This e-mail came from a professional hunter trainer. Her daughter's new horse was very aggressive, especially around food, and explosive under saddle:
Bobo came home fine. We really saw his improvement on Saturday when Jasmine got on to ride. She tacked him up with a couple of good disciplines then got on in the ring. Right after she started, the horse in the pasture that directly surrounds the ring lost her mind, and started at a full gallop screaming around the ring. A momentary panic in Jazz's face, then she went directly to work. Bobo spooked briefly, Jasmine did a quick discipline, and then he was fine. Everyone was amazed. Before, he would have literally been deadly to Jazz and everyone else in the ring. Today he was a perfect gentleman. The situation passed and no problems came up. Tonight when she went to blanket him, he had just been fed. She said, "back up, this is my space," he went to the back of the stall, she put the blanket on, had to adjust the straps under his belly, walked out, said, "ok," and only then did he slowly go back to his food.
In our business, people all to often tell us what we are doing wrong, but I want to thank the two of you from the bottom of my heart. The peace knowing that this is all possible is amazing.
Thank you and enjoy your weekend.
Oakcrest Hunters, Inc.
In Others' Words
I first met Anne nearly ten years ago. I had ridden western all of my life but had never taken formal lessons. For whatever reason and in my early 30s, I decided that I wanted to try english riding. I had custom red cowboy boots but longed to put on a pair of breeches and tall black boots and look like I stepped from a Ralph Lauren ad.
I've often said that I'm thankful that there were no witnesses to my first few lessons, other than Anne and me. She showed up with her Passier saddle and I struggled to stay in it. I couldn’t post a trot or keep my heels down and my "western legs" as she called them kept ending up in front of me. I remember how proud I was when I figured out how to change my diagonal.
Since those early days she has seen me through many milestones. We went to my first dressage show together. She was teaching me to jump when I fell off my mare and landed on my head; we spent the rest of the evening drinking Cosmopolitans and trying to calm down from the adrenalin rush. I bought several horses, without waiting for her opinion, and she just smiled and helped me work with their strengths and bring out the best in each.
She helped me choose a Thoroughbred mare and Irish Draught stallion to breed and was there when Darling Fiona was born. When Fiona was three, I sent her to Steen and Anne to be started under saddle. She continued her training for a year and a half until she returned to me this past January, solid in her ground manners and winning First Level Open dressage classes with Anne up.
Since bringing her home, Fiona and I have been to three shows this spring, including Dressage on the First Coast, a USDF/USEF recognized show. We received great scores from all three judges, including a 70.8% in a Training level qualifying class from the doyenne of dressage in the United Kingdom, Jennie Loriston-Clarke ("I").
Anne has seen me all the way through and given me the confidence to compete and win with my home bred filly. Fiona now has a half sister, Elle, and in a couple of years she, too, will be sent to Steven and Anne. I do not hesitate to entrust my horses to them and would recommend them to anyone who desires to teach their horses using correct and gentle training methods.
Martha L. Moore Saylor
Little Creek Ranch
From Lynda Adams:
Two years ago I started riding again after not being on a horse for nearly 30 years. After several tries I found a home riding and learning with Anne and Steven Duchac. To say they are a true team is an understatement. My weekly dressage lessons with Anne were a pure joy. Not only did she provide a wonderful learning experience each and every week, we also had a lot of fun. Every lesson was carefully planned and designed to be full of new information and skills while constantly reinforcing the basics. She put me on many different horses and taught me training methods that I will use in my future riding career.
Both Steven and Anne are true horse people with their vast knowledge and experience in training both horse and rider. They consistently reinforce the skills required for both the person and the horse to be comfortable, safe and happy. I can't tell you how much I learned just by spending time at the barn with them. Even from across the field I would hear an instruction or suggestion to improve. From grooming to lunging to trailer loading Anne and Steven put forth the effort and time. One evening, in the pouring rain, Steven took the time to show me the correct methods to safely and effectively lunge a horse. He worked with me on trailer loading so that I could go to a show. With Anne and Steven's support and training we won the championship at that first show.
Horsemanship - I thought I knew what that meant and that I had a pretty good grasp as a rider - until I was injured. Like many riders, I've hit the ground plenty of times in my many years of riding and only wounded my pride. When I shattered my shoulder, had my surgery and therapy, I was ready to move on, or so I thought. Never in my life had I felt the degree of fear that came over me when I was ready to get back on Max. I did it anyway, thinking that this fear would disappear - it stayed with me and I felt mentally paralyzed. That's when you and Anne came to a trailer loading clinic with my local dressage club and I found hope in your ability to help me. I also had a young horse that would need to be started under saddle, so I brought both horses to your farm in Ocala in Sept. 2009.
