Not many of us in our generation have or take the opportunity to grab hold of truly classical ideals. I think that as our trainers from the previous generation retire, truly correct dressage riding will be more difficult to find. Thanks to huge improvements in breeding, riders have access to horses that can let them get away with less-than-correct riding. That is good for us now, but in the future, who will be able to help us?
I think we will be lucky to know the few of the young generation that have studied and committed themselves to classical ideals. To know the young masters will be our saving grace, and in that respect I am glad to have known and followed Michelle’s example.
I have had the good fortune of gleaning and learning from her for more than ten years and certainly owe her much credit for my development. Without our good friendship and her vastly superior teaching and understanding, I would never have made it on the path I am on now.
From long distance phone calls about troubled horses that had me stumped, to career changing decisions, to the valuable time we share in the arena, Michelle has always had my best interest at heart.
So, I raise my proverbial glass to my (hands down) best instructor, trainer, friend I have ever had, and I will say thank you Michelle for all your help, so far and all that will come in the future.
Michelle is an amazing teacher/trainer: She has the uncanny ability to feel what another being experiences. She instills enthusiasm in both her human and equine students!
When you ride with her -– whether you are a human or a horse -– it is like she is inside you. She can feel even the tiniest of your movements and correct your mistakes almost before they occur.
Learning to ride with her was for me a process of self-discovery.
Watching her horses grow under her tutelage was a moving experience. They love her and are willing to give her the best of themselves.
I just got back from the weekend symposium, Correct Dressage Training – No Short Cuts!, hosted by Whisper Wind Equestrian, featuring Michelle’s trainer, Carel Eijkenaar. The demo riders and horses were students of Carel (he is a “trainer’s trainer” and works mostly with professional riders). The horses were all shapes and sizes, from giant Grand Prix to a diminutive (and very shiny) Connemara stallion. A number of the horses had come from challenging backgrounds. It was great to see how correct, consistent, kind, imaginative training – and lots (as in years) of time and patience – can transform a horse from a hot mess to doing 2-tempis! And interesting to see the philosophy of Carel’s teaching demonstrated by such a wide range of horses and riders – and how it comes to us through our work with Michelle. All the horses looked happy in their work.
Michelle was there with two horses – Ike and Pet – and rode twice each day. Her rides were wonderful to watch. 22-yo Ike wowed everyone with his very elevated and straight changes. Pet survived snow coming off the roof and showed us her giant trot. Both showed us supple and rhythmic lateral work and collection. At the end of Michelle’s second ride, during the Q&A, one auditor asked: “Michelle’s horses were both so light and elevated in front. How does she do that?” To me, the comment was almost more telling than the answer – and a high compliment. The quality of her riding really stood out – strength and lightness, quietness (yes, she actually rode without talking or singing! – but I meant the other kind of quietness), consistency, balance – the things we all strive for.
My horse Rohwin and I have learned so much working with Michelle over the last several years – it’s an adventure that I look forward to continuing! Hope you all feel the same way.
Michelle LaBarre is a genius. She really knows what she’s doing. I worked for her for just over two years and I learned so much during that time. She brought me farther in my riding than I ever imagined possible.
I can’t even estimate a percentage by which she increased my knowledge and ability because it would be off the charts. Michelle will match your level of dedication and inspire and equip you to your absolute best and beyond.
(2007 to 2009)
working student (2009)
I went to Michelle’s farm in May of 2009 with the goal of learning more about classical dressage and horsemanship. There is no doubt in my mind that I achieved this goal, but my learning experience at LaBarre Dressage went far beyond what I had initially expected, or even hoped for. One of the greatest assets that Michelle brings to her work in teaching and training is her appreciation for dressage not only as a method, but as an art. She continuously exhibits dedication to the specific needs and well-being of each individual horse and rider.
Michelle shows patience and adherence to the training scale that I have never witnessed with another trainer. In particular, commitment to the health of her horses’ backs, the importance of working from the hind end of the horse, and a slow, consistent buildup of mental and physical challenges for horse and rider contribute to the excellent quality that I consistently see in the work of her human and equine students.
