Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling - True Horsemanship?
I was surprised to see so little discussion of horsemanship outside of the big names on the NH circuit, and as such decided to write a thread about one of my favourite horsemen and his approach. Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling.
Klaus is not, and does not like to be associated with ‘Natural Horsemanship’, and in fairness his methods and approach have little, if anything in common with the NH trainers we all know.
A couple of videos are attached here so you can get an idea of his work.
So what is at the core of KFH?
The principle is of absolute dominance through presence. A dominance and leadership so strong that the horse never questions. The difference is how this dominance is established. Physical contact is never made.
Firstly certain forms of leading will establish this position. Then in a picadero the horse will be worked at liberty. NOT to be confused with join-up! They have nothing in common. Here the horse learns to react to his body language. He learns to flex on the circle and engage the hindquarters. The sessions are incredibly short (5-15 minutes) yet much is accomplished in that time.
Once this has been established then the work can be continued on a loose line in wide open spaces. The line should never become taught. By never allowing physical restraint the horse cannot brace and becomes more flexible and powerful, whilst learning true collection.
A bit will not be used until the horse is ‘finished’. A complete reversal on normal methods. This is because the reins should also never be taught. The horse will have learned to collect and balance such that it can perform Haute Ecole manoeuvres without a bit as a crutch. (or 5th leg) All signals are via the weight aids, so reins are unnecessary.
Though demonstrating the Haute Ecole forms you are allowing the horse to express itself, through actions that are natural to it (like a horse performing a piaffe in a field) not perform tricks on demand. Therefore he will not take part in sports like dressage, as he states that these are actions designed to turn nature into a vehicle.
His whole ethos is being able to work with a horse in a way that totally maintains its natural spirit, so the horse is not ‘broken’. It also means you are able to work with what the horse offers.
It also becomes therefore important for the person to focus on their own improvement, as they need flexibility, core strength and balance if they are to be able to achieve this work with a horse. Having a concept of rhythm also helps.
It will not be for everyone, and I am sure that some will not see the point. However for me this is true horsemanship and stands closest to my natural instincts around animals of anything else published.
I hope that some of you will find this interesting. This work is not easy. I find it constantly challenging but that is why I enjoy it. It feels very natural and finally I am able to really communicate with a horse and not just train it via repetition and pressure. Generally our own body awareness is shockingly poor as humans, and this is something that constantly I am working on, as the horses become increasingly sensitive to the slightest changes in our movements. My own horse was not shoulder passing on a 4 track the other day – why? Because I had injured my heel and had a slight limp!
Kind Regards All
You see I discount any "trainer" or whatever you want to call them for they all have the same thing in common.
Every one of them ONLY work with Iberian horses that naturally collect. This proves nothing and ONLY when I can see such people work with a variety of breeds and breed types will any of them get any respect from me.
Good point Spyder. However I can personally vouch for him having worked with Icelandics, Drafts, Arabs, Warmbloods and QHs. Incidentally the bareback video - Janus I don't believe is Iberian but I could be wrong. As much of his development work was done in the Spanish Pyrenees then of course there will be a lot of Iberian types in his photos.
The new book however 'it is not I who seek the horse, the horse seeks me' has a wide variety of breeds in the photos.
Regardless of collection, also the control of strong horses whilst maintaining their spirit via his approach is not dependent upon breed. This Iberians are just as wild as any other horse.
Sorry but I will still put my faith in those that I KNOW work and deal with anything and everything.
My "mentor" as such can get on ANY horse and even if reins are there can collect a horse by the strength of his seat alone. He also can work ANY horse at liberty.
He also rarely shows so just because you say YOUR person does not show does NOT put Klaus in any special category. It is simply a choice of the individual, but my person does not think that showing destroys or inhibits any of the spirit of the horse.
That is a myth based on prejudice and erronous assumptions by the tree huggers. It is this type that has created the many problems we have in the industry already with the slaughter ban as an example.
Incidentally KFH is not my mentor, though I would be lucky if he were, as too are you if your mentor is anywhere near that good.
As for not competing I was not stating that put him in any special category, I am merely reflecting his views to help people understand the differences in approach between horsemen.
On a personal note however, no I will not ever compete any horse I work with, but as you rightly say that is a personal choice. Personally when I saw the reining horses at a top level I have never seen anything so lifeless and lacking in soul. It has taken sometime to teach Sonny that he is allowed to have a personality and that he is not a robot, and he is much better and happier for it in my opinion. However in the reining world they just consider that well trained.
Not competing is as much about not trusting myself as it is anything.
