I started coaching Heather in the early 90s, and we first met when she came to a teacher training course in California. This was not initally her idea - one of her students picked up the 'Masterclass' book at a horse show, bought it, started reading, and started trying out the ideas in it. She then went to her lessons with Heather saying 'Is this better or is that better?'. Every time Heather prefered the version from the book, so she herself then became interested. Her student (a lovely woman called Lesley) decided that she really wanted to be taught in the style of the book, and she arranged for a number of Heather's other students to club together and pay to send her on that teaching training course.



It was the following year that I was invited to teach in Lousianna, and Heather and many of her students rode in that clinic. She had done a good job with her students, but she herself was still making some of the classic mistakes, especially growing too tall, with a hollow back and her ribs pulled up away from her hips. Her stirrups were too long, and we shortened them by three holes - which requires a huge adaptation by the rider. Both Heather and I vividly remember that lesson; we came close to doing battle, as she felt so wierd, so slumped, and so uncomfortable within the changes she was making. At one point I believe she thought 'I'll just humour her, she'll give up on this soon!' But she did not know me very well - I am renowned for being tenacious!

After three days she was able to do things with her horse that had been impossible despite many clinics with many well known names, and she was sold on the idea of biomechanics, including the ideas of bringing her ribs down towards her ribs, having her thigh at 45 degrees, and her stirrups three holes shorter. These photographs here show her riding Rambo, Arabella, Otto and Paragon - all horses I have helped her with over the last fifteen years - and they all show her in the 'neutral spine', with the shoulder/hip/heel line that have become part of her trademark. What felt so wrong to her then feeIs so right to her now!


There have been many clinics and many horses shince that initial meeting. Heather now soaks up input, and she is a great learner. From that first clinic she was able to find the quality of focussed attention that I teach, and that all good learning requires. This maximises the effect of the hours we spend in the saddle - without it, we are highly likely to just keep repeating our mistakes. In his book 'The Talent Code,' Daniel Coyle describes it as 'deep practice'. This is well worth cultivating (do read his book, it is fascinating, and the most validating book I have ever read). Recent research suggests that 'deep practice' is one of the critical factors in skill development.

The work that Heather and I do together now is, of course, far more subtle than it was in those early lessons. Heather remarked to me once how amazing it is that whilst the changes she is making are relatively so much smaller, they feel just as profound. This is really about perception, and developing feel is rather like looking at the same landscape through a stronger and stronger magnifying glass, seeing details that you could not have dreampt of before.

Heather has become a co-developer of my work on rider biomechanics, and she has become the best living example of the biomechanics I teach, which we both believe maximises the rider's ability to draw the horse's back up, and ultimately to create collection. She has also developed her own 'take' on horse training, which strongly resembles that of Australian trainer Andrew Mclean. Heather had no knowledge of his research on 'Equine Learning Theory' (see the links page for more information), but she only had to watch the first fifteen minutes of his first video to say 'We've both been working on inventing the same wheel.'.

For me, working with Heather remains exciting, challenging, and extremely fulfilling. I step into her arena praying that I will still have something useful to offer her - and I always do. On our last clinic, we made a change to her that changed Paragon profoundly, and I joked that '45 minutes with me is worth 45 hours with anyone else'. 'No it's not said Heather, it's worth far longer than that.' They key is how much more I see, about the rider/horse interaction, and how I have the words to say it - for riders at all levels.


Heather is now the proud owner of individual Silver and team Gold medals from the Pan Am games in 2011. As I write this the winter dressage season in Florida is about to begin, and the Olympics are beckoning. This could seem a lot for a very young horse who has done only one Grand prix test; but my money is on them, and I am looking forward to our next clinic in March!

This photograph of me, Heather and Pargon was taken in November 2011 at her base in Wellington, FL. We did some extra lessons around the clinic itself so I am not properly dressed. But she looks like I am making her think about something important!