Tag Archives: Reiner Klimke

Book Review:  The New Basic Training of the Young Horse

The New Basic Training of the Young Horse by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke

c 2006 Trafalgar Square Publishing, North Pomfret, VT 208 pages

ISBN 978-1-57076345-8

Accomplished horseman Ingrid Klimke has updated this classic text of her late father with great success.  It has been years since I read the original, and I took advantage of being laid up while recovering from knee surgery to review the updated edition.

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As she did with Reiner Klimke’s Cavaletti for Dressage and Jumping, Ingrid has refreshed the text and in particular the illustrations for the modern reader.  I especially enjoyed images of a 5 year old Windfall, the Trakhener stallion who went on to represent the US at the Olympics in eventing, and several of a young Damon Hill.  Many of the photos included in this updated edition are of Ingrid and her students riding three, four and five year olds; it is clear that the overall quality of animal in her stable is quite high, though, and so it was almost discouraging to see how wonderful these youngsters looked compared to how “normal” ones do, even at an older age.  However, it is important to have a clear picture of what it is you are trying to achieve, and these photos certainly represent this ideal well.

As is Klimke’s hallmark, the book takes readers through a system of progressive education for the youngster starting with being brought into the “yard” right through to their first season of competition.  While Klimke reminds readers that each horse is unique, and training must progress at an individual rate, it also seems clear that her horses progress fairly steadily and consistently.  When an animal is genetically gifted with three good gaits, a willing temperament and a natural aptitude for the work, it is naturally going to be easier to develop them in the sport horse disciplines.  I think it is important for those of us riding more “average” horses to bear in mind that some of the aspects of the process which come smoothly to Klimke on her string may necessarily take longer for the rest of us.

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My own DRF Isabela, foaled in 2015.

With that being said, The New Basic Training of the Young Horse still offers readers an in depth review of important concepts related to the training scale and those exercises which help to develop them, as well as entire chapters devoted to the horse’s basic education, longeing (on the line and free), cavaletti work, jumping and cross country skills.  This sequence offers readers a glimpse into the progressive system which Klimke uses to develop her own horses; she emphasizes that youngsters should be trained on the flat, over fences and in the open before choosing to specialize in dressage or show jumping, if they show an aptitude here.

There are a few particular nuggets which I found especially meaningful.  In fact, the text opens with a copy of a letter written to Ingrid by her father, in which he says, “We want to understand the nature of the horse, respect his personality and not suppress it throughout his training.  Then we are on the right way” (Klimke, 2006, p.11).  I think this is a meaningful mantra for all trainers and riders, regardless of their specialty.  I might post it in my barn.

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At the end of the day, the most important activity in most horse’s schedule is this. 

 

Klimke reminds us that “the aim of basic training for the young horse is to use a systematic method to create a solid foundation for future specialization in a given discipline…we want the young horse, with the weight of the rider on his back, to stay in balance and outline while retaining his natural movement” (Klimke, 2006, p. 16).

In her section on longeing, Klimke states “Correct longeing is as important as correct riding and requires a lot of experience and intuition” (Klimke, 2006, p. 38).  I personally feel that longeing well is almost a lost art; I see far more incorrect, unsafe and unproductive longeing than the alternative, so I especially appreciated her further comments on this subject in this chapter.   She also reminds us that “the quieter the trainer and assistant(s), the calmer the horse will be” (Klimke, 2006, p. 51).  It can be hard when you get frustrated, but horsemen must learn to cultivate this type of mental calmness in themselves if they hope to achieve it in their horses.  Klimke goes on to elaborate on the importance of longeing in helping to warm up the muscles of a young horse’s topline, as well as taking the edge off, prior to mounted exercises with the rider.

The next several chapters dissect the training scale and the application of its concepts to the basic training of the youngster.  In particular, Klimke reminds trainers that “all exercises and movements should be ridden on the longest possible contact (with poll flexion) to improve the horse’s ability to work through the back” (Klimke, 2006, p. 67) (italics are the author’s).  This is a truly classical response to those riders and trainers who choose to force a young horse to work with an extremely flexed poll and short neck.

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Young horses can learn best from an older, experienced partner.

Another quote which I thought was particularly important was in regards to making mistakes as a trainer.  “It is unavoidable that we sometimes push the horse too hard; no trainer is perfect.  However, experienced riders acknowledge that they are solely responsible for their mistakes.  It is important to make the best of each situation” (Klimke, 2006 p. 71-72).  And as with helping children to learn how to behave, “the horse should be rewarded for all exercises done well and ignored for the ones that were not” (Klimke, 2006, p. 72).

 I found the chapters which focused on the basic ridden training to be an excellent, clearly written review of the fundamental concepts related to the training scale.  Klimke details many basic exercises, including the proper use of the aids and the common mistakes made by horse and rider, as well as defines essential concepts, phrases and movements. She emphasizes the importance of cavaletti work in the basic training of a horse, saying that it offers an opportunity to overcome problems in all phases of training.

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New cavaletti all ready to be put to work. 

Klimke introduces the youngster to fences first with free jumping, proceeding to grids and small courses.  I will admit that her progression is more ambitious than what I would be up for, but even spread out over a longer period, it certainly provides a clear framework for the process of training over fences.  She also reminds readers that “jump training in the first year should only be done if the horse is willing” (Klimke, 2006, p. 152).

What I found especially refreshing about this book is Klimke’s emphasis that the basic training should be the same for all horses, regardless of their future discipline.  In general, I believe that this is the most appropriate philosophy.  Regardless of the rider’s discipline of choice,  the horse that has a broader base of training will be more confident, more experienced and will be more likely to suit the needs of a future owner.  I do not believe that specialization of a young horse (or young rider) provides them with the best foundation for future success.

