Kera Willis grew up on a small farm in rural Ontario surrounded by animals: cats, goats, chickens, fish, rabbits, birds, and deer who ran through her dreams at night, crying in their mystical haunting voices. Most of her childhood horses were imaginary until she began taking riding lessons at a local stable, bought her first mare at 17, and apprenticed with a series of excellent hunter, jumper, dressage and event trainers throughout Canada and the UK.
A musician, writer, artist, and amateur naturalist as well as a horsewoman, Willis began looking for an approach to horses that would allow for a more authentic relationship. She spent 3 years rewilding her equestrian education with the help of a feral Percheron mare she rescued off a meat truck, and completed a Facilitator of Equine Experiential Learning Certificate through Horse Spirit Connections in Tottenham, Ontario in 2010, which combined Linda Kohanov's Epona approach with shamanic healing techniques. Still missing the power, courage, and surrender that's shared when we join with horses in movement, she began to look for ways to bring ridden work closer to the transformational/ personal development/ healing field of Equine Facilitated Learning. Through horses, Willis beleived, it was possible for humans to enliven our felt connection with the living earth and shattered, essential reciprocity with the more-than-human-world. She founded Mountain Horse School in Squamish BC in 2012, and began exploring this intersection with students.
In 2014 she completed a 600 hour apprenticeship and 4 levels of certification in Horse Boy Method, form of therapeutic riding specific to Autism and neurolodiversity, then worked at the Healing With Horses Therapeutic Centre in Prince Edward County, Ontario as consultant, program developer and head trainer, helping the centre expand their scope of practice. Finally, in 2015, she returned to BC and reopened Mountain Horse School in the Upper Squamish Valley, where she continued to develop her body of work, programming and research. In 2017 she moved the school to Pemberton BC where she continues to alchemize her diverse horse experience, passion for earth-centred wisdom and connection, creative talents, and experience learning from persons with neurodiversities into the truly unique offering that is Mountain Horse School.
Read: Where Wonder Takes Up Residence by Lisa Richardson (Pique newsmagazine, March 2019)
Burn Your Plan By Kera Willis (Traced Elements, March 2018)
Listen: Horses as Healer for Autism and Special Needs Kids (Reach for it Radio, October 2014)
Medicine Wheel (Soundcloud, a song by Kera Willis)
Watch: Into the Heart of the World: An Invitation (August 2018)
Karolane was born in Quebec and raised in Alberta, where she grew up in the city dreaming of mountains and oceans. She spent her childhood dreaming up magical stories about jungles, forests, mountains, and faraway places, often imagining herself a storyteller, a writer, a teacher, a supporter. From early adolescence, Karolane has always been pulled towards working with children and has found passion in guiding and mentoring young people. She has been working professionally with children of all ages for over 10 years. Her teaching experience includes a combination of early learning, teachers aid, special needs, one-on-one support, outdoor education, and tutoring. She loves to guide children and youth through experiential learning, especially in the company of the natural world (who is the real teacher). In the most recent years, Karolane has been enjoying exploring how remembering our connection to nature and animals can facilitate all learning, particularly social/emotional, and create a sense of belonging and calm in a sometimes chaotic world.
Currently, Karolane is completing studies in psychology and inclusive education through distance learning and has just completed a full season of summer camps with Mountain Horse School. After working and mentoring with Kera for the summer season, she's looking forward to continuing to facilitate meaningful connections between children, horses, and the natural world. You'll find her running the afterschool program, daycamps, and teaching beginner lessons through the season.
Katie was born and raised in Burlington Ontario and has called the majestic mountains of Pemberton home for the last 3 years. She feels she was born to love and understand animals (just ask her mom!) and is most at home on a farm. When she was a child, she'd often come in from playing outside with 10 snails crawling up her arms or a collection of worms in her hands. Her favourite thing to do as a child was to rescue sick birds, rodents, snakes and insects and try to nurse them back to life. From the creepy crawlers to the four-legged, she's had an affinity for animals all her life.
When Katie was 10 she was introduced to the world of horses through a western summer camp and was instantly hooked. She volunteered and rode at different stables, and got to experience lots of different horses in both Western and English diciplines. Through high school, she had many barn jobs and spent as much time with horses as she could. She gained experience riding hunter, jumper, and dressage and dabbed in the show ring with her 18-year-old Thoroughbred mare, Lexi, who followed her out West and is still an important part of her life.
Katie loves being with and teaching children and is thrilled to get to share her passion for the medicine that is horses as part of the Mountain Horse School team. You'll find her helping with the Wednesday afterschool program, Sunday camp days, and teaching beginner and intermediate lessons.
Affectionately known as Dub-a-Lub (he keeps his medicine name a secret), Dublin makes up for his giant size by being a general all-round easy going guy with an amazing sense of humour. He loves to drink coffee out of travel mugs, bonk you with his nose, make strange whale noises with his tongue, and insists on spilling half of his breakfast every day to share with Rosie. Dublin has been with Kera the longest, and is her main star in leading the therapeutic sessions. He can also take care of beginning riders, and teach adults the subtleties of awareness, intention and alignment.
Sarah is the grandmother of the herd. She worked as a trail horse for a long long time before coming to us at Mountain Horse. She is part in the dream world, part in this one, and has the tendency to fall asleep the minute her legs stop moving. But make no mistake- the dream world is where she gets her sweetness, huge heart and the generosity she gifts to us each day.
Besa- "Bea" or "Lady B" for short- is a big medicine mare, with equal measures fire and earth. Strong willed and affectionate, she's still learning how to partner with riders on her back. She is enjoying the freedom and confidence of going adventuring with Kera, and still is the first horse to come to the fence to watch what students are doing with the rest of the herd.
Larkin came to Mountain Horse School from Copper Cayuse Outfitters in Pemby. He got my attention with his huge heart and presence. Despite this little guy's small stature, he insists that he IS NOT SMALL. He is incredibly good at teaching boundaries, respect and assertiveness on the ground, and timing and responsiveness under saddle.
Pan camp with the farm. Well, sort of. He had a previous life as an autism therapy animal and got a bit tangled up and stressed out, and needed a new job and way to engage with humans. He came to us as a free lease at the beginning and he's wormed his way into out hearts. We think he's actually a seahorse trapped on earth. If you rub his forehead just right, he'll grant you a wish.
Mouse came to us from a lovely family in Pemberton. She had a tendon injury that ended her career as a show pony and she needed some lighter work in an environment that would give her lots of love and affection, as she's very much a 'people pony.' She's one of those magical unicorn types who loves to move as well as stop, and this has made her a wonderful confidence builder for her little riders.
Tess (on the right) came to us from an outfitting setup in the Chicoltin. She's such a sweetheart, and she's already won us over. She came to us really sore with a few different lamenesses and we're seeing if we can rehab her and make her comfortable so she can join our teaching herd.
Tina came from Second Chance Cheekeye Ranch in Squamish after being rescued from the Dawson Creek auction. She's slowly growing her trust in humankind, and one day we hope to be able to train her to ride. For now we're just enjoying her ears.
Rosie (on the right) is the poster child of Mountain Horse School; the greeting committee and the free-range food cleaner upper. She pops out of her hay nest in the barn at the slightest noise, and loves if you get down really low, move slowly, and giver her a good belly or chin scratch. Or any kind of scratch. She flew out to BC in a pig crate, and arrived at the farm wearing a tiny pink tutu.
Charlotte is really a viking princess in piggy disguise. She came to us from a rescue situation on Vancouver island, and has made herself famous by visiting various neighbours in the Glen on walkabouts. (We try to keep her fenced in, we promise!)