Home Interviews and Community Bettina Drummond talks about Mr. Nuno Oliveira

Bettina Drummond talks about Mr. Nuno Oliveira

SHARE
Mon Beau Soamle Lecon Passage Portugal '82

Written by Wendy Murdoch

This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issues No.1 and No.2

When a great horseman passes away, his insight and his personal style are forever lost to us. But if he leaves behind a protégé, we are left with a window into the past that can guide us into the future. Nuno Oliveira was an undisputed master of horsemanship. Choosing not to compete, he practiced his art for himself and his horses.

His longtime student, Bettina Drummond, shares her history with this great master. Bettina spent more than 17 years under Mr. Oliveira’s tutelage. She currently has a private stable, Pruyn Stud at Auden Field, in Newtown, Conn. Bettina continues to train horses using the methods she learned from Mr. Oliveira and is one of the few people recognized by Mr. Oliveira to carry on his teaching. It seems to me that she, more than anyone, could demystify the man and his teachings. The following is an interview with Ms. Drummond about Mr. Oliveira and his methods.

Question: What made Mr. Oliveira a master?

Answer: Mr. Oliveira’s understanding of horses gave him the acute ability to judge the psychological moment in the horse and take advantage of it – what some people call timing, but in good riders it is basically a natural happening. In great riders this moment has been sensed and recreated on purpose, taken advantage of. Also, he had a phenomenal seat. I think there are very few people who have a seat like his.

Maestro Trabucco L.Entrenment Aux Mas Releve's Pesade '88
Maestro Trabucco L.Entrenment Aux Mas Releve’s Pesade ’88

Question: What was Mr. Oliveira’s background?

Answer: His basic training was from Maestro Miranda who was one of the last trainers of the Portuguese Royal School. Miranda’s training could be traced back to Maralvaa, who brought French classical riding to Portugal from the school of Versailles at the time of le Guériniére. It literally came down from France through an unbroken line of trainers trained the Royal Family exclusively. These trainers taught other trainers. Eventually, the method became used by the Portuguese bullfighters and that is how it retains its tradition today.

Question: Why hasn’t there been another “Mr. Oliveira”?

Answer: We have seen riders of equal ability and stature but he was the first to take the classical French root and graft it successfully with the Baucherism in this century. General L’Hotte put both methods together in the 19th century. But nobody has any pictures or videos and as the head of Samur, he didn’t have the mission of disseminating Baucherism. Also, very few riders have the classical French formation, and the ones that do, because of their rigid mind set that the classical formation puts in, do not tend to dabble in Baucherism. Mr. Oliveira had the classical French formation and the open-mindedness to combine it with Baucher. That combination, along with his innate riding abilities, is something that happens very rarely. He is the only purely Latin trained rider that went off seriously into Baucherism fully committed to it and had the exactitude and knowledge of the classical training to back it up.

The French have also branched off in the 20th century to different breeds of horses, the Selle Francais and the Thoroughbred. Baucher created his style around the influx of Thoroughbreds used for racing. The French have also branched off in the 20th century, emphasizing the sport and the Cavalry. Therefore, the French adapted the classical French formation to the needs of the breeds and style of riding prevalently in fashion. Latins need a horse to come back on the haunches for bull fighting, The Iberic riders still ride in the classical balance because they continue to breed for it. In America there are very few Iberic horses. Few people ever feel classical training horse on a classically bred horse. There is a different feel to a horse that has that haunch equilibrium. I think the Lippizaners have it but the Lippizaners don’t have the suppleness and the roundness of the front end comparable to that of the Iberic horse. There again there is a different quality in the different breeds. If you ride a Lippizaner classically you are going to ride in a more Germanic style than French style.

Question: So the breed of horse has really dictated in many respects the method of training and the direction people have taken with their training?

