An APAHA-sponsored teaching symposium will be held in October 2017 at Windhorse International in Bethlehem, Conn.
The symposium will be an informal gathering of regional independent instructors who have been training under the auspices of APAHA. The symposium is part of an APAHA program that assists teachers in refreshing their teaching skills through courses sponsored by APAHA. Students involved in the teaching program will be participating with their students in a teaching show and tell .
During the event, Bettina Drummond and MaryalBarnett will provide feedback as opinions as to the clarity of the teaching process and animate it with pointers and critique if the lesson pattern is unclear. During the first day, participating teachers will work with their client’s horse and will get feedback on the work and its execution. The following day, the teacher will teach off of the same horse the adult amateur owner or leasee of the horse. The lesson should reflect the critique of the work on the previous day and also the steps taken to ensure that the adult amateur comes to understand the training process as well as its execution.
This will be an open format and auditors will be welcome to ask questions and participate in discussions between teaching sets.
Horseman John Craven came into my life through Donna Coughlin and her horse Oberon aka “Obi.” Donna had sought out my help with Obi and that connected me to John, who, as you’ll note in his bio below, had a deep respect for Nuno Oliveira. I enjoyed the times I spent with John sharing and comparing riding techniques and styles of teaching. He was part of a spontaneous network and one of the many threads that inspired me to weave them all together into the idea that has become APAHA.
John is now in hospice with lung cancer. In the bio below, which is in his own words, he tells us of his life and asks us to rejoice in it with him. He is much loved and his friendship is much appreciated.
Now…onto my mini biography (by John Craven):
I have led an idyllic life. I grew up in a small, bucolic town in Connecticut where we ran free on bicycles and horses. I don’t think I have not worked since I was eleven. My favourite jobs were NOT mowing lawns or working on a mink farm. At age fourteen however, I was allowed to indulge in my life long obsession with horses and fell in love with work. I learned to ride in a wonderful barn in Connecticut with lovely horses and had ideal teenage years. From there, life served me a series of wonderful, wonderful opportunities that I was somehow always able to take advantage of. One year abroad in Spain turned to three-a life style that no student should ever have, too perfect. I travelled with friends and worked for a travel agency. My territory was all of Spain, Southern France, Portugal and Morocco, with side trips to Paris, Vienna and fox hunting in Ireland – trips of a lifetime. When I finished school with a Batchelors in International Business, I went on a road trip. I bought a horse, not much of one, but a good boy. His name was Geist and with my Spanish galgo, Lambda (a greyhound) we took off for three weeks, starting from Salamanca and ending in Rhonda, my two favourite cities. The galgo took care of herself and we ate beans, ham, bread and little goodies on the way. We stayed with shepherds, cattle herders and were alone under the stars. Geist I sold for a few hundred pesetas, Lambda and I came home to Salamanca by train. I forgot to mention that while living in Spain, I was truly honoured to have met and have been nurtured by Maestro Nuno Oliveira – one of the consummate horsemen the world has known, first allowing me just to show up, then allowing me to watch and eventually to ride, a privilege only a handful of us have known. Nuno, your largesse, to a teenager from Connecticut was an internal gift.
Home from Spain after finishing school and a brief stint in the Navy, where a bad shoulder kept me out of harm’s way, I did three stints with horse enterprises. First was a raging failure. Any business sense I had learned, I’d forgotten. The second was The Royal Lipizzaner Stallion Show. We visited all 48 Lower States and most of the Canadian provinces. After 50,000 miles, time for a change, but it was fun to see North America. From there, I went to Southlands Farm in New York and worked with the wonderful Deborah Dows and her cast of loyal friends; leading that cast were Susie Williams and Veronique Firkusney. Deborah was one of the first women to study at The Spanish Riding School, a serious accolade. While at Southlands, Deborah gave me every opportunity to grow as a horseman, better than I ever thought I could become. We also became the closest of companions. One of the crowning glories at Southlands was being allowed to go to England to buy horses for resale in the United States. I think I must have brought in close to sixty horses, so yet again, more travel and a brilliant experience.
