Laverne began riding lessons at the age of eight at a facility near her home in British Columbia, Canada. The instructors at Burnaby Lake Riding Stables encouraged her love for horses. She was taught English style riding, and she advanced enough to do a little jumping. Laverne was never a competitor, but she still keeps a rumpled fourth place ribbon she earned in equitation at the one play day show she attended at her riding school.
When Friendly Horse Acres came into existence the family did get involved in showing first Quarter Horses, and then Miniature Horses. Steve took the spotlight at this point. Although the family hired professional trainers, Steve was often the one to lead the horses into the show ring in halter classes. Laverne stayed outside the arena as a go-fer.
Laverne decided to revive her own riding skills and she started dressage lessons at Fox Ridge Farm in Enumclaw, Washington in November of 1989, and she continued her studies there for seven years. Laverne never advanced beyond Level 1, and she always showed at Training Level, but she learned an appreciation for good horse and rider teams.
At about the same time she began riding lessons again, Laverne assumed the role of primary horse trainer at the farm. Shortly after that she found TTEAM, and adopted those methods of training.
Students started to appear on the farm. Usually they were children, but some adults also began to routinely come for "horse personship" lessons. A few of the students have gone on to make a career of horses. Laverne and Steve take real pride in being those important first teachers who encourage a passion that will benefit both horse and human.
Laverne has always enjoyed writing and in 1989 she was asked to assume a newspaper column called "Hoof Beats" for the Sumner News Review. When this paper became obsolete in 1990 The Enumclaw Courier Herald picked up Hoof Beats. The column ran until the end of 1996. Since then Laverne’s articles have been published in national magazines, including "Companion Horse".
In the last few years Laverne and Steve have hosted one five day TTEAM clinic with Debra Potts, and Laverne has traveled to Vernon, British Columbia to learn more at Robyn Hood’s Icelandic Horse Farm. As of September 2000, Laverne has been certified as a TTEAM Equine Practitioner.
Even though Laverne no longer studies dressage at Fox Ridge Farm, she has continued to improve her riding and driving by attending other clinics. In riding she has studied Connected Riding under Pegging Cummings, and she has enjoyed learning the methods of Centered Riding as taught by Wendy Murdoch, Sue Faulkner-March, and Ashley Fudge.
Both Steve and Laverne believe learning about horses is a lifetime job. Now they want to share what they have learned with others, and they continue to host TTEAM clinics.
Steve and Laverne Harris began Friendly Horse Acres in 1984 on a small farm in Auburn, Washington. The farm began with Jodee (April Star Jodee), and Splash (Sadie's Splash), and kept growing as more horses and ponies came to join the original two.
Laverne had always been interested in horses. In fact, her mother informed her that her first word rather startled her city-bred parents. It was "horse."
Laverne was involved with riding lessons by the time she was eight. She saved until she was able to purchase her first horse, Nifty, a British Columbia, Canada, mustang. Laverne was 14; Nifty was two. Laverne added another horse when she was 17. Dusky Babe was a frisky little Quarter Horse. A few years later Laverne sold her horses to begin life in the "real" world.
Steve grew up on a farm in Renton, Washington. He was familiar with pigs, cows and sheep but he was always interested in horses, although it wasn't until he married Laverne that he had first hand experience with that particular animal.
After Steve survived a life threatening operation, the couple decided it was time to stop waiting. With the enthusiastic encouragement of their then nine-year-old son, Mark, the couple went searching for those first horses. Jodee and Splash came home. Other horses, then ponies, followed.
Eventually, the Auburn farm became too small for the number of animals and that is when the family moved to Buckley.
Steve tried racing his homebred Quarter Horse, but he eventually settled on a passion for draft horses. He is the jack-of-all-trades around the farm.
Over the years the horses and ponies of Friendly Horse Acres have been favorites at parades, birthday parties and visits to retirement and nursing homes in the community.
Laverne's passion for equines has never diminished. Her primary concern has always been appreciating the horse on the animal's own terms. She was able to pass this love on to the youngsters in the neighborhood who began to hang around the farm. These impromptu lessons eventually evolved into a more structured schedule of lessons.
Laverne stumbled across TTEAM, and she embraced that system of handling horses since it is so consistent with what she has always believed. Horses must be respected as individuals.
Out of the Harris' Quaker faith, the idea of a family camp for people who are not experienced with horses and who might be a little timid about such a large animal, began.
In 2004, Friendly Horse Acres became incorporated as a non-profit organization. Now everyone, no matter their circumstances, can enjoy the horses and ponies.
Contributions are welcome. Sponsorship programs are also available.