Answer: Right. What was so clever about Mr. Oliveira was recognizing that in the Portuguese horse, while most people emphasized the haunches, he saw that Iberic horses had the height in the front end to take the contact that the Baucherist flexions demand and take it out into the proper point of contact while flexing into it. These horses have a flexibility in the base of the neck and an ability to disconnect their chest and neck muscles and keep a range of motion upward that allows them to accept the Baucherism and gives them landing gears that could only be trained classically. Otherwise, they can look like runaway sewing machines parked on their haunches. So that’s what was so genius about him and he got it basically by riding horses in his youth that were Anglo-Arabs crossed with Lusitanos.

Then when he got Harpalo Prince, an Anglo-Arab owned by my mother, he told me that he had to really dabble into severe Baucherism to understand a horse that had all the rigidities and hock problems of an Anglo-Arab in order to get him into a classical position dealing with the topline contractions that an Anglo-Arab would produce. Then he understood a lot about the mouth releases leading to the neck releases. From Harpalo, he went back to the Portuguese horses. He rode them in a much more forward exuberant fashion. He created gaits and landing gears, cadence and attitude that were completely different. All of a sudden you saw the engagement of the Iberic horse but you saw the forward, relaxation and fluidity of a beautiful Thoroughbred. You saw the suspension in the front end. That is what made his system so different.

Levante La Ballotade '90
Levante La Ballotade ’90

Question: How was Mr. Oliveira’s system so different?

Answer: Mr. Oliveira was particularly open minded for a Latin. He was completely focused in his use of the classical Latin Portuguese school in his youth and he was the first one to dabble in Baucherism. He thought it was a great idea. People where shocked, even in the French school. He had a certain vision of riding. I think anyone who has a vision as an end result is going to be more open-minded at bringing in different systems. Juan, Mr. Oliveira’s son said something wonderful one day; “There is no Mr. Oliveira System, there is only Mr. Oliveira.” And it is true; it is a great quote because his system is that he was able to understand and accept that each horse will need something different, different types of training at times, and he was able to stay fluid throughout the whole training of the horse. He went from only training Iberic horses in an Iberic manner to a completely different way of thinking about horses. All he would say to me was, “pick the right moment and do what has to be done to break the contractions.”

I saw the progression in his riding and his personality as a teacher when he got a sudden influx of exposure to riders and spoke with them. He would always go back to forming the horses in roundness and suspension particularly in the piaffer and passage. He was incredibly good at that. And he always listened to opera. He evolved not a system but a technique later on in life and like a good wine, he matured. Toward the end of his life he went much more completely into a Baucherist system, because he told me “now I want to be focused only on that.” I asked, “why are you doing this, only this?” particularly since I did not like the way the horses’ backs looked at that point. He said, “I am tired. I am at the end of my career. I have ridden all of these horses. I want to explore how high I can send a horse’s hock.” That is when I saw a horse passage and hit his belly with his hind leg. It was little Swant, a tiny little horse with a weak back end who managed to hit his belly three times in a row in passage with the back of his pastern. I have never seen anybody do that with any breed, particularly with a weak horse. But it was an exaggeration because all of a sudden Mr. Oliveira’s focus was completely tight on that. He would not let go. He was like a dog on a bone when he was working on an idea. At the same time when he was training through sequential training, i.e., when he had to form a horse in two years, he would say “OK today we will do this.” If he was
having a resistance he would go in his bathroom at 4:00 a.m. and meditate on how to fix it, then come back and use a particular technique. Then if he needed to read, you would see him with a book, often at the end of the night.

Question: So he did do a lot of studying and reading?

Answer: Absolutely. When it finally dawned on me that it wasn’t just up-down, up-down I started reading a bit. Once I was quizzed in the United States if I had read Steinbrecht. I thought “German, how could I possibly read a German.” I thought I would be contaminated reading a German book. Then when I went to Mr. Oliveira, I said “What you just did to disengage the horse forward in the shoulders was Steinbrecht.” And he said “Of course.” He quoted me the page number in the book. And I said, “Wait a minute, you are training me in the French system; what is this German stuff coming in?” I had this concern that I was going to start pulling on the reins and cranking on the horse’s mouth if I do anything German. He looked at me as if I had completely lost my mind. And he said, “Steinbrecht is just Baucher on the other side of the Rhine. It is just put on a different muscle structure and a different equilibrium on a horse.”