In 1989, I hung up my tack and fell in love with the wonderful Kim. We first met at the beach on Fire Island, New York. He was walking his two cocker spaniels and I chased him until he caught me! We went back to his house, talked for hours and exchanged numbers and addresses. A few days later, I wrote to him on very nice custom stationery. Coincidentally, Kim called me the same day. For the next year or more, we maintained a two-day here, three-day there romance in Rhinebeck and NYC. Dogs travelled with! Fire Island became our summer haven where we as partners could walk hand-in-hand and even kiss in the middle of town, as natural as it always should have been. Since then, and for 28 years, we have rarely been apart. We’ve travelled, shared music, good food, love and endless excitement. We’ve danced from 3 a.m. until late in the afternoon, caffeine or something may have been involved.
Dear friends, I have one favor to ask. Please hold Kim as firmly in your hearts as you’ve always held me. Half of a whole is a heavy burden. Thank you.
After leaving Southlands, which has remained close to my heart for 40 years, there were three final companies I worked with; Ulster International, Millers Harness Company and Intrepid International –all horse equipment related, which sent me back to Europe. Millers took me to Central America, Mexico, all of South America and the Caribbean-what a tragedy! And with Intrepid, final swings through Europe and South America. So, as you can see, world travel was not short-changed on me. I have squeezed four score years and 10 into three score years and 7, bursting out at the seams with fantastic times and memories. Since I need nothing else in this mortal coil, certainly not flowers or memorials, if anyone is so inclined to give a small donation to The Southlands Foundation, information is available.
And now, a final little known fact. My mother of French and Russian descent, was born and raised in the Philippine Islands. There is a native and family expression, just a single word, “Nay,” (phonetically pronounced “nigh-ee”) which means, I will go first, you come later.
And now it’s time for a party, tell stories, say prayers, anything that comes to mind that reminds you of me and for heaven’s sake… tell jokes!
It is with great sadness that Bettina Drummond announces the loss of her equine friend and teacher, her wonderful Lusitano stallion Ilyad, who was quietly put to rest on the morning of March 16, 2017 due to a severe case of colic.
“After my maître – Nuno Oliveira – died, Ilyad became my teacher of instant timing and feel and the perception of right balance. It was my privilege to be his partner for so many years,” Bettina said.
Artist and rider Mari Austad-Bourque was so inspired by seeing Ilyad with Bettina that she felt the need to create art with his image. “I was fortunate enough to capture a moment between Ilyad and Bettina when they were surrounded in sunlight in an otherwise dark space, both seemingly in deep meditation, both mutually passionate and mutually respectful,” Austad-Bourque said. Photos she took during that moment led her to create a beautiful black and white poster consisting of a series of three photos of Bettina and Ilyad, which can be seen below.
“He was absolutely magical to watch, if there was ever a horse I could call ethereal, it would be him,” Austad-Bourque said. “I was at a used bookstore on Tuesday and saw a copy of Homer’s Odyssey, picked it up and started thinking of Bettina and Ilyad as a strummed through it. I think I’ll go back and buy it now. Ilyad was a sensitive, brilliant and complex being who was extraordinarily blessed to have Bettina as his guide. He was liquid mercury in flesh and blood.”
Ilyad’s Gift – by Julie Arkison
The sun reflected off his white flanks, the chilly morning air curling playfully around his muzzle.
A slight woman, intent on the shift of a hand, a leg, a shoulder, sculpted the stallions mind and body around an invisible task.
As they moved at different speeds , on varying patterns, they seemed to perceive secret entrances and exits in their shared space that flowed into a joyous dance of power quietly defined and shared.
The wind rushed through the trees, sounding like waves never reaching the silence of the the shore. A constant roar accompanied their movement through space as Gravity’s downward pull seemed magically reversed.
Alignment moved their bodies upward, outward, liberated until the descent and creation of yet another moment to support the destiny of each other.
The stallion yields to the conclusion of the woman’s request, both reaching backward in time, a living monument to a master long ago dismounted.
His legacy travels forward as I watch from the corner, witness to the Passion of Creatures meeting at Balance’s edge, touching Eternity together.
“To ride the truth is to listen for love.” — Bettina Drummond
With the February workshop behind them, the riders and horses of APAHA are packing up at John and Sharon Campbell’s Just-E-Nuf Acres in Palm City, Florida and getting ready for their trip back north. As a thank you and farewell, Bettina Drummond and Macho presented a good-bye ride to all of the riders at Just-E-Nuf Acres. Performed outside in the grass outdoor ring, the ride left many in awe, especially the young students of the farm’s trainers. After watching the performance, one young hunter rider who was very impressed with Macho commented to Drummond that she “is going to work really hard on my riding so that some day, I can ride a horse like that.”
