“What do I give my horse for Christmas? Freedom!”- A recommendation by Maksida Vogt

Maksida Vogt with her mare Donna, Bavarian Warmblood, former dressage horse, cured of laminitis, 2018 Bosca. © 2018, Photo: Maksida Vogt

Frankfurt/Main, Germany (Weltexpress). In times when the hay for the horses in many riding stables is scarce due to the climate – induced drought, the Christmas table for the horses is again covered with useless gifts, from treats to winter blankets, which are known to weaken the horse ‘s immune system, because the natural thermoregulation system of the horse is suspended. A bale of hay, which normally costs 25-30 Euro, is now offered in the north of the Republic for 100 Euro. What else can be given to your horse in this situation except a bale of hay, smelling of herbs?

Prologue by Bernd Paschel

In my work as a sports lecturer, I encountered many riders in my riding courses, who had given up riding in the club, because they said they could not cope with the “cat fight” in the riding stable or / and felt as children that they would hurt the horse for example by fighting the bit into the horse’s mouth by banging it against the teeth. Likewise described by Larissa Hartkopf in her book „Was Sie über Reitpferde und Turniersport wissen sollten“.

Even today, this kind of pedagogy is very common in equitation, a pedagogy that I myself experienced as a child of the war generation:

If you do not obey, you will be made docile with punishment!

Alexander Nevzorov (horseman from Russia), Stormy May (horseman from USA), Maksida Vogt (horseman from Europe) and other former representatives of a sporty riding style have taken the step to get off the horse and still communicate with horses, each in an individually different way.

As a young sports student in the Modern Pentathlon, where at least a M-Parcour is to be mastered, I became thoughtful, at that time still relatively helpless, because I did not know any alternatives. When in the beginning of the 70’s Horst Stern and Joseph Neckermann fiercely argued on television about violence in equitation, I was still more on the side of Joseph Neckermann, since I also believed that classical dressage takes place in the interest of the health of the horse.

This myth is now unmasked. At the time I swallowed a few tears at the sight of Ahlerich and Halla when I saw them live in horseshows. I did not know “why”. – Now I know it:

My sense of being an athlete told me that even in my sport, I would not accept the violence that is imposed on the horse.

As middle-distance runner, modern pentathlete, fencer and race-cyclist I have operated in over 30 years of competitive sports. In none of these sports would I have endured an iron bar, let alone curb, in the mouth or iron on the sportshoes. Even the former football boots were a horror for me as a runner. In the football boots an improvement for the benefit of the athlete has taken place.

When riding has essentially changed nothing for the “athlete” horse since 1970, at least not for the better!

Only with Monty Roberts (late 90’s) it was possible for me to see horses and riding with different eyes again. Other horsemen followed, who developed the concept of natural handling of horses.

At the same time, the behavioral science of recent years has found that all mammals, including humans, have an equally structured brain and know and express feelings such as pain, grief, joy, and others.

As one cannot see into the head of a human being, so naturally also in animals it remains unknown, how exactly these feelings are experienced individually.

Clearly the horse is very cooperative.

The human being is different from the horse, part flight animal and part predator, and not infrequently lives his dark side while riding, which is called “black pedagogy” in educational science. Often, people who have experienced mistreatment and abuse under black education themselves, later pass these on to their children or replacement children – the horses.

Maksida Vogt

Maksida Vogt with her mares Donna (Bavarian Warmblood) and Hera (Icelandic). 2018 Bosca. © 2018, Photo: Maksida Vogt

This title “What do I give my horse for Christmas? – Freedom!” as a template for the article appealed to me immediately. Freedom … I wish nothing more for the horses but also for the people. Inevitably, they are connected. The incredible thing that each of us experiences, who chooses a different, non-violent path with his horses – is just that liberation.

This liberation opens up unimaginable potential , one starts with the horse, but in the end one frees oneself in so many ways. Suddenly the horse shows a completely different world – far away from any pressure, performance, competition, battle, ego, control. One is led by the horse into a world full of confidence, inner security, deep connection to nature, beauty and love. Suddenly everything is different. One wonders – how did one not see it earlier?

I went through this process with my horse and it changed my life. Never again do I want to go back to the ordinary equestrian world. And I’ve seen it with so many horses, some of them on my farm, where they could just be a horse. I was able to closely observe and feel their transformation. From a state in which they had given up, in which the joy of life was extinguished from their eyes and they had learned to just function as the riders demanded of them – to a state in which they slowly come to life again, in which they slowly become horse again, in which their instincts awake again – to a state in which the fire returns to their eyes, in which they begin to dance, to live. Powerful and strong and fast – FREE! Everything we love and admire about the horses.

So what can I give my horse if I only know the usual riding scene? What can I give him, that nobody else can give him? What can I give him, that would change his life so much for the better and at the same time make me a better person? Because I will then experience what it means to accept an animal as it really is, perhaps for the first time to look at it without any expectations? To get to know it and to get to know myself at the same time. To understand myself better. To love my horse unconditionally and to learn to love myself unconditionally?


Freedom of choice. When my horse is not forced to do anything anymore. If I do not use any of these means of control (bit, spurs, lever-bridle, whip) on my horse anymore. I will ask my horse what it feels like doing. Does it even want to be with me? Will it voluntarily leave the herd to go somewhere with me? Does my horse really like me? Or have I confused love with control?

I give my horse the gift of freedom of choice and find out.

Further information: Academia Liberti

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