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 starting 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 a 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. Check it out at www.usawea.com
Sue became interested in the Kigers 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 the traditional Vaquero horsemanship style of old California, Sue relies on a solid foundation of ground work, ranch & trail work, plus formal 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.
*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
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 and 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 breeds and 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
Kigers de los Californios