Anyway I am just posting because some others expressed an interest to hear more about other published horsemen out there, rather than simply PP and CA or their clones.
Like I say it's not for everyone.
I read his first book and watched many of his Youtube videos and it is remarkable to watch him work with horses. However, he does not explain or teach his "method" very well in a way that can be utilized by average people. He is very charismatic, something which horses quickly pick up on but not somehting we are all blessed with.
Tiny I agree. Like I say, there is a definite method, however it's a lot harder to understand than other simpler systems such as the typical NH system. Ultimately it is not about duplicating every single move and it is very difficult to learn from a book. Like feel it cannot be taught, certain things you have to find yourself. Having said that, the third book has enabled me to really go back and fully appreciate the first and second.
Perhaps because so much of it depends on ourselves, it does require that we look at our balance, rhythm and strength. Much of this focus I'm sure some people would look at as tree-hugging hippy stuff lol. Ultimately however, how can we ask a horse to respect and react to minor weight aids if we do not have perfect fluid balance and core stability?
This I think is the key to the success of the NH movement. It makes average people feel like they can solve problems with their horses and make them safer. And in many respects it does.
However the highest level of horsemanship is all about commitment in the moment, presence of character, honesty, consistency, feel and the ability to fluidly interpret and react to the point of almost pre-empting the horse, but always working with what they offer. That is a journey we have to embark on and discover ourselves. It is not something you can't easily teach. It is also a journey thats unique to each person, as unique as their personality.
Btw I watched your shoulder yielding video. Very interesting (in a positive way), enjoyed it, be good to see some more :-)
Bill Dorrance, one of the grand-dads of nh, said that you cannot teach "feel", yet that "feel" is really all that a horse has to go on. (agreeing with you, Doe,about feel being paramount but unteachable).
Feel must be discovered by the individual, within the framework of safety techniques & appropriate tools. This is why KFH says that not everyone should be in horses; not everyone wants to/can develop the good feel for the horse, because true horsemanship is an arduous character-development that takes a lot of time (Bill always said that if you don't have oodles of time, forget about it!).
I disagree with PNH guaranteeing that if you follow the step-by-step program, you'll have success with horses, precisely because of this mysterious crucial sine qua non (without which nothing), "feel" that cannot be bought, like the levels packs & tools.
I've said this a lot on here, but it's always worth repeating. :)
I started a thread on Klaus the other day :) He is my hero! I'm not surprised to see all these opposing comments to his method as alot of people feel threatened by his amazing ability and watching what he can do with a horse in a matter of minutes is simply highlights the inefficiency of thier own ability with horses. When people spend years, thousands of dollars on training, and use all kinds of 'reinforcements' ie draw reins, side reins, double bits, spurs, etc... in efforts to achieve proper collection and balance and still haven't got there and witness what Klaus can do at liberty or with completely loose reins they understandably feel disheartened. I therefore am not upset by Spyder's comments and attempts to make a degrating generalization about horseman (people) who preffer to use as natural method as possible when training their horse. If that makes them feel less inept then all the power to them :)
Klaus along with Jean Francois Pignon are simply in tune with the true essence of the horse something that they have accomplished by letting go of our human obession with control, narcisism, gadgets, exuses, dependence on others for self assurance/esteem, etc...Something that is apparently impossible for some of us ;)
In reality Klaus has worked with a myriad of horse breeds and while he happens to feature more of a certain type of horse in his books and videos does not imply that his abilities are limited to said type. I would think this would be implicitly obvious but aparenly not for some people ;)
His books are wonderful! He is correct when he says that you will see a difference right away! Upon using his method with my mare I saw an immediate marked difference in her attitude and self carriage. She used to rear, bite, roll under saddle, push into your space and be stressed and tense (when I got her) but now her spirit has come back her eyes are bright again she is willing, supple, confident, relaxed, I could go on and on really. Everyone has their own path but personally I preffer to have my horses genuine attention and willingness when Im asking soemthing of them rather than achieving feigned compliance with force and intimidation.
Our horses are not robots they have hearts minds and SOULS! We need to remember this and encourage and inspire our horses in all our interactions with them.
I may be a tree hugger although I have never actually hugged a tree in my life (curious why I would be assigned this name) but I completely endorse his method and material it has been an invaluable resource for many people and their horses!
I don;t "dis" KFH at all, I just say that he does not really do well at making his "method" comprehensible. In fact , what he does that is irritating is make videos that are supposed to be instructional but are really nothing more than self aggrandizement , with slow mo , poetry and new age music. Pignon does that , too, but at least he doesn't style his videos as instructional; they are for entertainment and he presents them as such.
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