From Tom Mayes, Integrated Equine Therapies...
"Susan, It is and has been my honor to be associated with someone of your caliber, and walk this great path together. Your background and approach stand sooo unique, and enveloping. May you continue to fly in a perfect way." www.tommayes.net
From Grand Prix Dressage rider, Paul Drake...
"After studying riding for 50 years, Susan has an eye and can 'see' what is inside a hohrse and rider like no one else I have ever observed. She has an amazing and unusual gift that should be experienced by all those really wanting to change for the horse's well being! Susan's teaching is very detailed and very thorough, and she has a way of making everyone have fun. Additionally I get to see just how much work and preparation Susan puts into her classes/lessons. I don't know anyone who puts so much thought or care in the next step for the development of each horse and rider."
From Rolex Olympic Three Day Contender, Pam Fisher...
"Working with Susan Derr Drake has been inspiring. Susan has an innate feel for the well being of the horse, with the skills and experience to translate their needs to their rider or handler. Whether training a dressage movement or suggesting nutritional support, Susan is a wealth of knowledge." www.RuffianStables.com
From Kristi Ulman, owner of the movie Zorro's Duek...
"Thank God for Susan's God given Talents! Just sayin..."
From Amateur rider, Jenna...
"Yesterday's workshop on 'Anatomy for Riders' was really extraordinary. To see a real, actual horse's spine depicted with non toxic tempera paint on ridden bodies and then to have the model visible horse skeleton both used to explain why we are being taught to ride the way we are..and then, what you are so brilliant at.. to see people riding to your influence on different parts of the spine and improving right before our eyes under your guidance...was the kind of thing you think should be required training before anyone can sit on a horse! The visuals may well stick with me...even without having to take notes. Of course, a long way between seeing and doing, but your workshop was extraordinarily effective at explaining the whole gestalt and then putting the pieces back together in several different ways to help people grasp it.
It was extremely helpful to have Paul on Alanti, the Grand Prix Dressage horse at the high end, a few intermediate riders, as well as beginner riders to observe the different stages of development as one tries to put it together while riding. You are really, really gifted! I have been a teacher and watched mmany,many teachers in different settings. Across the board you are right at the top..and in a subject where it is really hard because everything in not under your control. You have to go with what presents itself and know what to suggest on theh spot to make things better and illustate our points. To say and demonstrate enough, but not toomuch so it might overwhelm. A teaching triumph in a perfect setting. Thank you!!
From Barrett Weller, owner of Major Motion Farms...
I had the amazing opportunity to work with Susan when we purchased a thoroughbred named Sam. Sam had a number of maladies including a diaphragm spasm and unexplained right front lameness. Susan was able to clear the spasm as well as identify the problem in his right front leg and help him to increase mobility and make a full recovery. It has been about three months and Sam is happy, healthy and winning! Since then I have been able to watch Susan with all of my horses and recommend her to a great number of my friends, family and colleagues. She has an incredible gift, paired with years of study and unparalleled knowledge of the anatomy and psychology of horses. This rare combination allows her to help with any breed, level or discipline. She is an indispensable part of the care of our show horses and program. She is also a master instructor passing the love for horsemanship, nutrition, body work, and classical riding to anyone she teaches. We love our clinics with her and I could not recommend anyone more highly. www.majormotionfarms.com
From Forever grateful Dacia Imperato and Stepping Stone Sport horses...
"I have had the pleasure of working with Susan for about 2 years. The level of healing and growth I have witnessed in the horses and people she invests in is unmeasurable. It would be hard to name all the examples because no one is the same after her work. Some extreme physical cases are 20 year old retired horses coming back into their prime, Middle Aged horses growing 2 inches, horses eyes becoming larger, horses becoming less spooking and more ridable, movement improving, horses that were already great becoming even greater! I’ve seen horses emotionally freed from the bondage of slavery and past experiences and becoming partners with their riders and through their healing have found their perfect forever homes. As a rider Susan has affirmed the things the horses have shown me and has opened my mind to what is possible and helped me have the capability and capacity to be all in with horses again and share her teachings. Thank you Susan for helping the horses, my clients and me discover, heal, and grow."
From Betsy Riedy of Santa Ynez,California...
