Peggy Cummings grew up loving horses in San Salvador where she rode with friends, visiting plantations, exploring coconut groves and cotton fields, or splashing along the ocean beach. Life was idyllic. By the late 1950's the political climate in San Salvador had worsened. To protect the family, her mother an American diplomat, and her father an Englishman decided it was time to leave. Peggy, at 14 years old, was devastated to leave her friends and the horses she loved and cared for.
Upon her arrival in the United States, she attended Oakgrove in Vassalboro, Maine, where there was a well-established riding program under the tutelage of an ex-Cavalry officer, 'Skipper' Bartlett. Her transition to more formal schooling was a difficult one at first, but with perseverance she won the confidence of her riding instructor who eventually invited Peggy to work with him at his summer riding school. This was her life for the next four years.
The summer after Peggy's first year in college, a friend of Skipper's who ran the Tripp Lake Camp lost his assistant to a broken leg. Bartlett sent Peggy over to help out. Within a year she was heading up the riding program, a job that lasted 12 years. This is where Peggy honed her skills, learning how to keep the horses sound and happy with proper groundwork and conditioning, and how to effectively work with different personalities both equine and human.
During the camp years, Peggy married, had six children, earned a Horsemaster's Certificate from Potomac Horse Center and began her own training program. But when her twins were born in 1977, the challenge of juggling kids, camp and barn finally became too great. She gave up the camp and settled into teaching and holding clinics at home.
The next phase of her education had begun.
Always hungry for knowledge, Peggy invited some of the most innovative clinicians of the time to her barn in Maine. H.L.M. Van Shaik, Lendon Gray and others contributed to her riding skills. But eventually even the best trainers were unable to help Peggy progress. Frustrated and depressed, she finally had to admit that she could go no further not because of lack of talent or desire, but because of pain and discomfort. Like so many riders, Peggy discovered, as she moved into her 40s, that the years of traditional riding had taken their toll on her body. Her back was in constant pain and her legs were beginning to protest her daily riding routine. If something didn't happen soon, Peggy would have to seriously curtail her riding.
It was time to refocus her efforts. Now, instead of trying to find ways to improve her riding skills, she began looking for ways to recapture the joy and ease of riding she had known as a child. First she found Sally Swift, of Centered Riding fame, who taught her about bodywork and learning how to ride pain-free.
Then, Linda Tellington-Jones, originator of TTEAM added to her knowledge of the whole-horse-and-rider concept. Finally, Major Andres Lindgren taught her exercises to take care of issues with the horse. All three helped Peggy move in the right direction.
In the end, Peggy developed a unique riding and training method that blended what she had learned from people with what she had learned from horses themselves. She conquered her own pain and, for the first time as an adult, rode with complete freedom-just as she had in San Salvador.
Today Peggy shares what she's learned over a lifetime through a riding and training approach called Connected Riding®. Leaving her home in Idaho for nine months out of the year, she travels across the country giving demonstrations, clinics and seminars. She also holds seminars for instructors to teach them how to help their students gain an awareness of biomechanical and mental techniques that allow them to move in harmony with the horse. It's an all-consuming job that's taken the passion of a little girl and turned it into a mission for the grown woman.
Peggy's hope is that eventually the rigid, traditional ways of teaching riding will give way to the flowing, natural movement taught through Connected Riding®. She knows it will take considerable work, but she's making headway. In front of a packed lecture hall in Louisville, Kentucky, she asks, "Who wants to learn how to dance?" As hands raise one by one, she can't help but smile. "All right then, let's begin."