be ready starting other horses. After 2 months, I already noticed the improvement riding, I have learnt many things and I know I still need to practice very much with different horses before I can be autonomous with horses online. I am 100 % satisfied and 100 % sure I will want to come back for another working student program...the sooner the better." - Maud Cappelle, working student in 2014
There is no fee for being a working student with Michelle. You work in exchange for the benefits you receive in the position. Meals are not included in the working student position, so you will also be responsible for buying food and the basic supplies you require.
Contact us with questions about our Working Student Program.
Don't worry, if you don't know natural horsemanship when you get to Avalo Farm, you will learn it here! Every interaction with horses at Avalo is handled with the principles and psychology of natural horsemanship in mind, from simply feeding to riding and training. Many of Michelle's horses are "schoolmasters" of natural horsemanship practices, and make great partners for students who are just learning their way.
Being a working student, you are charged with the daily care of the horses at Avalo Farm. Almost every day is different than the one before. As a student you may be at the farm riding horses in the morning, and then volunteering at a local show grounds, or doing an afternoon farm project. You may spend the entire day attending an Eventing competition that Michelle or another working student is competing in. The only things that remain constant are caring for the horses, working with them on the ground and in the saddle, and supporting both the team at Avalo Farm and the Eventing community in South Carolina. You can find out more about life as a working student at Avalo Farm by reading the Parallax Eventing blog, written by a past working student of Michelle's.
Working students are allowed to bring a horse with them to the farm and the board $175. All feed and upkeep of the horse remains the responsibilty of the working student.
"Michelle has a fantastic teaching method, and was great to learn from. Her horses are so happy and are a real testament to her horsemanship and beliefs. I learned a lot while staying on Avalo Farm, not just from her giving lessons but also from watching her receive lessons from some big names in the industry. The opportunities in the area for cross country training and beautiful trail riding were second to none. Michelle was careful to tailor each student's experience to their needs and goals, and I felt that time spent with her was always interesting and informative. She and her husband Steve were both welcoming and accommodating, and made the experience a really positive one." - Rhiannon Davies, former Working Student
Michelle regularly accepts working students from around the world. Studentship terms can vary, depending on the needs of the student and Michelle herself. Studentship with Michelle includes:
Michelle doesn't expect her students to have a history in Eventing, she just expects them to learn while they're here. From watching Michelle train and compete, receiving lessons from her daily, riding horses that have already been competed in the levels of eventing, and watching lessons that Michelle herself receives from world-renowned horsemen, you will receive a comprehensive education in Eventing riding and training.
Michelle keeps in touch with all of her working students, and loves to help them however she can as they continue their journey to Eventing success. Working students can continue to receive support from Michelle through her online education programs and clinics, the connections made in the Eventing industry while a student of Michelle's, and are also welcomed back to the farm if they'd like to return. Many of Michelle's working students will spend a few months at Avalo, return home for a while, and come back for another few months when they are able to. Below is a wonderful testimonial written by a working student who intends to do just that!