A writer, artist, musician, traveler and horsewoman, 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 learned her way through a series of apprenticeships in the dressage and event worlds- teaching and training and managing stables in Canada and the UK.
A self directed learner and passionate un-schooler, she sought an experiential education as a traveler, artist and writer, and began looking for an approach to horses that would allow for a more authentic relationship. She discovered the field of Equine Guided Learning (EFL), and spent 3 years rewilding her equestrian education with the help of a feral Percheron mare. In 2010 she completed a Facilitator of Equine Experiential Learning Certificate through Horse Spirit Connections in Tottenham, Ontario which combined Linda Kohanov's Epona approach with shamanic studies. She continued her exploration of the liminal edge between human, animal and nature with ecopsychologist David Abram, mycologist Paul Stamets, TTouch founder Linda Tellington Jones, and dreamworker/translator of the unconscious Toko Pa Turner.
Still missing the power, courage, and surrender that is gifted to us when we join with horses in movement, she began to look for ways to bring ridden work closer to the transformational/ personal development/ healing fields of EFL, as well as ways to include the vital necessity of a felt connection with our living earth. She founded Mountain Horse School in Squamish BC in 2012, and began exploring this intersection with students.
After years of supporting Autistic/neurodiverse children privately and as a Special Education/Class Assistant at the Whistler Waldorf School, she knew she needed to find a way to work with these individuals on horseback. In 2014 she left for Elgin, Texas, where she completed a 600 hour apprenticeship and 4 levels of certification in Horse Boy Method- a cutting edge evolution of therapeutic riding specific to Autism and neurological diversity. After returning from Texas, she worked with the Healing With Horses Therapeutic Centre in Prince Edward County, Ontario as consultant, program developer, and trainer, helping the centre expand their scope of practice and educate the community on the benefits of this work.
In 2015 Kera returned to BC, and reopened Mountain Horse School in the Upper Squamish Valley. In 2017 she moved the school to Pemberton BC, where she continues to alchemize her diverse horse experience, passion for earth-centred wisdom, 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)
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.
Rosie 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.
Vinnie came to us from an amazing woman who saved him and then kept him alive when he was a wee lamb. His mom rejected him and so he was raised by humans and his dog friends. When we saw Vinnie was looking for a new home we opened our barn doors- we just knew he would be a perfect fit.
He's an absolute sweetheart, and invites us all to move slow enough when we are around him that he knows he can trust us, and teaches us that just a little more time is all that's needed to invite the special ones to come out of their shells.