Loxahatchee, Florida – A two-day workshop at High Meadow Farm at White Fences Equestrian Estates brought together two of the world’s leaders in the teaching and training of the French system of riding. The workshop, held February 4-5, featured Colonel Patrick Teisserenc, current écuyer-en-chef of the French National Riding School in Saumur, France, and Bettina Drummond, highly regarded in both the U.S. and Europe as a trainer and teacher of the French classical and Baucheriste system.
The workshop, which focused on providing education to professional riding teachers and trainers, especially those working with average riders and horses, attracted riders and trainers from across North America, with many traveling from as far as the West Coast. “Teachers need support and one purpose here is to help teachers learn to connect to and teach adult amateurs,” said Drummond, who credited Maryal Barnett, a U.S. Dressage Federation Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and workshop attendee, with helping her understand how to improve her work with competitive adult amateur riders.
Throughout the two-day event, Teisserenc and Drummond shared their approaches for developing both horses and riders and their methods for teaching. They did this through demonstrations using horses at various stages of development and from both dressage and jumping backgrounds. Often, Teisserenc and Drummond tag-teamed the demonstrations in order to share their unique approaches for addressing issues in horses or riders and to explain to workshop attendees the “why” behind their methods and techniques. Working together, the two sought to help participants not only understand the meaning behind such concepts as balance, lightness and suppleness but also understand how they might attain balance, lightness and suppleness in horses through use of the aids and various movements and exercises and then help their students to do so.
Both Teisserenc and Drummond emphasized the need to tailor approaches based on the stages of development of horses and on the strengths and weaknesses of both horse and rider. Always, they emphasized, the welfare of the horse must be kept in mind. Forcing a horse will never be the answer. Educating the horse is the key. “You cannot fill a gap in a horse’s training with your strength or skill as a rider,” Drummond said. “You must fill in the gap in the horse’s understanding through training, not through force.”
Where the problem is the weakness of the rider, the rider must then address his or her own weakness. Both Teisserenc and Drummond noted that too many riders are ignoring their own physical gaps, meaning that they don’t do enough to ensure that their own bodies are as capable as possible to assist the horse. As an example of an effort to fill this gap, Teisserenc said that the National Riding School in Saumur has begun to work with experts in human physical development, such as physical trainers who work with dancers. He said such trainers are helping riders understand their natural way of going and then educating them about how they can alter or improve their normal way of movement to have a better effect on the horse.
The workshop format was valuable in providing professional teachers and trainers with guidance on how they can address physical and mental challenges often faced by riders and horses. This included approaches for addressing physical weaknesses in both riders and horses, methods of rehabilitation following a horse or rider injury and ways of helping both riders and horses overcome anxieties and gain confidence. In addition to demonstrations with a variety of horses and riders, the workshop provided ample opportunities for attendees to ask questions and gain suggestions from Teisserenc and Drummond on how best to address particular problems they face as trainers and riding teachers.
Col. Teisserenc, a graduate of France’s prestigious military academy St. Cyr, first joined France’s Cadre Noir in 1988 and has competed in dressage up to the grand prix level. His beliefs and approach to riding and training are rooted in the traditions of European cavalries, from which both the French and German systems evolved. In discussing the French approach, Teisserenc emphasized that it is a system “that is most about lightness.” He said his interest in participating in the Florida workshop was to share with Americans the methods taught at Saumur. Teisserenc spent three years in the U.S. at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas where he served as a liaison between the French and U.S. militaries. His time in the U.S. gave him opportunities to interact with American riders. That experience showed him that “Americans are very open minded. They were interested in understanding the French way of doing things and if you could show them it was effective, then they would accept it,” he said.
Drummond earned her master trainer credentials at the age of 21 under the guidance of the late Portuguese Master Nuno Oliveira. Her formation included coaching by leading trainers at Saumur, such as the late General Durand, a former écuyer-en-chef and commandant of the French National Riding School. In October 2015, she was the only American invited to participate in a colloquia at the school in Saumur that brought together leaders in the training and teaching of the French system of riding, which has been designated as a cultural tradition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In commenting on the French system during the workshop Drummond said it is one that recognizes “what without the pursuit of lightness, since qua non, the language of dressage loses its luster.”
