By far the very best trainer in B.C. for you to take your warmblood to would be Birgit Stutz in McBride. Birgit is very familiar with big pushy warmbloods and knows very well how to develop them without pushing them beyond their ability. Honestly, I can not recommend Birgit highly enough. It would be well worth the effort to get him to her if you can. He’d be in the best of hands with Birgit!
About a month has passed since I left Falling Star Ranch. I stayed there for 10 intensive weeks of education in groundwork and riding. My name is Sibylle, and I am from Switzerland , age 45. As I needed a break in my life after more than a year of physical and mental struggle I intended to go back to my (horse) roots. Canada was my favourite destination and “Natural Horsemanship” the ambition to learn. Through the internet I found Birgit and Falling Star Ranch. After a half an hour talk on the phone I knew that Birgit knows her business and I agreed to a mentorship at Falling Star Ranch.
To be honest, the first two weeks were quite hard. For the first ten riding lessons I was only riding at a walk. Bitless bridle, lots of struggling with seat, legs, feet, shoulders, elbows, hands. I didn’t expect it would be easy but like this? Well, my last riding lesson was approximately 15 years ago and anyway as a former jockey I loved speed. I didn’t pay too much attention to my “long stirrups seat”. So my troubles weren’t too surprising.
Nevertheless I noticed from the first minute that with Birgit I met a great horse person who knows what she is talking about. She sees every detail. She explains the same thing ten or more times very patiently. She is completely with you while she is coaching and she answers every question outside the lessons as well. She has huge a knowledge. She is firm but fair (with human and horses). She loves her horses and treats them excellently. She is patient and polite. She is very attentive and aware. If I was able to do what she said it worked out. And last but not least: She really teased the very best out of me!
There are so many different horses at Falling Star Ranch. They all have their own personalities and each horse taught me something else which is great. Birgit rides them all regularly so she knows exactly what’s going on. Her horses are all well trained and responsive, not dull, and through their natural keeping they are very alert and sensitive. Through careful training, the horses are allowed to keep their own personalities and stay sensitive and responsive, instead of being shut-down and dull and just putting up with whatever the rider asks them to do. Awesome teachers, as is their human leader.
During my stay I made continuing progress. The lessons on the lunge line helped me a lot as well. Towards the end I rode many different horses at all gaits and I started to do some lateral work as well. I look forward to continuing with dressage lessons at my place. I never thought I would like dressage this much, but Birgit, you inspired me with your enthusiasm, your coaching and your knowledge.
Since my return to Switzerland, my two pasture horses are my guinea pigs. I try to speak “horse” to them. Play horse games by horse rules. In only a few days our relationship changed a lot. They respect and trust me much more than they did before my stay at Falling Star Ranch. It is as if they would say “Finally she speaks our language. What a relief”. I also started to ride them and wow, they do great because they seem to understand much better what I ask them to do.
After my rewarding stay in Canada I started to look at horses differently. I understand what’s in their mind (frame of body is frame of mind). I am so thankful to Chris Irwin who decodes the body language of the horses and who has a very agreeable and understandable way to explain it. And I am very thankful to Birgit who taught me this amazing method so carefully and precisely.
I was at the right place at the right time. Birgit, you gave me a lot. Even your friendship which is invaluable! – Sibylle Noetzli, Switzerland (mentorship at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship, August-October 2016)
** Sibylle is a former jockey and racehorse trainer and has won the Swiss Championships three times (1997-1999)
What started with a thought, became a desire, turned into a big dream and certification with exceptional recognition!
I’m Cindy Handschoewerker from Belgium and I’m a Natural Horsemanship trainer with heart and soul.
I don’t have enough words to say how wonderful my journey was and still is by following a mentorship with Birgit.
Behind her beautiful smile is Birgit, such a hard-working woman, committed to her horses, and with a big heart for her animals (not only her horses).
One day in my research on Chris Irwin, I found the website of Falling Star Ranch in Dunster. I sent an email to Birgit and I soon got an answer back. I saw the mentorship as a beautiful chance and opportunity for myself to extend my own knowledge about horsemanship.
