At sixteen, I was determined to take the British Horse Society exams, and applied to Dunvegan Training, the best training barn in Scotland, with the amazing Jim and Jane Armour. Theirs is a very hands-on barn where you learn everything--dressage, show jumping, eventing, competing, teaching, breaking horses, selling, even foaling.

I got my BHS 1 and 2 before I was seventeen, the youngest in the UK. And I was awarded both Student of the Year and Achievement in Equestrian Training.

To finish off my training, I moved to one of Scotland’s leading training and examination centers, the Hayfield Equestrian Centre. While there, I was the manager of my own barn of eight horses and gained valuable practical experience teaching all levels of riders--both children and adults, from beginner to experienced and competition level. I also rode, receiving lessons from Alan Fazakerley (gran prix show jumper) and Francisco Cancella (gran prix dressage rider), and competed in both show jumping and dressage.

At eighteen, I completed and passed both the BHS 3 and teaching exam at the prestigious and beautiful Gleneagles and Capt. Mark Phillips Equestrian Centre.

After passing all my exams, I wanted to gain some experience abroad, and got a six-month contract working for Lee Scuderia, a show jumper in Rome. I traveled all over Italy, going to show jumping and eventing competitions.

When I returned to the UK, I worked for show jumper Tim Brown and his wife Mandy Rollings, a racehorse trainer. It was a great experience, learning to ride and train racehorses, then taking them to the track. I passed my NVQ exam (national vocational qualification) for the Jockey Club and, after a year, was made “head girl in charge” of the barn.

Photo courtesy of Mia Owens Photography
After Tim Brown’s, I decided I wanted to get back into training horses along with competing in show jumping and dressage--and I wanted to learn in a new country. I’d always wanted to go to the USA, so when a job opportunity came up, I applied. The process was intense, with many people vying for one position. I had to travel to a barn in England, and for two days underwent riding tests, written tests, and interviews. But in the end, I got it!

The next thing I knew, I was on a plane to California, soon to be in charge of training, riding ten to twelve horses a day, competing, and selling. I loved taking horses with big problems, re-training them so they were easy to ride, and seeing them go to good homes.

After four years there, I decided to return home to Scotland for a year. After that, I returned to California and worked for myself, riding other people’s horses and teaching. Soon I became involved with Raintree Riding School, run by Lori Araki. There I handled most of the lessons and, in time, the business operation as well. When Raintree closed in 2009, I took it over entirely--and Harmony Horse Training was born.

It’s been growing ever since, with lessons for both kids and adults of all levels of experience. In 2010, we moved to an amazing, private facility (the former home of McMillan Farms) and were thrilled to be able to offer a series of summer camps for kids. We look forward to offering them again this year, beginning in June.

Questions? Gilly can be reached at gillian007@gmail.com and (805) 710-1762.