There follows some testimonials from students and clients over the years highlighting what they gained from their experience at Mystic Ranch.
Healing at Mystic Ranch
When I first got in touch with Jackie, I thought I was going to be learning how to ride. I thought I was going to be taking my sporadic horseback experiences over a lifetime -- a year here, a year there, decades apart, and what riding skills I’d gathered over those years, willy nilly -- and put a foundation under them that I could use going forward.
Mostly, I was just longing for horse time after a ten-year hiatus. I was new to Southern Oregon, having moved here not even a year prior after thirty years in the San Francisco Bay Area. I felt lost. I needed to ground myself somehow. I missed horses. So in the fall of 2014 I did a google search. And I found Mystic Ranch. What attracted me from the outset was that name, and the fact that it was identified as a Paso Fino ranch. I had loved a Paso Fino and was drawn to the breed. And I am a mystic.
Jackie and I exchanged a couple of emails and I was going to get started, but uterine cancer interrupted my plans. A year later, past surgery and radiation and heading into “survivorship,” I found myself deeply depressed. My trust in life had been shaken to the core. My trust in my body, too. Life was looking very bleak. One night, I remembered her. I searched and found our email exchange. I emailed her and let her know that I had meant to follow through, but cancer had intervened. I got a warm, loving response. I booked a lesson.
I realize now, looking back, that I was deathly afraid of that first lesson. I was afraid to go. I was afraid to meet Jackie. I was afraid to be with horses again. My confidence in life, in my instincts, in my body, had been shaken to the core. And I had not been on horseback in ten years. And the last time I had, my beloved Paso Fino had thrown me and I had been badly injured.
All of this surfaced in me as I made the 45-minute drive from my home to Mystic Ranch. But the minute I arrived, my feelings began to change. Two big happy dogs greeted me with wagging tails and kisses. Jackie was warm and positive and nurturing and exuded the gentle, grounded authority of a gifted teacher. She asked me what I wanted to learn. I told her my history with horses and said I wanted her to teach me as if I were a rank beginner with no experience whatsoever. She talked with me about her approach, and showed me right there, using our bodies, what is involved in communicating with a horse via body language. And how that establishes harmony.
Then I met Mystic, and experienced for the first time what it is to collaborate with a horse, to gain connection, to be given permission to mount and ride, and the unsurpassed beauty of being on horseback with a bareback pad and no bit or reins, and to be able to communicate, even the first time, enough for us to get in sync and want to do the same things. To find my balance. To feel the willing body of this beautiful horse beneath me, and to know we could be One.
This brought me to tears. Because I have been horse crazy since the day I was born. And Jackie and Mystic brought me the experience and the model for being a horse person that I had always dreamed of without knowing it existed. They began to teach me “horseness”... which is far deeper than “horsemanship.”
When I first came to Mystic Ranch, my joy was gone. Jackie helped me find it. When I first came to Mystic ranch, my trust was gone. Jackie helped me find it. When I first came to Mystic Ranch, my gift for leadership was gone. Jackie helped me find it. When I first came to Mystic Ranch, my sense of playfulness was gone. Jackie helped me find it. When I first came to Mystic Ranch, my life balance was gone. Jackie helped me find it.
Yes. A year into working and playing with Jackie and her Pasos, I am a far better rider than I ever imagined I could be.
But here’s the thing. I am healed. In a way I never imagined, after cancer, I could or would be. I am healed and whole. I am confident and expressive and joyful and excited about what is around the next corner. I know I can ride my life, whatever comes.
Jackie Decker and her magical, mystical Pasos gave that to me. Lesson by lesson. Ride by ride. Week by week. They are my teachers. My healers. And my treasured friends.
Jackie Instills Confidence and Trust
What Jackie Decker and Mystic Ranch have to offer is people sharing a passion for horses. Jackie excels at teaching people to relate to their horse in a way that brings out confidence and trust in both horse and human, whether on the ground or in the saddle.
Gold Hill, Oregon
Back in the saddle on Reba
Helping me Become a Girl who "Can"
When I applied to be an exchange student, I never thought that I would come to as magical a place as Mystic Ranch. Ron and Jackie built a wonderful equine paradise together and what Jackie does with the horses is just extraordinary. I am so glad that Ron and Jackie were my host parents. They gave me so much love that my homesickness wasn't so bad. Both of them became very important to me!
I arrived on the 18th of August 2014 in complete darkness. I was super exhausted from the flight from Germany, but I still wanted to see the horses. It was so dark that I couldn’t really see them. But the next day I woke up early and went directly to the horses. I was so happy!
When I first arrived, I was really shy and unsure about myself. It helped me a lot that Anne, the German exchange student from two years ago, was still there visiting and helped support me during my first couple of weeks. My school English did not really help me and all the different ways of living were too much. My favorite sentence was “I can’t.” I said that all the time without trying hard enough. Everything new was too difficult for me. That’s what I thought but when I actually tried new things, I found that I could do them. Sometimes I needed help, but in the end I could do it. It was a big step for me to figure that out. I changed a lot during my ten month stay at Mystic Ranch and I like those changes.
I learned so much during my exchange year! I learned not only a lot about myself but also so much about Natural Horsemanship. Jackie and Kami taught me so much. Kami is the beautiful horse I chose to be my partner for my exchange year. It was difficult for me to belief that the way Jackie works with her horses would work for me. I couldn’t believe that I could just sigh and have the horse stop. I couldn’t imagine that something so easy could work. In Germany, I learned riding the English way, pulling on the reins to stop the horse and kicking to make it go forward. I always wanted to have control over my horse.
I remember the first time I tried to ride Kami bridle-less. I was scared because without reins I knew that I had to give up control. I had to trust my horse. But when my uncertainty was gone all my fears were unnecessary. The horse felt my movement and my body language and we became one! It was a wonderful feeling!!! I never expected that something so magical could happen to me. I never again want to ride a horse before I bond with it. All the ground work with Kami was the way to strengthen our relationship. Horses are just like ‘’big dogs.” A lot of people don’t understand how smart horses are. Jackie’s horses know different colors, words and many tricks. It’s amazing what they can do! In many ways horses are smarter than humans. We can learn a lot from them when we pay enough attention to them and respect them as our partners and not as our sport equipment.
Playing with Kami was as much fun as riding itself. She loves to play hide and seek, tag or to pivot on the pedestal. And her big SMILE makes me smile too!!! As I became more confident, so did Kami. I became a leader for her and so, when she slipped and fell with me on her back in the Redwoods, she trusted me enough to come back to my call. I was very proud of my Kami girl!
I was only able to make this huge progress because of Jackie. Suddenly, the strange things that Jackie did with me at the beginning of my lessons made sense to me. For example, Jackie had me get down on my hands and knees and she sat on my back so I could feel what it feels like for a horse to be ridden. She had me sit down on a big gymnastic ball to practice my balance. I am really happy to have had these experiences. Jackie wasn’t sure at the beginning that I would be confident enough to give Kami confidence, but she let me try and she was there for me when I had difficulties and helped me through all of them. Now I have such a magical connection with Kami. I trust her and she trusts me. I became a horsewoman with Jackie’s help!!! It’s clear that Jackie loves her horses just like children. And her horses love her just as much.
I’m so thankful for all of the support and the love of my second family. Thank you so much Ron and Jackie for letting me have such a great experience!
I fell in love with Kami from the first
I became brave for her
and she gave me everything
Lessons with you are Magical
Every part of each lesson with you and your horses is enlightening, happy, fulfilling, exciting, and full of love and laughter. What magic!
Natural horsemanship leads to natural "kidmanship"
Regaining Confidence with my Jackson - June 2015
Jackie not only helped Jackson regain some balance and softness, but she helped us work together again as a more cohesive team. After a severe riding accident, losing confidence in each other and in ourselves, we asked Jackie for some help. Riding was not fun for us anymore. It became a chore and a challenge every time we would hit the hilly trails around our place.
After Jackie started working with Jackson, she would show me what was helping him and what wasn't. My time was rather limited, so I would first practice on Mystic (what a patient and forgiving fellow he is) and then try the new skills with Jackson. First Mystic and then Jackson learned to give me gentle reminders if I was not quite up to speed with my timing and or signals. Many of which were new! Jackson always knew how to make me chuckle and he would make both Jackie and me laugh if I was not paying attention.
After bringing Jackson back home, we continued practicing half halts, better body language on my part and are enjoying each other again. We both need reminders once in awhile, but are getting there. Now that summer is here, we will start using our new skills on the hills with Jackie's help and support. Thanks Jackie!
For more information on how we helped Jackson, click on Training Case Studies.
Terry and Jackson
Shady Cove, Oregon
Back on the trail with confidence
Overcoming Fear by Creating Magical Connections
I took up riding late in life but fell in love with it! I was cautious and a bit fearful in the beginning but finally was starting to feel comfortable with my riding skills. I was riding at least twice a week since I enjoyed it so much. Unfortunately In December of 2013 I had a devastating riding accident ... my horse spooked and reared and I went flying. I broke my pelvis in 3 places along with other injuries.
It was a long recovery physically but more then that I was heartbroken that something that I loved so much ended with such a bad experience. In my search for answers I came across Mystic Ranch and wrote to Jackie. Jackie was so supportive and somehow I knew that I needed to spend some time with her so I flew up to spend 6 days at her ranch in Oregon.
Jackie's approach to overcoming fear was just what I needed. She started me out with learning about making a connection with your horse on the ground, which was something I had not learned before. The connection that you have on the ground is magical and I will always remember Jackie's horse, Tessa, for that.
Each day Jackie challenged me to step just a little bit more out of my comfort zone so that day by day I found myself doing more and more as my fears receded. When we started I was fearful of everything and after 6 days Jackie and Mystic had me weaving through cones, touching trees, going in the pond, and even riding through the herd. I was amazed!
I don't know where my life with horses will lead...I'm looking for that special horse of my own and feel like Jackie has given me some really good tools to keep myself safe, find my special horse and create my own magical connection with him. The most important part for me is that I feel my heart has healed and I will be forever thankful for that.
Thank you Jackie!
Learning balance, communication & confidence
Mystic Ranch Changed Me
I am Nadja Rietdorff, an exchange student from Germany who spent ten months at Mystic Ranch. I arrived on August 24th 2013 and had to leave on June 29th 2014. This past year has probably been the best that could have happened to me, and that's especially because of Ron, Jackie and Prince. Ron and Jackie were my host parents, and Prince the horse I had been riding. I knew before I arrived that I was supposed to choose one out of three of Jackie's horses as “my own” for the time that Mystic Ranch was going to be my home. Of course, I could never imagine that Ron and Jackie's place would be my forever home and Prince the best horse and teacher I could have desired. I'm not exaggerating when I say that Jackie's horsemanship, Prince's sweet and unique character and Ron and Jackie's love have changed me.
The first thing I wanted to do when I got to the ranch was, of course, to see the horses. I already decided before I left Germany that Prince was going to be the horse I would choose because I always preferred geldings, and the other two were mares. So after I had a few lessons with Mystic, I started taking Prince out for lessons, play times and rides. I didn’t even need to try the other two horses. I had already chosen Prince. And he taught me well, right from the start. Prince and I joined Jackie and Robin on their trip to the Pacific coast where we learned to trust each other because the ocean can be quite scary for a little horse. It took us some time to figure out how to work together and how to understand each other, but Jackie helped me communicate with him in a way that I’ve never communicated with anybody.
