2. Magic at Work!

I’m continuing writing about my travel adventure in July 2018 – for the first week we (Alexandra Kurland, Michaela Hempen, and later, Rebekka Schultz) were in Germany – attending the 8th International Workshop at Anja Beran’s property.

The feature photo says it all – magical, unicorn like horses surrounded by colourful gardens. That’s what it was like at Gut Rosenhof.   Like something out of a children’s book!  And below is a photo of our surrounding landscape  from our accommodation – a magical kingdom!


I’d entered into some kind of fairytale!

Now to start my education for the week!

First – about Anja Beran –  my first impressions…..

I saw in Anja that same calmness and clearness that I had felt at the facility.  She is quietly spoken, with an absolute depth of knowledge and ability,  and her priority is the welfare of the horse.  This is why she has pursued classical equitation – and this is something else I learnt…  I really didn’t know that classical equitation was developed for the good of the horse.  Here is a quote from Anja:

“Classical equestrianism is orientated completely according to the nature of the horse. It does not demand specific sequences of movement or carriage which would not be natural for a horse to perform in freedom. The horse is intended to find its balance by means of good, logically developed exercises so that it happily and confidently submits to the will of the rider, without any detriment to its natural sequence of movement. It should not suffer any damage, either physical or mental, in connection with its training. Instead the aim is a horse which will remain healthy and able to perform up to an advanced age. A further aim is the minimisation of rider aids.”

− Anja Beran


I was quite ignorant about the history of dressage.  I would see modern day dressage and assume all the movements were just for the horse and rider to look ‘fancy’.  I thought dressage was about competitions – and I also thought that most dressage horses I had seen looked stressed and their bodies looked tense.  Certainly some of the movements were impressive – but my only personal experience of dressage was in the past, riding a few walk/trot tests.  Yes… tests – that’s what I thought it was about.

It seems modern day dressage is far removed from where it first started.

Anja was about to educate me!  And not just about classical dressage.  She was about to change my way of thinking.  I am always scornful of people who have a prejudice against something in the horse world (or in any world!) without fully understanding it.  Yet at times I can be one of those people!

As a clicker trainer, many people look down their noses at what I am learning.  There is still the ‘make ’em do it!’ mentality very much in the horse world.  I do my clicker training at home, on my own, with the support from the (mainly) international clicker community.  I do not have a local clicker group – Ohhh!  how I’d love a local group!!!

Also, within the clicker community there is much debate over detail – there is always debate over whether you should be ‘purely positive’, what constitutes ‘negative reinforcement’ and debate over which quadrant you may be using.  Sadly, it is easy in the clicker world to become defensive – because it is still not particularly common to be using positive reinforcement with horses.

And in the natural/spiritual/holistic horse community there is a general trend towards bitless, barefoot, treeless or bareback – and rope everything!!!  Also there are people who just want to ‘be’ with the horse – rather than doing anything with them.

Now, that’s very much a generalisation – but you get the idea!!!  People come with different mindsets.  The challenge is to be able to keep an open mind in order to learn and progress.

I see myself as a clicker trainer wanting to learn as much as I can – wanting clear facts – but I also sit a little in the spiritual world after my experiences talking to horses.  I have no hard evidence that I am having discussions with horses – I only have my experiences – and some have been so moving, I have no other answer as to what is going on.  I have had more people say to me they don’t ‘believe’ in clicker training – than I’ve had say they don’t believe in animal communication!!!

I’ve waffled on a bit – back to what I was talking about…..

I tended to think bitless was best – that was my ‘belief’.   I also thought horses chewing on the bit was a bad thing!  By watching and listening to Anja,  I learnt that the bit can be kinder than being pulled around in a halter- and can produce the finest of movements – and, also,  the horse chews on the bit as the back is engaged and working – not because it is under stress, like I initially thought.  I also spoke to Anja later on about bits.  She said she tried bitless for a year – but could not get the fine movements.  These movements aren’t about ‘looking pretty’ – they are about being beneficial to the horse.

This was an eye opener for me – not just because Anja had said this – but because of what I was seeing in front of me.  Calm horses – no fighting with the bit – chewing, not foaming – and gentle quiet riders.

It was wonderful to watch them riding.  For more detail and photos click here

More to come!!




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