Jillian has been working with horses her entire life. In her early years, she participated in horse competitions in the AQHA, APHA, and Open Stock Horse Association; trained with J.R. Reichert, and trained for Kintzel Paint Horses. In college, she trained and showed for AQHA judge, Jim Dudley. Throughout these early years, she won numerous year-end, high-point awards and futurity classes.
After graduating with her undergraduate degree, Jillian accepted the head training position at Circle L Ranch in Germany, where over the course of two years, she trained client horses, started young stock, and exhibited halter and pleasure horses. While abroad, she won three European National Halter Championships, the Circle L Western Pleasure Futurity, and High Point DQHA Horse of the Year, and trained AQHA World Qualifiers.
On her return to the United States from Germany, Jillian stopped competing horses and entered the Masters program in the school of Agricultural Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Here she studied equine movement, posture, and muscle development, as well as adult vocational education. Jillian’s research was guided in part by Dr. Hillary Clayton, Dr. Nancy Nicholson, and Dr. Sara Wyche. With their support, Jillian completed her Masters Thesis entitled “Desired Muscular Development in the Neck of the Horse: An Equine Observational Communication Tool and Study”. Additionally Jillian has spent time with Dr. Deb Bennett studying gross anatomy through the school of Equinology.
Jillian’s deep concern for the health of horses fuels her ongoing study of classical riding and its relationship to sound biomechanics and mental well-being. She continues her riding and in hand education with Manolo Mendez, Stephanie Millham, and Peggy Cummings. Prior to his death in 2016, Jillian studied extensively with Mark Russell.
Jillian spends as much time as she can with Manolo Mendez studying his in-hand and riding techniques. She began studying Manolo’s work in 2005 and stood in as the student in his in-hand DVD. Jillian feels her “time with Manolo is extraordinary because he is such an amazing trainer of horses. It is a wonderful experience to be in his presence because with him I can see and feel what is possible in terms of helping horses use their bodies well without using force. His way with horses is uniquely special.”
Peggy Cummings, creator of Connected Riding©, has been teaching Jillian since 2001. Jillian is a Connected Riding© Instructor. Of Peggy, Jillian says: “Peggy taught me the biomechanics and feel of neutral posture for riders. This is simple, but not easy. Learning to ride in neutral posture was a complete game changer for me: my ability to clearly communicate with horses from the ground and in the saddle has become much more subtle and effective. Her brilliance in understanding not only what is needed to support the rider’s body, but how to teach that, is an inspiration. I am grateful for my opportunity to continue learning from Peggy.”
Several times a year Jillian studies with Stephanie Millham. Stephanie was a direct student of Master Nuno Oliveira for many years. She authored a book about her experiences, The Legacy of Master Nuno Oliveira. Jillian explains, “It is a thrill and honor for me to learn the tacit knowledge passed from Master Oliveira to Stephanie. Her ability to teach the information in a kind and effective way is rare among instructors. The progression of my horses under her guidance is profound. It is utterly important for me to learn as much as I can from Stephanie so I can continue to pass along the invaluable information to my students to help preserve the classical work for future generations.”
Jillian also credits the late Mark Russell, student of Master Oliveira, and author of Lessons in Lightness. “I began my studies with Mark in 2012. The importance of his teachings in my life as a student and educator are beyond words. He opened many doors for me as I learned about his use of energy to help softly shape horses in hand and under saddle. His instruction will be a guiding light for me every time I put my hands on a horse. It was an honor and privilege to learn from this man and it is my goal to continue forth with his teachings.”
Jillian has also studied equine Osteopathy at the Vluggen Institute. This body of knowledge offers a different perspective aiding Jillian in her approach to horsemanship. It is her conviction that helping riders learn how the horse’s mind and all physical systems of the body work in concert, promotes healthy riding and training habits. The benefit of which is freedom of movement. To further that end, Jillian developed her lecture series; Understanding Equine Movement to Realize Your Horse’s Potential.
Jillian’s work with horses draws upon Classical Dressage principles and her roots in the Western Horse arena, as well as from her equine biomechanics education. She actively studies with Manolo Mendez, Peggy Cummings, Stephanie Millham, and the late Mark Russell. As a perpetual student of the horse, Jillian also spends quality time reading literature to stay informed with the latest research from professionals in the field. The convergence of all the information and wisdom shared by these instructors blends beautifully into what Jillian teaches her students.
Jillian makes decisions about what knowledge to apply in training, lessons, and lectures by determining if it is in alignment with horse and human biomechanics, and their mental well-being. She believes that the deepest and most insightful lessons come from the horses themselves — trusted friends.
Jillian is based at Hy Court Farm.