In April 2018, the respected German National Kuratorium for Therapeutic Riding (DKThR) organized their seventh annual interdisciplinary conference under the theme “Strengthening Children Through Horses”. The German Kuratorium was established in 1970 and has effectively supported the therapeutic equine community in Germany ever since.
Rupert Isaacson has had the privilege to work in close collaboration with the Kuratorium for the past four years. This year he was invited to present at the very unique and promising venue in Fürstenau. IGS Fuerstenau is a public high school offering equine activities and studies in their standard curriculum. They work closely with the equestrian center in walking distance and allow for ideal interconnectedness between horses and students.
In this ideal fostering environment, Rupert and his team (Carola Beekman from the Netherlands and Bianca Rimbach from the US) were challenged with a couple of horses that were described by locals as difficult and challenging, presenting numerous situations saying ‘no’ to their riders to the point where riders were scared and intimidated.
Rupert, affectionately called Ru by close friends, took no time to rest, but faced the challenges the moment he arrived after a long tiresome journey from the US across the pond. The first two horses seemed to ask many questions and doubting the possibility of work. After about an hour of learning to read and understand where the horses were coming from, the first ‘curveball’ was tossed at the team- one of the horses was actually not available the next few days- so, change of plans and here came a little guy, a pony, with more character and attitude than his size let on. Flexibility and open mindedness persevered in Isaacson’s team, and extra hours of training were added to be able to present essential positive changes in very limited time.
The day of the conference, one of the horses decided to show some outstanding, lively energy, feeling alive and happy on the lunge line, overextending herself. This slightly worried the team, but there was no time to select and work with another horse. The pony was still asking questions, but they were more inquisitive rather than challenging or saying ‘no’- which was huge progress.
The day started with presentations on how to strengthen all our kids with horses, animals, movement, and other creative ideas. Bianca Rimbach presented her highly successful implementation of Movement Method in the classroom. New Trails Learning System developed this method as an alternative when there are no horses available and to allow the benefits of this unique learning system to be available for every learner. It allows for true integration and addresses every learner in various learning situations. Minds were inspired, excitement was kindled and the interest in Movement Method was highly encouraging for our next generation to be able to learn without suffering and in the most effective and influential way.
After many theoretical speakers, Ru invited the audience for his hands- on presentation in the indoor arena. People lined up around the edge, curiosity and skepticism reflected on professional faces with years of experience and traditional approach routines embedded in their values and instructional practices. Horse folks know, the biggest critiques are the local barn people, often crossing their arms and evaluating and judging new people and trainers who come in. Ru was someone challenging their ideas, their thinking, trying to offer new perspective, new ways of looking at things. At least that was what some of the experts thought- in reality, Rupert’s approach is deeply rooted in equine history and tested over centuries of equine history and successful methodology. In fact, he uses the classic schoolmasters like Robichon de la Guérinière, Steinbrecht, and some Baucher as his mentors and guides.
The two horses showed immense progress. Sarah Boyerman, the educator at the high school and riding instructor explained the situation the team was challenged with and explained that after limited knowledge of the background story and just three days of very limited access to the two horses the progress had been unbelievable and visible to anyone having had the privilege to watch the process. A 45min demo was almost unable to do the work and process justice. However, people noticed how calm and agreeable the pony would take the applause erupting- people that knew him held their breath, being certain that he would try to lose his rider in an instant; he just pricked his ears and said ‘yes’ to whatever the team asked of him. He was even praised for a later competition for a young rider who had never had such a great ride on him. The Horse Boy team was able to set the two horses back on track and demonstrate how powerful the consistent well-developed groundwork program from Horse Boy is for any equine partner, but especially in the therapeutic equestrian industry where it is detrimental that the horse says “yes” in any situation.
The entire work of Horse Boy is based on collaboration and tribal connection, which became very visible when supporters, practitioners, colleagues, and friends came from near and far to support the presentation and conference. It was a pleasure to observe the tight- knit community and listen to the excitement and common mission to make positive change.
Carola’s organizational skills and highly gifted horsemanship supported the demo in a most essential way. She contributed to a team effort to present impactful methods and strategies to allow others to benefit and expand their knowledge, making the team look like a well- functioning, well- oiled machine. Ru’s patience and diplomatic approach with critiques was admirable and positively noted by many. True professionalism ensured that the demonstration allowed for learning and new perspective to develop strong and balanced horses, but also to serve clients and to be a true inspirational and educational experience.
To top of our visit to Germany, Bianca Rimbach did a briliant presentation at the Mammutschule in Ahlen, where she created interest in the taechers and school principal. Read the full report written by Henrich Berkhoff, Director of Protective Children Services, district Warendorf.