Many Irons in the Fire

(Mar 2000) -- Wendy O'Malley talks to the multi-talented Jutta Rosenblatt -- woman farrier, dressage judge and natural horsemanship instructor.

The anvil rings as hammer strikes steel.  A horse whinnies and stomps a nervous hoof while its handler soothes it with quiet words.  The blacksmith sets the hot horseshoe against the pared hoof.  Smoke sizzles up as the smell of burning horn fills the air.  This age-old pastime is still carried out at stables all over New Zealand, and all over the world.  But there is one thing different about our picture.

  The blacksmith shaping the steel so skilfully isn't bulging with manly muscles.  Instead, Jutta Rosenblatt's blonde hair is neatly pulled back in a ponytail.  She may not look like the traditional strong-armed farrier, but if you doubt her strength she'll gladly challenge you to an arm wrestle!

Jutta trained as a farrier several years ago, and has been working successfully in this male-dominated career ever since.

"People think it's a man's job.  It's a traditional thing.  They think, 'Why would a woman do it?'.  But it's a myth that you have to have this incredible strength to manhandle or hold the horse, or to be good with the technical aspects of the job.

"I think horseshoeing is very much a woman's thing.  It's very precise.  You cut bits off and make them tidy.  A horse comes to you and its feet are absolutely awful. You put things right and make the horse as comfortable as you can."

Enthusiasm, Jutta says, is the main secret to becoming a successful farrier.

 While some people may be able to shape a horse shoe without much training, or have an natural aptitude or "eye" for the job, without enthusiasm they will never make it.

"You need to have so many aspects to be a good horseshoer.  You must be able to judge a horse.  You must be able to handle the horse.  You need to get on with the people and be able to run a business."

Above all, says Jutta,  "You have to have FUN with it!  I certainly enjoy it."

Jutta believes in shoeing the horse as naturally as possible.  "I am trying to achieve the most natural angle and level in the horse's foot so the horse basically moves the same wearing shoes as it would barefoot.  I shoe after a certain principle:  that the whole of the foot is weight-bearing not just the wall.  I trim the foot in such a way around its centre so it is evenly balanced."

Her goal with each shoeing is to do a better job than the time before.  She shoes each horse as an individual rather than shoeing the same way for every horse.  The horse's conformation is taken into consideration along with what the horse is used for, and the way the horse moves.    She takes pride in shoeing horses properly so that they move in correct balance. The balanced movement of the horse is especially important to Jutta as she is a qualified, list two, dressage judge and has trained horses up to Grand Prix level.

Many of the horses Jutta shoes belong to her riding pupils.  She started instructing students when she was still a teenager in Germany.  Jutta has had a life-long interest in horses.  She began her involvement in the horse world by joining a vaulting group in Germany and touring the country giving demonstrations.  She learned to leap on and off a cantering horse, do a shoulder stand on the neck of the horse and ride in a standing position.

 Learning these skills developed her riding confidence and gave her an independent seat.

She went on to ride at different stables in Germany, and found she had a natural talent for teaching.  Jutta then went to university and earned her qualifications as a school teacher,  but decided that she preferred working with horses rather than teaching in a school environment.

Jutta gained her qualifications as a riding instructor at the prestigious State Riding and Driving School in Wuelfrath, Germany.  Since then, she has taught riding in Germany, England, Malaysia, the USA. and Australia, as well as New Zealand.   

Her role as a riding instructor has built up mainly by word of mouth through satisfied students, and she is sought after for her specialist knowledge in dressage. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge and it is her contagious enthusiasm that brings students back time and again.

"I want them to get the whole picture, not just pieces and parts.  If I show them the big picture first, then they can find it easier to put the puzzle pieces together.

"I want people to understand, not to just follow instructions.  I explain why they have to sit in a certain position, rather than just say 'put your heel down.'  It is far away from how I learned to ride!

"People understand in different ways.  Being a good teacher means having a lot of ways to describe something.  The student has to be ready to learn it too.  There is a right time to learn something.  You can't force these things.  You can only be there to assist them.  If someone really wants to learn something, they do!"

Jutta quotes the old saying "If you really want to learn something, you have to teach it."   Her teaching style tends to be totally focused and intense.  "The way you teach is a highly individual thing. I'm riding every moment with them.  I really try to get them to improve, rather than tell them that they're good.  It is getting them to be so involved, so focused they don't think about anything else.  I find it very challenging, and interesting.  It is never boring!"

