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him with my hands. I’d studied riding before—this is what I understood I should be doing. The next thing I knew we were in piaffe. Nuno was furious and was screaming at me to quiet my leg. I did and we were soon back to a simple trot circle.” After watching three young prospects in training every

day for two weeks, Dr. Starr says the strengths and weakness of each were very apparent. One had lots of collection, for example, but lacked impulsion and reach. Oliveira was accepting of limitations, he says, developing each horse to the extent of that horse’s capability but not asking for more than each was physically capable of providing. “I came to understand that in training and riding you want every horse to find his own way. Not listlessly and merely obedient, but happily offering his own strengths,” he shares. “It was amazing to watch him. “It took him only two years to train a four year old to the

FEI level—I was surprised at first at the speed. But remember, Nuno was poor. The only way he had to make any money was to train horses as quickly as possible. I think it was sometimes discouraging and sad for him to have to sell them so quickly. But it was what he knew,” Dr. Starr continues.

and scrapped the more formal psychiatric process. Of course, it only worked with those children who had the courage to really answer these questions—some would simply jump up and run away,” he explains. His colleagues were skeptical as well, he adds. “I learned to talk to animals and I used what I learned to

talk more effectively with children,” he continues. “The key to it all is what I call ‘unsophistication.’ You need an open, sensitive, trusting line of communication to succeed with horses and with children.” It’s impossible to communicate in two languages at the

same time, he elaborates, whether those two languages are the emotional and intuitive versus the analytical or the physical language of riding aids versus the spoken word. He had seen this demonstrated by Nuno Oliveira and had embraced the lesson. He speculates that his experiences in responding to the

Dr. Starr stands

with his Swedish mare Dimona, imported for him by Anne Gribbons.


It was Oliveira’s wordless yet profound communication with his horses that proved to be life changing for Dr. Starr. “I was so taken by the man and the work he was doing. As I started to truly understand the communication, it hit me hard and changed so many things in my life,” he says. “It was transformational.” Dr. Starr worked as a school psychiatrist with troubled and disabled children and he explains that their time together was often frustrating and unproductive. “I’d ask questions and all I got was answers,” he says wryly. “But soon I realized I was getting feelings, gentle nudges

if you will, that led me to ask intuitive questions, sometimes about seemingly unrelated subjects. Once, out of the blue, I felt prompted to ask about a student’s brother, for example. It broke the dam and he started to talk about the predominant feature in his life—an issue I never suspected before. After a while, I began to trust this intuitive process

54 September/October 2009

intuitive nudges he was receiving are related to the collective unconscious discussed by famed psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Dr. Starr says that collective unconscious “is something all the individual ‘yous’ in the world can share together.” The intuitive communication he has found so successful is not linear and progressive. Instead it is image based and emotional, which he says is an ancient and ultimately very satisfying way to share ideas and emotions. He speculates that this really helps people establish a profound relationship with their horses. He realized that his own riding had not allowed for this

find of communication and began to see new possibilities. He remembered a Morgan stallion, appropriately named Nemesis, he had schooled in dressage. “It was like riding a cat, he was so very naturally collected. And he always wanted to offer me things, to try new ways. I wasn’t very receptive to that, so we struggled. He really was my Nemesis.” Dr. Starr’s experiences in Europe, especially those in

Portugal with Oliveira, also encouraged him to make some changes in his riding life. Much as he loved his Morgans, he came to the regretful conclusion that they were not well suited for the dressage he was now even more determined to pursue. After seeing international rider, trainer and judge Anne Gribbons competing one of her Swedish Warmbloods, he simply fell in love, he says, and decided to begin importing Swedish horses. In the early 1980s, he established a breeding program at his New York farm, a program that continues today. “I learned so much in those two weeks that it’s hard to

express it all,” Dr. Starr says. “I simply absorbed everything I could while I was there. Nuno felt a lot that he couldn’t express to people. He looked at me once and simply said, ‘Love the horse.’ And I knew when he meant. In the end, what more than that can you do?”

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