26. Twisted, Twisted Truths

Blog 26 - “Twisted, Twisted Truths”

I was sent a flyer about new book releases from Cadmos Publishing so when my mother-in-law asked what I wanted for my birthday that year I asked her for a copy to “Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage” by Philippe Karl (P.K.). 
Like most horse-people I have read a lot of horsey books, some of which were useful, most of which were not, and very few had had a real resonance for me, but this was one of them.  Beautifully written and illustrated it asked questions that had become areas of increasing concern to me over the years, some of which went back to Dad’s “throw away” comment made over a decade before… 

Incongruency is challenging for me and it struck a chord when the book highlighted that the horses and riders often awarded the highest marks in competitive dressage were in fact in breach of the guide-lines and rules as laid down by dressage’s own governing body, for example that, walk should be four time, trot two time, canter three time and that the poll should be the highest point.  And as the popularity and therefore the commercial value in dressage grew so too did the cost to horses’ long-term physical and emotional soundness. 

Having read it cover to cover at least three times I put it in the classroom at Ashen E.C. for clients to discover.  On seeing it there one of them told me that she had some P.K. DVD’s and offered to lend them to me.  I watched, enjoyed, returned them and purchased my own which I watched again and again.  

I looked P.K. up on-line and discovered that he taught selected instructors only and at various venues around the world but not (yet) in the UK, or it was possible to become a working student at his yard in France.  Work and family commitments meant that taking a year or more out in France would not have been a possibility for me but I was exploring going to audit some of P.K’s courses in France or Switzerland when I heard that, thanks to the popularity of the book’s release in the UK there was a possibility that he might consider running a course from here.

In 2010 applications were invited and I, along with 70 or so others, submitted mine.  At deadline I was informed that I had been short-listed but that there were not a sufficient number of applications at the “required standard” so the deadline was extended and more applications were invited. 

I awaited the new deadline with excitement and little trepidation, worst-case scenario, there would not be enough applicants of the required standard so the course would not run and I would have to return to my original plan of travelling abroad to audit courses. 

Next best-case scenario was that others applying would be considered more appropriate to take for training and I would lose my place on the short-list, but could at least I could then audit the course in the UK. 

Best-case scenario being that enough others of the required standard would apply and that I would be one of them.

In 2011 P.K. accepted 9 UK riding instructors as Students of “The School of Légèreté” and I was one of them.

In 2014 8 new students started the instructor course and 7 of the original 9 
students were invited on the advanced course and I was one of them.

However, at the end of 2015 I discontinued my training with P.K.

That, of course is cutting a long, worthwhile, testing and emotional story very short and if choosing to leave the RWYM world years previously had been a tough one then this was tougher still.

It was a huge honour to have been accepted to train with P.K.  My horses, my clients and I for the most-part benefited hugely from the experience, gaining access and insight into the world of classical training through a genuine “Master” and I continue to draw the techniques from this work that are the most appropriate for people and horses that I am working with day-to-day. 

Perhaps ironically some of the incongruences that had originally attracted me were what led me to make the decision to walk away and this has turned out, as I had hoped and anticipated, to be the best and most healthy option for me and my horses.

Feelings of disillusionment and loss of trust have led to me deciding that I will (for the time-being at least) not be exposing my horses to “named” trainers.  I have become more self-reliant, more tuned in to my horses and will stick to occasional input from the eminently trust-worthy Anna Gordon-Redmond, Alexandra Kurland and my clients for feedback.

Next time "Ophelia" published 7th May.

For those searching online for more “instructional” resources than offered in these blogs please make use of my video download www.ashenec.co.uk

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