Susan Watkins is a professional animal trainer with more than 30 years experience in animal behavior, working with everything from lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) to chickens (yes, you can teach a chicken to cross the road!) but specializes in horses. (see wild animal page)

As a youth, Sue rode hunters, jumpers, and dressage at the illustrious Foxfield Riding Academy. She holds a Bachelors’ in Animal Husbandry from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where she was an active member of the Horse Show Team, the Polo, Vaulting, and Cutting/Reining Clubs. During her college days she was an exercise rider at Hollywood Park and worked at the Kennedy Meadows Pack Station.

As a very accomplished Horsewoman, her diverse professional experience includes training horses for the movies and circus,  working as a back country pack-guide and summer camp wrangler, working at Arabian and Thoroughbred breeding farms and training a wide variety of breeds for the show ring.

A renowned specialist in training trick horses even zebras, Sue’s work can be seen in numerous television productions and feature films. Most recently she was in the award winning documentary called "Buck" about the life of the famous true 'Horse Whisperer' Buck Brannaman. She volunteered for years as the Mounted Division coordinator and instructor for the Sherrif's Department Search and Rescue Unit. Currently Sue is busy doing work with the BLM wild mustangs, as a TIP trainer, demo clinician at wild horse adoptions, Board member, rehomeing center and mustang consultant. 

Her current passion is the sport of Working Equitation. Which is a very popular sport in Europe and just now taking America by storm. It is a 4 phase sport that is a perfect balance of all that Sue believes is important for a well rounded horse. Sue is currently the Exective Director of the United States Working Equitation Association. Check it out at

Sue became interested in the Kiger Mesteno Mustang about 10 years ago when one was brought to her for Search and Rescue training. She now shows and sells them almost exclusively. With her expertise and guidance, countless Kigers have found a home in many diverse disciplines.

A devotee of studing the traditional Vaquero horsemanship style of old California where 'less is more', Sue relies on a solid foundation of ground work, ranch & trail work, plus classicial dressage, to develop solid, responsive horses suitable for any discipline especially the new equestrian sport known as Working Equitation. Always available by phone, FB or in person for lessons, clinics, evaluations, training, lectures and demonstrations Sue gives her all to help the horse and their rider become a unified team.


*2014 L3 Reserve Champion  Working Equitation , Fiesta of the Spanish Horse, LA, CA

*2013 Moved Training facility to Riverside, CA for Working Equitation

*2013 Score Keeper, ILAHA National Show and Working Equitation Competition, Ft Worth, TX

*2012 United States Working Equitation Association Founder, Ex Dir.

*2012 Secretary, ILAHA National Show and Working Equitation Competition, Ft Worth, TX

*2012 Youth Students took 1st and 9th place in Supreme Extreme MMO in Ft. Worth, TX

*2011  Sue did not compete due to still recuperating from a broken back.

*2010 BLM Wild Horse and Burro Volunteer Association, Founding Member, 

          Board of Directors, Secretary.

*2010  Sue did not compete due to a broken back from a riding accident.

*2010 Kiger Mesteno Association Awards and Show Chairman

*2009 EXCA Extreme Cowboy Race 5th and 6th place Pro Division (Riding 2 green mustangs)

      *2009 MHF Mountain Valley Extreme Mustang Makeover Contest Trainer

                                        *1st Place Stall Decorating Contest

                                              *1st Place Body Conditioning Score

                                           *5th Place Extreme Trail Course

               *Top 10 Finalist

                                      *8th Place final placing

                                          *6th highest selling horse

                                                       *2009 California State Fair Military Tribute Flag Bearer (3 Kigers)

