Suzanne’s love affair with horses began, like most, as a very young girl. She has been involved with horses for over forty-one years. She has competed in equitation, hunters and dressage, having trained exclusively for dressage for over twenty-five years.
The Early Years
Suzanne’s first teacher was a young Arabian stallion named Sadiq. This brilliant, unbroken stallion became Suzanne’s best friend when she was thirteen. Hours were spent sitting in his stall, watching him move and play, talking to him and, most importantly, listening to him. It is Sadiq who taught Suzanne to listen to and hear horses. The lessons this gentle, spirited horse taught Suzanne are the foundations of all that followed. It was Sadiq that taught Suzanne early on the sensitivity and respect necessary to form a true relationship with a horse.
For years Suzanne continued to “study” at the hooves of horses. Riding bareback through the hills of Southern California, she did what any horse crazy girl does. She played. This play has stayed with Suzanne and perhaps explains why she works with such a large number of junior riders in a field that often scares younger riders away.
In her 20’s, after years of learning from the horses themselves, Suzanne began formal training. Her dressage training began in earnest with Susan Shrader, a certified Centered Riding instructor who studied directly with Sally Swift. Sally Swift’s message of “get out of the horse’s way” has stuck with Suzanne through all her years of training and is the basis for her philosophy of giving the horse the freedom to move and allowing the horse to be a horse.
Suzanne’s next teacher was Dominique Barbier, author of the best selling “Dressage for the New Age” and internationally acclaimed trainer and instructor. Dominique and his talented wife, Debra Barbier, have helped guide Suzanne for more than eighteen years and much of what she teaches is based on Dominique’s method of lightness and harmony.
During her years with Dominique, Suzanne also worked with other teachers. She traveled to Spain where she worked with Luis Ramos Paul, the former director of the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, the leading riding academy in Spain. In addition she attended numerous clinics held by people such as Heidi Ericksen, Robert Dover and Jean-Claude Racinet.
The most important and influential of these later teachers was Doina Fischer of Classical Riding Reflections. Doina’s vast international experience introduced Suzanne to concepts and methods that greatly broadened her technical and academic understanding of dressage and horses in general. Doina’s precision complimented Suzanne’s naturally artistic temperament and the combination of these two qualities greatly advanced Suzanne’s growth as a rider, teacher and trainer. Suzanne worked with Doina for over eight years and continues to work with her whenever Doina is in the United States.
Throughout her twenty-five year journey in dressage, Suzanne has been trained in both the German and French classical methods. This combination of training gives her a unique perspective on the two schools of dressage training. Although it is clear that Suzanne is a French classicist and believes strongly in the principals of lightness that define the French method, her thorough knowledge of the German method allows her to use the best of both schools to assist her students, both four-legged and two-legged.
During her twenty years of training horses Suzanne has worked with numerous breeds, ranging from Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses and Warmbloods to the more exotic Friesians and Lusitanos. Her love of the Iberians breeds (Andalusians and Lusitanos) began more than twenty years ago and she is uniquely qualified to handle the different training requirements of the baroque breeds (Friesians, Andalusians, Lusitanos and Lippizaners). She works with such diverse breeds as Morgans, Arabians, Irish Draughts, Dutch Warmbloods, Oldenburgs, Percherons, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Friesians, Andalusians and Lusitanos among others. Although perhaps best known for her work with babies where her endless patience and humor help create happy, willing partners, she continues her compassionate and gentle training methods through the levels, striving throughout to create a fun, harmonious relationship between horse and rider resulting in a true dance.
Suzanne is also well-known for her love of stallions. She has worked with stallions of all ages and training levels for over fifteen years. Suzanne’s gentle, patient methods help preserve the natural fire and spirit that defines a stallion while shaping them into well-behaved gentlemen. One of her greatest teachers was a young Andalusian stallion named Esto Uno. Being an emotional and highly-charged stallion, he developed in Suzanne what she refers to as “authority without aggression.” The ability to attain this state is crucial to being an effective trainer of any horse, but especially stallions. In the last nine years Suzanne has been fortunate enough to discover the brilliance, beauty and passion of mares and the former “stallion-girl” has found a new love through the power and heart of the Saddledbred mare, Rosebud and the incomparable elegance of the Lusitano mare, Ultima V.O.
Currently, Suzanne’s personal dance partners are Ultima and Ultima’s first baby, the young Lusitano stallion Bravo do Patewood.
In 2000 Suzanne realized a life long dream when she opened Patewood Farm,an intimate equestrian facility located on forty acres in New Jersey. At Patewood Suzanne teaches, trains, breeds Lusitanos and continues her studies in the art of riding.
Happy Horse! Happy Rider!
Suzanne’s simple philosophy of “Happy Horse, Happy Rider” brings a much needed sense of joy to a field of study often overshadowed by stress and demands on both horse and rider. Although passionately serious about her field, Suzanne never forgets the wonder and joy that brought her to horses in the first place.
Suzanne was the author of the popular newspaper column “For The Love of Horses” in The Paulinskill Valley Chronicle for years. She is still hard at work on her book which her students have been demanding for over 6 years. It is slow going as her schedule of teaching, training and exhibition work leave her little spare time. But she is determined to finish it so keep your eyes open for it!er little spare time. But she is determined to finish it so keep your eyes open for it!