Spotlight on Beverly Manroe
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.
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
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
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.
“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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