Bill McMullin is a USDF Certified Instructor at the FEI B Level, a United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) ‘S’ Dressage Judge, and. a USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medalist. He also serves as an esteemed member of the USDF Instructor/Trainer Program Faculty. Here is a Bill in his own words:
As one half of the team making up Warren-McMullin Dressage, along with my husband Bill Warren (FEI 4* Judge), we split our time between Florida and Massachusetts. During the winter season in Florida, we run the training business in White Fences, Loxahatchee, where we have a full barn with several working students and clients, from many different places. During the summer months in New England, we have a smaller group of training clients and tend to travel more, judging and teaching clinics. I have several groups that I teach regularly around New England, but also enjoy other clinics in New Mexico, Colorado, and Michigan. I find the balance of teaching, judging, and training very rewarding, in that from each aspect I gain perspective and depth that enhances the others.
Growing up as a military ‘brat’, my mother always somehow managed to have horses, no matter where we lived. I started riding western at six years old, including gymkhana, then had a short lived hunter/jumper stint before moving to Germany in junior high, where dressage was ‘it’! I definitely developed my seat there, on a Trakehner who seemed inclined to talk me out of it! Returning to Vermont later in high school, where my parents retired, I still knew I wanted to jump as well, so I evented for quite a few years before making dressage my main focus. Along with my mother, we raised several horses – one of them ultimately becoming my first FEI-Level horse.
The USDF Instructor /Trainer Program was quite new when I decided that this was a good path to help my budding career, in the early 1990s. The process was so helpful for me, in structuring better lessons as an instructor and really learning, in so much more detail, the importance of the Pyramid of Training, for all aspects. The professional connections made during these early years were also invaluable. Now, 30 years later, in this relatively small world of dressage, paths cross continually and I can’t express how great it is to have colleagues to reach out to. In 1999, I took the next step and became certified through Fourth Level, and eventually became a member of the program faculty. And, just this year, I completed the FEI Level B Certification exam – still a relatively new segment of the program. Through these years, I also continued my education as a judge… from USDF’s L Education Program in the mid 90s, through the USEF ‘S’ Judge’s program just two years ago. These programs truly complement each other in terms of developing a well-rounded dressage education.
Over the years, I was lucky to not only have my own horses to train, but many client horses along the way, at all levels as well. After Germany, I trained in the US with several classical instructors from the American Dressage Institute including Michael Mauss, Janet Black, and Ellen Miller. Later on, with Bill Warren (we still help each other now after 23 years), George Williams, and Conrad Schumacher. And of course, I have been influenced by so many of our wonderful program leaders through the years, such as Lendon Gray, Lilo Fore, and Betsy Steiner – to name just a few.
The foundation I have developed through this system has helped me tremendously to be able to, not only help full time students on a daily basis, but to teach a clinic of new students at any level. Of course it is rewarding to work with a skilled rider on a talented FEI-Level horse, but I get as much satisfaction when I can give a novice rider a new tool to help them progress in their communication and riding skills. One of the most useful tools, that I find myself teaching often, is the turn on the forehand. The nuances and skills learned by the novice rider are invaluable, as they discover the control they can gain in feeling their influence of moving the inside hind leg forward and sideways, while controlling the outside shoulder. I generally start them on a large square, where they halt at each corner of the square and make a quarter turn on the forehand, and then progress to the next corner. I call it the ‘yes ma’am’ (or ‘yes sir’) answer when the horse yields the jaw, poll, and neck, as a result of yielding the inside hind leg. When this is achieved, they can then more easily leg yield the horse, while maintaining acceptance of the contact and prepare for a transition to trot. There are, of course, so many variations on this theme, but it is such a useful tool for a rider to gain acceptance of the aids and help show them the way to progress through the Pyramid of Training.