Through its mission of providing trainers and teachers with the opportunity to learn what only highly-trained horses can teach, APAHA has improved the education of many professionals across the U.S. Here are just some of the testimonials from APAHA participants. Other stories can be found in The Horses section where current students of APAHA’s equine teachers tell how the APAHA opportunity has benefitted them.
I had the great fortune to meet Bettina Drummond when she was the clinician for the New England Dressage Association’s Spring Symposium in 2010. At that time, I was struggling to help a large and stiff warmblood enter the small tour and dealing with a mercurial young mare who resisted most attempts to ride her. Bettina introduced me to principles that have become central to my riding since then — collection through lightness, power through suppleness, and the gradations of collection that are required to produce a truly trained horse. While I began taking lessons with Bettina after that clinic, I remained largely ignorant of the feel of a trained horse for the simple reason that I had never ridden one.
Enter Que Ba, who became part of the teaching program after the death of his owner and Bettina’s friend, Ingrid Lin. Ba had the experience and patience to join Bettina in teaching me the difference between collection for the small tour and for the Intermediare II — a difference that has never been explained to me in any other setting and that has huge implications for one’s ability to ride and understand the highest levels of this discipline.
I began riding the FEI in 1997 and I have had the good fortune to work with many well-known and respected coaches since then. No one else has offered me the opportunity to learn on a trained horse and taken the time to allow me to feel collection rather than just telling me I’ll understand it if I ever happen upon it. I long considered going to Europe to work with someone, but given my experience riding young horses and lack of ability riding trained ones, it was clear I would be spending a lot of time on four-year-olds and none learning what I needed to know to further my education. It is thanks to Bettina, Que Ba and the amazing support of Andrea Woodner that I have become much more familiar with the principles and skills required to ride in collection. It is with the help of Que Ba that I also earned my U.S. Dressage Federation Gold Medal. The teaching program that is part of APAHA is an incredible asset to young professionals hoping to better understand dressage, an art dedicated to balance and lightness.
In trying to answer a recent question about why I have been interested in teaching, I reflect back on my life, some seven decades of it now. As a young girl, I attended a private girls’ academy that, to me, believed more in education (meaning to develop one mentally and morally through discipline and instruction) than in teaching (meaning to cause to know something). As I grew, I remember the nuns taking extra time if I struggled with difficult concepts or methods using love, encouragement, and faith in me, to help me to succeed. I loved my parents, and they were good parents, but the parenting approach of the day was that if I didn’t “make the grade” I was not appreciative of the sacrifices they were making for me and I would have to spend more hours studying. The result was one of discouragement and dislike.
I remember loving animals of all kinds. I was given a dog around age 12 and he hardly ever left my side. We took an obedience class, and placed well in our “graduating” class. I was so proud of Barron but so disappointed in myself. I judged my training to be too demanding and unkind. Barron seemed more fearful to disappoint me, than happy to do well.
I wanted to change my approach. My school experience made me aware that I needed to find an educator. From these two memories, I learned that in good relationships when those involved learn and love each other the best of life can be had. True love is wanting the best for the one loved. Dogs seem to tap into this understanding by nature. How wonderful to have a mindset that says I’m better and happier when were together than when we’re apart.
As young adults my husband and I purchased property in Florida with the dream of raising a family and having animals, especially a horse. “A” horse turned into a horse boarding, breeding, and training facility. At this point, I had a BS in Nursing and two beautiful daughters. I had been educating people about health care and children about behavior, and now I had a number of horses and a whole world of knowledge still to be acquired.
I had a hunt seat background from childhood, but had seen a dressage exhibition or two. I was drawn back to a desire for obedience work, but wanted to avoid my childhood fears of “teaching by tyranny”. Through my boarding business I was introduced to Mrs. Phyllis Field. We became friends and she recognized a thirst in my spirit to learn about and to love horses. She introduced me to Maestro Nuno Oliveira and her daughter Bettina Drummond. I had never seen or heard such love or passion for the art of horsemanship, and for the horse. Here were people who believed that beauty was not brought about by force, that you did not ride into a resistance but into a release, and that a rider should correct herself before she corrects her horse.
They did not seem to be infected with the philosophy that winning a ribbon at a show qualified you to train or teach. They were knowledgeable, passionate and giving. The best of all dreams – and to me, love and good by their very nature – require that they be shared, which is why I have always been interested in education. I believe that love and truth should always be sought after and passed on. As Mr. Oliveira’s last paragraph in his book From an Old Master to Young Trainers states, “In all arts, the artists learn the technique, all of the details of that technique, and now he makes his masterpiece which is the result of all that technique with love.” Thank you to all the equine and human écuyers throughout the centuries. May they be blessed for having made our lives and our world more beautiful.