Baucher From A Through Z? - Henry Gleisner

Dressage and Combined Training, April 1996
Henry Gleisner, Oxford, MI

Baucher From A Through Z?

Mari Zdunic of Brighton, MI, is giving a series of "Whole Horse Training Clinics." As everyone knows, Mari is the much admired protege of the late Chuck Grant. She is carrying on his training tradition at his former Shine-A-Bit Farm, where his name is still prominently displayed on the barn.

Both Chuck and Mari were exponents of James Fillis and the French methods of training and riding, as created earlier by the much maligned Francois Baucher ( whose teachings stressed flexibility, lightness, and brilliance).

Mari's "Whole Horse Clinics" are not limited to one discipline, such as dressage, though she is supremely versed in that area. (Mari not only competed successfully in Grand Prix and Kur but has demonstrated High School dressage for several years at the annual Washington [D.C.] International Horse Show in Lanham, MD.) Here, she presents the idea that one can have great fun with a horse simply by learning how he thinks and reacts by doing all kinds of things with him and observing him closely as he learns. Mari's unique personality brings out the best in her pupils, both animal and human, and everyone has fun learning and doing. She arranges "hands-on" experiences with trained horses for her human pupils to get the feel of how to do it correctly. Sometimes the horses are so well-trained that they beat the humans on the cues. A recording of her clinic sounds like the sound track of a situation comedy, there is so much laughter.

Mari invited me to bring one of my horses as a "demo horse" to show the basic training in hand on the ground of direct and lateral flexion's of the jaw as advocated by Baucher and Fillis and to explain why these exercises are useful and valid. Meanwhile, Mari showed how her horses, when properly cued, could perform extremely light flying changes of leg. I later demonstrated the piaffe and passage.

We agreed that it is difficult to compete with this method of riding nowadays, because the judges are so accustomed to seeing the German way of going. The Germans have been winners in the field of dressage, so their style of training and going is all the vogue.

About 15 horses of all shapes, colors, and sizes attended the clinic, and there were approximately 40 auditors. There were many questions and controversial themes discussed, such as, "How is it possible to achieve lightness, dependent on the flexibility of the jaw, in a drop or flash noseband, and a snaffle bit"?

Mari will continue her clinics about this science that has been revived after 100 years of obscurity.

Copyright 1996, 1997 by Shine-A-Bit Farm; Brighton, Michigan- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of text and/or photos for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited