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.