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Joan Ronalder

Exclusive Interview conducted by Barbara J. Andrews - April 2001


Multi-Species Animal Trainer of rodeos, horse shows, Theme Park Performer Extraordinaire and most recently, Multi-Talented Working German Shepherd Dog Breeder.


Joan was born with a love for horses that intensified with maturity and experience. Her talent and almost psychic communication extends to dogs. Training animals comes as naturally to her as entertaining an audience. "Showing off" and performing before a crowd is what her animals like best.


With 2 decades training horses and moving on to become a nationally known multi-species animal trainer, there isn’t much Joan hasn’t done with animals. Her trick riding, Roman style riding on three, not two horses, has thrilled audiences from coast to coast. Equally impressive, Joan trains her own performing horses. She has also spent time breaking and exercising thoroughbred racehorses as well as training horses and mules for pleasure driving and competition. Shoeing horses correctly is an art in itself and Joan has shoed horses for Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus and the Royal Lippizan Stallion Show and of course, does her own Ferrier work.


A vivid imagination and determination helped Joan become the top-notch trainer and performer she is today.  Ronalder has some of the most unique animal acts ever presented. Performing with Rodeos, Wild West Shows, Theme Parks and Circuses, Joan has amazed audiences from Florida to Canada, coast to coast and even in Bermuda, a real challenge when moving and caring for the animals.


Joan Ronalder's unique and totally original acts have entertained audiences at prestigious rodeos such as North American Rodeo Commission Finals, the IPRA (Texas) All Region Finals (FL) The American Professional Rodeo Association Finals (PA) The IPRA Southeast Region Finals (FL), The IPRA Northeast Region Finals (MA), The IPRA Southern Finals (TX), The IPRA Rodeo at Austin International Livestock Expo, and the Annual Gilbert Days Celebration (AZ) Golden Anniversary Rodeo (MI) IPRA All Region Finals (TN) and the IFR 24and 29 in Oklahoma City, OK.


Her most famous acts include the Indian Freedom Horse and the Dancing Appaloosa in “Taming the Wild One” and the Desert Scene Drama with the spectacular Paint Horse.


Members of her superbly trained hybrid wolf-huskies team know no limits. They fly around the arena giving children a wild wheeled-sled ride that they will remember for a life time; they jump rope; go through complicated dramas; they line up to take turns leaping astride her beautiful palomino pony performing on the lunge-line and then, with both pony and “wolf dog” instincts under Joan’s compete control, the remarkable performance ends with four big wolf-huskies balancing simultaneously astride the galloping pony!


She has trained the Dromedary camel "Randy". Not afraid to tackle the impossible, she also turned ababoon (said to be un-trainable) into "Josh", the well behaved “kid” in western duds.


Joan has worked with buffalo and trained a Watusi-cross steer to saddle, but she is best remembered as the supreme “bull rider” for her act with a Brahma bull under saddle. The Grand Finale of her act was to exit the arena by jumping the thundering bull into the bed of a moving truck!


Joan Ronalder completed training a horse for an owner who is confined to a wheelchair following an accident 6 years ago. "Pawnee", the horse, lies down and waits patiently for his owner to transfer from her wheelchair to the saddle and then this remarkable horse gently gets to his feet with the rider aboard. Something so touching that it brings tears to everyone's eyes. This is the second horse trained by Joan to be the legs for a handicapped owner.


JOAN RONALDER TRAINS HORSES FOR HANDICAPPEDWe show these photos in sequence because seeing is believing. We followed Ronalder's weeks of progress with this horse, from skittish and understandably frightened of the strange things she asked him to approach to his finale calm acceptance of the empty wheelchair.


Just getting a horse to step up to a wheel chair takes a huge amount of patience and ability to instill confidence in an animal so naturally programmed to spook and flee from anything out of the ordinary. To get him to lay down so close and so steady that the owner-to-be can pull herself from the wheelchair onto his back without so much as a quiver from the horse is almost a miracle.


When the horse slowly and carefully sat up, then stood up, it truly seemed like a miracle to his rider. Even the photographer was moved to tears as the rider bubbled "Oh My God, I just went from no legs to four legs!"


Joan Ronalder is indeed a multi-species trainer with an uncanny ability to communicate with animals. is honored to have her talk with us!

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