Much like Klimke’s other written work, I think that The New Basic Training of the Young Horse should be required reading for any serious trainer or rider of sport horses.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

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Book Review: Cavaletti for Dressage and Jumping

Cavaletti for Dressage and Jumping by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke

c 2014 J.A. Allen London, UK, 151 pages

ISBN 978-1-908809-19-3

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The name “Klimke” is, I am pretty sure, the German word for “amazing horseman”.  The late Reiner Klimke is regarded as a legend, and the written work he left behind after his untimely passing in 1999 remains as relevant today as it did when first published.  Daughter Ingrid has carried on in the family tradition and today successfully trains horses to the highest international levels in both eventing and dressage.

The 2014 English translation of Cavaletti for Dressage and Jumping is an updated version of the 1969 publication of the same name written by R. Klimke. Ingrid has modernized the illustrations as well as the phrasing of the original text.  I believe she has also inserted her own perspective here and there, though it is clear that her father’s work serves as the main inspiration.

As I planned to be stuck in the indoor for the foreseeable future (as I write this we are experiencing yet another round of 8”-10” of snow), I picked up Cavaletti in order to better understand how these exercises could be used to improve my horses’ strength, spring and suppleness as well as to break up the monotony of the indoor.  Klimke’s book takes the reader through how cavaletti work is incorporated into her training regime from start to finish, to the point where the text could be used as a template for any training program.

Klimke’s training philosophy is based on classical principles, and what I really appreciated in this book was how often the importance of slow, gradual and incremental increases in the horse’s training program was emphasized.  I have read in other articles by Klimke that she always begins and ends each training session with at least ten minutes of walk on the buckle; I have been trying to be religious about giving my horses a solid ten minute free walk prior to beginning work, which I think has been beneficial.  This practice allows the rider time to become focused and present, and allows the horse to limber and loosen their body prior to being asked to complete any real work.  I notice that it is at about the seven or eight minute point in the walk that my horses begin to, of their own initiative, swing more freely through their topline and reach with a longer stride.  For each stage of the training program, Klimke reminds the reader that the horse must also have a period of “working in” before being expected to tackle new tasks.

Ingrid with her now retired Olympic eventing horse, FRH Butts Abraxxas.  Her love of horses is evident here, I think.  Photo has been taken from her website, www.klimke.org
Ingrid with her now retired Olympic eventing horse, FRH Butts Abraxxas. Her love of horses is evident here, I think. Photo has been taken from her website, http://www.klimke.org

Another aspect of this book that appealed to me was the emphasis on the importance of having a methodical, organized, planned progression to training, which includes consideration for the mental health of your horse.  “Many training problems can be solved far more easily if you do not rely solely on riding experience, but have a plan for how to go about the training before you start it…In addition, you must take responsibility for the wellbeing of your horse.  Only a healthy horse, whose condition and musculature have been carefully developed, can reach his full potential,” (Klimke, 2014, p. 11).

No matter what the intended discipline, Klimke says that cavaletti work can benefit all horses as part of their basic training.  Through modifications in the exercises, training challenges unique to specific disciplines can be addressed.

In Cavaletti, detailed discussion is included regarding free longeing in general as well as the use of cavaletti work during free longeing.  Klimke also discusses cavaletti exercises which are appropriate for the horse on the longe line.  The illustrated diagrams which are provided for basic to advanced cavaletti set ups are such that anyone with a tape measure and the basic required equipment can assemble the exercises.  Included are ridden exercises both on straight lines and circles.

The examples of ridden cavaletti exercise ideas show how a horse can be taught to move with a longer or a loftier stride, as well as how they can be taught to think about where to place their feet by removing a rail from a sequence.  As Klimke reminds us, “the aim of dressage is that the horse, through systematic gymnastic training, is made more beautiful and powerful and his natural movement is improved” (Klimke, 2014, p. 58).  That is the purpose of utilizing many of these exercises, as far as the horse is concerned.

This photo shows one of the exercises which has had a cavaletti removed.  It is designed to help improve the horse's concentration. Photo by Julia Rau/Hindernisbau Rumann
This photo shows one of the exercises which has had a cavaletti removed. It is designed to help improve the horse’s concentration. Photo by Julia Rau/Hindernisbau Rumann

Finally, Klimke provides an excellent overview of the introduction and progression through basic gymnastic jumping exercises, something which should only be presented to the horse once a basic foundation has been firmly established.  Klimke states that gymnastic jumping is not just for the jumping horse, “Gymnastic jumping is excellent for improving the relationship between rider and horse. It covers a wide variety of schooling areas that are relevant to all the disciplines—dressage, show jumping and eventing—and for both horses and riders” (Klimke, 2014, p. 71).   Klimke also emphasizes the importance of tailoring the jump exercises to the individual horse and rider, which is true of the cavaletti work as well.  The distances included throughout the book are meant to be guidelines but of course should be edited to suit the stride length of the specific animal you are working with.

I must say that Klimke is a far more creative grid setter than I have ever been, and I look forward to introducing some of her layouts in my classes and personal schooling sets.

The book concludes with three model outlines for four to six week training schedules for three types of horse: for a horse in basic training, for a dressage horse and for a jumping horse.  These schedules provide a glimpse into how these exercises can be incorporated into a more comprehensive training plan.

Overall, I think this book is destined to become a true classic text and is a worthy addition to any sport horse trainer or rider’s library.  You can read it cover to cover then leave it handy to serve as reference for specific exercises or phases in training.

5/5 Stars

For more information about Ingrid, her schedule and her training program, you can visit her website at http://www.klimke.org/