Question: What quality is it that made his horses so spectacular?

Answer: Exuberance and lightness. To me it goes beyond impulsion and collection. Mr. Oliveira’s horses never looked schooled. If you asked for a movement like passage, you always got it so they were incredibly well trained, but they never felt schooled in that they never assumed a neck position that they were expected to hold and could not move their neck a certain way.

Question: How did he achieve such lightness in his horses?

Answer: By having such control over his back and understanding of the horse’s back that he could anticipate the horse’s lack of equilibrium, redistribute it and then be able to focus all of his attention on breaking down the simple resistance’s such as a short leg or a slow hock or a stiff neck bend. Independence of aids, basically.

Question: How did he use his back?

Answer: He said to me, “Use your back like an accordion.” He used it, the lower pelvic area to bring the haunches down, the midriff to lift the front end up to the hand and the shoulders to overload the hocks or release the hocks, depending upon which way he used his back. So he used it in three parts and then he used it laterally to overload one side or the other to pivot the horse. That is a very Portuguese bullfighting style. He used his back diagonally to oppose a leg with an inside shoulder – the outside leg to the inside shoulder. Basically, he used his back like a clutch.

Question: Did he brace his back?

Answer: Mr. Oliveira’s back was never braced. The one thing he always said to me was, “Never brace against the horse. ” He would go into the motion of the horse and redirect it. His back was like a clutch. He would ride the clutch and then ease it out in whatever direction he wanted. The clutch basically always functioned. He would use the spur’s approach as an emergency power brake. The release of the hands was like riding the clutch against the accelerator, with the approach of the inside leg to incurve the horse, rock it back and collect it. The release of the inside leg and the approach of the outside leg deviates the course of the haunches to dominate the horse’s direction. Basically, the seat ruled the whole package and the release of the leg and hand aids expressed the package.

Question: Why are there misconceptions about the use of Mr. Oliveira’s back?

Answer: I think people saw him visually overload the horse’s haunches with his shoulders and drive. He always spoke of bringing his belt towards his hands which was his way of tipping the pelvic bone underneath to drive the horse upward toward the hand. I think the difference is what you perceive visually. When you were on his horses and riding them you understood that there were minute releases and give in the rider’s back. But because he was so well classically trained, he looked like an effigy so that when he brought his shoulders back I think people imagined that it was the classical version of the German driving seat with the lower back braced and it never was that. People who rode in a more competitive style always wondered why his shoulders moved forward, back and then sideways above the horse. It really disturbed them to see his shoulders literally accompany the horse’s motion sideways rather than bring the horse back underneath him. But until you rode the horse, you wouldn’t understand. He could do this in such small motions that I don’t think people understood that the release was the power of the his back as well as the drive was a check of the shoulders. He often made me put my hand on his lower back. I could feel a pulsing outward motion of lower back and then lifting of the upper abdominals but you never saw him move! You never saw him move! It was the most unbelievable minute control; it was like breathing exercises. And it was like breathing to him, that is why he couldn’t describe it. When he started to teach me it was the most frustrating experience of my life until I started asking the right questions.

Question: How has Mr. Oliveira trained anyone to carry on his philosophy?

Answer: Philosophy? His philosophy was personal to him. His was a living example of his philosophy‚ he was the lesson. His technique, his way of riding, the people whom he has formed are Michel Henriquet, one of his oldest students and his son Jo“o who started off with him. Both of them trained during his classical and beginning Baucherist phase. Then a girl called Christine Farnir who had natural leg position was trained much more in the Baucher primier manner. She came right before me. Sue Oliveira, who married Mr. Oiler’s younger son, trained in Belgium. A young Australian guy, Raymond Vanderdrift, who later on gave up riding, but who had a natural seat. I came before Raymond, after Christine, and overlapped with Sue. Those are the ones whom I call his pet students and who were formed very young and much more thoroughly than the ones who came after me. There were a number of other students who did not get trained up to that finished level. I kept going during those years where I felt I would never get anywhere with my riding particularly after his death. One of his students, Don Jose Athayde, came up to me during his funeral and said that Mr. Oliveira had taken him aside and said that Bettina understood something that he wanted to teach and he hadn’t been able to do. I think that it is the philosophy of fluidity, not the rigidity, but the fluidity of his classical training following the horse’s requirements with the training, that I understood. I can’t do it all the time but I understand it and appreciate that. He was starving for someone who appreciated that. Everyone came to be amazed with the classical training, the roundness and lightness. But they were never interested in what he was interested in or where he was going. He was seeking something.