The way Jackie treats her horses is how she treats everybody around her. The way she teaches people about horsemanship is pretty much the way she works with horses. I have never had anybody teach me that way. From Jackie and Prince I learned a lot, and the lessons were one of the most fun things I've ever done. I learned that you can play with a horse, instead of go and ride it, and it's more fun for horse and rider. I learned to be patient and wait for the horse to choose you, instead of taking it. I learned to see things from the horse's perspective. After a while, it wasn't hard to see what Prince was thinking and how he was feeling about something. I could tell when he was trying to figure out what I was asking him to do, and it was clear to see when he had fun carrying around a cone for me or jumping over logs at liberty after he first tried to cheat and get his treat by simply walking around it. He also decided all by himself that he was going to jump over two cavaletti with me while I rode him bridleless and couldn't stop him. So Jackie taught me that horses can be your friend, not just your pet. She taught me that I can have fun with my horse in many different ways that are fun for the horse as well. Jackie made the horses seem a little more human and me a little more horse.
However, at Mystic Ranch I not only learned about horsemanship, I also learned a lot about myself. While Jackie taught me her way of working with a horse, Prince taught me to look inside of me and be joyous. He told me that he wanted nothing to do with me if I wasn't happy. He simply walked away. Prince showed me that sometimes I didn't know myself as well as he knew me, and so sometimes all we did together was hang out until I could truly tell him that I was happy and he could be happy too. Several times I found myself sitting on the ground and waiting for him to come back to me. As soon as he was convinced that hanging out with me was fun, he would drop his head and slowly walk over to me. Prince told me not to make him do anything, but to ask and wait for him to say “yes”. He also taught me to calm myself down with a sigh when I was getting frustrated and start all over. This little trick not only helped me with my horsemanship, it also worked in school. When I had to give a presentation to the class and was really nervous, a simple sigh could stop my hands from shaking.
Even now, when I’m playing with a horse, Prince and Jackie are there telling me to be patient, sigh and wait, and most of all to smile and laugh. I will always carry with me what I learned at Mystic Ranch. I’ll now watch other people and their horses and I automatically notice things I would do differently. I have flashbacks of how I sat on the ground, waiting for Prince to come back to me.
Ron, Jackie and Prince taught me self confidence. With their love they helped me to see myself in a different way. When you work with a horse, you need to be self confident. Prince was a pretty insecure horse. He would start nipping me when he got nervous or didn't know the answer to my question. He usually had a quite worried look in his eyes, too. It was my job to tell him he was great and to make the wrinkles on his face disappear and doing so made both of us more confident in each other and in ourselves. Playing with Prince was not only a good lesson, it was also a whole lot of fun! I had never before played with a horse that way. In fact, I had never even thought about “playing” with a horse. Jackie not only has a unique way of teaching, she also spreads joy wherever she goes.
Mystic Ranch has changed me, and I'm so glad it did. I can't find the right words to express how thankful I am that I could become a part of this family. I got to know each one of the horses and learned about their differences. It's amazing how something that was so new to me in the beginning now feels like home.
Unfortunately, two days before I had to go back to Germany, Prince died, but he will always be the horse that was my best friend and the most honest creature I have ever known. He taught me so much. He changed me and I will always carry him with me. Whenever I play with a horse, he is there and reminds me to be patient and happy and to laugh.
I bonded with Prince at the ocean
He loved to play at liberty with me
He was a true "Prince Charming"
I will never forget him
Understanding Samantha the Mule
Three years ago, a friend of mine gave me a mule named Samantha.
I had been thinking of getting a horse for a while but when offered Samantha, I went for her. My friend told me Samantha had been trained to pack and ride. She is sweet and gentle, but Samantha is stubborn.
I wanted to ride her but since I had not ridden a horse in 40 years (and never a mule), I was very rusty. Plus, I had no idea when Samantha had last been ridden.
I decided that taking riding lessons was the way to go. I knew that Mystic Ranch was not far from where I live but did not get around to calling about lessons. As fate would have it, Jackie Decker and I saw each other at a store one day. I told Jackie I had a mule, and wanted to see if she could be ridden. I asked Jackie if she would be willing to give me lessons and she agreed.
A few days later I had my first lesson. Jackie teaches Natural Horsemanship which I knew nothing about. I began my lessons riding Jackie's training horse, Mystic. Jackie started teaching me the basics of Natural Horsemanship. I must admit I am a slow learner, but Jackie was very patient with me. I still have a long way to go, but I have gained confidence in the method. Riding Mystic who is well trained made it easier for me to learn.
I am pleased to have found Jackie who was willing to take Samantha and me on! I had asked a few other people who worked with horses to help, but they were not interested in the challenge. After 3 lessons riding Mystic, Jackie said it was time to start lessons with Samantha. I wanted to use Jackie's facilities so decided to board Samantha at her ranch.
We began on the obstacle course Jackie set up. Jackie was very patient with Samantha. She took her time, and didn't try to force Samantha. Jackie talked Samantha through the course. Now Samantha does a good job. Soon I was able to walk Samantha through the course without Jackie's coaching.
We worked in the round pen and arena walking Samantha through different maneuvers.
Within 5 lessons, Jackie had me riding Samantha. At first Jackie led us around. Then I started steering Samantha myself. Samantha being a mule is naturally stubborn but once she figured out what we wanted her to do, she complied.
Samantha could be very difficult about following directions so Jackie had to think outside the box to get her going. Again, I so appreciated Jackie's extreme patience and gentleness with Samantha.
Getting and keeping forward motion was a challenge, but Jackie kept coming up with a variety of ways to get Samantha moving.
After a few more lessons with Samantha working in the round pen and arena, we decided that Samantha was bored! She didn't want to go around and around any more. Samantha wanted to go somewhere!
We decided to try Samantha out on a trail near Jackie's. I rode Samantha and Jackie rode Mystic. Samantha and I did very well on our first trail ride. We were able to get a few more trail rides in before winter weather hit.
In the spring, Samantha and I plan to take more lessons with Jackie.
I learned a lot from Jackie in a relatively short time. There is still work to be done though!
I like Natural Horsemanship better than the way I used to ride horses.
Jackie, you are an excellent instructor. Thank you for accepting Samantha and me as students even though we are not a team you usually train. I wish I had your patience!
White City, Oregon
You can't tell Samantha what to do
but if you explain things nicely, she will do them
The Education of Xanthus
In the fall of 2012 I took my beautiful black Friesian, Xanthus, to be started under saddle by Jackie. My house had burned down and since rebuilding had to be my first priority, I had no training time for Xan.
Xan is the love of my life. I was there when he was born, and spent a long time tending him after he was bitten in the face by rattlesnakes. We were so close, I just put up with everything, but I did teach him bad habits. He did pull, oh could he pull, and he was pushy for food, and would walk all over you. Much of this I allowed to start when he was so sick.
So, off he went to spend time with you at Mystic Ranch. Let’s just say wow, all the respect you gave in his training is now coming to me in the form of a sweet respectful horse. He will stand waiting politely for his food even while the others are running around like crazy. On the trail he is wonderful. He does just as he is asked, there is no pulling or battles of any kind. He is just wonderful, thanks to you for your patience and caring in the schooling you gave him. Thanks to Roger for all his work as well. Xan and I are going to head to the coast for a ride. This would never have been a possibility before his time with you. Without your help, he could have been a big pasture toy, not my Xan. He is loving going out on these adventures with me.
Thanks again. We will see you when Indigo is ready for her schooling.
For more information on how we helped Xan, click on Training Case Studies.
Erin riding her Xan
One stunning horse!
A New Understanding of Horses
I spent about 10 years away from horses and riding. Missing it terribly, I bought another horse. I was shocked on how fearful I was and how rusty my riding skills were. I took numerous lessons from different instructors for years hoping to restore my riding ability and confidence from my younger years. I was still very fearful and sad and frustrated that I was unable to find that comfort level that I had once had.
I then met Jackie. Her approach was so different from anyone else. She taught me about the horse's mind and its movement and how to build a partnership with my horse based on communicating with body language, energy and relaxation. I rode her horse Mystic, who is a teacher as well. He was my mirror and she was able to see by watching him if I was nervous or not riding correctly. I would make the adjustment she suggested and feel the change instantly in Mystic.
I still continue and look forward to my lessons with Jackie. I have this wonderful and new trusting relationship with my horses. They actually want to be ridden and want to be with me. Thank you Jackie for giving me my dream and teaching me to connect with a horse in a way I never thought could happen.
Riding Mystic on the road
The Magic of Mystic Ranch
Two years ago I applied to become an exchange student in the United States. I didn’t know what would happen next and where I would come but I had one big dream. I wanted to be somewhere with horses! I was very lucky because Jackie and Ron Decker invited me to come live with them at Mystic Ranch and made my dream came true (even more than I could think at that time). It was still hard to leave my family and my horse in Germany but I did it and came for one year to Mystic Ranch. It was an awesome year.
Even when I first arrived I could feel the magic of this place. Everything here is peaceful and all of the animals seem to love life here and that was true for me too. During this year I saw many people come with their horses and they all seemed to have the same feeling. One of the things that make this place so magic is Jackie.
The brochure for Mystic Ranch says that Jackie is a horse whisperer and that is completely true. I had one year to watch her work with her horses, horses in training and with horses that she started under saddle. Jackie really reads the horse; she gives them time to think about the right answer and she gives them the opportunity to decide for themselves. In Jackie’s view, horses are not bad because there are afraid to do something or because they don’t know how to do something. Teaching the horse what we want and how they can do it is the human’s responsibility. Jackie takes the time to get to know the horse and its personality. First she always starts on the ground, testing out the horse and then she will decide what exercises will help the horse learn. Jackie really knows the different types of horses and problems a horse can have. Even if she encounters a new issue with a horse, she will experiment and develop clever ideas to help the horse and she will find the answer.
In the one year I lived there I saw much and learned much. I was riding her youngest horse Maia and Jackie was always there to help me understand Maia better and to help me build a relationship with her. I saw the same thing when she gives lessons. She has the talent to explain what the horse is thinking to people of every age and I never saw anybody get bored with her lessons. She gives lessons to little five year olds up to adults and always at the end of a lesson I can see in their eyes how much fun they had and the wonder of harmonizing with the horse.
Horses are really Jackie’s love and passion. She understands horses and horses trust her. I saw all kinds of horses from the little miniatures to the big Friesians come, learn and succeed. Another great thing about Mystic Ranch is Jackie’s Paso Finos. Every time we went down to the barn there were at least two to all eight of her horses standing at the gate greeting us. Every one of them loves to go out with Jackie to do tricks and ground work. They also love to ride in the arena, trail course, pasture, down the road and on the trails.
It is just magic at Mystic Ranch and I will come back here as often as I can!
An image of perfect trust
Anne and Maia jumping
Anne and Maia swimming
Learning to Understand Smidge
Sixty seven years ago I was born with the horse gene. Although I had never had a lesson, I had ridden from the time I was a child up until a recent 20 yr. hiatus. Then last year after going with a friend to "just look" at a horse, she insisted I get on, and well, you know the story from here....I was bitten with the addiction again. So I started the horse search, looking for an easy gaited horse with some spirit, sweet, and smooth. My search led me to "Smidge", a 6yr old Paso Fino gelding. I rode him solo for almost a year, and found him to be a really fun horse...sweet, mannerly, forward going, with lots of go, very willing with a mouth of cotton.... and his outstandingly consistent, smooth, natural gaits are like riding on a cloud. "Our" only problem seemed to be "the cows". It quickly became clear that he had never been used to herd cattle! After the second time we had come upon some cows and he had spun & darted out from under me, leaving me on the ground, I realized that at 66 years old I needed help in resolving this issue or I would have to sell him....and the second choice was not an option.