Things started to change rapidly for me and my horses. Between the two of you, you showed me how to effectively change what I did to relate to my horses - simply put, you taught me that everything I do is teaching the horse and that I had to mentally prepare myself to find the path that was correct for me, no matter what horse I was riding.
Steven showed me the "guts" of the process - I had to really work hard at focusing my attention on what I was doing every minute of my lessons with him - I learned to ride each stride, each minute. He drilled this into my brain, in hopes that it would become muscle memory for me. Guess what? It worked!
Anne, on the other hand, guided me on the finesse of dressage training, demonstrating to me the nuances of the light touch of my hand, when and how to use the whip, and when to cross the line to a tough kick - I guess you could call it appropriateness of the aids.
My favorite lessons (of course, this is looking back with great affection because at the time I thought I would never live through it!) were when you both were teaching me at the same time. It seemed as though you taught the same things but with different ways of explaining - it was fascinating to hear what each of you would say and then decipher what worked best for my memory. I've listened to many clinicians and never have I heard two people articulate the why's and how's the way that you do. Even when you questioned each other's perception, the respect that you hold for each other was unmistakeable and then, you'd go over everything with me from both sides.
Working with the two of you was nothing short of fascinating and so many things have changed for me in the last 2 1/2 years. I have most of my confidence back and have a new horse that I'm forming a bond with. I am learning the benefit of being a modest rider with a modest horse and how to correctly ride her, thanks to you. Not every horse and rider are good fits and just like in so many life lessons, sometimes we have to part ways so that we can all move on.
I guess that must be true - I sure miss having my lessons in Ocala! I treasure those trips and look forward to sharing our new directions with each other. Thank you, Anne and Steven - I will always be most grateful for all the things that you have taught me.
Hello, Anne and Steven,
I am not sure I can express the difference we saw in Dexter this weekend. Thursday's schooling, in the freezing cold rain began with Dexter being hot and spooky. Taylor refused to give up, and with Sheri's help, she kept Dexter focused in trotting figure eights for about 20 minutes as he fought with Taylor and spooked at the rain - and the puddles - and other horses - and everything that moved.
Then all of a sudden, he just seemed to give in. He just settled down and schooled beautifully with a quiet confidence that we have never seen before. Taylor would not stop cantering around the schooling arena... she was smiling and having fun! At one point, another horse spooked and ran into Dexter, but Dexter did not even flinch or change his pace. As we watched the collision happen, we all assumed Taylor was going to die, but Dexter did not react in any way. Taylor was loving her ride so much that Sheri had to finally demand that she put Dexter away before his legs fell off.
Dexter's schooling was extremely quiet, in more freezing cold rain, on Friday. And during the show on Saturday, they placed second out of 16 on the flat and third out of 16 over fences. Dexter has been "excused" from the ring on more than one occasion, so this was a HUGE, AMAZING success.
How do I thank you? We love Dexter dearly, yet we were not sure he was a safe mount for our daughter. It would have broken her heart to have to sell him. I never thought he would improve this much, this fast. Sheri was also amazed, and another trainer asked if Dexter was the same horse, or had we gotten a new one!
When I first came to Anne and Steven Duchac's farm, I wasn't even sure I should be riding anymore. My horse Tater and I no longer enjoyed one another. I would ride tentatively, he would act out, I would get tighter, he would eventually explode. It was the same pattern every time. Even more disturbing was that I had ridden him so wrong for so long that he developed a way of dragging his body around on his forehand. I would dismount after each go-round worn out and defeated, but the thought of giving up a sport I had been passionate about since childhood was beyond depressing. Who was I if I wasn't Meredith the horse person?
I started back at the basics with Steven. He helped me to understand the natural forces behind Taters actions and taught me how to be a leader that any horse would desire to please. While some of his exercises seemed unconventional to a girl who grew up in the hunter/jumper arena, they helped me to finally know my role in the human/equine relationship. When I lived up north, I boarded my horse at a farm where we weren't allowed to ride anywhere except in the arena, and here I was with Steven, cantering through the woods with ease. Tater had a new respect for me, and I for him.
Anne tweaked seemingly minute details which resulted in huge changes. She helped me to get out of Taters way so that he could move more naturally. I developed a center of gravity and a securitty like I had never felt before. I was able to feel even the slightest of changes in his body and make the appropriate correction immediately. The soft connection she helped me to develop has made communication easy and less frustrating for both of us.
Today, Tater and I practice dressage and go on regular trail rides to keep him interested. He has become a truly lovely and cooperative horse. He still has his bad days, but thanks to Anne and Steven, I have the tools to overcome them. I could not be more grateful for all that they have done for me. I think Tater appreciates that someone has finally managed to train his human properly!