Susan Kuliasha, owner and trainer at Fiesta Farm, has been teaching lessons since she was eleven. It was little more than babysitting with horses in those early days. But after a few years of practice and a few dozen more students, by golly, she was a trainer. She graduated from the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of University Studies, which allowed any classes to apply towards graduation as long as a big percentage (35%?) were over 300. That allowed the equivalent of a major in psychology with additional emphases in History, Literature and Anthropology. But, there was plenty of room for a lot of geology, a cabinet making class, brain physiology, linguistics and even a failed attempt at Latin. Law and veterinary medicine seemed appealing but she was a teacher first and foremost with a love of riding and horses. That proved hard to ignore. Coupled with a bent towards psychology, those interests landed her in the long and upward struggle to build and develop Fiesta Farm with the part time help of the original husband Mike Kuliasha who had almost endless energy for providing fencing, barns, houses and lots of general maintenance, after leaving the lab at ORNL in the evenings and working on weekends.
With learning and developing not only her students, but herself, Susan is an ARIA (American Riding Instructor’s Association) CERTIFIED instructor in Hunter Seat Equitation as well as in Stable Management. She holds the highest LEVEL III rating. Here are the specifications for that certification as well as a link to that website with additional information. The ARIA sponsors periodic and excellent seminars with top professional guest speakers routinely having speakers such as: George Morris, Jane Savoy and Michael Page, all past USET and Olympic riders.
ARIA link: http://www.riding-instructor.com/index.php
Level III – Instructor of Beginner through Advanced
- Minimum age: 25 years; minimum of 6 years teaching experience.
- Must pass all exams with scores of 90 or above on each.
- Must pass video evaluation for Level III.
- Is an excellent communicator.
- Has an outstanding personal philosophy of instruction.
- Clearly knows his own personal strengths and weaknesses.
- Has a thorough knowledge of specialty taught.
- Has an understanding of safety procedures, and uses them.
- Has a thorough knowledge of horses and their care.
- Rides (or has ridden) at an advanced level.
- Has advanced knowledge of training horses.
- Knows the elements of styles of riding other than his own specialty.
- Understands the psychology of the horse.
- Has participated in competition, if competition is an integral part of the style taught.
- Has knowledge of the practical application of stable management and horse care.
The Level III instructor is able to teach the more advanced rider as well as the beginner and intermediate rider. The instructor has ridden at an advanced level and understands the problems of advanced riders. This instructor is concerned with solving problems, not just dealing with symptoms. The instructor can also help with the training of horses, and can deal with specific training problems of his/her students’; horses. This instructor not only knows how horse and rider interact, but the whys behind it.
Susan has been happily married to Michael Priestap since 1995. He is a director at Children’s Hospital (and totally disinterested in horses). Susan has spent a lifetime encouraging riders – many youngsters, but older teens and adults too –
to be self confident, self reliant and happy horsemen and women. The list of past riders is very long, and in a few cases, illustrious. She takes pride in all that have passed through her barn and on to productive lives both with and without equine partners. Many are wonderful wives or husbands, fathers and aunts. A good many are vets or Doctors, business men and women, small business owners and teachers. More than a few are still involved in horses, some sharing their expertise with the next generation. Such is the stuff of live and a proud legacy.