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Introducing Susan Derr Drake, Horse Listener > Her Students

Paul Drake

Rocket Scientist, Paul Drake wins Grand Prix de Dressage with Alanti

Feb. 23, 2008 at the Earl Warren Show grounds, Paul Drake, Raytheon Senior Principal Engineer living in Santa Ynez, won his first Dressage Grand Prix with a Championship qualifying score! He was riding a 16.2 hand Hanoverian mare named Alanti, owned by Dr. and Mrs. Pond. The horse show management announced that out of all the dressage riders throughout the U.S., less than 1 percent actually compete in the Olympic-level Grand Prix test.  They honored Alanti with the blue ribbon and Paul with a bottle of champagne.   Cheers! 

The Grand Prix de Dressage consists of an FEI (Federation Equestre International) compulsory test.  A horse and rider pair compete against themselves to improve their personal scores, as well as against other riders in the class.  Some of the movements in the test include: trot and canter extensions, half passes (moving forward and sideways while crossing the legs at the trot, and adding flying changes at the end of the canter half passes), 9 flying changes every other stride (2 tempis) and 15 flying changes every stride (a tempis), as well as the famous 3 ‘P’s of Piaffe (trot in place), Passage (suspended trot) and Pirouette (cantering 360 degrees on the spot without losing balance, bend or the canter lead and rhythm both right and then left).  Each of the 32 movements is judged on a scale from     0-10 on the quality of the gaits, training and execution.         Wheeew!

If that is not hard enough, Paul is coached on dark cold evenings after a long day at work, and  weekends by his wife Susan Derr Drake.  Susan has trained 7 horses to the Grand Prix level and has competed in 116 Grand Prixs in her 36-year career. When asked how it is to coach her husband, she responds:  “I believe there is a Grand Prix rider in everyone, and a Grand Prix horse inside every horse. The ‘will’ has to be strong to work through and release nature’s and life’s learned resistances: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  For me, the journey of opening the heart center and becoming better and better at all levels of being on a daily basis is what is most important. Our 31 years of marriage gifts us with both unique student/teacher challenges as well as the stick-with-it-ness to succeed.  I am so very, very, proud of them both in this accomplishment.  And, we are not finished yet. Once a rider gets to the Grand Prix there are still years ahead in polishing for greater expression and improving the fine lines of communication between us all until that final salute.”

When asked how it is to be coached by his wife, Paul says: “I have ridden Alanti since she was 3 years old.  ‘Ali’ is not easy; well, neither am I come to think about it.  I am wired to do linear thinking and I have to learn multi-task functioning; feeling every step, listening to the response of every aid, all at once, all the time.  Susan never gives up and always has the horse’s well being in mind while seeing and pulling the best out of me like no one else can.  Sometimes it is really hard and sometimes it just flows.  She is probably the best I have ever seen as far as knowing what is inside the horse and the rider, not just the outside picture.  Her true gift is to be able to see, feel and teach me that deep connection and clarity to the horse. Even though it is fleeting, it is magical when it happens.” 

When asked about the ride Paul said  “I was a little nervous for the test, but ‘Ali’ trusts me and she stayed attentive to me while translating the conversation with my hands, seat, legs, and intention fairly fluently.  I was pleased.”

 You may watch their work sessions at the beautiful Valley View Farm in Santa Ynez,  California.    




Susan listening to the advice of her 5 year old student, Taylor on her

32 year old pony, Chester, explaining the

'hows' of posting trot from what she has seen others do.

It is a new generation of sensitive & aware riders coming!


Tango-Andalusian Gelding and his horse whispering dad, Don Pollard.



Icy-Trakener Gelding and his Bronze medal winning owner, Gina Sylvia


Students: Grand Father, Father and Son on 3 grey geldings,  Arabian, Swedish Warmblood, and Thouroughbred


Student: Koliinar 5th in US Dressage for Arabians and his mom, Betty Craig


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! "


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