In September this year I was invited to teach staff and students within ERASMUS Mobility program of the European Union to Eskisehir Osmangazi University vocational school of Mahmudiye.
Eskisehir is a small, beautiful but very modern university city in Turkey. Mahmudiye, where the riding school located is about 50 km to Eskisehir.
This was an honor for me as for the first time in Turkey somebody introduced natural horsemanship techniques and classical dressage and horse training methods to the academic level. From year 2013 and on natural horsemanship techniques will be part of the academical curriculum.
I would like to tell you more about this university and the education system. Turkey is a country with a large young population and horse sector represents a growing sector for employing the young generation. If you want to go to the university in Turkey you need to pass some exams. According to the points you get you are entitled to study in the section which you preselected in advance.
Most of the students who come to this school have never even been close to a horse before! As this exam needs to be taken by students all over Turkey, sometimes you have kids coming from eastern part where the level of income is extremely low.
Some of them are really born to be horsey people but some have no idea where they land! This is a 2 years vocational school where you learn about a little bit of everything such as anatomy of the horse, shoeing, nutrition, basic veterinary help, horse care, stable management, horse handling, lunging, riding, etc.
Employment opportunities are normally provided by race horse breeders, riding clubs, private breeders etc. In the horse industry qualified labor work is very important because those are the people who handle valuable race horses and show jumpers.
This school is created in 2007 and it is the first school of its kind. The capacity of the school is 30 students. Till than there were no such school before. The know –how would pass from father to son. Even though riding is in our ancestor’s genes many things were taught wrong and it went on like that from father to son sometimes in wrong ways.
What is good about this school is that you don’t have to be rich in order to be able to study in such a school as it is Belgium. Because in Gesves (Belgium) if you want to pursue this kind of education you must own a horse and participate courses with your own horse.
Those students who choose to come to this school are fascinated by horses to start with but nothing else and they want to make their living with it. They are not fascinated by the cups or the ribbons or the fancy outfit with shiny boots etc… They just love horses and are attracted by them first of all!
And what moved me the most was their simplicity, good heart, smiley faces, and eagerness to learn even though some of them are coming from families with such little income to live you have no idea!
One of those kids has a story with the following grey mare that touched me. In his hometown in the eastern part of Turkey he had caught a young wild horse. As he didn’t have a stall to put him in, he attached the horse to a tree with a very long rope. This horse lived up to 4 years old with him there and they kind of became friends. Than he won the university entrance exam and finished this vocational school which lasted 2 years.
He loved this horse but as he didn’t have any money neither his family to feed the horse he didn’t want to leave him there. He wanted to bring him with him to the school but he didn’t have any money to pay the transport from east to center Anatolia. He worked the whole summer on a building site to be able to raise enough money for the transport. Once he had the money he organized the transport and had his horse come over and gave him to the school. Now he is employed by the neighbor farm where they breed race horses. So he can see his horse whenever he wants.
This horse had no education and very little contact with humans. He said she was 4 years old. The last day of my clinic I worked with her a little bit. She was a pony size very vivid, playful, cute little horse. She had difficulty in concentrating to her work. She was not enough mature mentally yet! The school has also a project for the integration of wild mountain horses into sports horses. Especially those little horses would be perfect for kids!
Anyway I am really grateful and had a great time with real horse lovers and was impressed by the dedication of school teachers and the director of this school and am really happy to have signed a FIRST for the horse world in Turkey.