The workshop was part of the educational programs offered by the Association for the Promotion of the Art of Horsemanship in America (www.apaha.us), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities that advance horsemanship as an art form in America. APAHA programs are aimed at giving professional riding teachers and trainers opportunities to advance their own education so that they can better teach their students. This education often includes having access to horses that can help them experience the correct “feel” on horseback. Riders and horses in the APAHA program that have been working with Drummond served as many of the demonstrators during the two-day workshop, which is the first in a series of APAHA workshops aimed at supporting the development of professional trainers and teachers. The next workshop is scheduled for October 2017 and will be held in the Northeast.
By Amy Bower Doucette – Special to The Palm Beach Post
Bettina Drummond considers dressage an art form. The renowned rider argues that the discipline has become too focused on competition. Drummond started riding when she was very young and showed an aptitude for it from the beginning. She’s had to work on her communication as a teacher, and credits her partnership with several prominent European masters, notably the Portuguese trainer Nuno Oliveira, for helping her to improve.
Allison Kavey, one of APAHA’s first participants, along with former APAHA equine teacher Que Ba HM, now owned by Kavey, are off to Kentucky for the U.S. Dressage Finals. The Finals will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park Nov. 10-13.
Que Ba HM and Kavey recently earned the reserve championship for region 8 in the Grand Prix Musical Freestyle at NEDA Fall Festival, qualifying them for the U.S. Dressage Finals. The pair was also invited to participate in the Two Tempis Challenge at Dressage at Devon to help raise funds for The Dressage Foundation. Que Ba currently stands third in the U.S. and first in Region 8 for the number of consecutive two-tempi changes performed, having completed 45. Que Ba and Kavey will also be performing a musical freestyle on Oct. 22 at Patty Wahler’s H.O.R.S.E. rescue fundraiser to contribute to the effort to raise funds for the rescued horses there. Macho and Bettina Drummond performed at last year’s benefit and Kavey said that she is excited to contribute this year in Bettina’s absence.
A great American horseman was lost to us when Mark Russell died in June from injuries acquired during a riding accident. Mark, author of the popular book Lessons in LIghtness, was a well-known trainer and teacher who blended the methods and philosophies of classical dressage with natural horsemanship to produce what her termed natural dressage. It is not just the human family and friends of Mark’s who mourn his loss. That loss is also felt by his equine friends and partners, particularly his leading horse Solar. Solar has currently been taken in by Mark’s friend, Bettina Drummond who had these words to say upon his arrival:
August 11, 2016
It is with deep conviction in firming balance, affirming humor and confirming exchanges that I accepted Sola’s offer of friendship early this morning. I am honored to godmother Mark’s horse through to his maximal potential, to stand witness to Mark’s contribution that furthered the legacy of our teacher, Nuno Oliveira, and to befriend Mark’s school of thought.
Sola has a place here and a friend in me for as long as he choses this path and to follow my guidance. It is my hope that sharing with you my acceptance of Mark and Hela’s request to further the education of this special being will soften the great loss that you have felt and that I have also shared. May your horses’ hearts carry you forth bravely to what you seek and their hooves swiftly out of danger, both on the road and in training.
(Bernard Sachse credits the books of Nuno Oliveira as contributing much to his understanding of riding and training, but he never had the opportunity to train with Oliveira. After connecting with Bettina Drummond during a colloquium in France in October 2015, he looked for an opportunity to visit her in America and see how she used the knowledge she gained during her many years of study with Oliveira in the training of horses. The sharing of knowledge between the two trainers is exactly the sort of knowledge exchange that APAHA seeks to support. APAHA thanks Millie McCoy, of New York and Florida, for her donation to APAHA that helped provide housing for Bernard during his visit to Bettina’s farm in Connecticut.)
By Bettina Drummond
I recently had a great opportunity to learn from a man who has understood a great deal about the importance of not opposing aids and centering one’s balance and joints down through the central axis of the horse. He teaches from his own experience and with the complete conviction of an artist. His name is Bernard Sachse, a Frenchman who has been a successful stunt man in the French film industry and, after a stunt accident cost him the use of his legs, continued on with his riding and became a successful Paralympic rider who has competed in two Olympic Games.
