Baron Munchhausen


... and as I so rode, my heart rang with the grass-hushed steps, rang with the snuffles and bit-play of my Grey, and bliss lit up my heart, and I knew: that if I were to fall out of the world at this moment, I would fall into Heaven.

Baron Munchhausen


News - Philippe Karl Clinic, 23rd - 25th October, Pegestorf

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Horse 2 Day 1  

Between the 23rd and 25th of October 2009, I was again able to take the opportunity of auditing a a 3 day clinic with Philippe Karl at Pegestorf, in Germany's Lower Saxony region.

Pegestorf is tucked into a curve in the Weser river, in the middle of a gorgeous undulating landscape. It is located not only on the Deutsche Märchenstrasse (the Fairy Tale senic route), but also on the Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse (the Fachwerk is a traditional type of building style) - which means that visiting the area for a clinic is not just an interesting learning experience, it is also a pleasurable one.

The Pegestorf clinics are held at the Reitanlage Hellwig & Matthes, a great stable and riding complex which has been designed with the comfort of the horse in mind. The comfort of people has also not been forgotten, with a fantastic cafe/restaurant with a wood fire (very welcome on the cool Autumn days!); a well stocked tack shop also proved very popular.

Over the three days, I took copious notes, many of which I have typed out here. These are in a fairly 'stream of conciousness' form, and it should be noted that any 'anomalies' are likely due to a misunderstanding, or mis-translation, on my part.

Horse 2, Day 1.

This 9 year old warmblood gelding, trained to S-Level dressage ("Advanced"). Was trained by a professional trainer. He has problems with trot and shoulder in; he would start to 'tolt' instead of trotting. The rider (and owner) is a professional rider from a riding family, and competes sucessfully. The rider has only attended three clinics with Philippe Karl to date.

The rider should do transitions from walk to trot in shoulder in to make sure the horse is working over his back.

Normally, the warm up begins in walk. Even if you go for a walk in the forest, warm up the stretching & flexions in walk - do the complete flexions. You can't do these in trot (not to the same extent as you can at the halt, or at the walk). Forget about your dressage. The walk is a gait - a very important one. What you can do in trot, you should be able to do perfectly in the walk. The warm up is not just putting 'miles' on your horse, it is progressive work, a stretching program. Ask him for at least a 45° bend at the walk (lateral flexion).

Now, to a volte with the flexion. In the bend, give with the hands and let him stretch. Bend him a lot to flex (to the 45°), and then give the reins.

Why do we ask him to flex so much? So he learns to stretch, to use his neck in a new way - and, he also can't roll his nose under in this position.

Now, we will trot. First, open his poll, then flex him (not as much as at the walk). Make sure you give him the reins a lot. His neck should be horizonal, like it would be if he was standing looking over a fence. Start like this, and when this is easy, you can move on. If he tries to close the poll, say no. Yes! You see - now he is using his back.

Move your hands forward whilst they are raised so that you can get him to stretch out when you give him the reins.

Now, give him a break. Put your hands up, raise his head up, and transition to the walk. Have his head just far enough up that his poll stays open. When you take him higher, don't let him close his poll. At the end of each little session, let him stretch out nicely.

If he is properly schooled, he should be able to put his nose forward at any time and in any gait.

So, do a shoulder in for half of the long side, then go to a volte. Keep your hands up so that his poll is open.

If you want to give the reins, it is good to give with your fingers and a little with the hand, and then let the reins out. The horse is more likely to stretch out, than just drop his head by doing this.

Make sure that you keep the angle of your shoulder in correct, it is sometimes a little steep.

If, when you stop to give him a break, he curls his head under, open his poll, and release the reins again. Correct stretching begins with the poll opening and then stretching the neck down - not moving down first.

With young horses, do the rest at the halt, even 20 times! Then they learn to stop nicely, and very quietly.

Put your hands up, and open his poll. Sit to the left (horse moving clockwise around the arena) and trot into the shoulder in. After a few steps, transition back to walk.

The tendency to passage in the trot is a catastrophe - the opposite of collection (i.e. he must step under).

This horse has had bad experiences with the whip, which makes things difficult. When you want his hind leg to move more, then tap him on the hind quarter.

If you do the shoulder in walk - trot - walk transitions then he is thinking more about trot than about passage.

It is psychology. You don't hear this word used often in talking about horse training, which is strange, but significant. Horses feel, the understand, they remember.

If he works really from behind (not from the poll) like this, then you are more on the way to piaffe than if you can do piaffe in hand with this horse.

The shoulder in walk - trot - walk with an open poll and the head raised has very much improved the shoulder in on this horse. The hind leg really started to step under.

At the beginning, do the shoulder in at the trot only for a few steps. We do this exercise in shoudler in as this rider has lots of experience and she wants to change a horse that curls his neck under all the time, which results in him having a tense back.

You can find descriptions of terrible trots described in Steinbrecht. Steinbrecht would not be happy with things today!

If this horse stays stiff, it is terrible to try to get collection.

In his brain, he connects the whip and piaffe - but he has improved! He is more relaxed, but yes, he needs a bit more work. It is time to change habits, and what is nice is that you are trying.


To be continued.............