So I began researching the web for local trainers and talked with many. As soon as I spoke with Jackie it was evident that she understood from Smidge's point of view what HE was experiencing and was savvy as to what Smidge needed. I thought he needed to become a braver horse. So, Smidge started his month with Jackie.
What I soon learned from her was that Smidge already IS a brave horse. It was I who didn't know how to read him. Jackie made me realize that Smidge is a very willing horse that wants to please so much and I was getting us in trouble by not realizing this and not reading his body language. As a result, I was pushing him past his threshold of comfort. By learning to notice of his “red flags:” his high head, quickness of breath, lack of blinking eyes and tense lips, I have learned to now give him the time he needs at that point to relax and chew, and then I can then ask a little more from him without the risk of flight. I now take the time necessary for him to feel good about himself, his environment, and me as his leader and he knows I'll keep him safe....and as a result I know he'll keep me safe too! All this, thanks to Jackie.
Since Smidge's month in training, I have since taken a couple of lessons from Jackie and have learned so much (and yet only scratching the surface). She is an outstanding teacher with such verve and feel for people as well as horses. She has such a talent for helping me to not only DO, but explaining WHY I do it, and how it feels for me and my horse as a result....awesome! I hope to back with Smidge at Mystic Ranch in the spring. Thank you Jackie for getting me back my special horse.
To learn about how we helped Smidge, please click here: Case Studies
Smidge in the pond
Smidge facing cows!
Learning Leadership & Communication Skills
Jackie has offered my daughter, one of her riding students, the most rewarding & enlightening experience of horsemanship. Jackie's coaching brilliance & genuine passion for horses have empowered my daughter to communicate with boldness. Initially timid & ambivalent, my daughter has learned to project confidence in her interactions with horses and humans. The lifelong lessons of horsemanship, which thrives upon effective leadership & communication skills, apply to critical life experiences extending beyond the boundaries of Jackie's idyllic ranch.
We simply love Jackie & strive to make her proud always!
- Jackie D. from Mystic Ranch replied to this review on September 14, 2012:
It has been such a pleasure having Mekella as a student. She is a small child, without the strength to MAKE Mystic do anything. What she is learning is that riding, and life, are not about making others do something. It is about finding your balance, confidence and relaxation, having a plan that takes into account your needs and theirs, asking politely and believing in yourself and others. As her skills have developed, this dynamo of a child is convincing my big Mystic boy that she is a leader worth following, someone he can trust. Thank you Immanuel for supporting her on this journey.
Riding Mystic in the pond
Riding Mystic on the trail
Horses Teach Confidence
If you start riding lessons with Jackie Decker, board your horse at Mystic Ranch or would like additional training for your horse... be prepared for a wonderful experience!
My daughter started lessons with Jackie over a year ago. She is a YouTube fanatic and saw the videos that Jackie had posted and asked to go to Mystic Ranch for a visit. From the moment we met Jackie, we knew that she loved her horses and teaching about Natural Horsemanship. She immediately launched into what she does and before we knew it, she had my daughter on Mystic, her training horse. My daughter and I loved every minute of our impromptu lesson! Since that day, we have continued lessons with Jackie every Saturday (weather permitting). Jackie's ranch is beautiful, her horses are wonderful, each with their own distinct personality. We all enjoy going to the ranch each weekend for lessons!
In the past year, we have witnessed a huge change in our daughter Lindsey. She is so much more confident and assertive now in her everyday life. We attribute this change to her lessons with Jackie. Lindsey has to be a leader to effectively communicate what she would like the horse to do. With starting high school this year, she's noticed that her confidence has increased along with her assertiveness.
Jackie is such a special person to us. We love her and consider her part of our family. She has taught us all so much about horses and life in general. We are truly blessed to know her as you will be too.
Riding the trail course
Riding the trail
Learning about Horses & Life at Mystic Ranch
My daughter wanted horseback riding lessons a couple of years ago and Gramma wanted to pay for them for Christmas. So, I searched the internet and kept coming up with Mystic Ranch. My daughter and I are very spiritual and "Mystic" just felt right. The more I read about the ranch and Jackie and her horses, the better I felt about it. I called & spoke with Jackie & I think her husband, Ron, too. I knew after talking to them this was the place. We've had such an amazing experience and it has turned out to be so much more than just riding lessons. There is a peace & serenity that is felt upon entering their property and then the lessons begin. My daughter, & myself just from watching, has learned how to communicate with horses, read them, ask them to do things, read their body language, and so much more! Each time we go out for a lesson both of us learn so much and are much better for it. We've never left the ranch feeling anything but good. And to top it off, my daughter is more confident about everyday life, & its all from her Natural Horsemanship lessons at Mystic Ranch. Thank you Jackie, Ron, Mystic, Tori, & Maia.
July 16, 2012
Jackie D. from Mystic Ranch replied to this testimonial on September 14, 2012:
Thanks so much Kris. It has been such a delight watching Misty develop over the last couple of years. It makes me so happy to know that you tapped into the peace of Mystic Ranch and blossomed as you learned more about horses and yourselves.
Thank you for coming on that journey with me and my horses.
Synching up with Mystic
Riding Prince with just the ball on a stick
Finding Mindfulness at Mystic Ranch
Mystic Ranch is one of my favorite places to be. It is comforting and peaceful and full of love. I'm always challenged by the horses (and Jackie Decker) to be connected, calm and authentic. They are superb teachers of mindfulness. The kitties are superb teachers of humility:)
June 10, 2012
Horse Camp at Mystic Paso Fino Ranch
I had the pleasure of spending a day and a half at Mystic Ranch early in my Natural Horsemanship journey. The time spent was one of the best things I’ve done and prepared me to begin working in partnership with my horse.
Jackie is a fabulous teacher and I must say that Mystic is as well. Jackie’s passion for partnering with her equine‘kids’ is palpable. To watch her tune in to her horses is a lesson in itself, and Jackie is able to teach this skill to others. Jackie demonstrated skills, worked with me, cued me and coached me until she saw the skill emerging. We were also able to practice the skills with a variety of horsenalities which will help me solidify my newfound skills.
Jackie completed each session with a personalized write up of what we worked on. We covered so much ground in the time I was there, I was grateful to take that write up home with me. It as like horse camp for grown-ups.
The Ranch is ideally designed as a classroom, complete with round-pen, arena and wonderful trail course. Jackie and Ron were wonderful hosts and I look forward to my next lesson day at Mystic Ranch.
Discovering Positive Reinforcement and Harmony
I rescued my Thoroughbred – Ty – on Christmas Eve. He was abandoned, severely underweight, and didn’t seem particularly fond of people, though he wasn’t mean. I didn’t know much about him, but I took a chance and hoped I could eventually feel confident riding him, particularly on trails. I knew I wanted the best trainer I could find – and afford – who would be understanding and treat him with kindness. Based on a strong recommendation from an acquaintance, I took him to Mystic Ranch.
Upon arriving, I was immediately impressed with the grounds and the facility. And more important, Jackie was exactly what I needed – an excellent trainer for ME, as well as Ty. She had amazing ‘control’ on Ty’s back after only two weeks of training, and she worked hard to get me up to speed in a very supportive way, teaching me to work with Ty as a team. The skills Jackie taught me in just a few lessons have drastically improved my relationship with Ty. The keys were understanding the horse’s behavior, using positive reinforcement and working in harmony with him. Training through fear and pain was not an option for me, especially with a neglected and possibly abused horse.
I wanted a great relationship with my horse, who I’ve come to love, and now I have it. He now greets me when I go out to see him (no more chasing), chooses to be with me, is respectful of my space, and we have great communication, thanks to the two months Ty spent at Mystic Ranch.
Owner of Ty
September 1, 2011
Horsemanship and Life Coach
I am so happy to tell you about Jackie Decker and her incredible Mystic Ranch. My niece has always had a great love for horses and about six months ago decided to go on-line to see if she could find the right person to teach her about horses. Little did we know what a great influence Jackie Decker would be on my niece.
At the time, my niece was having self-esteem issues. She used to be a very confident young lady, but over the years listening to what other kids said to her, she unfortunately had lost her confidence.
I went to one of my niece's first lessons and I could see that Jackie is very dedicated to her horses and her clients. She goes above and beyond to make sure that each student understands the lesson that day and she is a master at explaining her ideas to her students. She has the utmost respect for her horses and they also have great respect for her. She makes learning fun for the horses as well as her clients.
If that was all she learned, we would have been very happy, but there was an added bonus that none of us expected from her lessons with Jackie. My niece's confidence in herself started to grow as well!!
I am a life coach and I know that the issues that I help people most with are helping people find their power within and their self esteem.
One of the first things my niece learned on her first lesson is that she has to be the leader when she was around the horses or the horses would think that they are the boss. To have a successful working relationship with the horses there has to be is mutual respect and to be respected by the horses, you have to respect yourself!
Now you can imagine how intimidating these animals can be and yet you have to be the boss! To a young lady who wasn't feeling very confident in herself at the time, this was a daunting task. Jackie guided her week after week and slowly showed my niece that she could do so much more than she ever dreamed for herself.
Since I live in Arizona, I had only seen one of my niece's lessons until a few weeks ago when I was in town. The first day I saw her, she was having a hard time keeping her balance on the horse and during the recent lesson six months later, she was jumping over obstacles and her horse knew that she was the boss.
You can imagine how that translates in her everyday life. If you have enough confidence to be respected by your horse then you obviously have found your power.
After the first lesson I asked Jackie if she realized that she was not only a wonderful teacher of horsemanship, but that she was also a life coach. Each horsemanship lesson that she teaches translates into life lessons.
I am so grateful that my niece is spending time with Jackie once a week. I can't think of a better role model, not only to learn natural horsemanship, but also how to move through life with confidence.
Riding up the road
Riding on the trail
I Love Lessons with Mystic
I love having lessons with you. You always make me feel happy. When we ride, I love it. I love learning new stuff.
I hope I know you and Mystic forever. It makes me so happy to ride.
Riley N. Lovich
Horsey Heaven at Mystic Ranch
Mystic Ranch is a slice of horsey and human heaven. My horse Cisco is living in safe and comfortable semi-retirement at Mystic Ranch. Even though Cisco and I have been together for almost 20 years, each time I come to Mystic Ranch, I learn something new about Cisco and myself as a rider. Jackie is an intuitive and patient teacher. She can see the “why” of a situation very clearly both in what is happening in Cisco and what is happening in me – and even better she can help me see it too! She has made me a more confident rider and Cisco a more confident and trusting horse. The thing I love best about my lessons with Jackie is that she has great instincts for when I am ready for more and when I am playing it too safe with things in my comfort zone. I am better every time I ride with her.
Jackie also teaches my two young children Alyssa, 11 who rides Mystic and Erik, 8 who rides Tori. The kids both feel very confident and safe with Jackie and her wonderful school horses.
Alyssa has cerebral palsy and has made great strides in her balance and confidence riding Mystic. Last year trotting was a stretch. This year Alyssa started doing some cantering. Jackie is great at helping her position her body to stay balanced, be a better rider and communicate effectively with Mystic. It is a thrill to see them and how much she improves with each visit.