Not only does she teach her students how to ride correctly, Jutta is also an expert at training horses and starting young ones with natural horsemanship techniques.  She uses body language to communicate with horses and establish herself as the dominant leader of the herd.  Jutta was first introduced to "horse whispering" through Maree McAteer, a well-known and successful New Zealand showjumper, who has been living in the USA for the past 15 years.

Maree trained with Buck Brennaman and Ray Hunt.  Jutta has also been exposed to Pat Parelli methods through her British friend, Bonny Burgess, who works on an Arabian stud farm in Tasmania and trains all her horses with PNH.

Natural horsemanship is such a vast subject that books have been written about it, but Jutta explains the basics of the technique in a simple manner

"I work the horse on the ground until I'm getting respect.  Basically, all you do is move them.  Having their respect means you can move their feet.  If you can move their feet on the ground, you have a much better show of moving their feet when you're riding.  I will take the horse into the roundpen and get to know it a bit, see how it reacts to me; if it's pushy, if it has no respect for you, if it's walking over the top of you, if you try to push it away and it's not moving.

"You have to get it out of your space and sometimes that can be quite dangerous, because of the past experiences the horse might have had.  In a really bad case, I usually put their leg up and I push them out of my space--then they're not so smart any more!"

Jutta loves training horses as much as she loves teaching students and shoeing horses.  "I like being free to do all the things I'm interested in.  That is what I love about New Zealand.  It gives me that freedom.  I can travel the world, visit my friends and exchange knowledge.  That is what I love to do."

In  November 1998, Jutta moved from Auckland to Wanganui to take up a position as horse trainer, riding instructor and farrier at Vollrath Hanoverian Stud, owned by Berny Maubach.  

The two fell in love, and their business partnership blossomed into a romantic partnership as well.  Jutta still travels to Auckland once every six weeks to instruct her dressage students and shoe their horses, but she is also developing a new circle of clients  who realise that her combination of skills is a real asset to the Wanganui/Manawatu area.

Between her farrier work, teaching and training, Jutta utilises any spare time to expand her knowledge and skills in any of her areas of interest.

She has an enterprising spirit, seeing any sort of obstacle as a challenge.

When she couldn't buy the rope halters she needed for the natural horsemanship training, she learned how to make them herself.  She now produces and sells rope halters, which exert more pressure than ordinary nylon halters, directly to customers and also to saddle shops.  She expanded into leatherwork as well, after finding a gap in the market.  She designs customised spats out of quality leather at a reasonable price, something she couldn't find at saddleries.

With all the irons Jutta has in the fire, it would be easy for her to stay so busy as to lose sight of the future.  But Jutta manages to work steadily towards her long-term goals.    One of the future goals she is working on is to prepare Worldwide, Berny's imported Hanoverian stallion, for top-level dressage competitions.  

"I love doing it all  but riding  Worldwide is definitely one of the highlights.  Worldwide was bred especially for dressage.  All the sires on both sides of his pedigree going back to the fourth generation have been Grand Prix horses.  I once heard someone ask top American dressage rider Hilda Gurney what to look for when buying a dressage horse.  She said the most important thing she looks for, apart from conformation and movement, is Grand Prix horses in their breeding.  It makes it so much more likely that they will have the same qualities to take them to the top.

"Worldwide's breeding with Bolero, a very influential sire, on the dam's side, and on the other side Weltmeyer, his grandsire, who was voted Stallion of the Year for 1998, is a very, very potent combination.  Many FEI level horses have that combination of breeding.

"I find Worldwide easy to train, as he not only has natural ability, he also has a willing and intelligent nature.  His movement is very athletic and regular."

Jutta and Worldwide recently won the Killala Trophy and gained the title of Novice Champion 2000 at the Bates New Zealand Dressage Championships at Taupo.  This was only the third outing for the five year old stallion and is proof of his natural talent and a credit to his trainer, Jutta.

"Worldwide was wonderfully well-behaved.  He has a lot of  presence," says Jutta.  

The stallion has only been shown lightly, due to his breeding commitments. With the combination of Jutta's knowledge and enthusiasm and Worldwide's unlimited potential, the world of dressage had better keep its eyes on this pair.  They're headed for the stars!