Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship - Horsemanship Courses, Mentorships, Training, Lessons, Clinics







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Falling Star Ranch
Academy of Foundational Horsemanship

Birgit Stutz and
Marc Lavigne

General Delivery
Dunster, B.C.
V0J 1J0

Phone (250) 968-6801





"Ask not what your horse can do for you.
Ask what you can do for your horse."

- Chris Irwin



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Training, Lessons, Clinics
Mentorship Programs
Intensive Horsemanship Courses
Workshops, Short Courses, Demos

With Birgit Stutz, Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer
(first Irwin Insights trainer in Canada to be awarded Level 4 Master)

Working Student Positions/Internships


Are you looking for a farm stay/ranch stay experience in Canada?
Would you like to experience life on a horse ranch that practices an evolutionary type of natural horsemanship (non-resistance training methods)?
Would you like to learn or expand your natural horsemanship skills?

Come to Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in Dunster in British Columbia's beautiful Robson Valley in Western Canada for the experience of a lifetime!

Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship offers a limited number of working student positions and internships every year.

"One and a half years ago, from June until November 2015, I had the great chance to spend five month at Falling Star Ranch as a working student. Almost every day I got either a riding and/or a groundwork lesson. Birgit is an amazing coach as she gives clear instructions and answeres all the question. Due to her long experience in the horseworld she has a very good way of explaining the techniques of Chris Irwin. Not a very good rider at the beginning, she pushed me quite hard and it was definitely worth it as after five month I left the ranch as a far better rider than when I came to Canada. My stay gave me the motivation to keep my feet in the horse world and I am now building up a centre for equine assisted therapy in Switzerland. - Andrea Nyffeler

Please carefully read over the following page before applying.

Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundatinoal Horsemanship also offers mentorship programs. These programs are different from our working student programs/internships in that the mentees are not involved in the day-to-day running of the ranch and are therefore are able to immerse themselves into improving their horsemanship full-time.
Now accepting applications for our 2017 mentorship programs.
Click here for more information.
New in 2017 we also offer 10-day intensive horsemanship courses based on the methodology of Irwin Insights.

Please note:
Preference is given to applicants for working student positions/internships who have completed at minimum a two-week mentorship program or have participated in a 10-day intensive horsemanship course at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship.
A working student position/internship is, however, not guaranteed upon completion of the mentorship program or horsemanship course and depends on availability of working student positions/internships and skill level of the applicant. We are, however, willing to train the right person who commits to a minimum stay of three months.
Non-resident (non-Canadian) working students/interns need to have a valid working holiday visa or work permit in order to work at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundatinoal Horsemanship.

Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship is a small training and lesson barn located in north-eastern British Columbia's Robson Valley, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and Cariboo Mountains and endless wilderness. We currently own twelve horses, some of which are used as lesson horses while others are being started under saddle or are already in more advanced or specialized training. We also board several client horses.

Working students/interns receive a comprehensive, practical education in all aspects of a horse business, including horse health care, grooming, feeding, stable management, tacking/untacking, tack care, as well as horse handling. Working students/interns basically learn how to run a farm. Working students/interns may also help out with other aspects of the business, such as advertising and marketing, web design, and other computer and office related tasks.

Working students/interns work full-time as volunteers, 6 days a week with one day off per week. This position, like any agricultural business, is not a 9-5 job. Days are long and hard. It is a lifestyle for those who don't mind working long, hard days in any weather conditions.

Working students/interns receive room and board and riding, horsemanship and groundwork lessons (time and weather permitting) based on Irwin Insights' non-resistance training methodology (Birgit is an Irwin Insights Level 4 Master Certified Trainer, the first one to receive certification at this level in Canada, and as of January 2017 only the fourth one world-wide) in exchange for working on the farm, in both horse-related and non-horse related activities (including, but not limited to gardening, housework, cooking, baking, weeding, yard work, general maintenance of buildings, gathering and stacking firewood, snow removal, and various other tasks). Horse-related activities include general farm chores such as feeding and watering livestock, cleaning pens and shelters, turning out horses, haying, fencing, painting fences, grooming horses, tacking up and untacking horses, cleaning tack, medicating horses, and assisting with the handling of horses, etc. Depending on their skill level and length of stay (minimum of two months), working students/interns may also assist with exercising and training of horses (lungeing, round penning and other groundwork, as well as riding).

