Thursday, March 5, 2009

Book Review - Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage

‘Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage’


Philippe Karl

A search for a classical alternative

The following statements are reproduced directly from the back cover of this book:

A critical and revolutionary book about dressage and what it has become today.

Philippe Karl, one of the most outspoken critics of the modern dressage world which aims purely at competing a horse as early as possible in well-paid high-level competitions, reveals some disturbing facts in this book. The author analyses the physical, anatomical and mental condition of a horse with regard to the official dressage guideline issued by the German Equestrian Federation (FN). By comparing theses with the doctrines of such masters of classical riding as La Gueriniere or Baucher, he illustrates beliefs and mistakes and shows us solutions to the dire situation of modern competitive dressage.

From the content:

· Key problems of dressage” physical aspects, straightness, balance, exercises

· The hand, leg and seat

· A system and its effects: dressage, breeding and business

· Suggestion of a “ classical” alternative” the philosophy of “legerete”

About the author

Philippe Karl, a breeder and rider, is involved in all areas of equine sport. He was an active member of the Cadre Noir, the French elite riding school in Saumur, for thirteen years.

Karl lives in Southern France and teaches riding students all over Europe. His previous publications “Hohe Schule der Doppellonge” and “Reitkunst”” have been translated into several languages and achieved international recognition.

Philippe Karl is also a talented artist whose detailed and often satirical drawings complement this book.


Philippe Karl is one of the few truly classical voices still out there in the dressage world, so I have been looking forward to reading this book for a long time. I really enjoyed this informative and well written book and think everyone interested in dressage and good horsemanship in general should read it more than once. It’s not a ponderous tome, but is an easy read with many clear and precise illustrations. What I liked most about it is the author’s sarcastic wit; he is not afraid to apply it to what is clearly wrong with modern training practices that are so popular nowadays, such as rollkur. Are you listening Anky?

He also recognizes that not all riders have expensive horses with perfect conformation and shows the average person how to deal effectively with the horse they have, and not just some hypothetical ideal horse. For instance, he provides insights on how best to work with a ewe-necked horse with a hollow back or an over-bent horse, etc.. Some are lucky enough to have the horse of their dreams with perfect conformation and manners; however, most of us have ordinary horses and must train the horse we have. Mr. Karl assures us that all horses can do dressage and explains in detail how to work with different types of horses to achieve balance and correct way of going through illustrations and clear descriptions.

There are many points in this book that are helpful in starting the young horse or working with any horse correctly. I especially liked the sections on proper use of the double bridle and use of hands. Truthfully, it is just too hard to pick any one section of the book because they are all informative, witty and clear to understand, even for a novice. Some of the highlights are the author’s own drawings, illustrations and caricatures which are very amusing.

This book is obviously geared more toward the dressage rider; however, I think there is information here that is universal and would be helpful to riders in all disciplines, english and western. If you want to do yourself and your horse a favor, I would suggest trying this book. I read the book first before I watched the four videos that complement it. Again, in my opinion, I think reading the book first and then viewing the videos gave me more of a feel for what was happening.

The videos are absolutely wonderful and easy to learn the correct way of doing things. I bet if you watched them, you would be surprised to see how much you can learn and simplify the training of your horse. There is even a section where he has the horses longeing and ridden over jumps, explaining that one of the best ways to stretch the horse’s topline is over a jump. I know, I know, some dressage queen’s head just imploded when I mentioned jumping!

The videos are:

Classical Dressage – Philippe Karl

· # 1 – The School of Aids

· # 2 - The School of Gymnastics

· # 3 - The School of Dance

· # 4 - Training Progress “one year later”

As you can see, I wholeheartedly recommend this book and these videos. We never stop learning in our journeys with our horses and this book and videos are a wonderful way to make the journey more rewarding for both horse and rider.

Until next time

Quote for Today

If one induces the horse to assume that carriage which it would adopt of its own accord when displaying its beauty, then one directs the horse to appear joyous and magnificent, proud and remarkable for having been ridden.
- Xenophon

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