Bernard and I met last fall as fellow teachers participating in a colloquium on the French system of riding that was held at the French National Riding School in Saumur. We both shared a belief in a teaching approach focused on the influence of the seat to the horse. As luck would have it, Bernard was invited to New York City for a showing of a film made from his life story. The film, En Equilibre, shows just how inspiring an individual Bernard is. Since I am based in neighboring Connecticut, Bernard and I made arrangements for him to visit my farm and my horses. Our plan was that I would ride for him and he would share some of his riding convictions, gleaned around the words of Nuno Oliveira, on lightness as a prerequisite for any form of training that would bring joy for the horse.
After three days of brain storming and several technical exchanges, I shared with Bernard some of my own journey to recovery by riding for the health that riding in a certain mindset and style brings forth out of me. I needed some input from someone who understood some of the challenges of riding around injuries. Hence, I sought his feedback about a few reboots my body had managed thanks to work with the Feldenkrais approach to partial paralysis. I had managed to go far enough in my rehab to attempt to remaster such skills as tempis, levades, piaffer and canter to the rear again. But still, I was being bombarded by multitudes of bone alignment memories from my formation. I was trying to sort out which neural pathway – old or new – was shorting out my ligament attaches this winter.
I was heading to France in April to look for Lusitano horses for clients. Bernard has a mechanical horse at his farm near Paris and since I would be in France, I asked him if I could study his warm up technique on the mechanical horse. It sounded parallel to the muse en selle I was taught on the lunge for balanced position development as well as a seat that is both grounded and malleable. I spent two great days feeling my way around the locks and blocks in my reactive patterns on this invaluable tool of the mechanical horse. I was able to recover motion in two bone positions in my thigh joints as well as motion around the bone fusion at the base of my back. And, I was able to practice movements and points of balance at the canter in place that had not been possible for some time. Since my return from my trip to France and visit with Bernard, I have been able to retain those adjustments I learned on the mechanical horse. And, I have been able to go in with practicing the finessing of the in and out of those centrifugal turns while teaching young horses their form.
My travelling companion to Bernard’s farm was none other than Jeanne Boisseau, who served as ADC to Mr. Oliveira and is author of a fine book that is her memoir of her meetings with the finest ecuyers of her generation. The last time that Jeanne rode was at my farm in Connecticut and it was on my Quarter Horse stallion Vousy. That ride came after many years after not having ridden and yet she was gamely cantering in place. At one point, she hit the pirouette button by mistake but stopped it using her Oliveira-coached seat and then went into a perfect levade. In her effort to get out of the levade, Jeanne triggered Vousy’s rollback – thus inventing the levade spin, guaranteed to stop cows and dressage judges in their tracks! Jeanne’s balance memory was such that decades after her formation as an amateur, she never left the saddle and followed the horse until he stopped and looked at her to ask if this combination was REALLY what she meant to do!
Jeanne also tried out the mechanical horse so that I could sit in and see how Bernard coached an amateur who has not been actively riding. It was very helpful for me as I often do not read well enough the tensions that are caused by fears of lack of balance nor the limits on older riders stretching leg positions. Bernard put Jeanne through a very simple combo of feeling the shoulders going to three different angles and then turning them around feeling her inside leg position, this at all three gaits. Neither she nor I felt the slightest sciatica pain and my sciatica strain was diminished by three quarters after this intervention.
It is always inspiring to share research on techniques on how to align two sentient beings together, as well as spend quality time talking of art and horses with someone who believes as I do that the two are intrinsically linked. Bernard’s wife Agnes has the most joyous glow when with a horse and it was a pleasure to be able to respond to the wish of both these fine riders and caring teachers to perceive some of what I gleaned from my time with Master Oliveira. I think that he would have liked to speak with them and watch them speak to their horses.
As I left their arena, after helping Bernard refine his diagonal balance through his ribcage and finesse his left pirouette, I thought gratefully of all my teachers and healers who made it possible for me to continue on, even diminished from my younger self as a fine rider. It is such that my experience proved to be a benefit to Bernard – a man who so longed to ride again that he simply refused to not ride again. All the efforts on the part of my healers, especially that of Wendy Murdoch and Dr. Du, allowed me to see the human response to the equine need to stay in kinetic motion, especially in the halt and almost halt…… This allowed Bernard to ride to a movement pattern he remembered before he was injured. His mechanical horse allows that imagination to take over as well. This is what horses do for us – keep us in touch with our past by insisting by their very nature that we are in the present with immediacy, alacrity and the notion to be of service to their balance. It really is the best job in the world.