I thought that I would feel like the little Belgian in big Canada, but Birgit treated me with so much respect, asked my opinions… and soon it became more like we were colleagues of each other, which gave me a very good feeling.
The program was full of variation and flexibility, but intense at the same time. Birgit really wants you to make progress and she teaches with heart and soul.
Birgit’s lessons were full of information and I learned so much about myself, my way of teaching people, the Chris Irwin methodology, being organized, and the Canadian kindness. Sometimes it was like an emotional rollercoaster of feelings going from healthy frustrations (because I’m such a perfectionist) to happiness, satisfaction, thankfulness, tears of joy, pain to say goodbye…
Birgit will stay in my heart forever and our friendship will never die, we will see each other again and keep in contact!
After my trip back home I got an email from Chris Irwin congratulating me on achieving my Level 2 Master Certification from Irwin Insights. Chris knew me from a clinic in the Netherlands and published even on Facebook that I’m the first student ever who has come so fast so far in his program! Thanks to Birgit.
I’ll never forget you. – Cindy Handschoewerker, THE HORSESENSE, Belgium (August 2016)
** Cindy is a professional trainer, coach and clinician in Belgium and received her Level 2 Master Certification from Irwin Insights after her mentorship at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship
In the summer of 2014, I was able to spend a month in Birgit’s mentorship program, and it was an amazing experience. The mentorship option was a great opportunity to learn a lot in a short amount of time, with two full lessons a day. I was able to work with many different horses, each at their own level and with different strengths and weaknesses. This allowed me to expand my skills while remaining adaptable, and learning how to respond to many different situations. My favourite thing was doing groundwork with some of the younger or more green/explosive horses. It really built my confidence to have the opportunity to work with those types of horses while still having Birgit with me to provide support and instruction. Birgit’s teaching style is similar to the way she trains horses. She is very patient and fair, I was motivated to try new things, but never pushed out of my comfort zone. Birgit is also a stickler for building a strong foundation, both in her students and the horses she trains. I felt like a total beginner for the first week, but I’m so grateful for it because the solid foundation allowed me to excel quickly. The things I learned (riding posture/balance/aids) in the first week became second nature by the end of the month, and because of that I was able to continue improving in my riding back home after finishing the mentorship. I recommend the mentorship program for anyone who wants to kick-start their learning with horses, or really improve a lot in a short amount of time. The things you learn at Birgit’s will remain with you forever, and maybe even carry into other aspects of your life! – Phoebe Oudshoorn, Saskatchewan
**After her mentorship at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship, Phoebe Oudshoorn received her silver level certification from Chris Irwin.
Thanks for all your time the last couple of months. I learned so much from you. You really changed the way I see horses and how I work with them and that means so much to me. And it is so nice to know that I can always come to you when I have problems with horses. Thank you so much. I look forward to learn more and more. THANKS SO MUCH!!!!” – Lisanne Hendriks, Holland (August 2012)
**Lisanne – or Lissy as we call her – did three mentorships as well as a working student stint at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship (which she calls the “Happy Ranch”). Lissy now runs a guest ranch called Willow Ranch in Valemount, B.C., together with her family and is also an Irwin Insights certified trainer).
My time at the Falling Star Ranch was fantastic. I never thought that I could learn so much in just one week. You learn so much by following and watching Birgit all day and asking as many questions as you like. She takes the time to explain everything really well, even when she is riding a horse. And the two sessions a day are perfect. You can try everything that you have seen all day yourself with the help of Birgit. The mentorship at Falling Star Ranch was an amazing experience. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how you can really work together with your horse, and build a really strong and good relationship with your horse. – Lisanne Hendriks, Holland (July 2011)
I decided to do a mentorship program at Falling Star Ranch because I really wanted to find a new way to work with horses. I was not happy with the way I used to work with and train horses. I knew that the horse has a lot of effect on me in general but after a while just training horses I found out that I was just mad at myself all the time because I didn’t have the skills to deal with young horses and I was mad at the horse and had no patience anymore. I hated the way I was but I didn’t know how to changes things and do things better. I was thinking of quitting training horses, thinking it’s not for me anymore. I like working with one horse and building a good relationship with that individual horse. Then I can have a lot of patience.
