California Riding Magazine • August, 2008

On The Move
Susan Derr Drake emphasizes developing horse and rider in mind, body and spirit and moves to a new location in Santa Ynez.

by Susan Derr Drake

After competing in 116 dressage Grand Prix events and teaching competitors in dressage, 3-day eventing, jumping, western, driving and pleasure for 36 years, my interests are continuously expanding. There are many different ways of working with horses. Our gift of free will allows us to choose between what we want and what we don’t.

My belief is in the gradual, systematic development of the horse and riders’ mind, body and spirit to create trust, harmony and love on the way to optimum health, performance and well being in whatever sport or partnership they choose.

Susan with Parmenio - Passage by the Sea.

I give attention to the whole of the two beings. The whole picture is huge; bigger than the sum of the parts. It’s like a 5000 piece puzzle. I am expanding to work with some of the unusual, often unseen pieces to the whole picture. When you love horses you do everything you can to make them safe, happy and healthy.

My personal purpose in life is to figure out how to do it. I am always eager to learn more and find healthier and happier ways to ride, teach and live. I see the energy and feel the movement, so as I watch a horse and rider I yearn for a resistance-free, fluidly-moving pair with the muscles soft and supple, the skeletons in alignment, the emotions in the positive, the energy flowing effortlessly. And most importantly I look for a clear, two-way communication flowing between the horse and rider while looking like they are one.

Susan with her 5 year old Hanoverian, D'Light
on their path of health, happiness and the Grand Prix.

It is that moment when time stands still, all is quiet, all is right. Everyone observing this moment wants a piece of that feeling. That Zen-like feeling can happen with either a beginning or the most advanced pair. Each individual path to that feeling of connection and oneness is different, so I customize each experience. Some information may be different from anything they have ever heard before. My intention is to give new ways to look at common problems and to make informed decisions on solutions and resources that are available in this quest.

In our barn, I ask that there be no competition between riders or horses, only inspiration for each other. We accept what, who and where we are, and we simply want more for our horses and ourselves in a state of appreciation and gratitude while choosing.

Susan competing with Will Power at the Grand Prix.

“I have watched Susan grow into one of the most insightful, intuitive guardians of the horse I have ever seen,” says my husband and student of 31 years, Grand Prix rider Paul Drake. “She seems to just know what they need and want and can uniquely tell not only what to do, but how and why.

“We are not all world-class riders,” Paul continues. “But Susan loves working with everyone and always will pull out their personal best. Over the years, I have seen miracles in changing horses and riders, including myself. Unbelievable!”

First I look at the basics of rhythm, relaxation and suppleness, contact and connection, impulsion, straightness, collection, roundness and throughness, balance, timing and combination of aids, willingness, breathing, symmetry, position, anatomy and more, of course. Then I tune in to other areas as well that may affect the horse and rider such as energy blocks and Chi flow, auras, intention, nutrition, pH balance, mineralization, color and aroma therapy, Reiki, Healing Touch, bodywork, crystal and aroma therapy, homeopathics, animal communication, muscle testing, even weather. I also look at anything that can have a major effect or those elusively subtle yet surprisingly important causes that bring joy when found.

2008 summer workshop series for all riders.

I recently moved my training business to Kristina Novak-Wideman’s and Richard Wideman’s Valley View Farm in Santa Ynez. “We are on the same page when it comes to the love of the horses,” says Kristina. “Susan combines ancient wisdoms and commonsense horsemanship. She is the Valley’s best kept secret and we are thrilled to have her here.”

No matter what discipline, the insight, passion and appreciation for the horse expands as we go. To complement your training program I welcome riders wanting to find a few of their own unseen pieces of the puzzle to visit for one lesson, a delightful weekend retreat or a lifetime in this journey at the beautiful Valley View Farm. It is magical and I love it!

I wish you love, light and laughter.

For more information contact Susan Derr Drake at 805-452-0414 or visit her website at