Question: Do you know what Mr. Oliveira was seeking?

Answer: I think like all artists, an expression of self that isn’t selfish. I think because he stopped verbalizing it to himself, stopped being honest with himself, he lost the thread. He lost where he was going. But he never lost the desire to share with someone, which I find extraordinary in such a egocentric human being. He desperately wanted an audience. He wanted a private audience towards the end of his life. He wanted a really good horse and private students that would admire him. He never stopped riding, even when his body was giving out. Unfortunately, he could never become a coach. The only place to go when your body gives out is to be the teacher, the supportive coach. Why I thought he could do that for me when he couldn’t do it for his own son, I don’t know. But I had thought that it was going to evolve. I had to pick myself up when it didn’t happen.

Question: What was he seeking from the horses?

Answer: It was a feel. In the moments he had it, the joy radiated from him and the horses loved it. The pride in the horses as well as the oomph that they put into that moment of unity and classical perfection was incredible. It was so much classical perfection and control that the horse looked like he was restored to the natural fluidity without a rider on his back. Things came out full circle. The classical background and training broke up the natural look of the horse. What Mr. Oliveira was seeking, the Zen ideal, was bringing the horse back to its natural state with as little interference or effort as possible. And he managed to get that more and more, faster and faster, with the horses more in tune with him. It is a way of focusing more and more and more.

Mon Beau Soamle Lecon Passage Portugal '82
Mon Beau Soamle Lecon Passage Portugal ’82

Question: But the expression was far more than a horse would do naturally?

Answer: Yes, by the expression I mean not the expression of the horse’s body, I mean the expression of the horse’s gaits and movement and the freedom of the horse’s spine. You forgot that there was a rider on the back. It went beyond the stylization of the classical movements which sometimes look very unnatural to someone who is into a more sport way of riding. Mr. Oliveira combined the forwardness of a sport rider with the artistic piece. He could put the exuberance, the action, the release of the muscle structure, back into the horse. This was the seduction. When it looked free and natural that is when he liked it.

Question: Do you think he found what he was looking for?

Answer: No, I don’t think so. That is why he was rather sad at the end of his life. He was a very God-fearing person. The only person who could put the fear of God in Mr. Oliveira was God himself. Mr. Oliveira sacrificed his dignity for personal pleasure. Ultimately he sacrificed everything, his relationships, for his art. Gradually as his body gave out, he came around. He said that the only important thing in his life was his grandchildren. He wanted to make his peace with his family. That is when he told me I had no right to question what he was doing with his horses. He compromised till the end of his life for one thing, for basically his family and God, his peace with God. It was his way of saying I have had my playing.

Question: So was his art his prayer to God?

Answer: His art was his song to God. That is why he told me to build my indoor arena like a cathedral. As a child I really perceived that he was happy seeing you on his horses being quietly exuberant. It is that joyful quiet like in a church. That is how I feel, it is a prayer to God, a song, a voice. That is why the opera. It was the voice. It is a way of saying “you gave me life I give you this back through art.” Art, that is what it is, an intonation of how we feel towards God. He didn’t talk about, he lived it. He was like the centaur. Riding was a full contact art like the martial arts. Full contact with the emotions, spirit and thoughts with the animal. And the animal was the relationship that understood, like the relationship with God. There was an assumption of reception of what he was broadcasting and back again. He was the consummate broadcaster. He needed the horses to absorb that and to teach him to listen and sit back. He wasn’t a listener to people. I think his riding was his way of broadcasting out to God. That is the impression I got.

