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Ingrid Klimke

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About Ingrid Klimke

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Empower Your Horse’s Personality: An Excerpt from ‘Training Horses the Ingrid Klimke Way’

In this excerpt from Training Horses the Ingrid Klimke Way, Olympic eventer Ingrid Klimke explains her views on respecting each horse as an individual and the superior results you can attain when you allow a horse’s personality to shine.

Photo by Horst Streitferdt.

If I want to build unity with a horse, I need to listen really deeply and get on the same wavelength with him. A certain inner attitude is required to build a positive relationship. The power of positive thinking will carry over to the horse, and so will the power of negative thinking. I can only build a close relationship with my horse if I like him and I show him that.

Each horse has an entirely individual personality, just as we humans do. One personality type appeals to me more, another less. After some years, I know as a rider which types of horses I prefer, and which less so. I look for those that are a good fit for me. Still, it takes a while until I can really know the character of a horse. I’ll have to live with some quirks and characteristics I may not prefer. However, I always try to have a positive influence on the horse’s personality.

Through deliberate training, bad habits can become less pronounced; but, having said that, I must never allow myself to believe that I will be able to change the horse’s essential character, which I could not do if I wanted to—for example, a horse that tends toward “laziness” and would rather not try too hard.

To deliberately develop the horse’s personality within his potential means to notice his personality, understand it, and cherish it: notice just how this creature is—with his strengths and his weaknesses. As such, I must not suppress his personality for any reason. This advice, too, was passed down to me from my dad. I need to completely take my cues from the horse, listen deeply, and remain very open to what comes forth.

With a shy horse, it can certainly take a while before he trusts you enough to show himself. In this case, I need to practice patience and not pressure him with expectations set too high. I need to find out what gives him pleasure and which activities and tasks allow him to relax. By accomplishing this, I’ve already achieved a lot.

In contrast, with a confident horse, the challenge lies in maintaining and developing his significant motivation, while at the same time establishing a conscious basic obedience. My mare Escada is a good example. She is really ambitious, with lots of courage and confidence, but at the same time has the tendency, especially in dressage, to be too independent from me. Since she already knows—for the most part—which element follows which in the test, she doesn’t need me to provide the aids at all, and would prefer to self-confidently anticipate every element of the test. It took a long time and many attempts at dressage tests until she finally learned to wait for my aids, and we continue to patiently work on this.

The balancing act lies in the fact that I want to cultivate autonomy in my horses and I don’t want to suppress their willingness to perform, but at the same time, I cannot just be the “passenger.” They must give me their complete attention, so that we are together in the same moment, concentrating on the same thing. With Escada, I got to that point by often taking her to dressage competitions so that she would get familiar with what is expected there. It also turned out to be good for her to have the experience of completing a dressage test and not automatically going cross-country the next day. This helped her relax more and develop an inner calm.

When riding a dressage test, I direct my thinking and aids very strongly onto the element we’re doing in the moment. However, I also need to be ready to think about the correct execution of the next movement five to six seconds ahead of time. This means the next movement is always already in my head. This can potentially cause a very refined, sensitive horse to anticipate. Should I punish a horse for thinking independently? No! I must, however, correct the horse consistently and with the necessary calmness, and have patience.

This excerpt from Training Horses the Ingrid Klimke Way by Ingrid Klimke is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com).

Fitness Work on Hills: An Excerpt from ‘Training Horses the Ingrid Klimke Way’

In this excerpt from “Training Horses the Ingrid Klimke Way,” Olympian Ingrid Klimke shares why she feels hill workouts are necessary fitness builders for the equine athlete. Reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com).

Photo by Horst Streitferdt.

Training on hills is part of our regular working program. Going uphill and working on hills strengthens the entire musculature, promotes conditioning, and is good for the horse’s balance and surefootedness.

Ideally, we travel to hills for training every fifth day. There, we begin with a 10- to 15-minute stretching phase at the walk — good training for building up the horse’s entire musculature. When we begin uphill, the horse must strike off very energetically from behind and use his whole back. In the beginning, I must make sure not to ride up- or downhill when it’s too steep: a horse needs to adjust slowly to the new demand being made of him. With regular training, the overall steepness can be increased.

At the end of the stretching phase at the walk, I work in posting trot at an easy tempo for 10 to 15 minutes. In trot, I also work both uphill and downhill. Training on the hills is especially exciting for stallions as it presents many new sensations for them to process. Temporarily, this excitement promotes a dynamic through which you can enhance the horse’s entire way of going, making it more expressive, imposing, and cadenced. When riding uphill, you bend slightly forward and push your weight down into your heels. Of course, the horse must, at some point, learn to trot downhill and maintain his balance as he does so. As this takes place, you bring your upper body back slightly, in order to always keep your seat in balance with the horse.

After the trot phase, I canter on at a quiet tempo. Often, with young horses, the canter work on hills is often still weak. Most of the time, horses that are familiar with this exercise accelerate as the hill gets steeper. On the other hand, young horses often lose power quickly and, for example, break to trot. Initially, allow your horse to go in his chosen tempo and do not drive him uphill. You should always introduce this training to a young horse very slowly and carefully, so as not to overwhelm him. While the horse may have become accustomed to varying ground conditions while going uphill, coming downhill really requires the highest levels of concentration.

When cantering in a large group, it’s a given that there is the danger of horses egging each other on and getting hot. Therefore, it’s advisable to work in small groups. Only horses that fit together well based on their level of training should get to canter together. But it is not only the horse’s training level that needs to be considered: what’s “inside” your horse is also a decisive factor. For example, with my horses, ambitious Bobby always wants to try to pass the equally ambitious Escada. Therefore, at a certain point in their conditioning, they must go their separate ways, otherwise, they simply gallop much too fast. In contrast, the amiable Soma will happily canter more calmly with Geraldine, and they can easily take turns following one another when ridden. Along these lines, Weisse Düne is easy to regulate, even when she is following other horses (although, this may change with time).

The more regularly and often the horses gallop in the hills, the more conditioned and strong they become. This can definitely increase their motivation and ambition, and then the groups need to be reorganized to accommodate. Therefore, begin gallop work very quietly, not galloping for more than 2 minutes. If your horse still has enough strength, you can take a 3-minute walk break and then gallop uphill again one more time. Afterward, slowly transition down to a trot, spending 5 to 10 minutes at a slow trot before finally transitioning to the walk. We ride long enough at the walk for the pulse and breath of our horses to completely return to normal.

Pick up your copy of Training Horses the Ingrid Klimke Way from Trafalgar Square Books HERE!