A message for the New Year

I am very sad to note the passing of one of the best ecuyers of our time. Mr. Michel Henriquet died December 8, at home in France. Debra and I extend sincere condolences to Catherine.
Michel was not only a refined rider, he was a great teacher. He was the author of many books on French Classical dressage and was an early promoter of the Lusitano in France.
After being a student for many years of Mestre Nuno Oliveira, he went on to coach his wife, Catherine Durand, and achieved some success in using and adapting classical methods in competition.
Michel and Mestre Oliveira exchanged letters for years about l’art equestre. Those letters, along with Michel’s diaries, create a day-to-day peek into the life and practice of the great teacher and an accomplished student who would become a master. He was part of an era when many disciples were passionate about the art and exchanged letters, experiences, techniques and books. Along with Dom Diogo de Bragança, Professor Da Costa, Dr. Borba and Monsieur Baccarat (who translated the Mestre’s first book) they were the core of the students who would follow the teachings of Mestre Oliveira and take that knowledge to their students via their riding practice and the books they would write. It is, sadly, the end of an era. There are very few original students left.
Sometimes I have a great deal of nostalgia (saudades, longing) for this time.
Looking ahead, as we must and as it is all we can do, we see the art of riding becoming less physical and more mental. Riders are slowly becoming more conscious of the well-being of their partners and because of this we are making some progress in the right direction.
With gratitude for all the Masters gave us in the example of their finesse and dedication to l’art equestre, we look to the New Year with renewed commitment to the health and happiness of our equine partners. Let us always have in mind these four questions when we are working with our horses:
Are we being compassionate?
Is our practice sustainable?
Is our practice honorable?
And is our practice enlightened?
Amities, and Best Wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year!
Dominique and Debra Barbier

Portugal, part 3…final

A little quiet time after the Holiday gives me time to write the last post about my trip to Portugal in September.

The days were filled with visiting the breeding farms and trainers and filled, too, with good food. But I had a special afternoon at Senhor Manuel Veiga’s Quinta da Broa. They were putting the finishing touches on a spectacular new picadeiro. It is constructed in the old foundation out of native and local materials. It is absolutely stunning. Parabens Quinta da Broa!

But the extra special thing was getting to see an original copy of Francois Robichon de la Gueriniere’s Ecole de Cavalerie. I’ve seen framed prints from the book and have read the reprints, but it was amazing to hold the original and leaf through page after page of the marvelous etchings.

I also learned that my old friend and dear friend of my Mestre, Nuno Oliveira, Dom Diogo de Bragança, had compiled a library of hundreds of the best and most rare books on the equestrian art. I hope that someone will recognize the value of keeping that library intact. It is a treasure beyond measuring for lovers of true horsemanship and classical dressage.

Thoughts turn to the future now. We are looking forward to celebrating a Holiday filled with family, with friends, and our horses. We’ll be developing the lecture series for the Symposium in February (click the link above to register now and get a great rate at the Dry Creek Inn!). Wishing you and yours a holiday filled with an abundance of love and compassion.

Amities~ DDBarbier


For Mrs. Molly Sivewright, FBHS, DBHS

It is with deep sadness that we note the passing of an extraordinary woman, a dear friend and mentor, Mrs. Molly Sivewright, FBHS, DBHS. She touched so many lives, human and equine. This brushes the sadness aside to allow gratitude to take its place. Though I am certain my voice is one among many thousands to express my condolences, it is important for me to acknowledge the early teaching she so generously gave to me.


Early in my riding career I was a little misdirected in my goals. I wanted to be as good a rider, technically, as I could be. I developed tricks to train horses better and more quickly (I thought), but the results were temporary. Then one morning I was given a special horse to ride, a beautiful and refined mare named Golden Celadon.


For two weeks it was a complete disaster. There was no mental communication between us, nor could I take physical hold of her. I used all my tricks, one by one, with no success. Her mind was on everything, everywhere, but not with me.


After a long period, Mrs. Sivewright (whom I was sure had been watching every failure of mine) asked if I wanted some help. YES! I replied. She said, simply, “walk around the fields and listen to the birds.” This made me a little angry, but I would have done anything at this point, so off I went.


The fields were large, but Mrs. Sivewright made certain I went around twice, listening to the birds. The mare’s walk was much calmer than before. And after a time she said “for whatever you want, just ask politely”. The mare and I quickly bonded and she led me to many more discoveries.


This set the stage for all the understanding and growth I would access later in Portugal with Mestre Oliveira. But Mrs. Sivewright was the first person to speak to me about another way of riding, a clearer, non ego-based riding. A riding based on calm, polite, mental communication. I have never forgotten those lessons and they helped form the base of much of my riding philosophy. I will be eternally grateful.