Spotlight on Beverly Manroe
By Ingrid Edisen

She is wiry and has probably the strongest voice in Austin, Texas. Her name is Beverly Manroe and I suspect the entire hunter/jumper citywide and in Texas know of her. Basically she’s a “teacher’s teacher” due to her vast knowledge, experience, and diplomacy.

Manroe began her long career at age nine in Houston at a hunter/jumper barn called Parish Stables. She took lessons there for several years and became good enough so that when Mr. Parish left town, he’d put her in charge of teaching as well.

She ventured to Austin as a University of Texas student and began riding at Hobby Horse stables in the university-sponsored Canter Club. Hobby Horse’s Jane Burr greatly influenced Manroe’s teaching style. To earn money for club fees, Manroe was also allowed to teach at Hobby Horse. Other major influences on her teaching are the internationally famous George Morris and, of course, the large amount of literature written on the subject.

“I kind of joke that my authoritarian style of teaching came from Captain Smith who had been in the Army at Fort Riley,” Manroe said. She rode with him in her Houston days. She considers her current style have more give and take with the students. “I view it as more of a collaboration,” she explained. “I don’t teach beginners much anymore.”

Manroe didn’t actually own a horse until she was twenty-four. “Actually, my sister bought the horse for me,” she admits. For a year Manroe rode as an amateur and decided to carry on with her true calling—teaching—so she went back to her professional status as she campaigned the horse. “Eventually I sold that horse and I’ve been buying and selling ever since,” she said. Manroe said her favorite breed is the Thoroughbred, as she “knows them best. But you have to be careful how you pick them.”

Manroe prefers group lessons. She said that she found groups are more supportive and empathetic to the individual rider. She explained that often an instructor watches a student struggle with something and thinks, “I remember when I used to do that.” Students can fall into the trap of believing the teacher is merely judging them, but that is not so, she proclaimed. “My favorite type of person to teach is anyone willing to give it a try,” she said. And she distinguished that “coaching” is different from “teaching.” When dealing with professionals or advanced amateurs, the riders know as much as she does about horses so she calls it “coaching.” “That’s when it gets really fun, the coaching. Then we can experiment which I find fascinating. Other professionals have the physical skills to do such work. However, in a pure teaching setting, you as an instructor have more knowledge than the student.”

She earned an academic honors degree from U. T. in the Plan II Liberal Arts Program and went for a while to graduate business school. She began teaching at Switchwillo Stables in 1975 in Austin and that location still serves as her home base. She travels some within the area to teach at other barns. Besides teaching, she also does various other horse-related services. She manages three very large shows annually for the Centex Hunter/Jumper Association in Austin and two smaller shows. Because she is a judge, various horse clubs for their shows hire her frequently. And she acts as an agent in horse-for-sale transactions.

From her vantage point, she sees that nationally more money is spent on the sport and there are more people involved. However, she laments that folks seem to have less time to devote to the sport. “More people can make a living as a professional,” she noted. It appears to her that more adults are involved nowadays and pay professionals to prepare horses for them. However, since there are more sport opportunities for children, such as soccer, younger students are less able to devote time to practice. Manroe said she sometimes queried by parents why their child is not winning at the shows when the child is only able to get to the barn twice a week and had spent most of the summer at a non-riding camp or traveling Europe. It also bothers her to see folks who do not know the rules at shows, or understand the horses. Another phenomenon she has to deal with is the parent-who-is-an-expert after their child has ridden in perhaps three shows.

Manroe does not use videos much although she appreciates when her students bring her a tape of themselves that she and the student can analyze. “I find that videos don’t make that much difference,” she said.

Overall, “horses should be treated as horses,” she said. She does not encourage handling horses as if they possessed human qualities. And another behavior she discourages among her students is boasting. “They better not do it while I’m around,” she warned.

After her many years on the hunter/jumper scene, Manroe observes that the economy does affect the overall equestrian business but it seems that there is delay. As the economy rises, its effects are seen later in the horse business; likewise when the economy falls the reverberation occurs later in the horse world. “I aim for the middle range,” Manroe admits. As a result, her lesson business stays fairly constant. She sees, though, that should the economy do badly, the upper-end horse folks start compromising and buying, perhaps less-expensive horses. Meanwhile, the lower-end horse folks may drop off some. “The middle holds steady,” she said. Obviously, Manroe’s experience in business graduate school has paid off by her acumen in the horse scene.

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