Bettina Drummond has been named “Honorary Écuyer” of Saumur with the Cadre Noir at the French National School of Equitation in Saumur, France. The honor was bestowed on Bettina while in France attending a colloquia at Saumur and coaching riders at the Cadre Noir and at Allege-Ideal. Bettina is only the second American to receive this honor. The other is George Morris. She is also only the second woman to be named Honorary Écuyer. The other is French Olympic dressage rider Margit Otto-Crépin.
Bettina was honored not only for her skill and talent as a rider and trainer but also for her years of dedication in promoting the French system of classical riding. The French riding tradition is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a cultural heritage to be supported and preserved. The heart of this preservation effort is the French National School of Equitation (École Nationale d’Équitation). The designation of ‘honorary ecuyer’ is a true recognition Saumur of Bettina’s tremendous contribution to their effort to preserve this riding tradition.
In its designation, UNESCO defined the French system of riding as one that “emphasizes harmonious relations between humans and horses. The fundamental horse-training principles and processes are guided by non-violence and lack of constraint, blending human demands with respect for the horse’s body and mood.” In its acknowledgement of the importance of riding as art, UNESCO has named Nuno Oliveira as one of the greatest proponents of the art of riding and the French system. He was also Bettina’s long-time teacher.
Bettina’s time in France included participation in a colloque held on Friday that was focused on the French system of riding. The colloquia was followed by the Cadre Noir’s prestigious Gala, which was then followed by the ceremony awarding Bettina the designation of Honorary Ecuyer. Bettina spent Saturday teaching riders of the Cadre Noir and on Sunday, she donated teaching time to riders with Allege-Ideal, France’s leading association for the promotion of the French riding tradition. You can read some of the reactions from France by clicking here.
To see photos from the colloquia and awards ceremony, click here.
To see photos from teaching at the Cadre Noir, click here.
To see photos from teaching at Allege-Ideal, click here.
Bettina Reports on Her Recent Trip to France:
Being invited to Saumur to deliver a discourse on the influence of the French system of riding in the U.S. provided an opportunity to listen in on many history lessons. Colonel Gabriel Cortès’ report on the influence of James Fillis was particularly enlightening as was the history of the wars in Portugal, presented by Joao Pedro Rodriguez, Ecuyer en Chef of the Portuguese National School, that kept the tradition and quality of this type of riding alive for so long.
My interest was primarily to show my respect for the Iranian Colonel Néchati, a great gentleman and teacher extraordinaire, who, after being formed at Saumur, passed on to countless students his love of fine riding. He also maintained this knowledge in a foreign country under duress and showed an unflagging love of the teaching craft. As it turned out, I also was honored for this tradition!
In a short ceremony after seeing the new Gala performed by the Cadre Noir, I was presented with a diploma and whip giving me the honorary status of Ecuyer of Saumur for having preserved the ideals of French riding as an Ecuyer of the Nuno Oliveira school. When I read the diploma, it was addressed to Bettina Drummond, Haute École Écuyer.
I am so proud, after having surmounted so many health setbacks, to have kept on with the joy of that expression. To have it honored by the Cadre Noir adds an immense feeling of pride. I have been very keen to keep to this path for forty years! As a teacher, I have struggled to keep my independent status and yet, still pass on the method that to me makes horses the happiest. To then be requested the next day to help the écuyers of the Cadre Noir, gave me a sense of shared purpose and camaraderie amongst peers. They have a good pool of talented and lovely horses, all of which are full of curiosity and adaptability!
I also had a chance to chat with the Écuyer en Chef, Colonel Teisserenc about the goal of bringing the Cadre Noir to Canada and later on with Mireille François Belot a retired ecuyer and one of the first women to enter the Cadre Noir. Mireille gave me my first lunge lesson on my mother’s Anglo-Arabe Harpalo Prince when I was five! I have had in the years after the Maître’s death been allowed to study with a few of their écuyers, notably M. Lechevalier for young horses and Maître de Manege Donard for airs above the ground. But I watched Mireille teach before and after she joined the Cadre Noir and was comforted by the sight of a woman persevering in an essentially male-dominated field. She and Florence Donard were an inspiration to us younger women écuyers!
The following day, I also had the opportunity to discuss training techniques with the two retired librarians of the school, M. Franchet d’ Esperey and international dressage judge Bernard Maurel. We watched a few riders with their horses and commented to one another on our reactions to the training process for the benefit of the members of Allege-Ideal.
On the long flight home, I thought much on how important it was for such institutions to host gatherings that bring together, from all parts of the world, those of us who are daily looking for that flow of enlightenment that is the combined knowledge of centuries of écuyers, all part of this institution called French riding. We must protect and preserve the good within it for the betterment of the lives of horses!