It also has been a great experience for Erik who was a little nervous at first to be around horses, but has a very natural seat and now is quite comfortable with horses.
Thanks to Jackie and Ron for a FANTASTIC experience at Mystic Ranch.
Alyssa and Mystic
I love riding with Mystic and you. Cantering was like flying on a horse. I’m still a bit confused on how to canter though because I get out of balance and bounce sometimes so I still need help with that please. I can’t wait for my next lesson. Thanks a billion.
I love Mystic Ranch and you guys. Take care of Mystic for me. He’s MY boy!
Boo hoo moo moo moo, don’t want to leave!
Erik and Tori
I love Tori. OK, I love to ride on her and I made up this song about her.
I love you Tori.
Thoughts About Our Year at Mystic Ranch
I moved my horses to Mystic Ranch a year ago this month. What a change has come over them both as a result of your very, special care. What a change has come over me now that I can more accurately 'read' my horses. The change that Mystic Ranch and Natural Horsemanship have made in our lives cannot be over estimated.
I'd like people that read your website to know:
My Sandor has always been a love of any stable where he has been. He was also known as a 'spooky' little Arab. I had another trainer work with him for 7 years to teach him to 'spook in place' and not to run through the trainer's rein (mine was a different story). We worked on 'half halts' with a snaffle bit and she worked in lots of bends and laterals. Fear of the unknown (his mindset) and inability to read him properly when stressed kept me on pins and needles when on his back. He has always been a gentle horse when it comes to ground manners. He loves me there is no doubt, but my inability to read his body language and cue him properly kept us from having the riding relationship that would have us work as one.
I found that in less than a year with Jackie, he has become self assured and far less likely to 'spook'. I have been riding him without a bit and have learned and am continuing to learn
how to use my body language and gentle pressure from my legs in time with his feet to ‘aid’ his movements in a way he understands. I no longer am cranking his head around trying to enforce my will through short-lived pointed pain (half halts with a bit). I love not having to use a bit! I'm also riding with a bareback pad. That was unthinkable at other stables and boy has it improved my balance and seat.
Jackie has taught me and him, more in just a few lessons than I learned in years of training at other stables. My horses are more content as am I. The language between us becomes clearer with each lesson.
Nubbins, our other horse is an 8yr old Connemara. He was insecure and was a relentless bully to his much older 'Uncle' Sandor. Sandor, gentleman that he is, just put up with him. Jackie observed and then had a plan. Once again she read the horse correctly, came up with a re-education solution that has worked wonderfully. Her education is never cruel or painful for either me or the horse. She has an innate ability to read a horse and to teach that are seldom found, but much needed. My first instructor treated horses as though they were cars, the second as though they were people. I feel both I and my horses are so fortunate to have found a trainer that strives to enhance our experiences so that we have best relationship possible.
I am thrilled with the progress we have all made in under a year with her care. I am playing games with the horses. They are not at all intimidated by the swinging tarps in the Trail Course. They have learned to open and close gates, stand on and cross bridges, walk through ponds, back through tight spots, learn to” touch it” with noses and hooves upon command and stand with all 4 hooves in a limited amount of space. Most of all they are learning to completely trust me and I them. What an amazingly wonderful year we have had at Mystic Ranch.
We are so grateful to have found Jackie Decker and Natural Horsemanship. Lucky us!!!!
Thank you Jackie and Mystic for your patience and guidance,
Jenny Miller, Sandor & Nubbins
Jenny loves her Sandor
Riding the pasture
Walking with her boy
This is Where I Belong
It makes me feel one with the world!
It makes me happy and I feel like this is where I belong.
I grew up around horses & had my own horse at the same age my daughter is now, 11 years old. My daughter, Misty, had shown interest in horses but had only been on one a couple of times. I decided I wanted my daughter to be able to experience some of the wonderful things that come from being around horses, learning about them, and riding them. My daughter is also a bit shy & not as self-confident as she could be so I was really hoping this would help her.
When I searched for horseback riding lessons online I kept coming up with Mystic Ranch. That had to be a sign. Jackie & Ron were great on the phone and were able to set us up with a riding lesson gift certificate for Misty from her Gramma. Even though we started in winter we were able to work around the bad weather & get Misty started. I was amazed from the beginning. Jackie is an incredible teacher & very safety conscious. She has a way of teaching that is positive & explains the “why’s” & “how’s” of what she is teaching. Misty was started on the ground learning to work with Mystic, read his body language, and keep Mystic out of her space. Then she was up on Mystic’s back, learning more. She was a bit timid at first, but loved it just the same. Jackie always made sure Misty was comfortable, so both she & Mystic were safe.
As soon as we left the ranch Misty wanted to know when her next lesson was! And this was from a girl that I couldn’t really get interested in much of anything.
Misty has learned so much about horses, their behavior, their thinking, & also about herself. Jackie teaches so much more than just riding. It’s an amazing process, watching Jackie work with her horses using Natural Horsemanship. Mystic is a wonderful teacher also. Jackie knows if Misty isn’t doing something correctly by Mystic’s response to her.
Misty has also had the pleasure of learning to help Jackie doing “colt starting work” with a young 2 year old filly, Maia. This has been such a gift to us to have Misty work with Maia. I was able to watch while my daughter helped Jackie teach the filly to parallel park next to Misty to be mounted, & working up to having Misty be the first person on Maia’s back! Watching Misty teach Maia to walk, whoa and back up to her seat has been an amazing experience. Misty’s confidence & poise has risen so much from this & I’m so proud of her. She has come a long way in a short time.
Misty has also changed at home, in a very good way. She is happier & more confident and this is spilling over into her schoolwork as well. Being at the ranch has been so good for both my daughter & for me. I’ve learned so much just by watching & listening and I can’t wait until it’s my time to take lessons!
I forgot to mention that Jackie sends pictures from each lesson with feedback about the lesson that is just invaluable. Again, such a great learning tool.
Our time with Jackie & her horses has been magical.
Thanks Jackie, Mystic, Tori, & Maia.
Kris & Misty Allen
Misty riding Maia
Misty riding Mystic
Greetings from Greece
My name is Maria Mitrouli and I am from Greece. I am training in Therapeutic Horse Riding in the Therapeutic Riding Association of Greece, and getting to know the horse and how to form a trusting relationship with it is a challenge for me. Browsing the internet for horse psychology and natural horsemanship I came across your videos, and it was an enlightening, almost mystical experience. As if I had a glimpse at the inner essence of the nature of the horse. I am more than thankful for this gift you gave me.
I have studied Psychology and I am planning to dedicate myself to animal (mostly equine) assisted therapy. I hope someday I will be able to have my own ranch where people of all ages and mental/physical conditions can be trained in natural horsemanship and enjoy the benefits of riding and therapeutic horse riding.
It would be wonderful if we could keep in touch. ?
I wish you the best and great success for your ranch and you as therapists, trainers and breeders.
I hope to hear from you soon, and I would love to hear any advice you may have to give me.
Good hearing from you. I'm delighted that you enjoyed my videos and I admire your life objective. You couldn't find a better partner in your quest than the horse. Take a look at these photos of a young filly, Kami and watch her body language as she processes her emotions: caution, questions, losing confidence, gaining it back.
Horses are amazing teachers. They have been used for years to help people with physical disabilities learn better balance and to use their bodies better. But truthfully, if you open your heart to the horse it can help anyone to become more physically and emotionally balanced. Horses, as prey animals, can read what is going on inside a human predator like a book. Their lives depend on being able to do so and you cannot lie to a horse. Tension, hostility, irritation, frustration, duplicity, lack of confidence and fear, all radiate clearly to the horse and make it concerned. Those emotions may signal that you will eat him. You are that dangerous. Depending on the horsenality of the horse and its past experiences, it can react to these negative human emotions by shutting down and going inside itself, trying to flee, or trying to fight or dominate you.
So, if you see one of these reactions from the horse, it is telling you that you need to change something inside of you if you want it to feel safe, comfortable and desire to be with you and follow you. Horses, as herd animals, find safety, comfort and companionship in having a good, assertive, calm, confident, kind, consistent, honest herd leader with good ideas to follow. To the horse, a good idea is one that never hurts or frightens them or puts them in danger. Provide them with that leadership and the horse chooses to follow you.
Herein lies the teaching capacity of the horse. When we stop thinking that the horse is misbehaving and realize that it is communicating with us, the fear, frustration and irritation of working with horses disappears. If the horse doesn't do what you ask of it, it is for one of 3 reasons: confusion, fear or lack of respect.
The horse may not understand what you want because your body language is unclear or inconsistent. A good example of this is the person who asks the horse to go forward, but is afraid it will go too fast and so says "go" then pulls on the reins immediately to say "slow." The horse becomes confused, and quickly decides that it makes no sense to "go" when asked, because the human will just pull on its mouth immediately. A lot of dull horses have been created by this behavior. You need to be very clear in your body language what you want from the horse and you need to mean it. If you ask the horse to go forward, move with the horse forward, don’t hold it back. For people, this teaches being clear in their own mind and body language, being honest with themselves about what they feel safe to do, being consistent in their behavior.
The horse also might be scared to do what you ask of it. Horses are very cautious animals. They don't like new things or to take risks. Once they are habituated to something that has not harmed them, it is by definition "safe." If something is different from normal, the horse's instinct is to be careful until it has determined, at its own pace, that the thing is not dangerous. We humans often look at the piece of plastic flopping and say "it’s just a piece of plastic, nothing to be afraid of. You will go past it." The problem that creates for the horse is that you are telling it that you either are unaware of its fear, don’t care that it has concerns and in either case will force it to do something that is frightening it. What kind of leader do you think that looks like to the horse? Horses are curious animals if you give them the opportunity to examine something from multiple sides, approaching it and retreating until they can actually reach their noses out to touch the new object, or paw it with their hooves. If the horse stops with its head up in the air, its eyes and ears fixed on something, with tension in its body, it is telling you it has a concern. If you pay attention to the horse’s thresholds, relax your own body and wait for the horse to lick and chew, blink its eyes, glance around, then ask it to go forward, the horse is far more likely to do so and to trust your judgment when it has concerns. For people, this teaches them to be sensitive to the body language and emotions of another, to recognize and respond to fears and lack of confidence in a way that builds trust and respect.
By the way, the horse’s fear may not be of something external, but of the human itself. Anger, hostility, irritation, strong repressed emotions will frighten horses – sometimes to the point that the horse will freeze and be unable to think at all, or can result in triggering a flight or fight instinct. In each case, punishing or forcing the horse simply will make the situation worse. Aggressive men most often trigger these responses with horses (though I’ve known women to do it too) and it is interesting to see how the same horse can melt into calm submission with someone who is an assertive, calm leader and behave very badly for someone with these strong emotions.
The horse also may not think you’re a good enough leader to be entrusted with making its decisions. It is important to herd animals to know who the leader is because when danger strikes, they need to know who will decide what to do. People who are unassertive or timid or fearful don’t seem like good candidates for leadership to the horse. In this regard, you need to say what you mean and mean what you say – but always in a way that respects the horse, and neither hurts nor frightens him. Give him choices, let him make the wrong choice, cause a consequence the horse doesn’t like, let it think about it and ask to make a different choice, to follow your feel and your leadership. Never hold a grudge, never get mad. Always reward the slightest try in the right direction. Think about those lessons in becoming a balanced human being.
Wow, I have gone on longer than I intended on this. You can tell I am passionate about horses and what they teach us. Enjoy your journey.
