Anna van Rheeden from Indonesia is a Scholar in the Basic ST Instructor Certification Program who graduated in the Straightness Training Academy in Grade 1 in the pillars groundwork, longeing, work in hand, riding and Straightness Training at liberty.
Congratulations Anna, keep up the good work in the Certification Program!
And thanks for taking the time to share your STory with us!
❝ I started riding as an 8-year-old in the Netherlands, with the whip as basic equipment, learned riding with a lot of force, pull and push and most horses I saw were living a miserable life alone in a box, some never even seeing the daylight.
When my husband and I started Havana Horses, natural horse riding school, 16 years ago in Indonesia, we wanted to do things differently. We wanted to do the right thing for our horses, imitating Nature as close as possible: our horses live 24/7 outside in herds, go barefoot and our horses are trained and ridden bitless.
We have done courses where we could, studied all we could find. Our horses were happy and healthy; however, we lacked the knowledge to improve our training methods. Sometimes some horse trainers visited us and taught us what they knew, however, our horses developed an under-neck and sadly some of our horses even got navicular disease. Also, we had some horses that couldn’t make a turn in the riding arena and when we took them to the race track for a fun gallop, it is not so fun when your horse flies out of the track because it cannot make the turn!
Thus, when in 2015 I came across Marijke’s ST Mastery Academy, I signed up without hesitation. Being in Indonesia, far away from likeminded people, not able to go to clinics, an online course like this was factually my only chance to further develop. Moreover, I really loved what I saw: Marijke working at liberty or with a cavesson, all bitless, showing a beautiful relationship with her magnificent looking, beautifully muscled horses. I also wanted that! And it fitted perfectly with our style of natural horsemanship, bitless and barefoot.
I signed up with my Indonesian pony Super, 11 years at that time, as he was, and still is, doing most lessons for us, both with children and with light adults. He came to us when he was only 2 years old, became the lead horse straight away and still is the undisputable leader of our Havana Horses’ herd, already for 17 years now! Super is such a generous, wise, good pony, I really want to help him to become the best version of himself and I do wish to keep him young and healthy for as long as possible.
When we started our ST journey, Super was always holding his head up high and was hard to stop when riding. And now, look at him! He is a super cooperative pony, has no physical or mental issues other than his natural asymmetry, so when things don’t go as I wish I know for 100% sure that 'It Is Always Me'!
The Mastery course was great: it offered an extensive library of knowledge and offered the opportunity to submit Touchstones. It was self-study based, so I had to find my own time and momentum to practice and submit. It appeared that I was still somewhat biased by the methods I had learned so far, apparently it was not that easy to just let go of everything I had learned in my previous life! It meant, I only submitted an average of 1 or 2 touchstones a year and progress was tremendously slow.
I am much in awe of Marijke: exactly because of this lack of momentum and progress with her students, Marijke developed the Scholars program - she seems to know exactly what is going on with her students and develops her academy and classes in accordance. When the Scholars program came, I knew this was my chance!
In 2020, I signed up for 6 months, and I just loved the Scholar cycles with the Hot Seat, Breakthrough and Touchstone; I learned so much from watching other peoples’ classes, and I finally got some momentum! Living in a developing country, the monthly fee however was a bit of a problem so I did only 6 months in 2020, and then signed up again in 2022. I finally made some progress and signed up for the Basic ST Instructor Certification Program (BCP), and I am loving every minute of it.
Taking my Super pony through the pillars of Groundwork, Longeing, Work in Hand, Liberty and Riding has been a terrific eye-opener.
The logical progressive steps of the exercises make so much sense, have a certain order, have a meaning. When problems arise in a certain area, you go back to the previous step to fix it. It is all about the fundaments, helping the horse to become more balanced in their body, and therefore also in their mind. It really works that way, the same as when we do Yoga: we feel better in our body, we feel better in our mind. We see our horses grow in confidence and calmness when their body becomes more balanced. And being a barefoot trimmer I also see the results of a more balanced body visible in the hooves!
All our horses benefit so much from ST. We have horses coming and going, some coming straight from the race track, others from a dressage stable, others have been a carriage horse before, and we also have bred some of our own foals. I do ST with all of them – it is wonderful to be able to recognize their asymmetries and help them with that, and wow! it is just mind-blowing how much the horses improve: their topline and hind becomes more muscled, our Indonesian ponies start looking like Andalusians!