The words of Winston Churchill were in my head at that moment – “there is something about the exterior of a horse that is good for the interior of men.” Piropo, Bernard’s Lusitano, had the final word though as I prepared to leave Bernard’s stable. As he walked past me, sweaty and a bit shocked at this new level of intensity in his work out, he slit his eyes – yes, he hardened his beautiful eyes and said, “go home Yankee!”
Washington, Conn. – APAHA founder Bettina Drummond, a dressage trainer and rider formed in the French riding tradition, is the sole American invited to a two-day colloquia focused on promoting understanding of the French system of riding. The colloquia is being sponsored by the French Ministry of Culture and hosted by the French Institute of Horses and Horse Riding (IFCE) and the French National School of Equitation at Saumur. The event is being held Oct. 15-16 in Saumur, France and brings together many of the current masters of the French tradition for two days of discussions and demonstrations aimed at deepening knowledge and understanding of this equestrian cultural tradition.
Four years ago, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) placed the French riding tradition on the representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. That designation was a recognition by UNESCO that the French riding tradition is a cultural heritage that must be supported and preserved. UNESCO defines this system of riding as one that “emphasizes harmonious relations between humans and horses. The fundamental horse-training principles and processes are guided by non-violence and lack of constraint, blending human demands with respect for the horse’s body and mood.”
The effort to preserve this riding tradition involves maintaining the existence of the French National School of Equitation (École Nationale d’Équitation) at Saumur as a place for educating the next generation, but also by exposing more people to this riding tradition through public demonstrations by France’s Cadre Noir and by expanding the network of trainers and riders who follow the French riding tradition. Organizers in France hope that participants in the October colloquia will deepen their own understanding of the French system of riding through interaction with one another and will then take that knowledge home with them to share it with others.
Drummond’s invitation to participate resulted from recognition by the French that she is one of the most prominent members of the French system of riding based in America. Bernard Maurel, a former international dressage judge who helped organize the event, notes that Drummond’s involvement is critical for expanding knowledge and understanding of the French tradition of riding in America. Exposing more Americans to this system of riding will help to preserve this cultural heritage. “We are very happy to have Bettina as one of the instructors for this meeting of the French equestrian tradition,” Maurel said.
Drummond has already been working for years to expose more Americans to the ideals of the French riding tradition – true balance and lightness in partnership with the horse. Although an American, Drummond was raised in Europe where she studied under the Portuguese riding master Nuno Oliveira, who the French listed in the UNESCO nomination as one of the great masters of the French riding tradition. Drummond’s mother, the late Phyllis Field, sent her to study with Oliveira when she was only seven years old. It was Field’s desire that her daughter would eventually return to America and expose American riders to the French tradition of riding. Hence, Drummond’s formation as a rider and trainer included not only the 17 years spent training with Oliveira, but also studies with several riding masters at France’s elite National School of Equitation in Saumur. She also served as Oliveira’s demonstration rider during times that he was teaching at Saumur.
“Thanks to the intervention of Gen. Pierre Durand, who served as Ecuyer en Chef and Commandant of the French National Equestrian School in Saumur, I was able to glean further skills necessary to enhance my career as a performance rider. To be able to work with such experts in the field, such as Adjutant Chef Maitre de Manege Jean-Marie Donard to perfect my airs above the ground, also with Maitre Ecuyer Daniel Lechevallier on long line and young sport horse balance was an amazing privilege for the young rider that I was,” Drummond said.
The October colloquia is part of the effort of the French to fulfill a mandate of the UNESCO designation that they take action to preserve their system of riding for future generations. This requires enhancing the teaching skills of those who have an understanding of the French system. Maurel said that Drummond was invited because she is also known for her ability to teach the methods and techniques of the French system.
Part of Drummond’s success in doing this is that she also has a stable of highly-trained horses, mostly stallions, that are part of her teaching program. This makes it possible for riders and trainers who work with her to “feel” the effects of particular aids and techniques. It helps riders know when they’ve done something correct and when they are wrong. That sort of education is invaluable, said Brooke Johaningmeyer, a young rider from Indiana who is working with Drummond this summer. “I think people can explain to you how something feels, but when you can feel it, then you really understand it. You don’t get the opportunity to feel it, however, unless you have the opportunity to learn on a trained horse. Having the horse teach you is better than having someone explain to you how it feels to them,” she said.
