Reining in the talent

Sitting atop a shaded picnic bench, Patricia Warner recalls a moment in her career when a colleague asked her, “Do you know how blessed you are?”

Warner is Director of the Equine Science Department at Pierce. The Equestrian Center that lies west of campus is widely untouched by students who aren’t part of the animal science program, but Warner has been working with the students and horses there for quite some time. What that time has brought Warner is a love for the job not always seen in people.

“I’ve been blessed. Not many people can say they have a job they love and I just love it,” she said.

According to Warner, she’s been with the college for about 10-15 years. Former director of the Equine Program Ron Wechsler, had asked Warner to teach the training class some years ago. The class worked perfectly into her schedule, Warner said. Prior to teaching at Pierce, Warner was a full-time horse trainer who participated in exhibitions and shows.

“I taught that class on Monday. It seems like  for full-time horse trainers, their day off is Monday because they go to horse shows on the weekend,” she said.

Monday is a day that Warner still finds special.

“I’ve been teaching beginning equine training ever since. What’s neat about that is that it’s still on the same day. It’s still on Monday and it means a lot to me because it’s like the trainers’ day off,” Warner said.

One class became two, two became three, and so on until Warner was teaching right up to the maximum number of units before being a full-time teacher. When a full-time position opened up, she applied and got the job.

Warner teaches a wide breadth of courses at Pierce. They include: riding, training, breeding, show management, husbandry and production. The training class is Warner’s favorite to teach.

“It’s basically a psychological class on how animals learn. It’s a really neat class. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about horses. It’s about training, how animals learn and how you learn,” she said. “It’s absolutely one of my favorite classes. You can learn anything from training a dog, a cat, a rat, your boyfriend, your girlfriend or your teachers.”

In 2013, Warner and a student performed a Dog vs. Sheep Trick Contest, where a clicker-trained sheep named Pierce, performed the same tricks that an Australian Shepard could do.

Horses have been a part of Warner’s life since she was two. In her 44 years of working with horses, she has won over 100 championship titles, some of them at the state, world and national levels.

“All I’ve ever done is horses,” she said.

Warner grew up in Malibu where her family had about a third of an acre of property. Open space and community provided a place for Warner to ride freely.

“I grew up riding horses on the beach. All my neighbors rode. I literally used to take my horse down to the beach and ride him with no bridal or anything,” she said. “We’d ride our horses to the show. I’d ride my horse to the supermarket, tie him up outside. Mayfair Market it was called, on Point Dume.”

A life of working with these animals has provided her with valuable lessons, Warner said.

“I think the whole field of animals instills a good work ethic in people. You have to get up early and you go to bed late,” she said.  It’s like any kind of farmer. And I’ll tell you, if you have a good work ethic and you’re honest, you can always get a job. If you’re lazy and you don’t try, you’re out.”

Warner tries to help students who work really hard. Over the years that she’s been in the business, Warner has built a network of connections. She sometimes receives calls from people who ask if she can recommend anyone. In one case, an Olympic rider who was looking for a student to work for them, reached out to Warner.

“The kids that I have that are honest and try hard, I will sure try hard for them,” she said.

Just as Warner appreciates her students, students reciprocate the feeling.

“The way she teaches, the way she is with her students, and how she just is, it’s really amazing to see her teach,” Veronica De La Cruz, a veterinary major at Pierce, said.

Another student, Christina Havel, is an undecided major, but is happy to be taking basic equitation with Warner.

“I absolutely love her! Whoever loves animals and horses especially, should totally take her,” she said.

Students aren’t the only fans of Warner and her horses. Other teachers and faculty, she said, take riding classes as well.

Warner said everyone is welcome to watch the Parade Of Breeds on November 7th. Warner created this event a couple years ago in which she tests students in her classes to try and distinguish breeds among 50 horses or more.

Warner no longer has a horse of her own but still rides a couple of days a week for private clients. She lives in the horse community of Simi-Valley.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything,” Warner said.