“Teaching and training are the most rewarding aspects of being in the equine business. Working with students and horses that want to learn, well there isn't a much better profession for me. Experiencing that ‘moment’ when a rider or a horse ‘gets’ the lesson, there is a feeling that washes over me like a wave, it gives me the chills,” says Debbie. “Seeing students and horses grow with tone and elegance within their bodies; what an immense sensation!”
Debbie enjoys working with a variety of riders, from the very young, to the timid, to the more established students.
Debbie grew up flanking her mother's side as she taught at her riding school. At age 10, she started teaching the neighbor children and the aptitude for teaching grew from there.
In her younger years, Debbie trained and competed Arabians; riding in every discipline possible competing up and down the east coast. At 14, Debbie discovered dressage through clinicians such as Michael Handler, Janet Black and Valerie Knight.
Debbie was one of the founding members of the Lost Hounds Pony Club. For over 10 years she chaired the dressage phase of the Lost Hounds Combined Training event, USEA and USEF recognized. She has supported the pony club as an instructor as well as a coach at competitions.
In 1979, she graduated from Morven Park International Equestrian Institute in Leesburg, VA; becoming a certified instructor in dressage and jumping. After a short period of teaching and training with Quarter Horses and Appaloosas in West Virginia, she moved back to Erie County, PA. In 1982, she and her husband bought a 50 acre farm in McKean and Shadow Facs Farm (SFF) was established.
Debbie attended several USDF instructor workshops lead by Major Lindgren and several USEA Instructor Certification Programs enhancing her knowledge in cross country and stadium jumping. Debbie has also worked with such FEI riders such as Elizabeth Channing, Charlotte Bayley, Gil Merrick and Miguel Tavora to name a few.
She coached at the Edinboro University Collegiate Equestrian team for 2 years.
SFF currently has students in training through second level of dressage and novice and training levels of eventing. Debbie has trained horses from the initial backing through intermediate level in combined training as well as competing in a CCI* and third level in dressage. She is also a USDF bronze medalist in dressage and an active competitor in recognized dressage show in OH, VA, MI and PA. She is also a member of the United States Eventing Association, Northern Ohio Dressage Association and the Erie Hunt & Saddle Club. Debbie continues to be the main teaching and training skill behind SFF.
Debbie feels an emotional attachment to the horses in her training program; it is dedication and a physically powerful compassion beyond words; it is a challenge for a non-horseperson to understand. Horse people are a kind all to their own, they are almost incapable of life without daily interactions with their horse. It is a strong attraction, an addiction which can be compared to nothing else.
The work is hard and at times the work can be very humbling; however the reward is immense – there is nothing like this ‘partnership’ to teach a person all about themselves.