I came across Falling Star Ranch on the Internet, when I was looking for a ranch where they do some kind of horsemanship. I didn’t know of Chris Irwin at all, but I had read some articles on the Internet about him and I really liked the way he sees the horse and helps the horses.
With the mentorships program I had two lessons a day and the rest of the day I watched the other lessons and training sessions. I took a lot of notes and it really helped me to understand everything.
At the beginning I was even afraid to go close to the herd because everything was so different. I had to be so aware of everything and I was really not used to that! My first riding lesson was a revelation. I felt like a total beginner. The week before I arrived at Falling Star Ranch, I was jumping 4 feet with different horses and here I had a hard time to work the horse at a walk! I was so sore just riding for 45 minutes at the walk. I had to put my ego aside and accept that “I don’t know everything”. But it’s a great thing too.
I’m just amazed at the method and how using horse psychology changes the horses. Chris Irwin’s method is based on body language, the language of the horse, as well as our body language. I feel like I was blind for so many years and it’s like I finally opened my eyes and realized how a horse lives. The horses are prey animals and as humans we act as predators, and this can scare the horse, and if we don’t pay attention to what the horse tells us with its body, then we just don’t get the respect and trust.
In mid-August, I attended a train-the-trainer certification clinic with Chris Irwin at Riversong Ranch in Whitecourt and received my certification in the Chris Irwin methodology. I look forward to keeping improving my skills and being able to help people with their horses and horses with their riders. I’m going back to Switzerland at the end of the fall and I hope I will be able to help as much as I’m able to and show and spread this method around! I know that people, especially Europeans, are looking for a better way to work with their horses but they don’t really know how! So I am excited to see how it will change!
I really enjoyed my stay at Falling Star Ranch. The people and horses are great! I felt like I was living in a different world, like in a dream!! No matter what’s going on in the world you’re just in a peaceful place where the horses are the king. I hope I can come back to Falling Star Ranch in the future. – Noia Wyss, Switzerland (July 2010)
I have a 5-year-old Warmblood gelding that, while having a fair bit of ground handling, had not yet been started under saddle. Tommy is a good boy with plenty of physical substance (getting close to 17 HH) but is emotionally immature. My own capabilities in the saddle are good but I was worried that I did not have the expertise to start a young horse as well as being able to stay on during any young horse “panic attacks” 🙂 So I started to look around for local trainers. I knew what I wanted – someone who understands horses, who will handle them firmly but fairly and who will not “break” them (as is the mindset of some “trainers”). I wanted my horse “started”, to be taught that he has a job to do, to accept his job and not be fearful of his rider. I wanted his mind intact because then you have a willing partner doing his best to for you. Birgit accomplished all that and then some. Tommy started out in the round pen, then progressed to accepting saddle and bridle, lungeing and finally backing. Because he is so big, he is uncoordinated and took time to develop and get fit. Birgit challenged Tommy when it was appropriate but never pushed him beyond his abilities at the time. These big Warmbloods need that time especially on an emotional level so they can mature at a pace that is sustainable (i.e. no meltdowns please!). Tommy had about 90 training days with Birgit and at the end he had walk, trot and canter (a to-die-for canter!). And while that doesn’t seem like a lot at the end of 90 days, for Tommy that was substantial. I have a horse who is willing and accepting of his job. I had a few lessons on Tommy with Birgit and I feel confident I can take Tommy forward from here. We had a good bond before I brought him to Birgit, and I feel like we can really deepen that bond as our career together grows. I highly recommend Birgit as a trainer with feel and am very thankful I found her before I had to resort to other trainers. Thank you so much Birgit for the excellent foundation you gave Tommy! “A house built on sand washes away in the first heavy storm while a house built on rock lasts forever”. – Cheryl Johnston-Schuetz, Prince George (horse in training, spring/summer 2016)