Question: The horses then, did they provide the justification?

Answer: The horses were the judge certainly. That is why he said to me, “When you get off your horse it is not the people who looked at you or the judge, nor have the right to judge. It is the horse that turns around and by his supple body and kind eye that is seeing the riding I gave it, as the one tribute I take as a student.”

He was mesmerized by what fascinating creatures horses were. It was that horses had the ability to try and meet his every demand and was he demanding. He appreciated every effort the horses made and expected them to make more. It was the same with his human students and very few humans will do that. I think that is why he particularly bonded with the children because they will do that. We never questioned, we did. We followed because we realized he had a vision. He did abuse people who did not have the physical or mental ability to go that far. When he balanced his psychological demands, he was fantastic. When he didn’t, it was too much.

Question: How did you become a student of Mr. Oliveira?

Answer: My mother saw Mr. Oliveira ride when I was a child in France. She fell in love with his riding first, then in love with his person. She then moved my sister and I to Portugal where we went to school and studied under him.

Question: How long did you work with Mr. Oliveira?

Answer: My first lesson was at age seven. I started riding lessons weekly at 9 years old and then I started riding almost daily through my early teenage years. When I went to school in America I would ride during the off season on clinics with him, first with Junc and later with Vibrato. I would school his client’s horses and go back during the holidays until I was 25 years old. I always would spend my spring and summer holidays, never less than a couple of months with him, until 2 years before he died. It was a tradition that developed.

Question: How would you describe your experience?

Answer: Anything from exhilarating to terrifying. It was very scary as a child, very demanding. I think physically just extremely hard. Later on I started developing artistic feelings and then I found something of interest in his riding. I learned the riding by osmosis basically because I schooled with him so many years. When I learned to be able to ask the right questions and to pick and choose what I wanted to study with him, it was fantastic. That was my later teenage years. I will never feel so enabled as I did during that period in my life. And then of course I reached the stage where I wanted to be able to ride on my own steam. There was a let down. So I went and studied on my own. Then, when I returned to Portugal, I realized I understood much more about the philosophy. I could talk to him about it. I could ride the horses he trained better and then there was much more feedback. During the later years, there was the severe disappointment when I realized that he was interested in a line of riding that I didn’t like and he didn’t care whether I approved or not. I think that was the weaning period. I think he tolerated it from me better than most but he did not tolerate it very far.

Question: Was it difficult working with him?

Answer: I think the hardest thing about studying with a great master is finding your own direction and so many times you realize that without the master’s hand behind you or their creative vision, you actually don’t like what you are doing. It was through riding Junc, a horse Mr. Oliveira trained that was given to me, and developing a friendship with him and an understanding of his equine quirks that made me suddenly realize that I love horses. I love horses even more doing this type of training with them now, so I am going back to it. It is very exciting. That is when I wish that Mr. Oliveira were there to see because I know he would say, “Yes.” That is all that he would say when it was right, just “yes.”

Question: Was he expressive as a teacher?

Answer: He used to get so excited when you got it right and when you got it without him saying anything. I used to ride his horses for an hour in silence. I would ride them and direct the schooling. I had to analyze the resistances when I got on whether it was after he warmed them up or I warmed them up. Towards the end of his relationship with me I did most of the warm-up. I had to direct it right. When I got it right he really got a kick out of it. It was like “she understands finally!” He told me once that it was surprising to him how much interest he had in seeing a student actually doing something with his horses. It usually just annoyed the hell out of him. The amount of times I had heard, “What did you do to my horse?” Like I was doing it on purpose. “Don’t pull on him, don’t upset him. You are ruining my horse.” Often times I would think, “I don’t want to be up here anyhow. I don’t want to touch these reins.”

Question: Was he demanding?

