Bethlehem, Conn. – A unique teaching workshop hosted by the Association for the Promotion of the Art of Horsemanship in America (APAHA) attracted riding teachers from throughout the United States. The workshop featured Maryal Barnett, a U.S. Dressage Federation Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and an examiner in the USDF’s certified instructor program, and Bettina Drummond, a leading instructor in the French system of dressage and recognized teacher of the Escola de Equitaçao Nuno de Oliveira.
“This workshop aimed to bring together independent and certified instructors to dialogue and learn from one another,” Drummond said. She and Barnett, who often co-coach riders, acted as “benevolent referees” and eyes on the ground for the two-day event, held October 14-15 at Windhorse International. On the first day, participating riding teachers were provided with horses on which they were co-taught by Drummond and Barnett. On the second day of the workshop, those teachers demonstrated their teaching approach in lessons for adult amateur riders.
“They were given the opportunity to teach in front of Maryal and I and to demonstrate their lesson format. We come from different formations and we each had particular facets of lessons to which we were drawn and our formations have their emphasis,” Drummond said. As the professional instructors gave their lessons, Barnett and Drummond would often call out “intervention” when they needed to stop the lessons and either ask instructors for clarification of what they were attempting to achieve in the lesson or to offer a different approach to achieve lesson goals.
“I was curious how the structure of the APAHA workshop would compare to that of a ‘regular’ clinic, how much I would learn watching others learn to teach — something I've only attempted at the most basic level. No surprise, with Bettina and Maryal in charge, I learned far more than I ever could have imagined,” said Donna Coughlin, an adult amateur rider from Connecticut who attended the workshop.
“I have always been in awe of those who teach brilliantly, so that any student can take home precious nuggets of information, and as Bettina would say, ‘beetle away at them,’ making them part of one's daily routine – such as riding patterns/reactions/deeper knowledge and feel. Watching the clinic's aspiring teachers working with amateurs and horses of all levels demonstrates how much study, time and perception it takes to do this difficult job well. Obviously, instructors need to ride above the level of their students, or they will never know what will make rider/horse execute anything from an easy shoulder fore to a difficult renvers. As the clinic progressed, it became obvious that good instructors don't just need to be observant, patient, superlative horse people, they need to be psychoanalysts to figure out how each individual student learns—and what they block. Watching Bettina and Maryal do ‘interventions’ was an education in itself. Their clarity, wisdom and humor helped instructors, riders and auditors to enjoy plenty of epiphanies!”
Drummond, who is based in Connecticut, said the format was designed to create opportunities for riding teachers to have deeper dialogues and exchange ideas with one another, as well as with the two workshop coaches. “I think the humor and the time to talk provided an avenue of communication and stress-free performance that gave a confidence boost to all the teaching efforts,” she said.
Both Drummond and Barnett said they also learned much from the workshop experience. “I know that I came away having refreshed my convictions and was helped yet again to fill my gaps in the teaching process,” Drummond said. “I am, as always, humbled by the generosity of teachers sacrificing so much time effort and financial commitment to attend such workshops and I thank their sponsors and spouses for supporting this opportunity.”
Barnett, who is based in Michigan, said that she found the APAHA workshop to be “amazing in the inspirational and educational concepts. The need of future and present professionals to have correctly educated horses and teachers is made possible through the APAHA program. Bettina has provided both and has made it available at very little cost other than dedication and an openness to education. I personally felt honored to be included as a part of this workshop. As always, one learns much as one teaches. This was an exceptional learning weekend for me.”
The workshop also served as a fundraiser for APAHA and Drummond said enough support was raised to keep the teaching horse program going for another year. The trained teaching horses have played an important role in helping APAHA-supported professional trainers and teachers further their education.
“Having the opportunity to ride two of the trained horses – Amado in the workshop and Que Macho during other lessons – has helped me address my own weaknesses,” said Brooke Johaningmeyer, a workshop participant and professional trainer from New York.
“It has helped me with the physical and mental challenges that I face on my own horse, who has recently been introduced to the double bridle. What I gathered most from this workshop was learning control and straightness riding a horse that doesn’t fight the double bridle. Where I hold my horse together and try to cap a constant eruption out of collection and straightness, the trained horse forces me to square myself up. The trained horses have also provided me with a feel of self-carriage in the double bridle. Imprinting the feel from the trained horse and trying to recreate that on my own is the interesting part.”
Alice Trindle traveled from Oregon for the opportunity to learn on one of the APAHA trained horses and participate in the teaching workshop. “My greatest personal learning were the feel, timing and balances in riding the stallion Soledad in the double bridle. By riding to feel the horse come through his back, rounding up and dropping down on the hock and stifle, I could feel the athleticism that allows for balanced movement, particularly on the spot. This compares to what we might refer to as a ‘soft feel’ but with engagement to go was particularly wonderful to experience.”
Trindle uses many of her horses for cattle work said “the blending of two horsemanship cultures, that of traditional vaquero and functionality required to accomplish jobs with cattle, and the principles of Baucher, as presented through Bettina, are continuing to marinate in my mind. This will continue for the rest of my life’s journey with horses.”
Coughlin summed up the feelings of all – participants and auditors both – in saying “thank you to everyone who worked so hard, and with so much heart and generosity to make those days an unforgettable experience!”