Johaningmeyer is one of several young riders participating in a program supported by the new Association for the Promotion of the Art of Horsemanship in America (APAHA), of which Drummond is the founder. The program provides American riders and trainers with opportunities to advance their riding education on trained horses. Some of the young riders are even loaned trained horses as teachers as a way of helping them become a more educated future generation of American riders and trainers.
The French system of riding that formed Drummond is often viewed as a more artistic approach to riding. Although formed in Europe, Drummond chose to live in America because she felt the U.S. would allow her the freedom to develop her own expression as a performance rider. The style she developed is one known for the flexibility of the horses and long, fluid lines with a brilliant piaffe. Drummond strived to retain the classical form of her teacher – Oliveira – but added a personal style considered by some to be like a jazz musician riffing off of a classical air.
While some feel that artistic riding and sport riding are two separate worlds, many masters in the French riding tradition have been successful competitors at the international level. Drummond believes there should be a link between art and sport riding. Competitive riding has often been criticized for pressuring horses and taking the life out of them. In contrast, artistic riders have skills that bring out the life in a horse. Drummond said her focus in working with America’s future generation of riders is to provide them with the skills to bring out the best in a horse but also with the knowledge, understanding and feel necessary to avoid destroying the spirit of the horse in the process.
Drummond’s approach does work, said Amanda Timolat, of Falls Village, Conn. She said the experience of riding trained horses in Drummond’s program provided her with a “profound leap forward in my comprehension of the art of dressage. My riding has become more tactful, where I use more subtle aids to achieve greater lightness and harmony as a result of having a physical memory of how my horse should respond.”
Julie Arkison, a rider from Saline, Michigan, has disabilities that make it difficult for her to keep body straight. The crookedness in her own body created crookedness in her own horses with the result that she never really knew what straightness and true balance on horseback felt like. That changed when she participated in Drummond’s program for riders and sat on horses that were straight and in balance. “Riding the trained horses helped me understand what straightness and lightness felt like and what it really meant. I finally understood what balance really felt like and that helped me understand how to find that point of balance in the horse,” Arkison said. “I had every book ever written on straightness and crookedness but none of that was as important as being able to feel it.”
Preserving the ideals of the French riding tradition isn’t just about educating the next generation of riders. It is also about reaching out to more current trainers and riding teachers in order to share ideas. Drummond has traveled widely across America to spend time with trainers in other disciplines and to ride their horses in order to understand how their training techniques impact horses. In return, many of those trainers have traveled to Connecticut to ride Drummond’s trained horses for the same reason. Bob Ciri, a trainer and instructor from Maryland, is one them.
Ciri said riding Drummond’s stallions let him feel things he had never before felt in a horse. “I could feel what the movement should be with the grace and power the horse delivers as it should be done. It gave me the opportunity to feel the ‘beauty’ of the movement. It elevated my riding to a whole new level that one rarely gets to experience,” he said. Ciri said that advancement in his own education has now made him a better riding teacher, which is exactly what Drummond hopes other teachers gain from her horses. “It made me a much improved instructor for my students. I am better able to teach them how to talk and listen to their horses,” he said.
Drummond said that she is trying to give to American riders and trainers what French masters gave to her – opportunities to learn what concepts like balance and lightness and partnership with the horse really mean. She said the invitation to the colloquia in France brings her full circle – French masters from Saumur helped form her as a young rider and now she is returning as a recognized teacher of their tradition.
“I am deeply cognizant of this recognition of my efforts as a teacher. To be given this opportunity to return to the source and the repository of the art that is Haute École is, at the end of my career, an unlooked for but great honor. But most of all, gifting my time and presence as a teacher to the Association of the Cadre Noir allows me an even greater joy – repayment of a debt in learning, which I do with immense gratitude,” Drummond said. “My teaching career owes also a big debt to the president of the Association of the Cadre Noir, M. Bernard Maurel, for having taken time out from his busy schedule, at the apex of his career as Olympic-level judge, in order to coach me through the performance pitfalls of the CDI level. It was very generous of him. It is thanks to these exchanges that I have proven able to assist fellow American riders to tackle the CDI effects successfully and jump-started my career as a coach.”