All my best,
Kami asking a question
Kami concerned by a predator
Deciding she is safe
June 2009 Play Date Thoughts
I just wanted to say thank you for hosting the play date. Heather and I had a really wonderful time. It was so interesting on the drive home, how we were comparing notes on what lessons were like when we first started with horses, and where we’ve ended up now. Such a contrast!
I think a lot of riding instructors owe me some refund money for teaching me the wrong stuff!!! ;-D And I owe a lot of horses bags of carrots and apologies for making their life difficult.
One “Wow” moment was when I realized my circle leg cues have been backwards and plain confusing. Early on I remember being taught to lead the nose with the rein, support the shoulder with your inside leg at the girth (so it doesn’t fall in) and bend the body around the inside leg by having the outside leg back towards the hindquarters to “put the horse on the circle”. What I felt today when you showed us the opposite was so much better. It made perfect sense when you demonstrated it on us, having the inside leg behind the girth and the outside leg in front of the girth. You hardly even needed the rein. That feel is way better and it flowed so nicely.
I really liked the way you use your hips to start the back, and can add leg in time to the lifting of their front feet to round the body. That felt really nice. When you find that right groove, the horses offer so much more, lightly and flexibly. It helped closing my eyes. I could feel the back up so much better, and it helped me keep my head up rather than looking down at the shoulders and weighting that front end.
With the leg yields, I started to recognize that sideways “rocking” feel and help the hind leg step over. Once you get it all coordinated it flows so nicely. But you’re right, you can’t think about it or you miss it. When my brain was working, my body bogged down and stiffened. It helped when you said “now”, “now”, “now” as the leg came up. I could connect the feel of the horse to what my timing needed to be.
All in all it was really cool. Thank you.
Tami and Prince at play date
Tami and Tessa
Watching the DVD of Dennis Reis and Prince
We watched the DVD of Dennis Reis playing with Prince earlier tonight and are so impressed. We loved the introduction you put together. WOW! What a boy Prince is! He is such a precious horse and just amazing for the age he is. You certainly have done an outstanding job with him, to say the least, and it is so nice for us to be able to see this.
Since we have not seen the Dennis Reis clinics before, it was a very interesting learning experience for us as well to see his first ride on Prince done with nothing on Prince's head.
Prince reminds me an awful lot of Alejandro. These horses do have such a gentle mannerism and trusting nature. This has also very obviously been enhanced by the bond you have with Prince and the confidence you have built in him. He is certainly a beautiful horse and has done us all proud and is a testament to your abilities as a trainer and rider as well. What an honor to be able to see this result. I am going to enjoy watching it again!! Mystic did an awesome job as well!
Thanks so much for taking the time to make and send the DVD. It is truly appreciated.
Owner of Alejandro de Vez – Prince’s sire
Prince as foal
Dennis doing bridle-less first ride
Thank goodness for Jackie Decker and Mystic Ranch
I am a horse owner who had many horses and couldn’t enjoy riding any of them. I had dreams of pleasure riding with my three young daughters. Well, I kept getting horses but wasn’t doing any riding because of a variety of problems. In addition, my daughters’ ponies were stubborn and one was very intimidating, so my daughters didn’t want to ride either. So much for my dreams.
When I met Jackie and heard her talk about Natural Horsemanship and developing a partnership with your horse, I was intrigued. I brought one horse to her to start with and now we have sent all six of our horses and ponies to Jackie for training. To say I was impressed with the change in my relationships with my horses is an under statement. My daughters and I have also enjoyed taking lessons with her to improve our riding skills and our understanding of our animals.
Our horses/ponies had a variety of personalities and it has been fascinating to watch them all respond to Jackie and her training methods. Each of our horses had a different issue for us to work through and with Jackie’s guidance we were able to solve the problems we had been dealing with.
My daughters and I all tend to be somewhat retiring and it took Jackie to teach us how to respond to our dominant mare and gelding. They were really ruling the roost at our place. We were a little leery of even being in the same pasture with them. Now my seven-year-old twins are able to handle them without difficulty using the skills and confidence they have gained from Jackie. I still find a dominating horse a challenge to work with but the rewards have been many. My gelding was just looking for a good leader and when I was finally able to be that for him it was amazing to see the change in his attitude. Now I can appreciate all his wonderful qualities since he’s not pushing me around.
Another mare came to us with a background in gaming and she was always ready to go. She found it impossible to walk on a loose rein and any tension in your body translated to her as “go faster.” “Whoa” was not really in her vocabulary. I was starting to think that we would have to find her a new home but then she spent her month with Jackie. Just recently I rode her wearing her halter and lead line tied off in reins on a day ride with a large group of horses and she was relaxed and on a loose rein the whole day. Finally, both she and I could relax and enjoy a ride.
I also had two young Rocky Mountain Horses that had been in training with someone else most of the time that I owned them but they still seemed to be flighty and afraid of everything. They weren’t gaiting either. Jackie was able to show me how to build their confidence (and mine!) and to let them learn new things in a safe manner. Watching them ride out alone and do Jackie’s obstacle course successfully made me so proud of them. They both are the sweethearts of our horse family and a pleasure to ride. My ten-year-old daughter is looking to move up to the mare since she feels she has outgrown her pony and I think it will be a good match. Oh, and as a bonus, Jackie also has the gelding gaiting beautifully.
The two ponies had the typical problems of many ponies ridden by small children. Not much respect for the rider and trouble with steering, going, stopping and just general bad manners. My children needed to be taught how to treat a pony correctly and become riders and not just passengers. I have to say that the kids and the ponies are doing great. I am so proud to see what good riders they have become and the confidence they have with their little mares. They love their riding lessons.
I cannot say enough good things about Jackie and her training methods. I was really ready to just get out of owning horses. I was becoming concerning that I or my children could get hurt and I was tired of spending lots of money and not having any pleasure in riding. I realize now that you cannot buy the perfect horse. You need to develop a relationship based on learning what the horse needs from you as the rider. They really will do anything for you when you develop that trust and respect. We always loved our animals but now we love riding them too.
Thank you Jackie!
The Magic of Horses
Hi Jackie, well I finally got the CD with lots of photos in the mail to you….I just love all the photos but I must say that the picture of Erin on Mystic in front of your house is an awesome picture of Mystic and Erin and one of the photos of Mystic and Erin jumping over the logs is outstanding!!! Then there are the pictures of Prince when he is getting scratched and what he does with his lips, well, it is classic and too funny...What a personality Prince has...I just love him. Prince licked me like a dog would lick a person…Unbelievable. Then there is Mocha the silly carrot eating dog!! What a sweetheart he is... And the photos of all the other horses are absolutely beautiful... Your place is truly a sanctuary! What a blessing for Erin and I to have met you and yours!!!!
The way you have taught Erin to be with horses is top of the line. It is like you and your horse are one. Then your horses become one with your student or their student (I mean your horses' student). I have never been around horses ever in my whole life, but now I feel the magic and the inner spirit that people talk about in horses. It is a healing, good thing. And maybe it is just your horses…or maybe it is because of you—their MOM, FRIEND and TRAINER!
Thank you and your whole household for welcoming us with open arms. We cannot wait to see you and yours again.
Kelly & Erin Borroughs
July 30, 2008
A Natural Horsemanship Vacation with Jackie and Mystic
I had horses as a child and reached the point in my life when I really wanted horses in my life again. Having seen Monty Roberts, I also realized that I wanted to partner with my horse in a natural way. I wanted a gaited horse and had been looking at different Paso Fino ranches and came across the web site for Mystic Ranch. I read some of the testimonials and stories on their web site. There was something about Mystic Ranch that drew me. Jackie told me that she based her teaching on Parelli and Dennis Reis. Reading up on it, I found that "Parelli allows horse lovers to achieve: success without force, partnership without dominance, teamwork without fear, willingness without intimidation, and harmony without coercion." That sounded very promising.
I stopped by for a visit as I went from California to our home inWashington. Jackie Decker (owner/trainer at Mystic Ranch) demonstrated her partnership with her horses to us that morning. Several times, I was so overwrought by emotion that I had to force back tears. She showed us how she works with the horse through very subtle motions. She lightly touched Suena on the nose and Suena moved her right foreleg back, then another touch on a slightly different place, and Suena moved her left foreleg back. Then, Jackie held up her index fingers and moved them slightly, and Suena moved to the right, leg crossing over leg. If Jackie's cues were too strong, Suena shook her head as if to say "you don't need to shout!" With Jackie interpreting, I was soon able to see a lot of the emotions going through Suena's mind. Jackie wanted me to feel what it is like to ride a Paso Fino, so she brought Mystic to the round pen and showed me how to find my balance point on a bridle-less Mystic wearing only a bareback pad. Having explained how it was my energy and focus that moved the horse, I sat perfectly still and with the slightest forward motion and thought: "move forward" and Mystic started walking! Then I said "trot" and Mystic did. I was amazed! By the time I left for home, I knew I wanted to come back for a five day clinic with Jackie and a month later back we came.
Thinking about my experience at Mystic Ranch, the thing that strikes me the most is that Jackie teaches without criticism. She is very positive and made me feel good about the learning process. Jackie has all of the Parelli and Dennis Reis natural horsemanship materials and if we weren’t playing with the horses, she had me watch their videos and read their workbooks describing the tasks that we would cover in our sessions. Watching in advance gave me a good idea of what we would be doing and that the tasks were possible and I picked up even more when I reviewed the tapes after our sessions. Jackie printed off the tasks we would be doing, introduced each task in one session, and had me evaluate when I felt I understood that task or if it needed more review in a follow up session. These checklists gave me a clear roadmap of what we were covering and the progress that I was making.
I had ridden bareback as a child so I was OK with riding bareback but riding without a bridle made me apprehensive. My initial tension made it difficult for Mystic to feel when I wanted him to stop. As I started to relax and trust him, I found Mystic to be a wonderful teacher. While he could be confused by my tension or incorrect cues, he tried so hard for me that he made me want to do the right thing for him. When I got my focus, energy and body language working, riding him became effortless.
Jackie also introduced the different horsenalities and showed me how deal with each horsenality with a positive attitude. It was fascinating. Assertiveness and persistence in the face of dominance, approach and retreat when the horse became unconfident, keeping those busy feet busy when the horse became impulsive. As I worked through issues as they arose, I came to understand these strategies and believe that they would work. I didn’t have to be frustrated, critical or afraid and I could provide the leadership that the horse needed from me. I really began to understand the horse’s perspective.
Jackie is a wonderful teacher. She explains things so thoroughly that I went into each exercise knowing what I was supposed to do. By starting out without a bridle, reins or stirrups, she allowed me to focus on my seat, balance and energy, minimizing the number of things I had to coordinate and think about at once. I expected criticism when I got things wrong, but Jackie focused and commented on the smallest progress which made me keep going and wanting to do more. If something went wrong, Jackie asked me to relax and sigh, re-center myself and Mystic and try again, with better results.
Spending five days at Mystic Ranch was wonderful. Jackie and Ron made us feel so welcome, the horses were so friendly, the guest room was comfortable, the meals were excellent and the ranch beautiful. Perhaps the best part was being with real horses again – horses that are curious, affectionate and who try to please you. How I have missed them over the last 28 years. I need them back in my life. Trail rides on riding stable horses just don’t do it. I want my own horse, my own partner, a horse that thinks and wants to be with me. This evening when we finished our session, Mystic didn’t want to leave me to re-join his herd in the pasture grazing. He kept asking me to stay and scratch his itchy spots long after the last carrot was gone. The fact that he didn’t leave the fence until after I left him told me that he enjoyed me and our session as much as I had. I can’t tell you how good that made me feel.