I do groundwork with all our horses as a routine, the standstill exercises you can do when grooming, when feeding, in the field – shift the COM back, distributing the weight over 4 legs, suppling right and left, stretch the topline, it is like the Mountain Pose in Yoga, it has become a second nature and all the horses love it and it prepares the young ones in a beautiful way for the rest to come.
The biggest eye-openers were the Riding and the Liberty pillar. In my previous life in the Netherlands, I had always been a very confident rider, getting the “difficult” horses to ride, the horses that would buck and protest – now I think "OH MY, these horses must have been so uncomfortable, in pain and/or unbalanced!"
But anyway, I could ride them all and felt at ease with every horse. Now, learning the ST way of riding I had to go deep through the valley of despair, let go of habits and relearn the basics! But I am so glad for my horses that I did.
About Liberty: we did free longeing before I found ST but in hind-sight the horses were moving around mindlessly and in a completely unbalanced way at that time. The Liberty pillar in ST I find maybe the most fun and showing pillar of all: it tells you exactly what is lacking and what is going well… and it should be as beneficial for the horse as all the other pillars. The question, is this useful for the horse, is it beneficial? A “Do it damn it!” attitude will not help, at all! The power of our Inner Picture and Inner Feeling is still mind-blowing to me, especially with our sensitive mares. We have the task to make ourselves the good spot for the horse to be with, to work on ourselves. And oh my do I have a lot to work on! And this is exactly what ST is all about: Self-Mastery.
During the Covid-pandemic the Self-Mastery classes of ST have helped me so much, I mean the horses help me to stay sane in my daily life, but the Self-Mastery classes have helped me not to go crazy during these hard times! The STEREO-map I now apply in my daily life, in my family, with my children and with clients, it is so powerful! I teach my two children, both in the emotionally confusing age of puberty, that they can choose their own thoughts, therefore they can choose what they feel, they can take response-ability! “Take the driver’s seat”: this is tremendously powerful.
After passing Grade 1 with Super, now 19 years old, I hope to also pass Grade 1 with my mare Fitri, Super’s daughter, now 15 years old.
Fitri is the horse that was diagnosed with vernacular disease. The vet told me to trade her in. Instead, I am working on her hoofs and do Straightness Training with her! We are not completely there yet, but she is so much more comfortable and I can ride her again!!
Also, I am just starting more serious work as well with Super’s grand-daughter, her name is Aprill: how awesome is that: 3 Super-generations!
Currently I am working in Grade 2 with both Super and Fitri and I am doing all to become a certified ST instructor! I am making my dream come true.
Without ST, our horses would still be unbalanced, muscled in the wrong places, crooked grass eaters with an under neck, flying out or getting stuck in the corners, developing navicular disease – but most of all without ST I wouldn’t have been able to develop myself as much as I did.
I have learned to question my limiting beliefs about myself, like “I will never be a good horse trainer” “I am a slow learner”, I am not ambitious enough”, instead I am learning to make a conscious choice of what to think and what to belief, and with that also choose to be the director of my own emotions, to take responsibility for my own thoughts and emotions. Of course, I still fall into the same holes again and again, but at least I recognize it! This also helps a tremendous lot when dealing with other people, with all kinds of clients, having their own limiting beliefs and emotions.
By diving deep in myself, investigating and questioning my own thoughts and feelings, by taking responsibility, by taking the driver’s seat, I am becoming a better version of myself and therefore also a better human for my horses. ST taught me to focus on the 2 mm improvements, the 5% progress, the CANI on the fly and to Fail Fast forward!
ST is a life changer, a game changer, it is a mind-set, it is a way of life!
Haha! One thing I learned from Marijke is never to take myself too seriously!
The ST library covers it all, all you need to know about the natural asymmetry of the horse, bio-mechanics, motivation, tools, communication, self-mastery, you name it, it’s all there.
Marijke says: never say "I don't know!" and she is right! Hey, we live in this era of internet and information technology, so I tell myself, my children, my students, my husband: Never say “I don’t know”, just say” I will figure it out!”❞
~ Anna van Rheeden, Indonesia
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