Officer Tom Walsh and Officer Ben Guzman
Castro Valley, CA
Working as the Police Mounted Patrol for the East Bay Regional Park District can be challenge. Our horses work among crowds, parking lots, on backcountry trails, beaches, roadway bridges, and paved multi-use trails. Some of the things they are exposed to include police car and fire truck sirens, kites, flares, construction equipment, motorcycles, ATV's, mountain bikes, road bikes, dogs (on leash and off leash), and people playing all types of sports. Our horses have gotten to where they are because of the horse training we have received from Susan Dockter.
Prior to meeting Susan we exposed our horses to stimuli and sensory, but we were unaware of horsemanship and its benefits. Susan taught us a new and better way to train horses through this understanding of horsemanship. Because of this we have become better riders and created a solid relationship with our horses. Susan goes beyond standard lessons taught by many trainers because she is able to provide a comprehensive overview of the equestrian world. Susan will help you become your best in a positive manner. If you ever have a question she will answer it in a way that makes sense to you. Susan has gone above and beyond our expectations and we look forward to continue working with her in the future. You can't go wrong with Susan Dockter!
Grass Valley, CA
My 6 year old mustang, Rocco, and I have been in training with Susan for almost a year and a half. When we started, we were both very green and had a lot to learn both individually and as a
team. Susan recognized my horse's unique set of skills and abilities and used those to strengthen his foundation. He has become soft in the bridle, connects the rein to his feet, and is more responsive to subtle seat and leg cues.
Susan has had a different challenge with me. As an older rider with little to no riding or horse experience, she has helped me develop a solid seat, increased my overall knowledge, and improved my all around confidence. Now when I ride Rocco, I feel like we are communicating. Susan works hard, is straight forward, and truly cares about you and your horse. She is an exceptional trainer for both humans and horses, and I've loved working with her.
I grew up riding horses. In Junior high school I got my first horse. I loved riding and it kept me out of trouble. After I finished school, I bought an ex-race horse. I rode and showed Hunter Jumpers until I got married and had kids. Twenty five years later I saw a friend at the feed store. She offered for me to come ride one of her horses a few days a week and that’s when I met Roxy!
I started leasing her and was riding again a few days a week. One day I was saddling my horse and I was listening to Susan give a lesson. I remember thinking that what she was saying made sense and that I would like to take a lesson from her. The first few lessons I was just amazed how she could see my every move a half second before I did. Susan has taught me how to have a partnership with Roxy and has brought me so far in my riding. I leased Roxy for 2 years and bought her last year. Susan brought us together by teaching me to understand my horse. I realized that Roxy and I just fit together.
I started riding Cowboy Dressage and found it very challenging! There is so much to learn and I will take lessons from Susan for many years to come. I continue to ride in every one of Susan’s clinics because she teaches in a way that I can understand and apply it to my riding. Susan is always encouraging us to learn and improve. I just want to say, “Thank You Susan”!
My husband and I started riding again 6 years ago. We both grew up riding and wanted to do something together that we both enjoyed. I had had two very bad accidents on a horse and had a lot of fear when riding. I also bought a horse that was too green and too poorly trained for my riding level. Well, I took several clinics with Chris Cox to help me with the fear I had when riding and these really helped. He really changed my life with horses. I started to enjoy riding again but still had a horse that was unpredictable, very green and would run off with me. Chris Cox introduced me to Susan Dockter who approaches horsemanship in the same manner as he does. Susan took my horse in training and WOW I have a totally different horse now. He listens to me and is calm. I can trust him now to stay calm under pressure. AND I also took some lessons from Susan and finally learned how to stay calm in the saddle and RIDE!. I owe Susan a great debt because she has truly changed my life- I can really enjoy riding now and join my husband on "horse adventures".
Discovery Bay, CA
Susan’s approach embodies the upmost respect and grace for both the horse and rider. Aspen and I were never criticized for lack of knowledge or non-productive habits. Susan approached these challenges with patience, respect and grace. Both of us were shown a new discipline of complete horsemanship and traditional dressage techniques. From the ground up, Susan’s primary concern is safety for both horse and rider. Then lead by lead; leg by leg; seat-bone by seat-bone we began to learn what can only be described as a wonderful language between horse and rider. Susan’s ability to breakdown the methodology into incremental steps is nothing short of amazing. Susan’s unique ability to read and communicate with both horse and rider independently is a true gift. If she has to say something 100 different ways for me to understand something, she will do so without any inkling of frustration or angst.
Susan is truly there for the love of what she does… that is clear. Now at 55, I can say that getting Aspen was the best thing that I could have done for myself. Meeting and riding with Susan is clearly the foundation and glue that makes it all work.
Thank you Susan!
San Francisco, CA
Susan has helped me restructure my riding style. I started this journey with a friend’s quarter horse who had more “whoa” than “go”. A year ago, I purchased a green broke seven year old Andalusion/Arabian cross. Susan helped me all along the way. She helped to locate and evaluate each horse, arrange a prepurchase exam, locate a suitable boarding facility and purchase the appropriate tack. In addition to a weekly lesson for me, Susan rode my inexperienced and very forward horse twice a week. We have both improved and gained more confidence and I’ve become a more balanced rider. It has been a challenging journey but the changes in both of us are undeniable. I look forward to many wonderful years in the saddle thanks in large part to Susan.
When we sold our home in Sonoma County and moved to San Francisco last May, I began researching trainers and boarding facilities. After several recommendations from other trainers and friends, all roads thankfully led to Susan Dockter!