Another thing that made this week at Mystic Ranch so special was how incredibly supportive my husband Douglas has been during this week. Horses are my passion, not his, but he videoed every session I had so I could have a permanent record of my week, walking all over the ranch and down the road to do so, remembered to bring water for me when I was thirsty and watched all the Dennis Reis videos to support me as I learned about natural horsemanship. He was awesome.
Given all that, having Jackie as my teacher is still number one. Without her, I wouldn’t have had this incredible experience. Thank you.
Riding Mystic down the road
Bringing in the herd
Riding Mystic bridle-less
Classical Dressage Meets Natural Horsemanship
Jackie, Mystic and I got together about 1 1/2 yrs ago. Jackie wanted Mystic to be introduced to and expand his education with some "French" Classical Dressage exercises. These exercises are meant to straighten, strengthen, and supple horses. We realized our methods "complimented" the two areas of horsemanship: Natural Horsemanship and Classical Dressage. During Jackie's dressage sessions with me, I noticed and appreciated how Jackie and Mystic worked together as a team. Her calm, patient and confident manner came through in their partnership.
So when I purchased my "once in a lifetime horse", a 5 year old PRE Andalusian Gelding named Emiliano, I asked Jackie to help me. I wanted my relationship with my horse to be based on the same love, respect and harmony that she has with Mystic. It was astonishing what a change just a few of Jackie’s lessons with Emiliano have made. Things that had been issues simply stopped being an issue. Catching him in the pasture, taking off his fly mask, keeping him out of my space, having him stand quietly when I want to chat or mount him, being able to ride him without a bit, having him change gaits off of her seat and energy – all with Emiliano being quiet, curious – no, even fascinated by the leadership that Jackie shows him. Between lessons with Jackie, I continue to work with Emiliano and we are already developing the same partnership relationship that Jackie and Mystic have. Without that relationship foundation, I wouldn’t want to go on with my love of Classical Dressage because I want my horse and I to want the same things. All horse/rider combinations need to have that sense of camaraderie.
I recommend that anyone interested in achieving harmony with their horse, no matter what type of training they do, consider working with Jackie. I know it's been, and will continue to be, part of the foundation in the training of my horse. I'm very grateful and blessed to have Jackie share her love and knowledge of horses with Emiliano and me. Tally Ho!
Connie Francis & Emiliano
Connie with Emiliano
Dressage meets Natural Horsemanship
Starting Baby Under Saddle
I brought my 4 year old Percheron QH cross mare, Baby, to Jackie for saddle training after I had a fall and lost a lot confidence in myself. Getting up on that very large, green horse was just more than I could handle even though Baby is a sweet horse and not wild or mean in any way.
The first thing I noted was the way Jackie spoke of her own horses with love and an understanding of each horse’s individual nature. This impressed me as I was looking for a trainer that would treat my horse as a unique individual and work with her nature, not use force or intimidation just to get the job done.
I found just what I needed at Mystic Ranch. Jackie not only did a wonderful job of training Baby under saddle but also helped me to regain my confidence, encouraging but never pushing too hard. She allowed me to do as much or as little as I felt safe doing at each lesson. Another thing that I truly appreciated was Jackie’s frequent email updates on Baby’s progress. Even though I was usually able to visit a couple of times a week it was great to get those updates and pictures of my Baby girl and see the progress she was making.
This was a very positive experience for my horse and myself. We always felt welcome to visit at any time and take Baby out for a stroll and a graze on the playground. Jackie made accommodations for Baby’s large size by allowing her to live in the outdoor arena and even gave her a nice little mare to live with so she wasn’t lonely.
Baby has been home just 5 days and we have numerous hours of play and 2 official rides under our belts. I am very grateful that Jackie took the time to teach Baby to parallel park next to the fence so that I can mount and that she taught her to stand still for mounting. These are huge confidence builders for me as I have a hip problem that makes mounting and dismounting difficult. Baby is now rock solid on the parking and standing for mounting and I couldn’t be happier! To learn more about how we helped Baby, please click here: Case Studies.
Sheral Du Bry and Baby
Baby loving Sheral
PREPARING FOR PARELLI LEVEL 2 ASSESSMENT
It was 11 months ago Jackie and Ron started us on the path of natural horsemanship. During the past months I have created a relationship with my horse, Teddy, that I didn't think would happen for years. When Jackie introduced us to natural horsemanship she told us that it would take time to develop our skills but once we had, they would work on most every horse. How right she was. My wife's horse is an opposite personality from mine but the same techniques work equally well for both. Slow and easy is the key we were told and how right that is. Some things come sooner than others but with time and persistence your relationship builds and new tasks come more easily.
I am currently finishing up my Level 2 Parelli assessment. Our ground work was doing fine, but I needed help with my riding so I came down for a five day clinic with Jackie. With her many years of experience Jackie was able to see just where we were stuck and how to get us back on track. She helped us over the hump, strengthening our relationship, and taking us to a higher level of riding skill. Now as Teddy and I progress we are also able to enjoy each others company, whether it is in the round pen learning a new task or on a relaxing trail ride to decompress.
I can now say I have an equine partner!
Thanks to Jackie's guidance and experience the path is now wide and smooth!
Your grateful students,
Bill & Teddy
La Center, WA
Learning to Be a Leader for Dutch
Dutch is my 5 year old Palomino quarter horse gelding and, if I do say so myself, the most beautiful pony in the world. He is my first horse and although I adore him, I didn’t know a lot about how to handle him. I knew that he would mug me for treats and was pushy, but I didn’t know how to get him to be more respectful without hurting our relationship.
Watching the change in Dutch’s manners when Jackie worked with him was an eye opener. He clearly liked her, yet when he tried to push on her or get into her space, she was quick to correct him. With a gesture she would ask him to do something and he responded lightly and respectfully. Then she would praise and scratch his itchy spots and he would lower his head in pleasure. Love came after respect, not in lieu of respect.
Jackie gave me a series of ground exercises to do with Dutch so I could learn where to apply pressure and when to release it to get the same light responses from him. I found it somewhat frustrating that my pony obviously knew this language better than I did. One of the many wonderful things about Dutch, however, is that he doesn’t lose patience with me as I try to figure it out and I am getting better with each session.
It took a long time before I felt confident enough to get on Dutch and my excitement clearly made him a bit nervous. I worked on relaxing myself and Dutch relaxed right along with me. The first time I had him going from a halt to a walk to a halt off of my body language made me grin. I have all the time in the world to learn how to be a balanced and relaxed leader on my horse and Dutch is kind and calm enough to move at my pace. Best of all, I know how to keep myself and Dutch safe as we continue to learn together.
Jackie and natural horsemanship helped my wonderful horse become respectful and safe and deepened his trust in people. I couldn’t have asked for a better start for my beloved Dutch. On my side, I don’t think Jackie understood how much her lessons helped boost my confidence about being on Dutch. She never pressed me to move at her or even Dutch’s pace. Most people would have tried to push me too fast. Jackie didn’t. She let me take it at the pace I needed and told me that what was important was building our confidence together, staying calm and being clear and consistent with Dutch. That formula I can follow. While I have a lot to learn to catch up to my pony, Jackie has given me the tools and foundation I need to become the leader my pony needs. It has been a great experience. To learn more about how we helped Dutch, please click here: Case Studies.
Dutch has come a long way
Mystic Ranch Does it All
Boarding, Training and Exercising Our Boys
I had decided to fulfill my life long dream of having my own horse, so at age 50, I bought Treasure. He is a wonderful Peruvian Paso gelding very similar to a Paso Fino in nature and temperament. After 2 years, my husband decided he liked my horse so much he needed one of his own, so we bought Magic, another Peruvian Paso gelding.
We had boarded the boys at 2 different ranches before we decided we all needed a change, so we started the long process of checking out different facilities. We were looking for a new home for our boys when we came upon Mystic Paso Fino Ranch. It was much farther than we wanted to go to board our boys, but we decided to go and meet Jackie and view the ranch. Not only did we fall in love with her ranch, but also with Jackie. She was the kind of person we wanted to care for our boys. Jackie spoils all the horses at the ranch. Carrots at night before bed. Extra hay at night if it is very cold. She treats all horses as if they were her own.
Jackie not only boards our boys, but also rides them a few times a week for us. This is a two fold win-win situation for us. She keeps the boys tuned up and they get more exercise. When we are limited for time, we know that Jackie will make sure they are ridden and exercised, spoiled and loved.
Jackie has been instrumental in training Magic. He came to us as a young, spooky, right brained horse. With her patient and expert guidance, Magic is now much less right brained and is now using his "thinking side" when it comes to new and scary things. John is now confident enough to ride him again after taking a very bad fall last year. Thanks to Jackie’s hard work, Magic is now a horse who will be part of our family for years to come. John is working well with him and will be taking riding lessons in the near future from Jackie. To learn more about how Jackie helped Magic, please click here: Case Studies.
My boy Treasure was pretty well trained, but on occasion he can be obstinate. Jackie has worked with him to help him change his mind on being a mischief maker.
We look forward to a very long and lasting relationship and friendship with the Deckers. We can't imagine ever looking for a new home for our boys again.
Thank you, Jackie, Ron & Jose for all you do.
Robin & John Mishler
Treasure & Magic
Robin & Treasure
John and Cally
Becoming a Leader for My Horse Blue
I came to Jackie Decker and Mystic Ranch because I fell in love with a horse named Blue. As a beginning horseback rider who had never owned a horse before, I knew that I needed to learn the basics of horsemanship as well as horseback riding before bringing him home. While Blue lived at Mystic Ranch for a month of training, I came about twice a week for lessons with Jackie.
Each of my lessons with Jackie was stimulating and challenging. Sometimes they were uncomfortable as I struggled with my own weaknesses such as self-doubt, fear and lack of assertiveness. My biggest challenge was, and continues to be, remaining calm when Blue does not respond to my cues. As a (dare I say it) middle-aged woman, it is hard to change patterns and traits this far along in life. However, when I forged past the thoughts of “I can’t do this” or “I’m scared of …” and began to relax and trust Blue, amazing things started happening! I was rewarded by Blue’s responsiveness to a subtle shift of my seat or tap of my leg and felt the indescribable happiness of being one with my horse.
In this day of little customer service and tight adherence to appointment times and length, it is a pleasure to say that Jackie always gave me 110% of her attention and never looked at her watch to see when the lesson time was up. She really wanted me to understand what she was demonstrating and obviously loved teaching. If I had difficulty comprehending a point, she patiently kept working with me until I understood it. Jackie always made sure that the lesson ended on a positive note and provided both verbal and written feedback for me to review and think about.
At the end of my month of training with Jackie, I marvel at how much she has taught me about horses, horsemanship, riding and ultimately myself. I am fully aware that I have much more to learn and now must practice what Jackie has shown me but I feel ready to take on this challenge. I understand that Blue needs me to be a strong leader as well as his “seeing eye person.” I can do this by using clear communication with Blue by way of my body and not with the reins. I can keep Blue calm by remaining calm myself.
The greatest gift Jackie has given me is to teach me how to see beneath the fur and skin of the horse and find and feel the soul of my beloved horse Blue. Thank you Jackie!!
To learn more about Jackie helped Blue, please click here: Case Studies.
