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


Philippe Karl Clinic, 23rd - 26th November 2010, Melbourne

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Between the 24th and 26th of November 2010, I was again able to take the opportunity of auditing a clinic with Philippe Karl - this time at Juravon Park, Melton (near Melbourne, Victoria).

Over the three days, I took various 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 on my part. I also took most notes in areas that I had not seen before - specifically, I took most notes of the in-hand work - as I have taken notes on much of the other work in previous clinics. Laziness on my part, in fact!


When doing flexions to each side, do them exactly the same. Use the same fingers on the bit - don't use the index finger on one side, and your thumb on the other. They must be the same - this will take some practice for most people to be comfortable.

When you ask the horse to put his head down with action-reaction, ask him to hold it high for 5 seconds or so. If he doesn't play down, then open the door for him - give a little with your hands, offer it to him. Then he will probably give.

Be relaxed. If you tighten the rein by lifting the hand (action - reaction), then use a relaxed arm and hand. He will feel it if you are tense.

(A rider had given the horse a break, and made the transition to walk and dropped the reins) - Don't just give the reins (throw them away) and say "break time now". Break at the halt, and on your terms. Otherwise, you set up bad habits for the dressage test. The horses remember everything.

Don't forget it - you might need to be reminded 10 times!

The transitions going into the break need to be just as good - if not better - than all the others that came before.

PK is always surprised at how few people will actually take the time to pat their horses. If anything, they slap them - the horse does not understand this. PK feels that he achieves much by just spending time patting his horses.

When you have achived a better rythym and balance in a gait, use it! Use it to get more activity.

A rider was asked to begin teaching their horse to respond to a neck rein. This was done by asking the rider to walk down the long side of the arena, but away from the wall (in the initial exercise, with the wall ca. 7m on the riders left hand side). The rider was asked to sit to the left (analogy: "more weight in the left stirrup"), and move the hands to the left, so that the right hand rein is acting on the neck. The rider was asked to vibrate the reins a little, and to move the shoulders over, but nothing else - therefore, not using leg. In the end, the horse will know to move his shoulders, and become very sensitive to the neck rein.

In this exercise, it is only the hands that move over to the left - the elbows stay in their normal position.

You can also try this exercise in the trot. If it doesn't work how you would like today, try it again tomorrow.

When you use the neck rein like this, your nails will facing up.

Riding is something that you do yourself - don't always wait for the instructor to tell you what to do.

Try to sit on the correct diagonal at the trot.


On the longe.

You need to get the full attention of the horse on the longe.

If you just do circle after circle with a horse that doesn't give you his full attention, then everything is ok as long as nothing goes wrong. It is not really a good situation. You should try to keep your horse's attention. You should also ask him to bend his neck.

If you want to establish a good relationship with him, it has to be a quiet relationship.

If you have a horse that wants to run away, don't punish him! Just change directions often to keep his attention on you. Maybe you will change directions after every circle for around two minutes, but at the end, you will have his attention.

PK likes to use the full arena to longe a horse. He worked with a couple of young horses that were not always respectful and attentive to their handlers.

He used the equipment that the rider provided (for one horse, a rope headstall and carrot stick, for another horse a cavesson and longe whip).

He started the horses off on a fairly short longe lead, short enough so that he could touch the horses. I understood that normally, he uses a shorter longe rein than those normally used in Australia. He asked the horse to move forward, and also used the whip in front of the horse to teach it to stop. He would touch the horse on the shoulder with the whip (similar to poking a finger at the horse) to keep it out of his space. Once the horses understood, then he allowed them to move a little further away from him. He used many changes of direction without allowing the horse to stop (by asking the horse to come towards him as he moved back, then changing direction), and often ran the horse out of a circle on a straight line.


In-Hand work, a demonstration by PK.

Hold the whip at the shoulder in a vertical position. You want to be able to flex your wrist and use it to tap behind the girth, or tap on the hind quarters.

Keep it in the vertical position when the horse is going as you want him to, use it to tap on his belly (behind the girth) to ask him to go if you have to.

Hold a hand at the bit on your side, and hold the opposite rein low on the horses shoulder, below the level of the saddle. The rein should cross the neck down towards the wither.