A few years ago, (my husband) Dan and I were fortunate enough to add Sam to our herd. Sam is a rambunctious 4-year-old shire who knows how to “throw her weight around”. I was hoping to train her myself (the fool that I was) and we managed to get her to the point where she was comfortable with a saddle and rider on her back, and a bridle and bit in her mouth. We rambled around the round pen, but never ventured beyond that. She didn’t really know what we wanted her to do, and we had no idea how to teach her. That’s when we decided to hand her over to Birgit for 30 days of training. It was the best money we’ve ever spent on a horse. We are now able to ride her on the roads, through all kinds of trails, and with other horses. She understands walk, jog and lope, on the ground and in the saddle, using our legs as well as voice commands. She stands quietly when we mount, and best of all, she knows NOT to run us over when we lead her around. Without Birgit’s training I am certain that Sam would have been a very expensive moving lawn ornament, with lots of untapped potential. I have recommended Birgit to anyone I know who needs an excellent horse trainer, and I will continue to do so for years to come. Thank you for being there for us. – Riette Kenkel, Valemount, British Columbia (horse in training)
Hey Birgit, I just want to once again thank you for the great job you did training Sam last year. She is so nice to ride, and every time we get her out on the trail her confidence increases a little more. She’s so soft in the bit, listens to our voice commands, and responds to the most subtle movements. I just love her! Thanks! – Riette Kenkel, Valemount, British Columbia (horse in training, 2010)
I am very happy to say that I would recommend Birgit to anyone who wants to have their horse trained. She works magic on the horses she trains. I first learned about Birgit when I was contacted about a book that was going to be written about my horse. Bella was one of the rescued horses from the Renshaw mountains and Birgit was one of the people who spearheaded the rescue. It seemed that the timing of this was perfect. I needed someone to work with Bella and had started the search and then Birgit came along and with her credentials as a Chris Irwin trained professorial it just seemed like it was meant to be and I was correct. Birgit was very dedicated to making sure Bella had the level of training needed so that I would be able to enjoy her on the trails. She handled my horse with consistency and respect, never harsh or cruel. This was very important to me. The communication between Birgit and myself was very good. She provided me with consistent updates and pictures of my Bella’s progress and took the time to answer any questions or concerns I had. I am so excited about now being able to ride Bella out on the trails. I feel safe riding Bella which was the most important goal for me. I would and do recommend Birgit to anyone looking to find a trainer for their horse.” – A Very Happy Customer – Kim Gilbeau, Prince George, B.C. (horse in training, 2010)
My experience using Birgit Stutz as a trainer for my 6-year-old draft/Morgan cross mare has been wonderful. I had tried a trainer closer to home before I sent Aurora to Birgit, and what a disaster. She was there for 2 months and the lady claimed she worked with her for 4-6 hrs. a day every day and stated that she was good to go when we brought her home. Truth be told she did nothing with her, unless it was all bad. Aurora was hard to handle, forget trying to ride her. I couldn’t even catch her. The bridle I sent along hadn’t even been used. What a waste of money and a bad experience. That’s when I decided to send her to Birgit, even though she is 7 hours away. Birgit took the time to start a proper foundation, quite a few sessions were put towards ground work before riding, which I had done for 2 years myself. However because of Birgit being so amazing at what she does when I got my mare back she was easy to catch, I mean practically sticks her head in the halter now. Her head is held low and her eyes are calm, she has her moments but is 90% better. It was very obvious that she had been handled often and properly while in Birgit’s care. As for riding, I believe she was with Birgit for a month and a half or so, including the sessions dedicated to ground work, and my beginner husband has been using her for trail riding, walk, trot, canter. She steps out nicely and is easy to handle. I have faith in Birgit and her training style and will be sending more horses there for sure!! Thank you Birgit for my wonderful mare!! – Kayla Jeck, Chetwynd, British Columbia (horse in training, 2014)
