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Biernbaum is a Natural in Parelli Horsemanship

M i d d l e b u r g

L i f e


Jake Biernbaum

By Sophie Scheps For Middleburg Life

July 2015



nything I do I’m obsessive about it and I’ll go all in,” said Jake Biernbaum, offering a first-hand demonstration by sitting for an interview on his horse while discussing his passion for Parelli Natural Horsemanship. Biernbaum first learned about Parelli 10 years ago from a friend and was fascinated by how the horse could be controlled by little more than a string around its neck. At the time, he was studying at Tom Brown Junior’s Tracker School in New Jersey. “They teach wilderness survival, tracking and awareness. I had been living in a stick and leaf hut and was making stone tools,” he said. “As I got introduced to natural horsemanship and learning you could get your horse to want to be with you, I realized how cool it would be to go into the woods with the horse.”

“I’ve worked with a lot of problem horses and usually it’s the people that’s the problem.” —Jake Biernbaum

After seeing Pat and Linda Parelli conduct a clinic with a certified instructor, Biernbaum spent the next two years studying their system at home in Michigan and working off videos to hone his skills. When he felt ready to apply for an internship, his parents felt a traditional undergraduate degree would be a better option. “My father was a professor at Michigan State and I was able to get a break on tuition,” he said. “They had a two-year horse management program, so I signed up. My classmates would laugh at me. I had zero horse riding experience and they thought I would kill myself doing all the Parelli work. It became hard to make fun of me when I started

outriding them all and got to the top of my class.” After graduation, Biernbaum set out to gain an internship working with Pat and Linda Parelli. They told him no jobs were available, but his determination and persistence nevertheless brought him to their Florida ranch. “I called them and said I’m going to be in Florida anyway,” he said. “I was actually going to be in Virginia but I was willing to drive the extra 12 hours and interview for this job that didn’t exist. I showed up and said I would work for free.” After a summer of fixing fences, mowing grass and performing other menial

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tasks, Biernbaum was promoted to ranch foreman. Soon after that, he became their arena manager and was responsible for driving around the country and accompanying them during their lectures. Biernbaum spent a year at home practicing his skills before coming back as a full-time student under Pat Parelli. The next two years they rode together every day and Biernbaum became not only a three-star instructor but also a horse development specialist. “I’ve worked with a lot of problem horses and usually it’s the people that’s the problem,” he said. “Anything from trailering issues to leading problems to horses that were literally trying to kill people. “Helping the troubled horses is my specialty.” Biernbaum now has a home base in Marshall after Cindy and Paul Hesse of Quail Run Farm contacted him. The large indoor arena and outside area to set up obstacles for clinics and lessons was a perfect match. Several local horse people have used Jake with great success. “Lindsay Kelly with Phase 2 Performance Horses had a troubled horse named Tiger Lilly,” Biernbaum said. “Her full sister won the Cleveland Bay class at Upperville and they had similar expectations for her. She had gone through four trainers and was getting a bad reputation. We spent the winter and spring turning her around and at Upperville last year, she placed third in two classes. It was a big deal just to get her in the ring. This year she got the reserve champion for the Cleveland Bay class.” Biernbaum shares his wealth of knowledge with several apprentices. These young students value his time and understand how to take advantage of the same opportunity Pat Parelli provided for Biernbaum. Overall, the goal is always to keep pushing upwards, learning to ride more effectively so that the horse does more and the rider does less. “You know you’re doing Parelli if you are doing three things,” Biernbaum said. “You put the relationship first. The second is putting foundation before specialization so they know the basics and have confidence. The last is subscribing to never-ending self-improvement.” n

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Middleburg Life, July 2015  
Middleburg Life, July 2015