Answer: Yes. The work was exhilarating and exacting and hard physically and he just pushed and pushed. He would deliberately put you in fear situations. The minute you backed down was the minute you lost your mind facilities and that was worse than loosing your physical aids. For him it was that challenge. I think he tested me doubly hard because I was a woman. I know he did it to the other woman he trained before me. Then when I got smart with the riding, it was OK and the challenges were on a very subtle level. That is what taught me the quality of riding. It was extraordinary to be challenged on how subtle your aids could be. Not a question of whether you could passage or piaffer or get something right or make the horse look good. The question was could you feel the exact degree of the horse’s nervous influx and respond to it while doing all these things. That was exhausting. I would come out absolutely drained from that kind of ride where I was standing still for half an hour doing piaffer in one spot or little passage backwards. I would come out dripping with sweat from the mental discipline. Then, because Mr. Oliveira was so earthy, he would take me and make Beef Baucher which consisted of taking a large knife and spearing a large piece of meat with garlic and grilling it. He would have me up half the night drinking brandy. Why I never said “no” I will not understand.

Question: Was it difficult living in the shadow of this man?

Answer: He considered me his spiritual daughter. We had this curious father/daughter relationship. I never considered myself as a student in his shadow as a teacher because I never perceived him as my teacher until later in life. I saw him as my master and I was his acolyte and formed by him. As that, I had the right to follow, not question. I saw him as an extra parental figure when he was in his happy Uncle Nuno attitude. Very fun and very sweet. I saw him in his angry rage, push everything away and commit professional suicide by pushing the wrong people away at the wrong time on purpose. He was sort of a maverick, a loner in that way.

Question: Why haven’t you spoken about what you learned from Mr. Oliveira before now?

Answer: Nobody was interested expect for those few who showed up at my door. There has been a recent surge of interest in Mr. Oliveira lately which he predicted. He said that after his death he would be more popular than in his lifetime.

Question: Why is his popularity greater after his death?

Answer: He had a demanding personality. He backed himself into a corner and he did not take enough chances in front of the top riders that could have given him both critical feedback and enthusiastic support.

Question: What do you think he was attempting to teach you?

Answer: I think I am still finding out! From a rider point of view he wanted to teach me the determination to hold true to an idea no matter how many new bits and pieces of information come falling into that. I think you cannot be a successful trainer with out holding to a course. If you don’t hold an ideal picture and a notion of what the end result is, the horse bombards you with input to change the premise of the argument, your body does that to you also. If you can’t ride through the horse’s issues and deal with it, you never get to the end result. Mr. Oliveira would throw snow storms of information at you to see how much you understood and I don’t know how much of that was good teaching or basic dishonest nature. I think it was a combination of both. It made me very doubting and that is why I could not find the joy of riding with him. With Mr. Oliveira everything was serious, even the horses were mesmerized by him.

“The Basics” and “Advanced Work” with Nuno Oliveira 2 DVD set

That is why I had to go to different teachers. The joy of riding I saw in a couple of different people who influenced me: General Durand and Paolo Angioni, an Italian rider. Mr. Oliveira would say that riding was a natural expression. I wasn’t finding that. I had a rigidity in my riding and my expression with horses. I was overstrained classically. I had no expression left. Angioni showed me how to find expression, encouraged the formation that I had and taught me to find out the theories through reading. General Durand shared with me his love of the horse in its natural balance and taught me how to answer questions. He taught me how to seek. To this day I don’t think either one of them realized how seriously I took those conversations and how influenced I was by them.

Question: How long has it taken you to understand Mr. Oliveira’s work?

Answer: I think I always understood the direction. The “how” took me about six or seven years to understand the technique I was taught and it has taken me the last twenty years to understand what I felt. I am just beginning to put the three of them together. He told me it would take about that long. It took him 25 years he said. But of course he rode many more horses a day than I did and I ride more than the average person. I am down to 7 horses a day now. I used to ride 10 – 12.

Question: Can Mr. Oliveira’s methods fit into modern dressage competition?

