My latest reading venture is Gustav Steinbrecht’s The Gymnasium of the Horse. It is often cited by those who follow classical training methods, but this is my first dive into it. Written before the turn of the twentieth century, it is both dated (the section on spur use is frightening) and “current”. This particular passage exhibits the latter, as well as being a rather poetic tribute to the animals we have shared a history with.
Earlier this summer, science had another shining moment of “discovering” something many of us have known for a long time – horses talk to us! I don’t mean to be flippant about science – I really like science! But animal emotions, cognition, and their relationships with us are areas for which science has long had a blind spot. Rather than “discoveries” these really should just be handled as “proof” of what animal lovers have known (but been told they “can’t know”) probably for as long as we’ve had relationships with animals!
The main findings of the study is that horses attempt to communicate with humans – and that they cease those attempts if they are ignored for too long. No one is a better example of both of these points that our Coffee!
Today’s post is by a guest author – Rhonda Scott, my mother. Enjoy.
There has been a lot of chatter recently, throughout social media, regarding what is or isn’t Classical Dressage. All of the shouting brought back a single memory that I cherish to this day. I am a non-competitive rider, seventy seven years of age, who watched the young ones learn as a Pony Club mom and District Commissioner. In my late forties my (now grown) daughter started giving me lessons on her old reliable, as she developed her mare “Dani” into a lovely “ballerina”. I do not plan on addressing the classical question, this is a comment only on one moment in my life, and the feeling/emotions I was left with.
Things are a bit chaotic in the barn this week. We’re tearing off an unused overhang on the back of the barn, in order to add runs off the backs of the stalls. The roof overhangs a very low spot behind the barn, and is barely tall enough for us to walk under, let alone a horse. We’re excited about the whole project, but this is the messy, loud portion of it. It is also causing a bit of disruption to young Noble’s routine, as it means his back field is currently off limits. He’s a bit put out by his turnout time being limited to the arena, and it was only a matter of time before his baser self appeared again … and that time was today. But this time there was a slight twist.
Even as Tally gives me greater hope that we will become a real partnership someday, and as mom and Coffee progress in their relationship, Nash has presented us with a serious dilemma. I have not written much of what’s been going on with him, because I was trying to sort out the cause, and to be sure that it was not all in my imagination. As the weeks go by, the cause becomes even more mysterious – but the reality of it becomes even more disturbing.
The controversy still swirls around the method known variously as rollkur or LDR (low, deep, and round). Someone from a Facebook group I’m part of recently posted photos and video from Falsterbro, a high level competition in Sweden. This evidence showed that the method has truly become mainstream, with not a single rider working in any other fashion. Now that the Olympics are under way, there is further debate over the riders who clearly and openly practice this method – not the least of which is Adelinde Cornelissen who retired in the middle of her Grand Prix ride in Rio.
Many of us have been railing against this method, and the damage that it causes – books and videos by the likes of veterinarian and horseman Gerd Heuschmann have been dedicated to the topic – yet it not only has persisted, but it has grown. The only hope we have is continuing education, and making a lot of noise. In that vein, I offer the following.
Several years ago, I picked up Horse People in the bargain book bin at a local farm supply store. It’s an oversized paperback made up of essays, poems, and art, celebrating the authors’ and artists’ relationships with horses. The book has been gathering dust on the shelf, as I have focused my reading on more practical and academic works. However, I decided to take a break from those pursuits to enjoy reading of a different sort – and am I glad that I did! Just today I read these passages from an essay by Jane Hirshfield entitled “Horses cross, Donkeys cross”. It touched me, and I had to share (I borrowed another phrase from the author for this post’s title). Enjoy!