Tracey Whelan

Hi! I’m Tracy (AKA Missaay Moo for the purposes of social media) horse charming professional based in Shropshire. My journey to becoming a member of the Horse Charming Team started over four years ago when I attended one of Max’s ‘How Animals Learn’ courses in Yorkshire. For me, at the time, this was another attempt at helping my wonderful mare, Missy, find happiness. I had had, up to that point, a pretty fruitless, mostly desperate and increasingly depressing search for answers and solutions. Missy was, most definitely, being misunderstood.

As a child I was obsessed with horses. I think it was my father’s love of equines that was imprinted on me from a very early age.  Whilst my friends had posters of pop stars adorning their walls and their books at school, I instead, had pictures of ponies! From the age of 10 I took riding lessons and helped out every day looking after the ponies at a local yard. This led to me being allowed to take on a trekking pony, Peter, over the winter when I was 12 to see if I could manage a pony of my own. I was lucky to be given the chance by my parents to have my own horse.  The following spring Moonlight arrived and my dream had come true!  From that early age I recognised that building a relationship was what I wanted to achieve foremost with my equine buddy.  I did things differently to those around me, I used treats, I rode in a halter, I spent lots of time just hanging out with him enjoying his company. Although I didn’t understand the hows and whys back then, he taught me a lot. I remember a wise elderly family friend saying to me once, when I was stroking her cat, “You have a special connection with animals” and that remains in my mind to this day.

At 16 I had to make a choice between going to University to pursue a career in an Arts education, which would mean selling Moonlight, or get a job to help my parents pay for him. I was torn. The day he went to his new home I was devastated but happy to know he had gone to a lovely new owner.

Fast forward 28 years to 2010, and a career in education and leadership later, I decided that I was in a good position to start thinking about getting myself another horse. Something had been missing all those years and it turned out that I had a big horse shaped hole in my life.

That year I had ridden on holiday in France, after not being in a saddle for 20 years, and all of those happy feelings had instantly returned . On my return from holiday, I started my search for my equine friend in earnest.  A week later I came across my match made in heaven. Out was brought the most beautiful little horse I’d ever cast my eyes upon, she was, in my eyes, perfect. It really was love at first sight. That’s it, I bought her there and then, my amazing 3 year old MARE.  I didn’t even entertain the thought of viewing any others. . I had been warned not to buy a young mare!

Unbeknown to me this was the beginning of a huge learning journey that would change my life and hers.

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It wasn’t long before Missy started to make it very clear that everything was not okay in her world. Her reactions were described as being “extreme” , “ dangerous” , “ defiant”  etc etc .  She was, I thought, too much for me.  Had I “over horsed” myself after all?  I was worried that I’d made a big mistake.  How on earth was I going to put things right?  I probably should add, at this point, that I’m pretty determined and resilient, plus, I rarely admit defeat. There’s always a solution to be found with the right mindset and tools.  Sometimes I’m called “stubborn” and my horse has had even more labels attached to her. We HATE labels but this kept me going, alongside my connection for “that bloody horse”  , “that ……. of a mare”

I persevered in trying to change her extreme behaviour (rearing and broncing were Missy’s default behaviours) without really having the knowledge of how to deal with what was unravelling.  I went on a search for answers because I wasn’t going to give up on her.  Did she need a job? Was I too inexperienced? What would people say if I retired her? Should I send her away? Should I get someone to ride her?   My head, most days was on the verge of exploding because of the advice I was being given.

In what felt like a whirlwind few years of emotional turmoil, for us both, I decided to stop all attempts of doing anything with her. It was established, over that time, after numerous x-rays and a stay in horse hospital, that Missy had problems with her stifles, sacroiliac joint and her back. I instantly put all of my plans for riding to the bottom of the priority list.  I was totally petrified of her after a disastrous episode when she was on box rest but I wasn’t going to give up on her.

In early 2014 I was put in touch with Max and after a short time in her company I was hooked! I vividly remember being ecstatic when I drove home after the two day course because I’d had huge light bulb moments.  I bought myself a clicker the very next day with a smile on my face, a spring in my step and armed with pages of notes.  At last there was a way forward and a glimmer of a silver lining to the clouds.

Through regular coaching from Max, and a newly ignited thirst for learning, I began to see what was possible. We started to peel away the layers of Missy and things started to change for the better. Max and Missy have been, and continue to be, the most fabulous teachers for me.  I have made it my mission to learn and keep learning.  My horses teach me something new each and every day!


In all of those dark years I kept trying to find the missing pieces of the jigsaw. I knew there must be a better way to ensure my beloved horse could be happy. Luckily, Missy is a horse who was/is very clear in showing me how she feels. I’ve learnt to read her emotions, to understand her triggers and I train her with that in mind. She has a huge heart, is spirited and she fascinates me!

Once again fast forward a few years and I have a happy, relaxed, transformed Missy. She lives with her companion Blaze who came into our lives several years ago. He has recently started his + R journey too.

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I am now in a privileged position to help other people discover the power of horse charming and help support equine owners and guardians in the way I have been.  I am particularly interested in expanding my knowledge of how to keep horses biomechanically healthy utilising +R to facilitate exercises .This is my own current area of focus with my own horses.  As Blaze enters his older years, and for Missy’s continued rehabilitation, I feel this is a vital aspect of our training to pursue.  I love all horses but have a desire to find out more about what makes mares tick, quite possibly because I was told all those years ago to avoid one.

I have two dogs, chickens and ferrets, all of whom I’m endeavouring to train effectively using  + R .   We are a truly charmed family here in Shropshire!

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