Nina Kiskadden and Blue
Nina and her Blue
Trusting each other
GAINING CONFIDENCE WITH PASOS AND NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP
I am a beginning rider, and I needed to build my confidence with horses. The smooth gait of the Paso Fino made it easy on a newbie like me and Tori, the horse I ride during my lessons, is the sweetest, kindest equine partner.
If you want to learn “horse speak,” short of teaming up with Doctor Doolittle, Jackie is the best teacher.
Jackie’s full heart, technical insight, and gentle patience inspire both equine and me to be at our best.
Leigh riding Mystic
LEARNING COMMUNICATION & LEADERSHIP AT MYSTIC RANCH
The first impression one gets when arriving at Mystic Ranch is "welcome friends"! From the time you turn onto the road at the white fencing until the time you head home, Mystic Ranch is a truly peaceful place; very conducive to learning how to interact with your horse in a way both you AND the horse will understand.
In a very short amount of time Jackie is able to evaluate horse and rider and formulate a plan for instruction that is perfect for a novice such as myself, as well as a more seasoned rider. Mystic Ranch has every amenity you could want; clean, safe stables and pens, tack, food (for both horses and their people, YUM!), a round pen, trails, and horses that are already so beautifully trained you are able to get on one and feel what a correct response is.
Jackie and Ron also have an extensive library of horse and horsemanship books and DVDS that they encourage you to explore; a great way to discover what you would want to add to your own collection. No question is too simple or too complicated. Jackie knows her stuff, and she is one of the most passionate people I have met. One can tell that she truly does love what she has chosen to do; this comes through at every moment.
My reasons for seeking out Mystic Ranch were mostly about my ability to get my horse to slow down or stop when I wanted her to. It turns out I wasn't asking her for what I wanted correctly. I also needed to learn how to teach my horse to respect me as her herd leader. This is all so interesting once you start to learn about it, and very encouraging when results are obtained so quickly. After being at the ranch for a few hours, you will KNOW Jackie’s training methods work.
Also, it is a comfort to know that Jackie will accept you no matter where you are mentally on a given day. She is very intuitive and able to pick out amazingly quickly what is going through your mind. I had issues about being able to spend enough time with my horse once I left the magic of Mystic Ranch and returned to "the real world". Jackie was emphatic about reassuring me I do have enough time, because consistency and practice is more important with your horse than hours of time daily.
I recommend a visit to Jackie, Ron and all of the wonderful horses at Mystic Ranch for anyone who wants to be a better keeper of their equine partners!
Deanna Avery and Felicia
Riding Mystic down the road
Drawing Felicia to her
LEARNING TO SPEAK HORSE AT MYSTIC RANCH
Yeah, though we walk through the valley of equine knowledge,
We shall not fear.
For beside us stands Jackie and Ron so near.
With words of kindness, knowledge and expertise,
They guide, educate and coach us
On the language of the horse, called equine.
We learn that the beast of a 1000 pounds has a gentle soul, a keen eye
And reflexes that best any athlete known to man.
We are taught that he will do what is asked of him,
When he is asked as a partner and not as a slave
He will guide us himself to keep us from our grave.
He tells us in his own language
What he needs to do to accomplish his task.
But please; only speak in equine, he asks.
This is where Jackie and Ron take command.
They hold you by the hand.
They hold you by the eye
They teach you the gesture to catch the equine’s eye.
And when things go awry they stand patient and guide us.
So that we learn together, this equine and I.
So the two of us someday may ride to the sky,
To share a sunrise or a sunset;
This equine and I.
Here before us will be the best years yet!
Jackie and Ron, you are the Best!
Bill Avery and Teddy
Riding Teddy down the road
Teddy and Prince at play
REGAINING MY MARE AND MY CONFIDENCE AT MYSTIC RANCH
My two months at Mystic Paso Fino Ranch was a delightful time of interacting with Jackie and Ron and their herd of Paso Fino horses. To be a horse at the Decker’s ranch is a treat.
I began my lessons with Jackie on her sweet Tori. Tori taught me the invaluable lesson of taking responsibility among other important things, but this is the lesson that stands out for me. We had a little incident in the round pen early on which left me in a terrorized state. Tori got excited when Jackie and Mystic trotted down to the barn to get something and I flashed back to other horses getting upset, became terrorized, and my fear frightened Tori. With Jackie’s understanding and patience we worked through this incident leaving me with a clear understanding that it is not the horse’s responsibility to keep me safe, but my responsibility to make the horse feel safe. So much for the “perfect bomb proof horse” that would take care of me I had searched for. To keep my horse calm in a stressful situation, I needed to learn to stay calm myself. I’m grateful for that little lesson, which also taught me a valuable life lesson, one to be used in interactions with horses, people, and life as well.
I also worked with Mystic, whom I immediately fell in love with and thought he would be my life long partner. I was intimidated by him in the beginning, such a big beautiful guy, who moved at a good clip, but longed to ride him as well. As I worked with Mystic I was so pleased that my fears disappeared and I was feeling in synch with him. Jackie’s skilled techniques with training were apparent with him and working for me.
A month after beginning my training with Jackie I brought my Shashoni, whom I had resolved I would never ride again, to Jackie for training. With Jackie’s understanding, patience, and experience in natural horsemanship and love for her work and my Shashoni, we were able to rekindle our partnership and understand each other.
Jackie’s knowledge and experience with horses, as well as her love of them and how she approaches the training and lessons make for a happy horse and owner, namely Shashoni and me. Add to that, a whole lot of fun in the process! After each lesson I would return home and have a typewritten, detailed summary of my lesson by email. Oh yes, and pictures, too! I have kept these for reference. They have been very helpful and I continue to practice what I have learned, as I am once again in the saddle with my own horses.
To learn more about how we helped Shashoni, click on Case Studies.
Learning body language with Mystic
Then using the same skills with Shashoni
at Mystic Ranch
Right before the holidays, our young gelding, Ollie, illustrated his lack of training in a very direct manner. I had waited for a car to pass before leading him across the road from the barn to the pasture to join his mother who was already grazing. In his impatience, he became quite a handful. He pulled away and landed a direct, double barreled kick first to my right knee, followed by a second kick to my left thigh. I was not a happy camper.
While it might have been an isolated event, it made my husband and I really look at the problems that were on our plate and getting worse. Basically, we were both afraid of Ollie. He had some extremely bad habits, poor manners, and sometimes an outright scary attitude. We have had horses for a short seven years and we started out with an extremely well mannered, well trained mare, Delight. We added a companion to her, also a sweet, well mannered mare, named Sophie. Sophie was an off the racetrack Thoroughbred and had been trained for one thing, to race. But luckily she was also very well trained with ground manners. Her disposition is very sweet, but also a bit high strung. We decided to breed her to a Quarter horse, and Ollie came into our lives.
We had never raised a colt, and in retrospect, didn’t have the skills we needed for the task. Ollie learned what worked and what didn't with us. Early on he unfortunately learned that if a human had a bucket of grain in their hand, charging and looking intimidating would make them drop it. We worked on unlearning that for several months, but this set up a string of negative interactions that certainly weren't helping our overall relationship - and he never really unlearned it.
So when I found myself on the couch, with ice on my knee and thighs, it forced us to realize that we truly needed some help. Ollie needed a trainer. I knew that I wanted a Natural Horseman, so we looked for one in the area and found Jackie at Mystic Ranch. What a lucky find!
Because I was intimidated even loading Ollie in a trailer, I asked Jackie to please pick him up. Looking back, I can't believe how sour our relationship had become - how actually scared of Ollie I was. He was not quite two years old, and the bottom of the three horse herd, but obviously I was even lower in his pecking order.
My husband and I were actually relieved to see him go. Horse life took on a more mellow and relaxed tone, peaceful. Not that he was always obnoxious - it was almost always associated with grain and feeding time. He wasn't particularly well trained in general ground manners, but his overall attitude was pretty good until feeding time.
After Ollie had been with Jackie for a couple of weeks, I went down for a visit. I couldn't believe the difference. He was already quite a different horse. Jackie could already lead him anywhere, pick up his feet, have him stand like a friendly horse and come into the stall and politely accept grain right from her hand. Normal things that I just hadn't realized were so abnormal for Ollie. She nicely asked me if I would like to work with him a bit - also simple things like leading and turning. I found my heart beating like old, and the intimidation flooding right back in - I attempted, but was not very good. My fear of him, based on our old relationship, was still front and center. So I would have some of my own relearning to do. Over the next couple of weeks, I went back to Jackie's once or twice - and was amazed at the transformation that was taking place so quickly.
I recognize the amount of work that this must have taken on Jackie's part, but she was energized by the challenge Ollie presented - and it was very encouraging to us that he had a nice horse inside that was frustrated by his own tactics that didn't make life easy or pleasant. She showed him the way, sorting through his behaviors - splitting them into those that are acceptable and those that are not. She trained him to lead like an angel, through thick and thin. She worked on his attitude at dinner time. I think that the largest strides were that she worked on the horse-human relationship that showed him that there right ways and wrong ways to behave and that life is great when we all get along. I knew that we were on the right track, although I personally wasn't quite up to the task to taking him back on myself.
In the meantime, at home, our Quarter horse seriously injured herself, leading us to send her in for surgery and a long recovery at the equine hospital. We decided that Ollie needed to abruptly drop his training and come home to keep his mother company. Jackie and Ron were extremely understanding, gracious, and caring about what was happening on our ranch with one down horse. We picked up Ollie at Mystic Ranch with his dam already in the trailer. He and his mother nickered to each other from afar, and we loaded him up for the ride home without a problem.
This is when the training would prove itself, or not. Could Ollie retain everything he learned at Jackie's, and remain the well mannered, nice horse that he had become? Or would we inadvertently put him right back to where he was before his stay at Mystic Ranch?
The next month was rather a blur, with daily trips to the equine hospital and a lot of attention and energy being placed on Delight. Ollie's walk across the road to the pasture resumed, and I remember realizing that I needed to calm down when leading him, that I needed to follow Jackie's example in order to get Ollie to behave as he did for her. I needed to still my heart. I needed to give him a chance. As a result, our trips across the road to the pasture relaxed and his overall demeanor improved with the lifting of his ears.
Now two months later, I realize that it is like day and night around here. The unexpected transformation is how comfortable we all are, how our relationship has changed so drastically. We don't fear him, although we do still respect his hind end. This is a big point - our fear was stopping us from training him and working on the relationship and that had denied him all human enjoyment. We always approached with a thought on whether he would try to kick, nip, or rear.
Ollie really is a nice horse. Jackie worked wonders on him to bring it out. She developed her relationship with him - showing him that humans can be just and a pleasure to be with. She showed him successful ways to interact with humans, and she taught us successful ways to interact with him. She patiently and expertly handled our wayward fellow and gave us back a respectful, happier young gelding.
Ollie is heading back to Mystic Ranch this month for what we call Part II. He and Jackie will resume where they left off, hopefully without too much of a set back from the absence. He's heading into training under saddle, and I truly look forward to watching his further transformation and relationship development under her kind, steady leadership.
For more information on how we helped Ollie, click on Training Case Studies
Chris Irvine and Ollie
Eagle Point, Oregon
Ollie having found harmony
with himself and Chris
LEARNING HORSEMANSHIP AT MYSTIC RANCH
Riding lessons are fun. It’s fun working with Mystic. Jackie is nice and I’ve learned a lot. I love working Mystic at liberty, and that I can make him change gaits, direction and backup using my seat, and can move his front and hind quarters and I can even ride him with just a string around his neck. I’ve learned a lot and have had a lot of fun learning.