Michelle’s commitment to the key foundations of classical dressage have an enormous impact on the people and horses she works with. However, her passion for the art, her love for the horses and her realistic commitment to excellence in all facets of her profession made working with Michelle a privilege.
I would like to recommend Michelle LaBarre as an excellent choice for starting a young horse. I brought a just 4 year old mare, who had taken time to grow, to Michelle to start as I had seen her ride. Michelle is an excellent rider with a lot of “feel” for the particular horse she is on.
Because of Michelle’s patience, attention to detail and feeling for the animal, my mare came back to me completely uncomplicated. She accepts the bridle with no problem, had remained sweet, and liked her human beings; if you lose that, it is gone forever.
I had her there for 3 months and Michelle trail-rode her and worked her consistently and gently. I attribute the ease in which I have been able to continue her education to Michelle’s understanding and knowledge of young horses.
I hope in the years to come we will make Michelle proud of her “student” and a tribute to starting a young horse the RIGHT way.
I have been riding with Michelle LaBarre for the last 3 years. I consider myself a serious adult amateur and with Michelle’s guidance I have seen ongoing improvement in both my riding and my understanding of dressage. I have been riding my entire life and dressage for the last 8 years. I have frequently ridden at both her farm in Pennsylvania and at clinics.
Of all my instructors, Michelle has been the most successful in demystifying the sitting trot for me. She has simplified the timing and motion so much that I can now effectively and confidently sit even my very big moving horse’s trot. Anyone fortunate enough to take a longe lesson from her will truly appreciate how beneficial they are in establishing an effective but not-restrictive seat. Her schoolmasters are wonderful, pleasant teachers and a blast to ride. She always encourages progress but never at the sacrifice of the fundamentals or the horse’s well-being.
Michelle really understands the bio-mechanics of riding. I previously would often develop back or hip pain following my rides, but through better understanding of its origins and my tensions I have eliminated it. Michelle always has a very positive and encouraging approach to her lessons. She has been a very sought after clinician in our area by riders of many varying disciplines and ability levels thanks to her consistent and effective instruction.
I want to thank Michelle for all of her training. She knows I love to show Hunters and also realizes for a multitude of reasons that I have never had a horse that fits the “Show Hunter Profile.”
I therefore tried too hard to be perfect at all times, which created a froziness that made it very hard to feel my horse and I was unaware of how much I was getting lost in my training.
With her art of dressage and her talent to read both horse and rider, Michelle has patiently guided my 1600 pound draft cross mare and me to light self-carriage with the aim to blend in joyful harmony.
At my advanced years, riding has taken on a new meaning and I am grateful to Michelle for her guidance.
My daughter, Nina, and I started working with Michelle in May 2008.
Nina has high hopes for her competitive riding. Michelle has been a great coach for her. She was always willing to take the necessary time to show Nina what she is doing well and what she needs to work on. Michelle helped Nina reach her fullest potential based on the horse she was riding. She provides appropriate direction but also lets both rider and the horse have fun.
For me, Michelle has helped me improve my riding style. While I don’t have any competitive aspirations, it is important for me to ride well to maximize my riding experience with my horse. Our horse Gracie came to Michelle’s barn sore, crooked, and spooky. With Michelle’s training she left fit, straight and confident.
Beyond Michelle’s impressive teaching and coaching ability, we have found the barn to be a great home for the horses in training. There is a basic respect for the animals and a loving attention to their care, which is sometimes hard to find in a commercial stable.
We have been very pleased with our experience with Michelle and for the time our horse has been there and I would enthusiastically recommend Michelle and her stable to anyone thinking about beginning riding or someone with many years of experience as well as for horses in need of training.
I wanted to say thank you for all the help you have given me over the last year. As an event rider, I often don’t take the time to focus on my flat work, and this last year, I have made significant improvements. I find that by working on my flat work, my jumping is improving almost magically. When my horse is balanced coming to a jump, everything just works out.
