Spotlight – Briar Creek Farm and Suzanne Liscouski

Briar Creek Farm is home of the “The Foundation Link,” the name Suzanne Liscouski chose for her 35-acre farm in Leesburg, VA that she designed and built in 2006.   Like all things with horses, Suzanne’s journey has been a long and meaningful one.  Last year Suzanne topped the summit having installed her beautiful and spacious indoor, complete with a well-appointed “classroom” that overlooks the indoor riding arena.  “What we believe in here, and the education we promote is pretty unique. Now we have the infrastructure; 120 x 200 lighted outdoor jumping arena, 72-foot round pen, and the addition of the classroom and indoor arena make more learning opportunities possible,” explained Suzanne. “My vision has always been to have a classroom; I’m about educating the rider to help their horses, not just teaching riding lessons,” said Suzanne.   The concept of The Foundation Link is that the solid connection, groundwork, in-hand and mounted exercises you learn here provide a solid foundation for each rider to link those skills back to their discipline of choice, from cow working, dressage, working equitation, jumpers and more.

Suzanne trained with top trainers over the decades to always raise the bar on well-rounded horsemanship, building a deeper connection with horses, but just recently departed the corporate world to focus full-time on her Briar Creek Farm business plan.  Her resume is long and includes years of tutelage under Ray Hunt where she met Patrick King, who she continues to work with.  “I have always had top clinicians teach here but now, with the classroom, I can expand learning opportunities.”  This year Briar Creek will host two Patrick King clinics, including a week-long camp in June.  In March, Jillian Kreinbring will be at Briar Creek to provide 3-days of classroom equine anatomy and biomechanics training. Later, dressage Master Dominque Barbier will be teaching at Briar Creek as will versatile horseman Brendan Wise; other clinics are being planned including those taught by Suzanne.

Since leaving the corporate world last fall, where Suzanne served in Federal Government and IT company leadership roles, Suzanne has expanded her own lesson schedule and has graciously offered NOVAWE a four-session “Ace Your Obstacles” clinic which starts this month, February 20th.  The focus of this clinic is to help riders help their horses approach obstacle work inquisitively, and the sessions will begin in-hand.  “I’ll help participants in understanding the foot falls and their importance, knowing and learning how to communicate to the feet so they can approach each new obstacle in a meaningful, soft and stress-free way,” explained Liscouski.

Her “Ace Your Obstacles” lesson plan includes helping clinic participants help their horses to understand and figure out the questions the obstacles pose.  “I don’t approach obstacles in a mechanical way; I will help the clinic participants approach each obstacle with feeling and understanding, first on the ground and then when riding,” explained Suzanne. “We will help the horse learn there is an answer to the question. Once the horse understands there is an answer to each rider “ask”, and that you respect their ability to think and problem solve, then it doesn’t matter what the obstacle is, you’ve built confidence in a process with your horse,” explained Suzanne.

This first clinic is full but NOVAWE members are welcome to audit (please email [email protected] to reserve an audit spot and please bring a $10 donation.  The audit fees will support young cancer victim Chelsea Proctor’s Go Fund Me campaign.)

Suzanne plans to offer additional clinics like this with exercises that will help improve WE obstacle work, including Garrocha pole exercises.  “We’ve been leveraging Garrocha pole exercises here for decades,” said Suzanne, who lived in Spain for a while. “I was lucky to witness Working Equitation (and Doma Vaquera) in Spain at its roots,” said Suzanne who also served as Ray Hunt’s translator and Spain clinic tour planner in 2002. She recently (2019) traveled to Portugal to ride Lusitanos at the famed Valença Academy, where she honed her haute ecole dressage skills.

Suzanne studies include biomechanics (of both horse and human), anatomy, and neurology.  She is working on her Masterson Method Certification and offers BEMER sessions and free demonstrations to her and her client’s horses.  “Connection comes from relaxation and communication,” said Suzanne, but she stressed that communication with horses is two way.  “To ride well, with connection, you have to develop your recognition of the footfalls, and how to use micromovements to make adjustments – I strive to help riders think differently and recognize those subtle changes – I find progress with horse-human relationship so fascinating and rewarding.”

Suzanne got her start in the traditional hunter world but said she has since learned a “better deal” for the horses. “I believe in well-rounded horsemanship. Connection is the difference between what we do and trick riding, and every discipline can benefit from this type of work, this syncing. Everything that I do here at Briar Creek ties back to the foundation I learned from Ray Hunt, and his protégés Joe Wolter, Byran Neubert and Buck Brannaman.”  She related that “the better deal” is awareness to recognize, respond to and reward the slightest try your horse gives you.

Hunt was undoubtedly a strong influencer. Suzanne has since taken instruction from many masters, including completing instructors’ courses with Charles de Kunffy.   “I’ll never stop learning on this journey,” said Suzanne.   Suzanne experiences include halter breaking wild horses in North Dakota and colt starting.  She has adopted a wild Nokota and has four other horses which she can call on to help novices learn.  These horses also participate in Corporate Leadership Executive Offsite work that Briar Creek offers, leveraging the generous spirit of horses to help executives improve their sensitivity, communication and leadership.

Learn more about the offering at Briar Creek by visiting their Facebook page

Briarcreek’s website is under construction.