My experience with Falling Star Ranch has been nothing but extraordinary. I sent my two young horses to Birgit this past summer. Not only did she put her experience and knowledge into training my horses, she also gave a caring personal touch in her dealings with me. The horses changed incredibly in the 30 short days they were under Birgit’s guidance, her natural approach definitely worked for them. My personal circumstances changed during the course of time the horses were getting trained, and Birgit responded with care and understanding. Not only did she go out of her way to transport the horses back to me, she also has been incredibly supportive in my efforts to sell my mares to good homes. Most people would just do their job and walk away, but Birgit continues to show she cares for the horses and myself. I would recommend Falling Star Ranch to anyone who wants their horses to be trained in a manner which encourages their natural instincts and abilities, as well as your own well being. – Anna Carle, Hinton, Alberta (horses in training, 2009)
I took my 4-year-old Tennessee walker gelding to Birgit in May of 2009. With him having bucked me off once shortly after I purchased him as a 3-year-old, I was concerned that he would attempt the same thing in 2009. I decided it would be a good thing for me to send him to a qualified trainer to ‘evaluate’ his abilities. I wanted someone to work with him, to find out what he knew and what he needed work on. I didn’t feel I had the ability to do it myself. Also, knowing my fear level was pretty high I knew taking him to someone like Birgit would accomplish more in a three week span, then me fumbling along with him over the entire summer. I was so correct. Birgit worked with him for three weeks, finding out what level he was at and where he needed work, she them took him out on the trail to ‘de-sensitize’ him and get him trail ready for me. Once I knew what he could do and how to ask him to do it we started to work pretty well together. He was moving off my leg with half the amount of pressure I had used in the past and he picked up his gaits a lot easier and kept going in them longer. He was also a lot more relaxed while being ridden. So over all, she ended up producing a well started horse for me to work with. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Birgit. Whether it’s for an evaluation, training or a ‘tune-up’, she can work wonders with your horse. – Barb Gilmour, Jasper, Alberta (horse in training, 2009)
Over the years I have explored and examined several different methods in horsemanship and have watched and participated in a few clinics as well. I learned about numerous different methods, and kept coming back to Chris Irwin. His methods just make the most sense, with no gimmicks. As so many women, I took time off from horses to start a career and a family, and in my late 30’s I decided to get back in the saddle. After taking lessons with Birgit, my riding skills and my confidence increased considerably, but more importantly, my horses responded better to me because I was communicating better with them. I was so pleased with what I learned, that I signed up my kids for lessons with Birgit. Now both of my kids are confident beginners with solid foundations. They still have a long way to go, but at least they are smart, safe and respectful around our horses, which makes our horses more respectful around them. I have recommended Birgit to anyone I know who needs an excellent horse trainer or riding instructor, and I will continue to do so for years to come. Thank you for being there for us. – Riette Kenkel, Valemount, British Columbia (coaching)
I highly recommend working with Birgit if you want to improve your riding and your horse’s attitude. In a short time, I was able to correct some of my mistakes and – after working trough some resistance – my horse’s attitude dramatically improved. I can only praise Birgit’s patience and encouraging attitude. Training with her was the best investment ever for me and my horse. – Yasmine Djabri, Yukon Territory (coaching, training 2010)
Birgit, I wanted to let you know that I finally got a chance to work Bria in the round pen today using Chris’s techniques and it was the best we’ve ever done together. My husband was amazed as I was able to get her following me at liberty. Before her injury and lay up, I was working her regularly, but, she would be very resentful and angry and no bonding was taking place at all. After watching the videos that you suggested and being very careful not to push her head, we had a huge break through today!!! Thank you so much! I have a long way to go, but, at least now I’m on the right track!! – Sherry Mastrogiacomo, Orlando, Florida
Equine Behaviour Workshop