You want the horse to learn to stay with you whatever speed you have. When you walk on, he should walk on. When you stop, he should stop. When you go faster, or slower, he should go faster or slower. He should be like your shadow.

So, use your hands for the bend, and your whip for activity.

When you want to go forward, stop forward. Don't use the whip to start! Keep it vertical. If the horse doesn't come forward, tap him behind the girth with the whip.

The rider has to walk on, and only use the whip if the horse doesn't come with him.

We should try to start with the 'perfect case', and if it doesn't work, then we explain what we want to the horse.

Work in hand is not like taking a dog for a walk in the park. It is to explain the contac to the horse.

It is most comfortable for the handler to have the horse's head turned in slightly towards them in in-hand work. No!! Straight is good.

Make sure that when you halt, it is straight - use both hands evenly.

Teach the horse the rein back from the ground - use upward vibrations on the rein, and YOU walk backwards. The horse should shadow you.

Give the horse plenty of breaks with long reins.

When getting contact, use the outside rein first, then the inside rein, then raise the head and neck.

Your goal is that when you start to walk, you haven't even finished taking your first step, and the horse is walking.

Now, we can look at the bend.

Bend the horse's head towards you when walking along the wall. An effective exercise is shoulder in.

When you have the bend ok, do a volte. Then, if the bend is ok, stretch the neck.

Make sure that you have the right speed - you want to have activity, and a slow rythym. Slow enough to get really long steps from the horse.

Horses will trust you more if you are very consistent with what you do.

Don't make the volte too small, make it big and send the horse away, particularly if the horse has a tendancy to come in too close to the handler. i.e. an active walk in volte on a 10m circle - if the horse tries to make it smaller, send him out.

Slow rythym - as slow as possible, but as active as possible.

This is hard to achieve from the saddle, but even harder from the ground. You are looking for a really nice, fluid walk.

The handler should also be in self carriage, with the head held high.

Now, we can try for something else. We will try to turn to the other side - a volte away from the handler. Tighten the right rein a little more, and push the head over. These are the flexions that we are doing. You will need to walk faster when doing this, as you are on the outside! Don't forget it!! Otherwise, the rythym will be lost.

If you cannot do a circle, do a square.

So, it is most important to work on straightness, control the speed and the rythym of the horse.

You need to do this work from BOTH sides of the horse. This is a bit more difficult for us, as we are so used to doing everything from the left hand side. It is even more difficult when our horse is convex to the right.

So, stop, walk, extend the walk, rein back.

The horse should naturally not try to over flex the poll. If he tries to over flex (nose behind the vertical - BTV), then it is easy to deal with from the ground! Just push his nose foward with the hand on the bit.

It is good for the rider to relax, especially the shoulders.

It is very difficult to do this work if you use your hands in a backwards direction - but quite easy if you use them upwards on the lips.

When you want to stop, raise the head and then stop.

Make sure that you are using one signal at once, not many at the same time.


The second in-hand group came in, and PK reiterated much of the information, however, it was a bit more of a summary & list of 'what to do' than with the first group where he had been demonstrating.

Start with the flexions first - up and down, left and right and down.

The horse is improving when he takes the positions we want a bit faster, and holds it for longer, and is more soft, and the handler has to do less. This is very good.

Don't flex the horse too much. You should never have the feeling that the horse is looking backwards. See what the horse can do, but not too much.

When the lateral flexions start to be easy, then you can bend the head towards you as well as away from you. If you flex the head towards you, don't lose the outside rein.

When you bend him towards you, you might find new resistances to work on. Naturally, do this from both sides.

It is already a proof of relaxation if you can do these flexions and the horse doesn't move his feet.

Then, change the rein position from the flexion position (where the outside rein goes more or less over the poll), to the in-hand position (where the outside rein goes over the neck down near the wither, and the 'outside' hand is held low on the horse's shoulder, under the level of the saddle, not far from the girth).

There is no need to teach everything from the ground. We have possibilities in the saddle - such as two hands and two legs - that we don't have when on the ground.

But in-hand is better for some things, like moving the hind quarters.

It is not easy to be on the side of the horse and not rush etc. Also, it is harder to reverse the work when the handler stands on the off side. We must control everything.