"Oh...funny story...after Susan's clinic with the Fillies Trail Riding Group, last weekend I rode Target, my Pinto Percheron cross, the next day and applied the breathing techniques of getting the horse to sigh and relax. Being the trooper he is, he held back on the request (it has to be his idea sometimes) until he finally let go and gave me the sigh (ta da!). The next time I rode him no sooner did I get on then he started releasing the sigh (and vibrating his lips)...he did this twice in succession to be sure I got the message! When he got a little uptight in the arena over something I was asking him for, I started the breathing exercises and waited for him to respond...he caught on, relaxed...and proceeded on with the exercise as if it was something he did all the of the time...we were doing leg yield...it's an effort for both of us and we feed on each other's anxieties...the breathing exercises give us a m,oment to recoup and reorganize..for Target, he did them perfectly!"
From Betty Craig, AHSA 5th place US for Half Arabians at Training Level Dressage...
"Susan has the intuitions, the experiences, and the knowledge. When you are ready to become the best you can be, call her!"
From Miss Courtney Avrit, 5 years old and Jet Paradise...
"I can feel the horse's belly swing from right to left. It is fun!"
From Miss Amanda Avrit, 7 years old, and Jet...
"All I have to do is think what I want and the horse hears me and does it."
From Lorraine Argo of Gaviota, CA...
"Susan is an exceptionally accomplished dressage rider and horse trainer. she has helped me open many new doors. She shares her knowledge with those wanting a deeper understanding of the horse, and her coaching naturally extends to personal growth. Susan's patience and understanding has supported me through countless situations. I am thankful she was reccomended to me, and appreciate each opportunity to learn from her. Above all, she is a partner on the path to excellence and I am grateful our paths met!"
From Colleen Conners, Dressage rider...
"During Susan's, 'Finding a deeper connection to your horse' Clinic, Susan was wonderful because she helped me discover my mare, Alex's personality as being the look out horse in a group of horses. She taught me to work through that toward relaxation, without being tense and frustrated by helping me acknowledge and download the mare's information to me. With that newfound knowledge of me acknowledging her awareness of activities, things and beings around her, so she could let them go. I was able to keep Alex relaxed, which helped me relax and have a really fun experience. So instead of saying, 'don't look at that chair, horse, blowing plastic', I would say, 'Oh thank you for letting me know there was a chair, horse, blowing plastic there and then let her know she was safe then have her notice something about my aids, seat, legs, hands, weight, energy and voice while staying calm and breathing. This was an experience that I can take with me forever. "
From Taylor, a 5 yr old intuitive..
Susan listening to the advice of this young one on her 32 year old, chester, eplaining the 'hows' of the posting trot from what she has seen others doing. It is a new generation of sensitive and aware riders coming!
From Loree DeYoung Hunter/Jumper Trainer/ Rider...
"A word to describe the time I have been so lucky to spend with Susan Derr Drake is clarity. Whether it be a lesson, a workshop, or the incredible knowledge Susan has shared on horse nutrition, I have always walked away with a much clearer picture of the whole. The many tidbits of information that I have gotten from Susan have made my job as a Hunter/Jumper trainer and instructor easier. Things just seem to fall into place after just opening up in just one area. She is truly a trainer of trainers - a Master!" LoreeDeYoung@Yahoo.com
From Tori Gongwer, Pony Clubber and UC Berkley student...
“Most people when looking back at their school years remember one brilliant teacher, who’s enthusiasm and gift of breaking down their subject into manageable lessons, made learning a joy and instilled a sense of accomplishment. In my nearly 20 years now of endeavoring to learn all I can of horses and working with many different horses, trainers, and clinicians, Susan sticks out to me as one of those rare treasures of a teacher. At 5 years old, I can remember tagging along to horse shows where Susan, even while in the middle of preparing all the horses going that day, would take the time to “let me help” and explain all the fascinating details of horsemanship. It’s been quite a few years since then and while I’m now in college and don’t get to ride with Susan as often as I’d like, it never ceases to amaze me just how easily she finds it to make you aware of so many details but never allow it to become overwhelming. There’s nothing quite like learning to let go and focus on the goal she gives you such as putting more weight in on one seat bone or more giving in your hand and all the sudden E2wham!” it just feels RIGHT… (and your horse gives a giant sigh of relief and goes "Duh! What do you think I've been trying to tell you this whole time?!") So thank God, the Universe, or whatever brought you into contact with Susan, because her innate ability to make both you and your horse realize your full potential and be able to reproduce it even when you’re not under her watchful eye is a thing of awe. See it for yourself and if that doesn’t have you sold, I don’t know what will… but the kind of horseman, instructor, and person Susan is, makes me grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her.