I rarely try riding with new instructors for fear of having to “relearn” everything, but I find your training methods and style make sense to me and are easy to apply, even when you are not standing in the middle of the ring. Thanks again for your support and I look forward to seeing you again, the next time you are in town.
I have been a working student for Michelle for 9 months now and have learned so many things. I want to thank her for helping me with a few specific things. When I first got to Michelle, I had a strong Hunter position which included knee pain as well as back pain that I had been living with for a few years. Through lots of training she has helped me to become more fit in the saddle, including flexibility and strength. This is helping me to have correct posture under saddle as well as on the ground. This consistency in my posture helped my horse to fit into my shape rather than have her fall into incorrect posture and hurt herself physically.
Michelle began this training with me becoming more aware of what my body was doing rather than just letting the pain continue and not do anything about it. This training of body awareness is definitely one of the most crucial teachings to Dressage or any other discipline with horses. I wish I would have learned all of this before I ruined my body with Hunters.
Michelle has also been one of the best teachers I have ever come across. Her sensitivity to the match of horse and rider is exceptional. It is hard for me to work and ride without any encouragement or gentleness from the trainer on a rough day. I have been very blessed in her willingness to work through my weaknesses.
She also brings an element of fun to each lesson and grabs your focus by her different analogies to create a better picture for the rider. She also has the ability to look at your goals and aspirations and bring them into a reality. So, Michelle thank you ever so much for being my trainer, boss, and friend.
working student (2009)
I came to Michelle’s as a working student 11 months ago with the idea that I would stay for a few months, work hard and establish a better relationship with my horse. I had no idea what I was in for! After the first couple of lessons I thought there is no way I’m leaving here so soon as long as Michelle will keep me around. Michelle immediately identifies the core issue of each horse and rider pair and works from there to the finer details. She works with whatever horse you have and pushes each horse/rider pair within their appropriate limits — whether the limits are physical for the horse or emotional for the rider, she is extremely perceptive. Michelle’s ability to tailor lessons specifically to each pair is exceptional.
One of Michelle’s many gifts is identifying the “root” problem as I mentioned above. Many trainers pick out a shoulder, hand or foot that seems to have a mind of its own and instruct to fix it — but why?! Michelle goes a step further and explains why the position fault is happening in the first place and furthermore the influence it is having on the horse. For example, I have a dropped right shoulder that I’ve always known about. It wasn’t until I started working with Michelle that I learned my dropped right shoulder was stemming from lack-of right seat bone! My shoulders even out when my right seat bone is appropriately in the saddle. Michelle is constantly going beyond the “surface stuff”. With the knowledge of horse and rider bio-mechanics offered in her teaching, being a good dressage student becomes easier.
I have been a working student for Michelle for almost one year and my lessons are no less exciting and informative than they were at the beginning. I enjoy being challenged in my lessons and she is always giving me the push that I want and need. I continue to be blown away by Michelle’s desire and enthusiasm to teach each lesson everyday, including my own, even on the busy days. I am grateful and blessed for the knowledge and skills that I have gained from Michelle and look forward to the progress to come. Thank you Michelle for being the best riding instructor I’ve ever had.
working student (2009)
I just wanted to drop a quick note to say thank you so very much for the wonderful clinic this weekend. Your knowledge, your experience, and your tireless ability to teach them both were an absolute delight to experience. (I’m a former teacher, and teachers make the worst students because we think we know so much. You blew me away!) I am just swimming in things to think about and anxious to get back to work –- correct work -– tomorrow. Look out, Flicka, we’re in training now!
I’m overwhelmed right now with all that you offered, and it’ll take a while to digest it. If I only skim the cream off the top, it’ll be tasty. While nothing is going to work like saddle time with a good trainer, I was wondering if you had any favorite texts to recommend for the perpetual student to fill in around the edges? You’ve got me jonesing for more learnin’!
Thanks so much for all the energy you expended, the wisdom you imparted, and the inspiration you sprinkled around like holy water. I haven’t had such a fulfilling weekend in many, many moons. Can’t wait until you’re back in the area, and I’m sincerely hoping we manage to fit into your schedule on a regular basis very soon!