The rein has to be over the neck, and the hand low, under the saddle, not far from the girth.

You need to hold the whip so you can move it easily - vertical, behind the girth, on the hind quarter - just by rotating your wrist.

You walk on, and the horse comes with you. If not, touch him with the whip. He should learn to be your shadow - walk, stop, faster, slower, go back etc.

If he doesn't follow you, use the whip. So, he will learn to follow you.

This is the first step, walk with them, go, extend the neck, raise the neck, halt.

The goal is flexion in the walk, in halt, in rein back.

Start in the walk. The horse should be absolutely straight, so push his head a little to the wall if you have to, to have him straight.

Your index finger should be inside the snaffle ring. The handler's position is that the 'outside' hand is low on the neck, with the forearm more or less vertical.

In the slowest rythym you can get, you want activity. A fluid walk.

If he is too fast, raise the neck a little in a half halt, and then ask him to stop.

Don't use the whip to ask for the walk on - if YOU don't walk on, he doesn't know that he should walk on.

Now, we can start with voltes. But start with lateral flexions at the walk. A good bend, extend the horse's neck, and do the volte.

The insote hand only is on the corner of the bit. It is not acting backwards on the mouth.

Try to bend more on the volte, extend the neck, ask for long steps.

Start now bending the horse to the right, away from you. You will need to walk much faster to keep the horse's rythym, and push his head away from you.

You know, when you do flexions, you push the head to the right to turn right.

Play with the horse like that for a little bit - turn left, turn right at the walk.

It is more tiring for you to turn the horse to the outside, no?

Look a bit where you are wanting the horse to go.

Remember! Walk faster when turning the horse to the outside.

Ask for frequent changes of direction, frequent changes in the bend. It is more interesting for the horse.

Sometimes, in this exercise, you will really need to watch your feet, or you will get trodden on.

When you stop, look to the mobility of the mouth etc, then take a break.

You should do these exercises from BOTH SIDES of the horse.

You don't need to train in hand for an hour each and every day, but it is good to train the flexions in hand for 5 minutes a day if you can.

After, you will find after doing work in hand like this, that the work under saddle will be good.

You are aiming to control the speed, extend the walk, shorten the walk, change the direction.

If you do work on the longe around the arena like we did yesterday, it is easier for the horse to be worked from the off side - he is ready for it.

If you are discrete in your commands, you will be more effective.

Make sure when you halt to raise your hand so that the halt is not on the forehand.

So, when you take the bend (into a volte), there should be no loss of contact.

Go straight, turn, go straight, turn again.

If you bend to the right, naturally, you have to give the the left rein a little, but don't lose the contact.

Often, you might only have contact on one rein. This rein will be the outside rein. You should NEVER have no contact on the outside rein.

Now, ask for rein back.

Walk, slow down, stop, rein back, THEN WALK ON.

You can do a rein back from the halt later - you are teaching the horse to walk backwards. It is important that even though he is walking backwards, he is still thinking forwards - not stop!

So, remember, reinback, then walk on.

Show the horse what you want. Walk forwards, or walk backwards - show him! If he doesn't come with you, touch him with the whip. Otherwise, he doesn't understand.

Remember, ask for everything from both sides.

When you want to walk on, really step out - don't do little shuffling steps, or walk on the spot. What, you piaffe and the horse should walk forward?

This sort of work is very strong on body language. You must work discreetly, effectively, quietly.

Let's finish with a very long neck at the walk. Extend the walk as much as possible, but with a slow rythym. We want extension, but don't increase the speed.

Then, stop properly (not on the forehand), ask for mobility in the jaw, and then release. And finish!

Eventually, work at the trot. Bring in shoulder in, traverse, half pass, traverse, pirouette, reverse pirouette and at the end piaffe.

Don't be do close to the horse - you need to be able to see him, and have room to give signals.

If the horse is really too fast, move forward from near his shoulder to near the bit, then you can take the head high more easily.

Raising the head a little in a demi arret is not just for the balance, but to let him know that something is coming. He should not anticipate, but just be aware.

If you have breaks, you will find that doing this work will take about an hour, or an hour and fifteen minutes.