From Don Pollard...
Tango, Andalusian gelding raised from birth as an orphan listens to the whispers.
From Lucie and Sandman...
Pure Love and Joy
From Alecia Evans of Solvang, California...
"Susan Derr Drake's knowledge of the equine system is astounding. Her dedication to helping horses thrive and stay sound is admirable. And her passion for excellence in helping bring out the best in our horses and ourselves contagious. As an equine communicator and body worker I found her course on biomechanics invaluable as it helped me see the horse anatomy on a much deeper more connected level. Thank you Susan for enlightening us two legged of what life looks like from a four legged perspective." www.allbeingsequal.com
From Pam Fisher and Simply Priceless..
United States Equestrian Team Candidate for the Three Day Eventing 2012 Olympics and 2011 Pan am Games. "Susan has an innate feel for the well being of the horse."
From Anastasia Dimitriu Schupp...
"There are so many people in the horse industry that claim to be experts, whether the claim is as an instructor, or trainer, or even a "horse whisperer". A depressingly few can deliver on those promises, and just a tiny fraction of that minority has the education, knowledge, experience, and out-and-out "feel" for both horse and human to do it all. Susan Derr Drake is one of those rare gems. It doesn't matter the style of riding, the training level of horse or rider, the breed of the mount, or even the age or ability of four-legged or two-legged partner, a lesson from this incredibly gifted teacher will focus the student on his or her goals in a low-key, positive manner. What is learned will become a roadmap for improvement, for the benefit of both horse and rider. Susan has ridden hunters, jumpers, three-day eventers, saddle seat horses, western horses, reiners, in gymkhana events...oh, and did you know she was also long-listed for the Olympics in dressage (she has over 116 dressage Grand Prixs under her belt?) However, Susan's real talent lies in the way she can make even complex concepts understandable. In this manner, she brings harmony to those that wish to improve communication with their trail horses as easily as she can help smooth a rough edge in a dressage test. The point is not to "do dressage", but to open the lines of communication between horse and human. Susan is hands-down the one person I wish I could ride with regularly. I cannot recommend her enough to whomever wishes to improve the connection to his or her horse. Jump at the opportunity if you get the chance to work with her--you will be amazed at what you learn! I'm grateful for your "magic" with horses, where with just a handful of words you bridge the communication between horse and rider to produce unbelievable results while making it all seem easy. "
From David, David and David...
Son, Father and Grandfather on an Arabian, a Swedish Warmblood and a Thouroughbred gelding enjoying a special connection with all.
From Gina Sylvia and Icy, Trakehner gelding winning her Bronze Medal...
From Joan Hartman...
"Susan Derr Drake has committed her life to equines. For almost 40 years she has been studying horses and how humans interact with them. Through a broad range of disciplines, she explores how our relationship with horses illuminates deeper truths about ourselves and how, by working together, horses and people can grow together in balance and harmony. Susan has recently moved her stables to Valley View Farm and has scheduled a series workshops on “Achieving Harmony with Your Horse" and travels to give clinics throughout the United States and Europe.
Susan teaches riders in many different types and styles of riding, but she always begins with enhancing, “forward, straight and round” or “ speed, direction and frame” as taught in dressage. Dressage is to riding what ballet is to dance, or figures are to skating, or Iyengar is to yoga. For Susan, dressage is a system for learning the fundamentals about horse anatomy, physiology and movement as influenced by the human body. If you take the time to learn the basics, your horse will be healthier and happier for longer. You can then apply the basics to any style of riding—Trail, English or Western pleasure, Reining, Driving, Hunters and Jumping. And you will be rewarded with an increasingly nuanced ability to read your horse and to learn a great deal about yourself. Synergy is defined as “the interaction of two or more forces so that their combined effect is greater than the individual effect. Susan is a Synergy master.