Working students/interns from non-English speaking countries get a chance to improve their English language skills as they will be fully immersed in the Canadian way of life. However, it is important that working students/interns already have a good working knowledge of the English language. Working students/interns also get to meet local residents as well as attend and participate in local events (see recreation). In the past, working students/interns have come from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Holland, France, England, Australia and Canada. Several of our working students/interns have become certified Chris Irwin trainers.

All working students/interns, regardless of prior experience (unless they are returning working students), start out at the same level. Working students/interns earn authority, privileges and responsibilities based upon their performance, work ethic, problem solving skills, riding and horsemanship skills, etc. Each working student/interns
gets out of the program what he/she puts into it. As working students/interns develop in their own horsemanship, both on the ground and in the saddle, they gradually get to take part in the teaching of lessons and training of horses and may eventually develop into "assistant coaches and trainers" (depending on length of stay and skill level).

Many opportunities exist within the working student program/internship at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship (depending on the working student's/intern's skill level and length of stay), including:
Overseeing new working students/interns
- Helping with the training of young, green and "problem" horses
- Riding advanced horses in training and schooling sessions

- Assisting with lessons, clinics, horsemanship courses, workshops and demos

- Participation in a Chris Irwin clinic or a private/semi-private lesson with Chris Irwin (at their cost) and, depending on their skill level, may ask for an evaluation to become certified by Irwin Insights.

- Preference is given to applicants who have a healthy comfort level around young horses, problem horses, and stallions, have experience handling and riding young horses and difficult horses, have a good, solid seat, soft hands, and know how to ride a horse from back to front with effective seat and leg aids.
- A keen interest in learning Chris Irwin's non-resistance training methods is required. Working students/interns are expected to study in their sparetime our extensive DVD collection of Chris Irwin training videos to accelerate their horsemanship skills.
- Horse training is a physically demanding occupation. You MUST be physically and mentally fit and able to carry out the demands of the job, which includes, but is not limited to, handling horses, cleaning shelters/pens/stalls, hauling water buckets, unloading feed bags, stacking hay, lifting heavy saddles, etc.
- A good working knowledge of the English language is important.
- Working students/interns need to be able to work independently as well as with others, and with consistent reliability, and take instructions.
- Working students/interns need to be able to think ahead and solve problems.
- Working students/interns must be honest, trustworthy, polite, reliable, responsible, self-motivated, keen, hardworking and able to stay on task even when the going gets rough.
- A good work ethic and a positive attitude are essential.
- A love of nature and a willingness to live in a remote area (the closest small town is 25 km away) is also required.
- Attention to cleanliness and detail is important as well.
- Overall, working students/interns are expected to be positive team players who are willing to help out wherever needed.
- Working students/interns must have a commitment to improving oneself through physical development (general physical fitness, strengthening, flexibility development), as well as intellectual and emotional development.
- Working students/interns must have a commitment to the further development of one's education, and must take responsibility for their own learning.
- Required minimum length of stay is two consecutive months. Longer stays are encouraged to make the most out of your stay. Experience has shown us that it takes the average volunteer two to four weeks to get into the swing of things.
- It is advantageous for a working student/intern to have a clear idea of where they are heading in their riding/career.
- Every working student/intern is required to carry personal liability insurance that covers horse-related activities. Insurance can be purchased through Horse Council BC for $60 a year if you don't have your own insurance (http://www.hcbc.ca/Individual-Membership.html?).