                                               *2009 California State Fair, Carousel of Breeds Participant

                                                                 *2009 MHF Western States Extreme Mustang Makeover Contest Trainer

                                                                               *4th Place Body Conditioning Score

*4th Place In-Hand Course

*2009 Qualified TIP Mustang Trainer for MHF/BLM

*2009 Kiger Mesteno Association Awards and Show Chairman

*2009 Kiger Mesteno Association Board of Directors, Secretary

*2009 Lifetime Membership Award Western Fairs Association

*2008 Trail Blazer Magazine, Battle of the Breeds Contestant

*2008 California State Fair, Carousel of Breeds Participant

*2008 Sacramento Horseman’s Association High Point English Rider 18 + over

*2008 Western States Horse Expo Horse Sale, Top 5 Yearling

*2008 Sacramento Co Sheriff Search and Rescue Sensory Clinic Instructor

*2007 California State Fair, Carousel of Breeds Participant

*2007 Kiger Mesteno Association High Point Senior Rider Open

*2007 Kiger Mesteno Association Reserve High Point Senior Rider Kiger

*2007 Kiger Mesteno Association Reserve High Point Senior Horse Open

*2007 Kiger Mesteno Association Champion Gelding Open

*2007 Kiger Mesteno Association Champion Gelding Kiger

*2007 Kiger Mesteno Association Reserve Champion Halter Stallion Open

*2007 Kiger Mesteno Association Dun Factor Champion

*2007 Sacramento Co Sheriff Search and Rescue Sensory Clinic Instructor

*2007 Sacramento Co Sheriff Search and Rescue Mounted Division Coordinator

*2006 Sacramento Co Sheriff Search and Rescue Mounted Division Coordinator

Susan Watkins originally a native of Southern California has returned after 20 years in Northern California. She is a house hold name for Northern California horsemen in the Kiger Mesteno, BLM Wild Mustang, Cowboy Race and Working Equitation circles. As the Exective Director of the United States Working Equitation Association Sue could not pass up the opportunity to create a Working Equitation Facility in the beautiful, horse rich area of Gavilan Hills south of Riverside, even thought it meant uprooting her entire operation, moving 500 miles and leaving a large loyal following of students, clients and beloved horses.

Now open for business Sue welcomes any rider who would like to create better unity with their horse, no matter what their age, disipline or breed of horse. All training by Sue Watkins is based on the traditional Californios style of 'putting the horse first'. From colt starting to advanced training, English, Western, Working Equitation or trail lessons, Clinics specializing in Ground Work, Working Equitation or Trail Obstacles are offered throughtout the year. Her mission is to educate riders and disseminate horsemanship in a form that truly respects the mental, emotional and physical integrity of the horse. Other services offered include: Playdays, Travel to Horse Shows, Horse Transportation, Boarding. Purchase evaluations, Sale Horse prep and consignment. Sue is a top 10 MMO winner, a qualified TIP Trainer for the Mustang Hertiage Foundation, a BLM volunteer Compliance Officer, and BLM Wild Horse demo rider and clinican, so wild horse/mustang gentling is her speciality. Sue will gladly come to your youth group, horse club or business and give a lecture or demo on any of these equine subjects.

The first question people seem to ask a tranier these days is: "What method do you use?" or "Who's style do you follow?"  That is always a questions that leaves me empty pondering just what the person means and what answer they are looking for. Every person is an individual. So untimately they must use their own method which comes from thier own mind's interpertation of what they have seen or learned as well as the benifits or limits of their own physical body. I use the method that works at that particlar moment for that particular horse, these things don't usually have a name. I try to use a method which works for the horse, what ever bridges the gap between English which I speak and Equinelish which the horse speaks.  I have had 100's (actually 1000's) of equine teachers who with more patience, understanding, faith, knowledge and clarity than any human could ever muster guide me down this path so I could learn to bridge the gap between horses and their riders. I have also had many human mentors in my life, who helped me more than they will ever know, (since I myself am not always the best pupil), some of them I mention on the training page.

Kigers de los Californios 


Eli Ruonavaara the founding partner and Northern California contact for Kigers de los Californios acquired his first Kiger in 1998. A wild captive bred long legged, gangly grullo yearling colt now known as the infamous 'Smoke'. As they developed their partnership and Eli rode Smoke on the trails, in parades and for the Sacramento Mounted Search and Rescue Unit. Anywhere Smoke went Eli knew he could not go far without being stopped numerous times by people of all walks of life - horse aficionados or not - asking with awe “What kind of horse is that?” It was then that Eli knew he would spend his life trying to share these magnificent Kigers with everyone he could. This dream of having numerous well-trained Kigers for himself as well as to present quality Kigers to the public brought him to Sue Watkins and her traditional horsemanship style of training.  Eli is lucky enough to keep his horses with him at his home in Placerville, but trains consistently with Sue. Sue and Eli also work seamlessly to promote the Kiger Mesteno horse with public demonstrations, Quality Kigers for sale, Kiger information and referrals.  His passion is trail riding, logging countless miles every weekend on the trail. He also enjoys riding in Kiger breed demonstrations, trail trials, and Working Equitation or watching Sue show one of his 5 registered Grullo Kigers geldings in English, Western, Tr ailand Dressage shows. Eli is very active in numerous horse organizations and is currently on the board of the United States Working Equitation Association. In addition, with his excellent eye for the true Kiger look, every summer Eli traverses the hills of Oregon with camera and binoculars in tow, choosing our new crop of wild young prospects from private breeders and never misses the every four year trek to Burns, OR for the BLM Kiger Adoption. He enjoys handling and gentling the young colts as great relaxation from his stressful corporate job. Eli is the Northern California contact for Kigers de los Californios

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