A first lesson with Susan might be just sitting on your horse, adjusting your weight and exerting pressure in different ways to observe how your horse responds. Does your seat create a hollowed out back or can you help your horse use its abs to round up and better carry your weight by creating a bridge within their body to protect their vertebrae and nerves while making it easier to move in any direction with grace and balance?
Lessons progress to helping the rider sense the different parts of the horse. Count when the right hind leg is moving forward, feel the barrel swing from side to side, see how the neck and head follow through from the movement of that hind leg. The rider begins to recognize all the moving parts and how they relate to their body’s movement.
The next phase is learning to move in response to the horse’s movements. Shift your hips and pelvis with the horse’s rear legs, swing your shoulder forward with the horse’s, let your legs sway with its barrel, press down slightly in the stirrup, and don’t let your neck stiffen up. Something as simple as “relax your jaw” can result in a big corresponding relaxation response in your horse. Then, by playing with the concept of drive, restrain and harmonize in different parts of the bodiess, the horse magically displays, Piaffe, Pirouettes, Passage or the most graceful soft circle or clear transition.
While people are upright, horses are long like boats or trailers so they need a smooth sequence of actions from the rider to keep the parts moving in balance. So riding is constantly adjusting all the parts to keep the, rhythm straightness and roundness. It is a dance where the rider leads with subtle pressure on one side while opening up space to move into on the other.
With these basics, Susan asks her students to consider the energetic relationship between horse and rider. At one level, everything starts with that powerful hind leg whose force ripples through the horse’s body all the way to its nose, and through the rider’s body from seat bones through the neck and shoulder to the reins, harnessing a continuous and controlled circle of energy. When you first feel it, it’s ecstatic, but brief. It offers a glimmer, though, of what riding can be. For a moment, horse and rider were one. This begins the real work. The student must learn about the many blockages that get in the way of that transcendent moment. "Timing is everything" Susan says. Discovering the basic four phases of the hind leg from sitting phase to pushing phase to lifting phase to reaching phase to sitting phase again, the rider's pallet of aiding possibilities and connection expands beyond measure.
Susan is extraordinary in her range of knowledge that can be employed to uncover the source of blockages. She can identify anatomical imbalances in the horse and rider. She will suggest changes in tack. She can spot nutritional problems or faulty shoeing work. Sometimes she will lightly touch the horse or apply a more vigorous bodywork technique that releases pinching or pain. She can transform a horse—from antsy to calm, from rigid to loose, from gimpy to balanced before your very eyes.
It can seem like magic, but she is able to share her secrets. From her BS degree in Biology to her years of study as an energetic healer, she can break things down analytically in words, or describe it in a metaphor, or draw you a picture in the arena sand or show you in a mime with her own body or paint the picture in your mind of the feeling. She’s never at a loss for another strategy to better get across what she wants you to understand and feel in your very core.
Susan has ridden in 116 dressage Grand Prix events and has schooled 100’s riders including her Rocket Scientist Husband, Paul from raw beginner to receiving his USDF Gold Medal in the Grand Prix. He is riding Alanti, a very sound 20 year old Hanoverian red mare. Enough said!
She schools riders for high-level competition, but enjoys most working with riders, whatever their skills and goals, because it is in transforming the relationship between horse and rider that she derives her greatest satisfaction. How can they synchronize their energies to become something greater than either alone? Synergy is her quest!
Susan is also a gifted equine photographer and has published a stunning book, Reflections, Equines and Us , that celebrate the affinity that can develop between horse and rider (Click on Books button on home page). In addition, Susan makes striking necklaces featuring gorgeous equine figures (Click on Jewelry Button at home page). And now ads to her collection of artistic endeavors, the art of Belly Dancing!"
Many students throughout the years have become professional trainers, judges,
and competitors as local Champions and up to the Olympic Level.
Susan encourages the journey of horse and rider to be for their highest good first.
Every horse and rider have their own path to create and walk.
She guides them through it gently and intuitively.
Competition is just one optional tool to that means; to inspire progress in
the development of the mind, body, and spirit of the horse and their rider.
" To learn and have fun! "
"Thank you to all my students who are willing to learn and enjoy my work
and for creating happier, healthier horses with me! "
Susan Derr Drake