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.
Drummond’s unique background led her to form the Association for the Promotion of the Art of Horsemanship in America. The APAHA seeks to pair riders who have aged out of the Young Riders program, but still seek guidance, with seasoned trainers. Drummond and Patrick Teisserenc will hold a dressage workshop on Feb. 4 and 5 at Mary Anne McPhail’s farm in the White Fences neighborhood in Loxahatchee.
“It’s a workshop for teachers who have not had any contact with European coaching,” Drummond said. “They are part of the teachers learning program that I sponsor with horses that have been donated or that I’ve trained. We will help them with what they’re struggling with. It’s for teachers, by teachers.”
Drummond also is an artist. She plays the piano, writes poetry about her experience in the saddle and enjoys spontaneous rides set to music. Unlike the musical freestyles common in dressage competition, the musical rides Drummond enjoys are off-the-cuff and unplanned.
“I became a performance artist with it,” she said. “I adore how the form and movement of a horse meld with music. I thought that was where horses became beautiful. We do complete freestyle. You take a piece of music and you interpret it live, cold. You have to know your horse extraordinarily well. You have to be able to sway the spectator with the movement of the horse. It’s about the expression of the piece of music and the horse’s body.”
When she isn’t immersed in the arts, Drummond is working to help up-and-coming riders and trainers find guidance and experienced horses through the APAHA.
“There are very few opportunities in the United States for young trainers to use older trainers as sounding boards,” she said. “In Europe, you get godfathered into it. You get exposed to different viewpoints. In the U.S., you get a lot of training and attention as a young rider, but very little in your 20s and 30s. They don’t get contact, unless they have a sponsor and money, with that kind of guidance. We try to offer a place and different points of view where these young people can ask for help and guidance. It links up all the trainers with experience who have done a lot of experimenting in techniques and types of training with young trainers who can come in and use a loaned horse. We loan them an experienced eye.”
Those interested in signing up for the workshop, learning about the art of dressage or finding help through the APAHA can write to Drummond through her website, http://apaha.us, and send in resumés and videos of their rides. According to the website, cost of the workshop is $135 per day.
“We are hoping to get a bigger gene pool of talented people from the workshops,” she said.
Amy Bower Doucette writes about the equestrian communities for Neighborhood Post. Send mail to 2751 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33405. Call 561-820-4763, fax 561-837-8320. firstname.lastname@example.org