George Stubbs, Pumpkin with a Stable Lad


...if I have always worked honestly, my horse will carry me to the end of the world.

E.F. Seidler


News - Philippe Karl meets Gerd Heuschmann, Verden, 21.11.2009

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Yesterday was the much awaited joint presentation by Gerd Heuschmann and Philippe Karl in the Niedersachsenhalle in Verden. All seats were sold out, as was the 'standing room only' contingent. I believe that there were 3000-odd people in attendance.

It was an interesting day, but ran a little differently than expected. I didn't take many notes for two reasons:

1) I left my notebook at home. So I stopped on the autobahn to buy a new one and could only get a note book as part of a free gift with a young girls' magazine. The notebook is very small, has bizzare pink patterns covering each page and was cunningly fitted with a lock - how wonderful! Except that I accidentally closed the thing - with the keys in my car and my lock-pick set at home. Me prying it open with a pocket knife (being cautious not to stab the head of the woman in front of me) was a cause of much hilarity in my little block. I informed everyone (in a very dignified manner), that not everyone could have a notebook as cool as mine.

2) A video of the presentation will be available early next year, in German and English (for around 35 EUR).

The event had been advertised as having presentations by both men, followed by a presentation from the Hannoveraner Verband ("Experience Hanoverians"), a demonstration on flexions, and then a presentation with 4-5 yo 'unknown' horses, a presentation with a medium level 'unknown' horse, a presentation with an advanced level 'unknown' horse, and finally, a presentation by the riders of the school of Légèreté.

It ran a little differently.

Firstly, there were the presentations from Heuschmann and Karl.

The 'Experience Hanoverians' presentation turned out to be a very interesting presentation by the trainer Peter Kreinberg, who has 'developed' a method that he calls The Gentle Touch. It appeared to be what most would call a natural horsemanship type of method, where the use of body language and 'energy fields' was very important. The 'energy' that he spoke of seemed to be as a result of body language - sending signals to the horse.

He did a lot of work putting the horse where he wanted it via 'remote control' - i.e. at the end of a long lead, getting the horse to walk figure of eights, stop where wanted via body language.

Kleinberg stated that ground work can be done too much, and that horse's have little patience (become sour) with repetitive, pointless exercises.

Interestingly, whilst Kleinberg was demonstrating to the audience how he wanted the horse to move 'carefully and with thought', the horse walked behind him copying his leg movements - reminded me of the video that one of the CH members posted about a week back (teaching a criollo spanish walk?).

Kreinberg also apparently uses flexions to mobilise the tongue, jaw and poll (it's in his book, but I haven't had a chance to look through it yet).

After this presentation, four of Karl's students came into the arena for the flexions (detailed in PK's book etc).

Then they did a section called 'Légèreté in competition'; two of PK's students came in that are both riding (and winning) at advanced level / Prix St. George. I didn't think that this section was all that effective - the riders were asked to start in their 'old style' of riding, and then switch to their new style, which was observably better. However, Heuschmann commented that "bad riding is bad riding" - and he was right.

The next section was with a very elegant horse called Conquest, by Connery out of a (I think) Warkant line mare. A young rider (18 yo), riding & competing at a medium level dressage. Lovely comformation, movement - and a lovely rider (also very courageous - I suspect the reason that they didn't have more 'unknown' horses was that people didn't want to put themselves in front of 3000 people + unknown DVD watchers and open themselves up to critique - a dressage test is a little less personal, I think).

Whilst the ride was generally very good, the horse was always a bit behind the vertical (the rider has had instructors tell her this in the past). It is so normal, that she has trouble feeling it. The horse was a little tense, showed some gait imperfections (e.g. a tendency to pace in the walk), and tripped quite often.

PK rode the horse, and improvement was seen; the horse eventually seemed to accept the bit more, was more relaxed, movement improved somewhat etc.

When the rider got back on, and tried to do what PK instructed, the horse remained still a little 'improved'.

PK commented that you cannot change a horse totally in an hour.

Then there were a bunch of PK students on horses of all types (some with terrible movement - but their owners love them!, some very sporting types etc).

Some comments from discussion between Heuschmann and Karl:

GH commented that he was concerned that some people following Karl's method might concentrate on their hands, and ignore their seat. He feels that he has been able to correct horses with mouth problems by the use of his seat, rather than using PK's methods.

PK responded that the seat is certainly very, very important - as is a sense of balance, and rythym, and movement. He feels that the hands are often forgotten (i.e. everything needs to be considered).

He also commented (at a different point) that the high hands are only used for correction - you certainly do not ride for years with hands up. When the correction is achieved, the hands go down again.

GH commenting on PK working with the horse Conquest. He had been sitting in the audience, and said that many FN people in the audience found the work quite strange (i.e. 'alien'). GH said that wehn you saw how the horse reacted and improved, that the first part (the 'correction' phase, where PK was working on flexions at the walk) was put into perspective, but it was still very unusual for the FN-eye.

He felt that it was impressive that the horse's balance and movement did improve considerably.

GH also said that young horses with high head positions worry many FN people, as they don't hear PK talk about the back.

PK responded by saying that people that comment about him not worring about the back have never been to one of his clinics (NB: this is true, from the clinics I have been to, the back etc is certainly not ignored or forgotten).

PK did say that there are some trainers that seem to ignore everything except the mouth, but this is not right, in his opinion.