I did not grow up with horses. When I got my own horse I wanted a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. I also wanted to stay safe around them and have fun hanging out with them. Yet little did I know how they communicate with each other, besides the pinned ears, swishing tail and little things like that. I thought there had to be far more to their body language and there certainly is much more! Now I had this horse that had been trained so well but the two of us had communication issues. If you are not the leader on the ground you won’t be in the saddle – it is as simple or complicated as that. Chris Irwin’s method that Birgit has taught me has filled in all these gaps. It was an eye opening experience and a lot of fun to be taught by her. I enjoyed the workshop on equine behaviour and body language immensely and my private lessons too. It has made a huge difference in how I interact with my horses now. To know their body language means I can go with the flow when the ‘game is on’ for my horses. I do not feel intimidated, helpless or scared anymore. These unpleasant feelings have been replaced by smiles and the feeling of being safe around them at all times. I know my horses are much happier too. There is no more guess work, we communicate in horse language. That is the only language they know. They don’t just like me for the treats, they respect me as their leader and trust me. I can not get any better than that. I wish more horse lovers would give this a shot. There is nothing to lose but so much to gain. Why drive hundreds of kilometres to clinics when you can have it right here in the valley?! Thanks again Birgit for another great workshop at Falling Star Ranch! – Elke Vogelpohl, Tete Jaune, Valemount, British Columbia (equine behaviour workshop, coaching)
Thanks so much for a great day yesterday! Your clinic was very informative and lots of fun. It really helped me to understand the techniques by watching others while you were teaching. I also appreciated the feedback I received from you and the other participants. Every time I work with you and the horses, my confidence and my skills improve. Thanks again for hosting the clinic and providing such a warm and relaxed atmosphere in which to learn. I’m looking forward to the next one. – Riette Kenkel, Valemount, British Columbia (horsemanship clinic)
I really enjoyed the women’s workshop with Birgit Stutz and Kathryn Kincannon. The topics were introspective and the skills I learned have benefited me in my daily work as well as improving my horsemanship. I thought I was aware of my own energy, but I was surprised at how the horses could easily detect even the smallest amount of tension in my body. As I lowered my nervous energy the horses quickly responded. It was the best biofeedback I have ever had! By the end of the two days, I felt a stronger connection to myself, the horses and all the women who attended. It was a great atmosphere and great food. I would highly recommend this workshop! – Kim Stewart, Prince George, British Columbia (women’s workshop HERDTALK in 2015)
The experience that Kathryn and Birgit create for the participants and spectators of their clinics is one of mutual respect for horse and human. In a relaxed and tranquil setting natural horsemanship is taught. The utmost care and consideration are given to both horse and participant allowing neither to ever feel training is a battle of wills, it is just understanding. This understanding of the equine language is an amazing and uplifting tool that has permanently changed my horse’s world as well as mine. With my sincere appreciation to Kathryn and Birgit, I will continue to learn and grow in a new communication with my horse “Otto”. Thank you both for sharing the gifts you possess. I highly recommend a visit to Falling Star Ranch for anyone looking to truly bond and find the magic with their horse. – Otto and Mabel Young, Peers, Alberta (women’s workshop)
I want to thank Birgit and Kathryn for hosting the women’s workshop – Herd Talk at Falling Star Ranch. The clinic was very well run and informative; it was a great group of people! Giving a single (or two horse) owner a clear view on the body language of a herd. Not having the opportunity to work with a larger herd it was very interesting to watch and work with so many different horses. This work proved how your own body language is read consistently by each horse. Along with all of this excitement we also learned how to ground drive! I would recommend this workshop to anyone if you have a horse or not. – Cora-Lee Mayert, Prince George, British Columbia (women’s workshop HERDTALK in 2015)
I have tried many different methods of horse training. The method taught at this clinic is the definition of Natural Horsemanship. There are no gimmicks or quick fixes as it is all about the communication and true bonding between human and equine. This connection is so natural that there is no need for special equipment like some of the other methods I’ve tried. Body language is the only thing necessary to achieve a calm, level-headed horse both in hand and under saddle. The experience of watching the clinic has inspired me to learn this language. I know that learning from both Kathryn and Birgit will help me to achieve a mutual, respectful relationship with my horses. I thank them both for sharing their knowledge. – Corinne Grant, Carrot Creek, Alberta (women’s workshop)