Heidi Potter – North American Western Dressage Professional Member

Heidi Potter Natural Horsemanship

Heidi Potter
Heidi Potter Natural Horsemanship
761 Weatherhead Hollow Road,
Guilford, VT 05301

Heidi Potter is an internationally known and respected horsewoman with over 45 years of horse experience. Horses and humans alike benefit from her extensive knowledge and gentle approach. As a natural style trainer she specializes in the calm, clear and progressive way of working with horses. She has great success changing undesirable behaviors through the use of positive reinforcement training methods. As a certified CHA Master Instructor/Clinician and Centered Riding© Instructor/ Clinician Heidi helps riders of all levels and disciplines improve comfort, communication, confidence & competence in the saddle. She has experience working with a variety of horses including gaited breeds.Open Heart Open Mind by Heidi Potter

In January 2017 Heidi Potter published a one of a kind book, Open Heart, Open Mind-A Pathway to Rediscovering Horsemanship. It was written for horse enthusiasts of all levels and disciplines. Through its stories, case studies, exercises and lessons, this book takes its readers on a journey of better understanding their horse with a focus on self-awareness. Learn how mindfulness, connection and compassion can and should replace the need for dominance. This book is filled with life lessons, strategies for coping with stress and ways to practice being in the moment, like our horses. Heidi draws many parallels between her training in traditional eastern Martial Arts and horsemanship. If your goal is to establish a safer, more trusting and enjoyable partnership with your equine partner then this book is for you. Visit www.heidipotter.com for a “sneak peek” of the book or to make a purchase.     

Heidi PotterIn 2014 Heidi purchased Riley, a 10 year old Cheval Canadien Horse. She had worked with him since he was a two-year old. Riley had primarily been ridden as a trail horse. In the fall of 2015 Heidi was introduced to the sport of Western Dressage. The common sense rules of this sport really impressed her. They truly seemed to support the well-being, correct, natural movement and proper development of each individual horse. A longtime advocate of bitless bridles, she was happy to learn that they were allowed and also appreciated the rules regarding bits, rein holds, speaking to and touching the horse. WD really seemed to be a sport that fostered, supported and rewarded a mindful and compassionate approach to horsemanship. She decided to pursue WD as a means of furthering Riley’s physical development. In 2016 they attended a few WD shows and did well enough to earn first place in the NAWD Live Trax Western Dressage Open Division Intro Level, scoring a 70.275. In 2017 Heidi will continue her WD journey by competing and helping educate others through a collaboration with Cathy Drumm. The pair will be teaching several Western Dressage/Working Equitation Obstacle Clinics, followed by Open Competitions in Florida and throughout New England. For dates and locations check the NAWD Events listing or visit  www.heidipotter.com or www.cathydrumm.com.  

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An interview with Heidi Potter


 Where are you from?

Guilford, Vermont


If you have your own horse, what is his/her name (and gender)?

Mainguy Harrison Riley (aka “Riley”) Gelding


Why did you start working with horses?

I have had a lifelong desire to be with horses and horse ownership fulfilled that dream.


How long have you been working with horses?

Since 1973 at the age of 12.


What keeps you coming back to the saddle?

The pleasure of being with my horse, sharing new experiences, improving our fitness and enjoying riding out in nature.


Why did you choose to become a NAWD professional?

To help promote an industry that supports a healthful approach to the sport of Dressage.


What brought you to Western Dressage?

It was on a recommendation from a client at first and reading the WDAA rule book second. I was impressed by the fact that you can touch the horse, talk to the horse, ride in a bit-less bridle, ride one or two handed on any humane bit, on any age and breed of horse. Added to all of that is that the judges would be looking for correct, forward, relaxed, rhythmic movement of the horse, supporting goo posture with the head position to never be behind the vertical or below the withers. Western Dressage is supporting healthful, natural development of the horse.


Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?

I began riding as a young child at a New Hampshire trail riding ranch. I began working as a professional in the equine industry 1995 when my husband and I opened a boarding, training and instructional facility in Vermont. My teaching experience has been greatly influenced by the late Ms. Sally Swift who lived just minutes from me in Vermont. Her Centered Riding© philosophies resonated with me due to my background in Traditional Martial Arts.

The Eastern Philosophies of both practices are present in all I do with horses both on the ground and in the saddle. I am also very committed to the mission of CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association) and therefore have attained the position of Clinician in both organizations. In order to continue growing as a horsewoman, trainer, rider, clinician and instructor I continue my own study with a few individuals in the area of Western Dressage and Relationship Training.


What would you tell someone who has never heard of western dressage?

I would tell them about how it supports the proper development of the horse and rider, regardless of discipline, breed or skill set.


How has working in western dressage changed or improved your riding/training?

It inspires me to continue learning from upper level Trainers/Instructors so that I can become the best possible rider for my horse and help him to become the most strong, well-balanced horse he can be.


What has been some highlights of your career?

  • Purchasing my Cheval Canadien Riley in 2014 and creating a partnership with him that has resulted in him becoming a more confident, peaceful, trusting, happy horse.
  • Writing and publishing my newly released book, Open Heart, Open Mind, A Pathway to Rediscovering Horsemanship
  • Making a difference in the life of horses and their humans through my work as a clinician, trainer and instructor is always a highlight. Whenever I can help create a more safe, joyful and respectful relationship through self-awareness, understanding and communication I am fulfilled.


What advice would you give to someone interested in starting dressage/western dressage?

Read the rule book and begin taking lessons with someone who supports a healthful and compassionate approach to horsemanship. Participate in an Western Dressage clinic and then gauge their progress by entering a Western Dressage competition.


How do you keep yourself motivated in your riding and training?

By continually learning from other respected horsemen/women. Riding in different locations, with different horses and showing once a month so we always have a goal of what to improve next.



What words of encouragement do you have for someone struggling with their riding?

Be proud of what you can do. Be patient with yourself and your horse. Remember the reason you got into horses in the first place. Hopefully, it was for the joy they bring you. In that case you only need to be in their presence, breathe and enjoy. Don’t put pressure or expectations on yourself or your horse that you may not be ready for. It’s about the journey, not the end game.


What’s your favorite non-riding horse thing to do?

Spend time relaxing, grooming, and playing at liberty with my horse.


What do you do in your spare time?

What spare time? ☺ Taking time off to visit with family and friends is at the top of the list.