Answer: The methods, certainly they are already there because the methods he used are already being taught. The principles and the end result, I doubt seriously, he never really thought so. I had the pretension as a child in thinking so. But, I think they will certainly be appreciated by an educated eye. The judges will certainly like anything that rounds and lightens up a horse, gives it more impulsion and correctness. Could you recreate his end results under competitive circumstances? I certainly doubt it. I don’t think it stands up to the performance anxiety and pressure. His techniques can help unload some of the strain on the horse’s muscle structure. I strongly urge anybody in competition to study some of his techniques in flexing and bending a horse and strengthening a horse.

Question: How are you carrying on his teaching?

Answer: I am in the unique position to be able to stand and say I am doing this not for financial remuneration but for philosophical principle. I am not the most physically talented of his students by a long shot. I am able to understand the drive of his philosophy through the horses as opposed to through his books or his personality. I hope that I am able to impart the physical teachings. I am able to verbalize his teaching and I think that helps, but I also stand as a female. I stand as one that has been injured and had to work around that through this form of riding. I stand basically to say that there is a method, a philosophy, a training technique and by learning what is appropriate to modern day riding and modern day bodies and expressing it, I hope I can bring the information down a notch to disseminate and make it useful. Not just put it in a box and say this is a pretty thing that people can look at. Instead to take the more therapeutic parts of it and bring to American modern riding a tradition of riding that I think can enhance the end result. I really would like to see French riding expanded on. And I think Mr. Oliveira’s expression of French riding was unique.

I could stand as an eye witness and verbal witness even if I don’t get it right all the time and say this is what he means. A lot of his teachings are very cryptic. If you read his “Reflections” it is very cryptic. I like explaining to people what “hold your reins like eating soup” means. Mr. Oliveira had a peculiar way of holding a spoon and eating soup. I think that I can be an interpreter. That’s what I would like to do for a school. For my riding, I would like to take a couple of very good horses and train them better than I did the last one. That would be my greatest tribute to him as a teacher. That is what he told me, that you have to muck up a few horses to get there. I am amazed that I have gotten this far, I did not think I would. But that is what he taught me about riding through problems. I’ll be damned if I will give up. Funny because I don’t see myself as doing it for him. I do it now as waiting for the right student. If I can find a young Nuno Oliveira out there who is missing a piece of the puzzle because not many people ride like that anymore, and by talking to me, I can stand as witness to what they are attempting to do. I know that I am not Nuno Oliveira but I know that people like what I can do as Bettina Drummond and if I can teach what I learned that’s the whole point isn’t it. That is what I was formed for, that is the purpose my mother and I were interested in, preservation of his art.

Question: Are you able to reproduce those feelings in your own horses?

Answer: Certainly in moments, and now more and more.

Question: How long do you think it will be before you are successful in reproducing what you felt with him?

Answer: I don’t even know if I will get there. As long as my body is up to it I will keep trying.

Question: What do you think the key is to reproducing this in your horses?

Answer: The key is understanding how the horse feels physiologically and emotionally and reacting to it correctly.

Question: Do you teach what you learned from Mr. Oliveira?

Answer: Yes and only that.

Question: What was the most important lesson you learned from Mr. Oliveira?

Answer: The way through problems, not around them.

Question: What do you think he would say if he were to reflect back on his life?

Answer: “I enjoyed myself and I did it my way.” I think he had two major regrets in his life. But I think that most of what he did he really chose. He made his bed and he rode it.

Question: Do you think the average person can benefit from the teachings of Nuno Oliveira?

Answer: Definitely because his psychology was so sound and the view of an artist in a sport is always invaluable. After you have won a medal you might want to read Nuno Oliveira. Where else do you go from there?

This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issues No.1 and No.2

SHARE
Previous articleIntegrate your horsemanship clinic exercises into showday schooling
Next articleColic: Causes, Precautions, and Treatments
Wendy Murdoch
Wendy Murdoch has ridden since childhood in a variety of disciplines including Hunters, Dressage, Eventing, and Reining. Wendy has been teaching internationally for over 20 years. Her goal is to make riding more enjoyable and fundamentally simple by showing her students how to achieve what great riders do naturally. Learn more: www.murdochmethod.com