My Story
I have been riding horses for 30 years. I have taught riders in Russia and now I live and teach in Canada. I focus on the rider's seat and its influence on the horse. I have a master's degree in biology and I have studied the anatomy and biomechanics of horse and rider. Being in North America for 20 years, I have worked with instructors who emphasize correct seat before they ask students to perform more challenging tasks. I use the same approach in my teaching. This gives my students a chance to shift attention onto developing their feel, and learning how to listen to a horse instead of ordering him around. It lays a foundation for a beautiful partnership and trust between horse and rider.

Since I have started riding, I have felt that I'm missing something. I was good, but not good enough. Being naturally athletic, I have learned how to stay on a horse and influence him to some extend. However, I saw how some riders were much better than me, no matter what horse they rode. What did they have that I didn't?
In 1998 I had an opportunity to become a working student for a wonderful dressage instructor, Frances Carbonnel, who teaches in Castle Rock, Colorado. Her website is She is one of a very few, who focuses their attention on the rider before asking something from the horse. Some of the things she was teaching me, such as correct rising trot, were new and felt weird. Everything she told me about how to ride a horse was true even though I couldn't understand all of it then. With her help, I have prepared and showed a 4-year old Oldenburg stallion at Training level and we've gotten a 68% and 72% in our first show.
I have moved to Canada in 2000 and now I live in Alberta about 160 km from Edmonton. Even though I'm quite away from the dressage community, I have my own barn and I keep my own horses as I've always wanted. I don't have enough opportunity to take lessons. That encourages me to explore, study, attend seminars and clinics, and listen to my horse. Discovering Mary Wanless' work and attending a seminar that featured one of her students Sandy Howards from California was a major breakthrough for me. All the pieces that I have tried to put together, all of a sudden, started coming together on their own and slowly the path of logical riding and training began to emerge. Now I take lessons from a very talented instructor and dressage rider, Sharon Merkel-Beattie, from St. Albert. The more I understand how riding works, the more fun it is to take lessons and see horses I ride become better and better. In spring of 2007 I started working toward my coach certification from Equine Canada. In July of 2008 I have passed all the exams. At the teaching portion of my assessment I was praised for my teaching skills and encouraged to develop my career as a coach. My certification is Equine Canada Competition Coach.
In 2013 I have received the EC/NCCP Coaching Award. My students nominated me and submitted their stories. Some of the stories brought tears to my eyes. I was deeply touched and honored to learn how my teaching affected their relationship with their horses, with riding in general and even with life. I love my work. I enjoy teaching and the challenge it brings. I learn from my students as much as they learn from me. They make me question myself and look outside the box, search for answers to help with specific problems. We work together as a team and everyone can voice their opininon, including the horse!
My Horses
In January of 2010 I bought a youngster. He is an Andalusian-Holsteiner cross. His name is Santo de Pequeno PT, aka Santo. I found him in South Dakota at a family breeding farm Prairie Thunder Ranch. He wasn't even 3 yet, untouched and very emotional. Santo has grown into a handsome horse. Training him has been a thrill. Summer of 2012 was his first official show season. He did fantastic in Training Level becomig a champion at EC gold dressage show scoring in upper 60s. Check the photo gallery page to see him in action.
In 2013 Santo started his show season by winning every class in First Level open divison at EC gold dressage show. We had our personal best 69%.
Santo is consistently scoring in mid and upper 60-s in gold shows. In 2014 and 2015 in Second level he got 65.5 and 68.5. August 2015 Santo debuted in Third level at Canadian Andalusian Nationals scoring 67.7% in test 3 and becoming Reserved Champion. Santo showed Third and started Fourth level in 2016 and consistently scored in 60-s at Gold shows.
2018 is our official FEI year, we are showing Prix Saint George and our personal best was 65%. Here is our ride.
On May 29th 2010 I acquired another horse, a beautiful little bay filly was born. Her name is Merlin's Regala aka Chica. I have bred my friend's QH mare to an Andalusian stallion Merlin II of Swan Creek Andalusians. She has fun and curious personality and loves attention. She thinks work is play and comes up to me ready to go every time I step into the paddock. In 2012 Regala had received her ground work education and had a few rides.
In summer 2013 I have bred Regala to a handsome Andalisian stallion Hablador who is sired by Invasor III. Hablador belongs to Christa Peterson. He is a young stallion and this baby is his first baby. In May 2014 Regala gave birth to a beautiful colt. His name is Arroyo and you can see his pictures on photo gallery page.
In summer 2015 Regala showed for the first time ever at Canadian Andalusian Nationals. She got Reserved Champion in Training level with high score of 66%. I was so impressed with her behaviour. She took everything in stride and never lost her cool including schooling and performing in indoor arena for the first time in her life. In 2016 she showed First level with scores up to 69%. We showed Second level in 2017 we personal best of 72% and now working toward Third level. Her collected canter is developing and flying changes are becoming more of a norm rather then something very exciting :)
Arroyo has been a thrill from the start. Raising a baby is very special and the relationship one builts with a baby is second to none. Arro for short is a very happy horse, brave most of the time (he doesn't like a wind) and very easy going. He is learning like a sponge. He goes out on hacks alone, meets cars and trucks on the road and just had his first show in Training level. He did it like a champ - first time - trailering alone for 2 hours, being at the show grounds and handling two tests. No melt downs, no tuntrums, stepped out of the trailer back home fresh as a cucumber.
My Teaching
I teach students of different ages and skill levels, on horses of different breeds and abilities. Principles of riding are the same, implications may vary depending on the rider and the horse. All my riders show improvement. First, they learn how to keep their own balance and not to disturb the horse. Second, they begin to influence their mount without compromising the balance (either theirs or horse's). It is amazing to see how horses react when riders stop pulling on the reins, keep up with the horse and become light and balanced. Horses start to look bigger, they move with more energy and spring in their step. Even expression on their faces changes.
The riding concepts, such as feel, timing, thoroughness, keeping your horse on the seat, riding from back to front etc., make so much more sense now. Now I can see the big picture, all important pieces are in place, only details are different. I'm not saying I know everything or can do anything, far from that. Now I can understand my riding mistakes and see how much depends on me. If things do not work for whatever reason, I usually find that I am the problem. Over and over again, I see that my horse couldn't execute my request because either I was out of balance, or I didn't ask correctly, or I couldn't see that he was out of balance and and so on and so on...
Riding now resembles doing a big puzzle, looking for pieces and putting them together. I can see the whole picture, but I do have to put it together myself and teach my students how to do that. That is a lot of fun!
Irina Yastrebova, Riding Instructor and Trainer.
My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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