Our rest day wasn’t really a rest day! Michaela took us first to Schwaiganger – a State run Stud Farm. You can find a link here. The farm covers a large area – 850 hectares – and horses have been there for over 1,000 years. As you can see from the feature photo – it is a beautiful setting – with grassland, mountains and forest.
There are arenas – inside and out, cross country jump courses, parklands and beautiful old buildings. The Stud Farm also is a center for teaching – and for research.
We wandered through the grounds and came across a dressage lesson in the indoor arena. There were three riders and horses. The contrast between the days spent at Anja’s and this lesson was like a slap in the face! The teacher screamed commands at the riders and both horse and rider were tense and struggling to follow what the teacher said. Had it been me, I think I would have been curled up in a little ball sobbing!
It reminded me of riding lessons I took long ago in the early 70s. We would all ride around the arena while the teacher screamed instructions at us. There is no way any good learning can take place like that.
Unlike Anja’s, the lesson was a ‘one size fits all’. It wasn’t about the individual horse. What was the screaming about? Why is there so much anxiety? Of course these horses were being prepared for a riding test/competition. I gather that that all these tests help in eventually selling the horse for a good price.
But is this still a common way to learn? I can’t say for sure as I don’t have any involvement with riding lessons – but screaming instructors were commonplace a few years ago. What motivated them to scream? Was it the numbers of students? The frustrations of teaching? Was it tradition? I remember that time years ago – my focus wasn’t on the horse, it was on how to make the screaming go away. Before each lesson I had a mix of excitement and anxiety – excitement that once again I was going to ride a horse – and anxiety that I needed to contend with a screaming teacher.
As I watched, I really felt for both the rider and the horse. It was so easy to see the tension. Both horse and rider looked exhausted. It was a far cry from watching Anja the previous day. No wonder she ends up with horses from desperate owners, trying to fix whatever physical problem they have.
And no wonder she has an uphill battle on her hands to fight the ‘system’, where many horses are churned out and stallions are put through tests that can ruin them physically and mentally for the rest of their lives. As with any industry, it’s about making money – but it’s time to stop and consider the animal. And along with so many other industries we have to stop the ‘throw away’ mentality.
Oh dear! This blog drifted away from my original thoughts and put me up on my soapbox! But the contrast in what we saw at this facility and what we were seeing at Anja’s was astounding. It’s important to talk about it.
Leave a comment if you have also encountered screaming teachers!
More about our rest day to come!
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