My Journey To Lightness with Philippe Karl Part III
Delta, BC, Canada
The second session of the Instructor’s Course of Philippe Karl’s École de Légèreté once again drew dozens of people from all over North America to the Adderson Family’s equestrian centre, ‘For the Horse’, in Chase, BC. The atmosphere was cordial, with auditors returning as well as some attending for the first time.
The first instruction day, the eight participants’ lessons were a full hour. The students described how they had been practicing since the last session, and M. Karl observed them working their horses before proceeding to build upon the previous work. After the lessons, all attended a detailed, yet entertaining, lecture, complete with anecdotes and diagrams drawn by M. Karl himself.
The sessions of the second day were followed by a potluck supper and party, the sessions of the third day were followed by another lecture. During the lectures, M. Karl showed his extensive knowledge of theory, anatomy, bio-mechanics, ethology, and riding culture.
The fourth day consisted of two sets of two group lessons: before lunch, lessons of four riders each, practicing the material covered in the course so far; and after lunch, lessons of four riders each, practicing jumping gymnastics. Afterward, students attended a lecture and ‘wrap-up session’ to answer any questions and to discuss homework to be studied before the third session to come in October.
It was fascinating to see how the horse/rider pairs had progressed since the last session, and how M. Karl’s approach varied according to each horse’s strengths and weaknesses. The jumping lessons were naturally entertaining and M. Karl’s expertise and eye were again made plain as he designed the gymnastic and guided the riders to their optimal effort.
Caspar (Favory Fantasia III-1) handled the clinic situation much better than the previous April, although there is still room for improvement. Unfortunately, we suffered some extremely bad luck: Caspar unloaded from the trailer with a nasal mucus discharge and a cough. He still showed normal appetite and energy, so we carried on with the clinic, although we tried to keep everything at a low intensity.
The first day, M. Karl noted approvingly that Caspar showed clear improvement in his contact and obedience; we moved on to some more advanced exercises combining shoulder-in and counter shoulder-in on curves and straight lines, with high neck and extended neck, collecting and lengthening.
The second day was slightly frustrating for me because Caspar was very distracted and tense, and we were unable to do very much, compared with the day before. Also, I was not feeling well, so I skipped the party that evening.
On the third day, I made an extra effort to help Caspar stay relaxed and focussed: early in the morning before the lesson began, I walked Caspar around the property, and played circus games with him. Then during the lunch break I took extra time to play longeing and circus games in the indoor arena with him before our lesson began. The games paid off, and Caspar gave a really good effort during the lesson, and we made more progress. We continued the exercises from the first day, and added trot-reinback transitions to our repertoire. These will be used later during piaffe training, but at this stage this is valuable for maintaining obedience and balance.
On the fourth day, Caspar and I participated in the first group lesson, which consisted of two stallions and two mares. I was again pleased with Caspar’s effort and we received many compliments. I was disappointed to have to skip the jumping lesson- it was a lot of fun- but it was unfortunately necessary since Caspar was not completely healthy.
Our homework, building upon the work from the first session: continue work in hand and flexion exercises; continue practicing the neck extension at halt/walk/trot/canter, but alternate this with high neck position with an open poll; practice changing the balance from true bend to counter-bend; frequently test Caspar’s balance and attention with the transitions and by changing between high and long neck positions; exercises should include shoulder-in, counter shoulder-in, travers and weekly gymnastic jumping.
In this session, one message emphasised by M. Karl is that a thinking trainer must ride the horse as he is on that day; it is of no use to be dogmatic in one’s approach. During the warm-up period of every lesson, the rider evaluates the horse’s suppleness, obedience, and mood, and adjusts accordingly. The rider is always training the mind of the horse first, his body second; a characteristic of horses trained in M. Karl’s method is that the horses learn very quickly, so that the riders must wait for the horses’ bodies to catch up with strength and fitness.
~Written By Sherry Leväaho