- Applicants for working student positions/internships at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship must be at least 19 years old.
The application for a working student position/internship consists of a questionnaire as well as a video (no more than 10 minutes please!) of the applicant riding a horse at all three gaits (English or Western) as well as bareback at all three gaits, catching a horse in a corral/pasture (haltering), picking out feet as well as tacking (saddling and bridling) a horse. You can either post the video on YouTube or in Dropbox and email us the link or mail us a CD. Please also include a resume as well as three references (one personal reference as well as two from riders/trainers/coaches). Please email us for more information about our working student program/internships and to require an application form.
- A good
working knowledge of every day English language is very important. Otherwise, a stay in an English language school is highly recommended before your visit to Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship in order to make the most out of your stay.
Local applicants (those within a 2-hour drive from Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship) will be expected to come for an interview in person. If you are not local, but willing and able to come for an interview, please indicate this on your resume/letter. All other applicants are required to do an interview by phone or via Skype.
- If you are accepted as a working student/intern, your acceptance is on a "probationary" status. After two weeks, your performance will be reviewed and a decision will be made whether you are to remain in the working student program/internship. However, please be aware that at any time, we can terminate your apprenticeship/internship based upon sub-performance (in your work or your riding/horse handling skills), inability to follow orders, inability to work well with others, dishonesty, mistreatment of the horses, etc.

Advice on being a top working student
What is a working student in the horse-industry?
So you want to be a working student?
Recreational opportunities

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Recreational opportunities

The Robson Valley is in close proximity to the world-famous Mount Robson, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, as well as a 90-minute drive from Jasper National Park. The recreational opportunities in the area are endless.


Recreational activities
in the summer time
Recreational activities
in the winter time
  • Trail riding
  • Hiking
  • Nature walks
  • Interpretive trails
  • Biking
  • Mountain biking
  • Golfing
  • Campfires
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Farmers markets
  • Trips to Jasper National Park
  • River rafting
  • Float tours
  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Climbing
  • Helicopter tours
  • Parades
  • Rodeos
  • Dunster Ice Cream Social
  • Dances
  • Music festival
  • Cattle drives
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Downhill skiing in Jasper
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowshoeing
  • Sledding/Tobogganing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Dogsledding
  • Ice-skating
  • Ice fishing
  • Heli-skiing
  • Hockey
  • Curling
  • Dances
  • Volleyball
  • Badminton

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Campfires and cookouts Campfire evening at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship

Campfire evening at Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship

Marc singing cowboy songs


Marc playing the guitar



Hike to a waterfall near McBride, BC

Hike in the alpine of the Robson Valley


Biking in the Robson Valley

Biking in the Robson Valley

Canoeing and boating

Canoeing on the Fraser River

Boat trip in Jasper National Park


River rafting on the Fraser River

Helicopter tours

Helicopter tours in the Robson Valley

Trail riding

Trail riding in the alpine of the Robson Valley

Trail riding in the alpine of the Robson Valley


Fall Fair Parade in McBride

Fall Fair Parade in McBride


Rodeo dance

Rodeo dance



Snow-shoeing in the Robson Valley

Snow-shoeing in the Robson Valley






Birgit, Marc and Jaci with Nadeika and Alyosha from Belarus at the Jasper Heritage Rodeo and Dance, which takes place every year in August


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Three cowgirls at Falling Star Ranch

Birgit on Joker, Sabrina on Cody and Karin on Bandit are ready
for a trail ride on a fall day.


Please email or call us for information regarding working student positions/internships. We'd love to hear from you! Limited availability of positions.

Falling Star Ranch Academy of Foundational Horsemanship now also offers mentorship programs for a fee. These programs are different from our working student program in that the mentees are not required to work in exchange for learning more about horsemanship, but instead are able to immerse themselves into horsemanship full-time. Click here for more information on our mentorship programs.

Three cowgirls at Falling Star Ranch

Three cowgirls - Corinne, Sabrina and Birgit -
riding Bandit, TS Bold Cody and Rockn W Jody

Three cowgirls at Falling Star Ranch

Page last updated February 19, 2017->

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