I have ridden most of my life, but this is the first horse I have started under saddle. I have an 8 year old Andalusian mare who was a late start at 6 after she had 2 foals. I worked her pretty much on my own for a year and I knew it was time for both of us to get help. Susan took charge, even ‘restarting’ Baza on some of her training (saddling, groundwork, etc.) She has taken a systematic approach, evaluating the horse and my riding at each step. Now after a quick 5 months the changes are becoming pretty dramatic.
Susan has an amazingly keen eye. When she points something out to me I can immediately feel what she has described. Her process is thoughtful. I appreciate that she will think about an issue and research it thoroughly. She is articulate, calm and encouraging . . . and most of all she makes it all fun.
What a joy to ride with a professional with such a diverse background. Susan covers all the bases in my book when it comes to true horsemanship.
My wife and I took up riding when our youngest went off to college so that we could enjoy our spare time doing something together. We soon found it more fun but also more challenging than had imagined.
We watched a Chis Cox demonstration at Equine Affaire in 2007 and were impressed with his manor and the clear effectiveness of his approach. We attended a nearby clinic he was giving, and learned a great deal, but found we didn't know enough to effectively apply all he covered when we got home. At the clinic we met Susan, who had studied with Chris, and she taught nearby. We decided to give Susan a try, and have enjoyed her and learned so much from her that we have continued to attend her clinics, take lessons and get tune-ups from her ever since.
Susan has been able to help us internalize the fundamental principles of horsemanship, so that now, at each stage, we can teach and maintain the training of our own horses. She has a unique gift of being able to explain simply and demonstrate the mysteries of riding a horse well. She won't give up until you experience the unforgettable “feel” of the unified graceful flow of horse and rider moving together to achieve some hitherto incomprehensible, and sometimes scary, maneuver.
Without Susan's patience and guidance, I would have given up on my horse. I never would have been able to manage his energy, so that I could then experience his athleticism, or enjoy his intelligence and unique talents. Today my horse is happy, calm, and a great partner, with excellent ground manners. We can even put our grandchildren on him. Thank you Susan!
Since 2005, Susan Dockter has been involved in virtually every aspect of my journey with my horses. She has been my primary mentor in teaching me groundwork and respect-training skills to establish a leadership position with my horses. She has taught me liberty work and trick-training methods. She has supported my work with other trainers specializing in dressage, jumping, and carriage driving--often achieving breakthroughs in training that were not accomplished with the specialists. She has schooled me in trail skills. She worked with me to bring my mustang mare to Second Level in dressage; guided me in rehabilitating a young mustang with a history of abuse; and helped me choose a warmblood colt for purchase, taught him his foundation groundwork, started him under saddle, and has overseen his preliminary dressage training.
Susan's teaching is informed by a deep understanding of the horse's movement, mentality, and how he learns. She uses a combination of pressure-release and positive reinforcement that rewards the horse and lets him know he's done the right thing. Her feel and timing are flawless, and my horses respond wonderfully to her methods. Susan has a tremendous care and respect for the horse, and the horses love her: mine want to be close to her all the time. Every decision she makes is motivated first and foremost by love for the horse.
Susan is also a gifted teacher of humans as well as horses, a rare combination indeed in the equestrian world. In her riding lessons she teaches her students to help their horses by riding with the proper bend and engagement, to time the aids with the footfall of the horse, and to ride primarily from the seat and legs rather than the reins. She has taught me such important principles as riding from back to front, making the last step the best step, teaching the horse to seek relaxation, and always ending on lightness. She has a fun-loving spirit and a sense of humor: lessons with her are always joyful. She is deeply committed to her students, both horse and human--the kind of trainer who loses sleep over their struggles and rejoices in their triumphs.
I cannot recommend Susan enough! Other trainers may come and go, but Susan is my "keeper."
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I cannot recommend Susan more highly--she is not only a superb horseman and teacher, but she also runs a solid business and you will get tremendous value out of what you spend on training with her. I have been riding for more than twenty years and have ridden and competed with many well-regarded trainers, but none of them is as good as Susan. I now keep my horses at home and have all sorts of strong feelings about how they are fed and cared for, so I thought it would be impossible to find someone I would trust enough to take over their care, but Susan is that kind of person. She also works out of a safe and very well run facility that is a pleasure to ride at.
When I sent my horses for training, however, I really got to see the benefits of Susan's program. My gelding had been well started and just needed more bringing along--he came along wonderfully, as expected. At the end of sixty days Susan was working other horses off of him and he was going great. My mare, however, was almost entirely trained by me and had some holes in her foundation on top of being way too forward when nervous--which was fairly often when away from home. Being a gaited horse, she also had trouble cantering and would do all sorts of cross-firing and four-beating. Susan was more guarded in her expectations for my mare (another one of Susan's qualities--she will tell you what she truly thinks). Boy was my mare's transformation incredible! The ride I had at the end of the sixty days was perhaps the most responsive, relaxed, fluid ride I have ever had on a horse. I thought something and my mare did it. Her canter was an absolute delight--round and balanced and cadenced. I was blown away!
I have studied several varieties of natural horsemanship and I believe Susan's program is natural horsemanship distilled. The groundwork is the kind of thing that a person can have some success with right away but can also spend forever refining and improving. The under-saddle work teaches correct movement regardless of the horse's breed or discipline. The concepts are universal--as shown by her success with both trotting and gaited horses. If you have a gaited horse and someone tells you that you need a certain bit, special shoeing, a stiff back, to haul on their mouths, etc., please decline their help and come talk to Susan. I cannot think of a horseperson I know who would not benefit from her methods.