A Farewell to my trainer... 


Jean-Claude Racinet, my dressage trainer and friend sadly passed away at the age of 79 on April 25th in Lexington, KY. I received the sad call from his son, Jean-François, my Godchild, early that morning. Jean-Claude had suffered from a fall from a horse while giving a clinic in Germany this past autumn and never made a full recovery.

I had first met Jean-Claude and his wife Susan in the summer of 1989 where I took a lesson on one of his school horses in the Poconos.  His methods were different from any other trainers I had known so I was skeptical at first.  Even though his methods were rather unconventional, everything he had told me worked on my horse at home. To clench my devotion he showed me a video of a Quarter Horse, Sizzlin, he had trained to the Grand Prix level. The passage and piaffe he put on this horse were undeniably impressive.  It didn't take long before I became a devoted student organizing clinics in NJ, NY &; PA once he moved back down south.  He spent many hours in the car on our way to and fro clinics and late at night after the lessons telling me about the French masters and history of the French School.  What cherished memories.

Jean-Claude was passionate about horses and riding.  'Riding in Lightness' was his brand, mantra, trademark if you will. This was his life blood that would keep him from soundly sleeping at night he would tell me. He was a genius both on and off horse back.  Want to know about history or politics, he would clue you in, the NY Times cross-word puzzle was his specialty, manipulation of the horse's spine to relieve subluxations, Jean-Claude through thousands of hours of studying and conversations with a prominent French vet-osteopath, had it figured out.  I remember meeting him and Susan at Fair Hill, MD where race horse owners had hired him to work on their horse's vertebra blockings. Yes, he was that good.

One of my most memorable lessons was trying to feel the 3 beat canter on horse back.  Jean-Claude suggested I listen to Beethoven's Symphony #7 which contains a perfect 3 beat movement.  I did and it helped! In fact a 5 week stay as a working student at the Racinet residence in South Carolina back in the early 90s, opened my soul to classical music (Mozart and Beethoven were his favorites). Thank you Jean-Claude for sharing this passion with me.  I remember driving back to NJ blasting Symphony # 9 in the car - he would have been proud of me.

A true victory for Jean-Claude was towards the end of this life, he was giving numerous clinics in Germany, "enemy camp"; as he would have jokingly referred to in the past.   And it is an irony, almost like a Shakespearean tragedy, that this is also where he had the fall that eventually led to his demise. Show Jumping legend, George Morris, a proponent of the French School, couldn't believe this in fact when I told him.  I had to repeat it a several times.

And then there is Susan, his devoted and loving wife.  I do believe if it wasn't for her, Jean-Claude wouldn't have lived to see almost 80 years of age.  She was always there for him, admired him and I know how much he loved her.  When staying at their place I would notice how he would fret when she had left the house to go shopping for example.  If she didn't come home when expected he would get nervous thinking something had happened to her. When away from home giving clinics he was always in touch with her.  He was a lucky man to have Susan at his side even during his last breath so I am told.

To this day, Jean-Claude was for sure an influence in my life and his teachings will remain at the core of my riding. 

Adieu le maître et mon cher ami...


A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 9, at Pen Merryl Farm in Greenville, VA. Memorial contributions may be made to Jean-François Racinet. The family will receive friends at the home. Arrangements are by Harrison Funeral Home & Crematory.