Two Days In Tucson

I recently had the pleasure of spending two hot days in Tucson, Arizona, filling my brain with some favorite subjects: horses, Classical Dressage and biomechanics.  I was attending “Art Meets Science: The Biomechanics of Classical Dressage.”  The presenters were Charles de Kunffy and Dr. Gerd Heuschmann. For those not acquainted with Charles, he is one of the few remaining truly classically trained horsemen we have access to – and he is also quite a character! (I would recommend you check out some of the interview clips on his Facebook page.) Dr. Heuschmann has provided a lot of inspiration on my rode back to serious horsemanship, so it was a pleasure to listen to him as well. It was not enough time (as the presenters lamented frequently), yet, there were many wonderful gems.  In this post, I will share with you some of my favorites.

On the Art of riding:

 We are followers of a living art, and living arts only survive through the knowledge of its practitioners … if one of two generations mispractice [sic] it, then the art dies. CdK

The goal is to elevate the horse to a level of strength and elegance it would never reach on its own, improving Nature to the point of “Art”. CdK

The motivation to ride should be that you love your horse and you want to improve him – that is the only hope that you will get [to the level of art]. If you only do it for competition, then you cannot get there. … The heavy emphasis on competition is killing the art … which is not to say “Don’t compete!”, but it cannot be your motivation. GH

Good riding has nothing to do with the hat you wear, the clothes you wear or the horse you ride – it is about a happy horse! GH

Our Modern culture is antithesis to equestrian pursuits, because not enough is put into what it takes to develop a full understanding. … Knowledge, analysis, synthesis, understanding, wisdom … our culture does not encourage us to go through these phases because they take time and self-control. CdK

A tragedy and possibly the loss of equestrian art is that we no longer have control of the spiritual and intellectual development of the rider. CdK

On seat and position:

If you are integrated with the horse, then you move as they move – if they do the Tango, then you do the Tango; if they do the Jitterbug, then you do the Jitterbug. … You see lots of prima donna riders with nice straight backs, but they are not flowing through the horse, so it means nothing.  CdK

It is all about the seat! The better you ride, the less you do. GH

On the use of the aids:

The reins are an extension of your seat, they do not have a life of their own.  Whatever you think you need to do, it should come from your legs, through your seat, and not from the reins. … Legs energize, seat modifies, reins verify! CdK

The upper arm belongs to the rider, but from the elbow forward it belongs to the horse! GH quoting CdK

Your inside rein administers what your inside leg produces. GH

On training the horse and rider:

The horse should never know that he made a mistake! Just accept what he did and move on, because a horse is not proactive but is reactive. … It is so important that you take the horse’s view of things, and not the view of an outsider attacking in. CdK

The first one or two years [under saddle] should not be about getting the nose in place or to get a fancy trot.  It is about getting communication and harmony between horse and rider.  GH

What the instructor says will never have any meaning until the horse verifies is for you; but, if you do not make a change based upon what the instructor tells you, then the horse will never be able to verify it. CdK

On suppleness and throughness:

The horse has three evasions: inversion, crookedness and rushing. CdK

Never bend the neck more than you can bend the trunk! GH

If you are not aware of the fact that the back is the key to riding the horse, then you will never ride a soft horse. GH

You have to have your horse in front of your leg as a prerequisite for getting the horse through the back. GH

Shortening and lengthening of the frame is not just a phrase, but it is a reality. … You only get a lengthening of the stride if you lengthen the frame, which has to happen by first lengthening the neck.  GH

There was so much more than this … maybe for another post.

Be good to your horses!


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