Our ten year old daughter Iris is in love with animals. When she told my wife and I, both city slickers, that she wanted a horse we were ready with a big NO, but we didn’t want to squash her enthusiasm. Then we found Jackie Decker and Mystic Ranch. Mystic Ranch is in the beautiful foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The facilities are top-notch and Jackie is an outstanding teacher. As parents, our first concern was safety. Safety is also Jackie’s first concern. From her teaching method to the modern facilities, everything is done with horse and rider safety in mind. Our daughter looks forward to each and every lesson. Not only is she learning how to ride a horse, she is learning life lessons in the process. Interacting with Jackie and the horses has increased her self confidence. The lessons are a great intellectual and physical activity for her. Jackie keeps us apprised of Iris’ progress and is always willing to share her extensive knowledge of horses. Our whole family has gotten to know the horses. When we visit Mystic Ranch it is like visiting friends.
Iris on Mystic
Shady Cove, Oregon
Riding Mystic down the road
FROM SAILING TO NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP - ERIK’S STORY
I originally started riding horses to keep a girl friend company. For a confirmed sailor who loves to feel a boat come alive in his hand, and delights in communicating with nature’s wind, wave, and water, the idea of meandering around a trail or imposing my will on some beast of burden just didn’t “light my fire”.
How lucky for me that Jackie and Ron Decker were my guides into the equine world. The Deckers taught me to listen to the horses, speak their language and to love them for their patience and their willingness to bond and share themselves with me. I also learned (to my occasional dismay) that the horse is a barometer of my own emotions and turmoil. If I’m having a problem with my horse, I look to myself first. It’s a lesson I’ve taken with me back into the human world, and I’m a much better person…and now husband and parent…for it.
It was so much easier to learn all this on the Deckers’ Paso Finos. The Pasos’ smooth and trot free gaits allowed me to pay attention to what the horse was saying to me without worrying about falling off.
This paid off in dividends when I started riding Topsy. Though I was drawn to Topsy’s power, agility, and speed, she has a “temperamental” personality. To be fair, Topsy started out her life as a cow horse on a more traditionally oriented ranch, so she learned about natural horsemanship at age 5, not birth. Through Jackie’s tutelage I remained a patient learner, and learned to simply love Topsy for who she is. It would take pages to relate the details…suffice to say the day that Topsy and I “clicked” is an indelible treasure in my memory. And now just hanging out "talking" with her is just as fun as riding her.
Erik Pedersen and Topsy
NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP AT
MYSTIC PASO FINO RANCH
Jackie Decker is a superb teacher of horse communication skills. Her happy and well-mannered Paso Fino horses at Mystic Paso Fino Ranch are a strong testament to the power of natural horsemanship methods. We visited the ranch for a few days in August 2005. The first day, 8-year old Katie was very tense and hesitant on her first ride on Tori. Although we have our own horse that Katie rides at home, Tori was unfamiliar to Katie. Under Jackie’s patience guidance, Katie and Tori developed a relationship of mutual trust in less than 24 hours.
The evening after Katie’s first ride on Tori, Jackie invited Katie to help her do some training with her 2-year old Paso named Tessa. Katie sat on Tessa while Jackie instructed both Katie and Tessa in some basic moves using the natural horsemanship techniques of gentle leg pressure and releases shifting weight in the seat and carefully measured cues with the lead line. Katie followed Jackie’s instructions, and very soon she and Tessa were communicating beautifully. Together they backed up, moved both front and hind quarters in both directions, and even did some side-passing – something that Tessa had not done before. This was a huge boost to Katie’s confidence, and provided some valuable training for Tessa as well.
Katie was up at 6:30 the next morning to help Jackie feed all the horses. Armed with some new communication skills from her session with Tessa the previous evening, Katie was eager to try out what she had learned with Tori. After about 10-15 minutes on Tori, Katie was a totally different rider than she was the previous afternoon. She was relaxed and happy, and so was Tori.
Katie was feeling so confident that she asked Jackie if she could take Tori over the obstacle course at the ranch. The obstacle course is a series of small jumps, bridges, stairs, a teeter totter and other potentially spooky experiences for horses that Jackie uses to teach her horses confidence and trust. Katie first came to a single log that Jackie and Katie expected Tori to step over. Tori concluded that the log was too high, so she hopped over it instead. Katie lost her balance and ended up with her torso lying on Tori’s neck, but Tori immediately stopped to allow Katie to regain her balance. At first, Katie was scared, but within just a few minutes, she was elated that she had completed her first jump! Katie continued around the obstacle course on her own, guiding Tori up the stairs, across the bridge and under the flapping tarp with a perfect combination of gentleness and firmness.
Natural horsemanship is an incredibly effective method of communicating with horses, and Jackie teaches it to both humans and horses better than anyone else. Come see magic happen at Mystic Paso Fino Ranch!
Ginny, Katie & Lena Wahler
Palo Alto, California
Lena riding Venus
MY FIRST HORSE IS A PASO FINO
About five years ago I leased a Paso Fino mare named Venus from Jackie and Jackie started to teach me natural horsemanship. I had read books about it but actually doing it and seeing how well it worked was exciting to me. While I was leasing Venus, I watched Jackie start her young filly, Estrella. I was so impressed with how quickly Estrella learned natural horsemanship from Jackie and so attracted to Estrella’s smooth gaits, common sense, willingness to please and loving attitude that I asked to lease this young 3 year old. From the beginning, I loved the relationship that we started to build.
After leasing Estrella for a year and a half I took the plunge and bought her as my first horse. Our relationship has grown so much in the five years we have been together and I think the biggest change has been in me.
In learning to work with Estrella, I have learned to be more assertive in general, and less prone to anger and frustration. It’s such a pleasure knowing that I can trust Estrella and that she trusts me. She is a special part of my life.
Jan Banks and Estrella
Palo Alto, California
THE MYSTIC RANCH EXPERIENCE
Colin: Mystic Ranch is a great place for even a novice horseperson like me to interact with these wonderful Paso Fino horses. Jackie is a very good teacher. Over a number of visits with her I have learned to ride and have now started to learn some more advanced horsemanship skills. I was able to complete all of the requirements for my Boy Scout Horsemanship merit badge in a week while visiting and I had a lot of fun doing it.
Robert: Mystic Paso Fino Ranch has been a wonderful place to reacquaint myself with horses and learn natural horsemanship skills after over thirty years without horses in my life. I rode extensively in my youth but lived without horses from the time I finished college until Jackie reintroduced me to riding on her Paso Finos at Mystic Ranch. It has been a great pleasure to learn the natural horsemanship approach for quickly building a relationship with a new horse and delightful to ride the smooth and well schooled Pasos at Mystic Ranch in the ring and over the wooded trails surrounding the ranch.
Donna: The surrounding country is beautiful and provides many opportunities for other activities such as white water rafting on the Rogue River, wine tasting at some terrific local vineyards, visiting Crater Lake and attending the Shakespeare Festival in nearby Ashland.
The Daunt Family
Pacific Grove, California
THINGS WE LOVE ABOUT MYSTIC RANCH BOARDING
Jackie takes the time to learn individual needs and personality of every horse, and provides patient, expert, and loving care. She also takes the time to provide lots of extras for the horses’ physical and mental stimulation. My horses were kept busy with fun activities while I was away. They were turned out to graze and play on a gorgeous pasture every day, they were groomed, exercised in the round pen, and they were given lots of loving attention. They were never bored.
Horses at Jackie's are happy, not stressed. The warm, welcoming environment makes Mystic Ranch a pleasant place for people and horses. I love going there, it feels like home. There is no overcrowding at Mystic Ranch, no odors.
Light and airy stalls are deeply bedded with shavings, and cleaned twice daily. My horse likes to lie down and sleep for hours every day. I knew he would always have a soft, dry place for naps whenever he wanted. Another great thing is that Mystic Ranch has a unique paddock footing of pea gravel, sand and wood chips that assures no mud even in winter. Water troughs are scrubbed clean; water is always clear and fresh.
I know my horses enjoyed their stay at Mystic Ranch, and I had peace of mind knowing they would be cared for as I would care for them myself. We’ll be back!
Mary Ann Hathaway, Esencio and Rico
A great facility for horses!
Amazing Connection with Your Horses
What an amazing life you have made. How blessed we are to have connected and how special you are to have invited us into your beautiful home. I have such respect for your love of animals and your special connection with horses. I am always on the lookout for better ways of interacting with our co-inhabitants of our wonderful planet. You and Ron are so considerate of human and equine alike. It has been such an honor to share your sweet love for these Paso Finos.
Love and thanks,
Reine Adelaide and Mystic
PS In my next life, I’m coming back as one of your horses!
Loving on Mystic
NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN
AT MYSTIC RANCH
I was looking for a place to ride Paso Finos and found Mystic Ranch in the Paso Fino Directory. Ron and Jackie Decker explained that they rode mostly bareback and with hand tied rope halters and lead lines. Sounded intriguing so we made an appointment and I was so impressed with the focus of Jackie’s teaching.
She taught me how to relate with the horse in a firm but gentle way of saying “I am your leader and you can trust me” in the process called “join-up.” I had previous experience riding show Paso Finos with bits and I felt I was not experienced enough to be gentle with the horse’s mouth. But at Mystic Ranch I learned new ways of communicating with the horse through proper use of legs and hand, “asking” with pressure, released when the horse responds. I learned to be more assertive and sure of my movements and how to ask the horse in a way that the horse could understand. The combination of smooth, responsive Paso Finos and learning to communicate effectively has been extraordinarily rewarding. Jackie has a special gift for teaching how to communicate effectively and she’s lots of fun too.
It’s never too late to learn. Jackie’s Pasos provide a very gentle ride for a 70 year old horse loving woman. And yes, I’ve found out you can teach an old girl new tricks. Yee Haw!! Gaining an ability to ride with safety and confidence on a Paso Fino translates to gliding great fun! Ya’all come on over to Mystic Ranch and “join-up” with some special, smooth riding Paso Finos and learn horse speak from exuberant Jackie. Riding at Mystic Ranch is an adventure not to be missed!!
Hooray – Pasos and good communications!
Pat Adelaide and Venus
JACKIE AND MYSTIC RANCH
When I ride Tori, I’ve got to say,
I get a lot braver, and toward riding I sway
Jackie’s horses - one and all -
Move like silk and never fall.
Up in the hills, I love to stay,
With my family, you and the horses. Yay!
I can’t wait to see your finished home,
And with your horses we’ll further roam.
Greg Meyer Poem
LEARNING TO RIDE AND EARNING MY HORSEMANSHIP MERIT BADGE
AT MYSTIC RANCH
Mystic Ranch is a great place to learn to ride. The horses (especially Tori) are great. Joining up with her was awesome!! Paso Finos are so smooth and gentle that I preferred to ride them bareback, with just their halters and lead lines. Jackie really knows what she is doing with horses. She is a great instructor who knows both how to ride, and how to teach people to ride using natural horsemanship. Jackie helped me earn my Boy Scout Horsemanship Merit Badge while I was here. The riding trails are also great. You can go all over the hills along many different trails. There are trails leading all the way to Shady Cove. I really loved the Mystic Paso Fino Ranch experience with Jackie and Ron Decker and wanted to take Tori home with me.
Bryce Istvan (Age 13) and Tori