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Mike Matson
Feb. 15, 2011, 08:30 PM
Do you have an instructor who follows the teaching principles described by Charles de Kunffy in this article? If so, let us know!

http://www.equisearch.com/horses_riding_training/english/dressage/charles-de-kunffy-the-teacher%E2%80%99s-notebook

Some excerpts:

The obligation of the teacher to the pupil—regardless of the pupil’s age, talent, financial circumstance, future prospects, etc.—should be to conduct each lesson as if you are coaching the future gold medalist of the next Olympics. It’s not the teacher’s job to teach an art or a science according to talent. It is not our job to punish or reward what we think is talent or a lack of it. I hope that in my teaching I never compromised that principle and show by attention, enthusiasm and diligence that each student is worthy of the best we can offer.

Therefore, the job of a teacher is to conduct a lesson impeccably as if it were given to the greatest rider, deserving of the greatest attention in the finest way, suitable to the horse and the rider at that particular time. This concept must be your guiding light. This is the foundation of any and all teaching. When I taught classes in philosophy and diplomatic history and other subjects, I didn’t say, “I will use bad vocabulary or exhibit an undisciplined intellect to debase the subject matter just because there may be some dumb kids in this class.” I wasn’t interested in evaluating the worthiness of my students. One must teach always as if to a worthy class.

Teachers and judges must remain loyal to the principles of the art of riding. Our commitment must remain the promotion of the well-being of the horse to maximize his useful years in service and to unfold and develop his inborn talent and potential. This is what classical horsemanship stands for.

meupatdoes
Feb. 15, 2011, 09:50 PM
On the one hand, I teach everyone like they're going to the Olympics. For example, when I introduce concepts, I usually phrase it multiple ways and include a really basic description as well as a 'teaser' for the more advanced concept.

I will gladly stand in the ring and do the BASICS, BASICS, BASICS, get the CORNERS RIGHT, that corner could have been a lot BETTER, get an ANSWER, and then a PROMPTER answer, etc etc etc.

On the other hand, if I made every single middle aged amateur woman that I teach do no stirrups posting and laps around the arena in two point to build leg strength and come on I want to see him FLY OFF your inside leg when you put it on and now let's practice sitting the trot for 35 minutes, I would be out quite a few customers.

Not every student WANTS the Olympic program. There is a high level of work, determination and stick-to-it-iveness, even sacrifice, that the STUDENT needs to ride at the highest level they are capable of and some of them just want to do "Lite" Riding and putter around pleasantly and safely with their horse. Their goal is a canter depart within 25 feet of when they request it and a safe hack out at the end, not the whole menu of lateral work plus pi/pa transitions.

MelantheLLC
Feb. 15, 2011, 10:14 PM
Therefore, the job of a teacher is to conduct a lesson impeccably as if it were given to the greatest rider, deserving of the greatest attention in the finest way, suitable to the horse and the rider at that particular time.

I spent 10 years with an instructor who had been trained by de Kunffy. While I've never ridden with him myself (so far) it's become more and more clear to me over the years that this background, philosophically, ethically and in practice, has been absolutely invaluable.

He doesn't use the word "loyal" casually. He's utterly loyal to dressage as an art and a philosophy in service first to the horse. I go back to his books often, and find an "aha" there each time--something that maybe I wasn't ready to understand last year, or two horses ago, that makes complete sense to me now.

I learned to take joy in the basics, to feel every change in balance from one stride to the next, and to know that if the basics are perfect (hardly ever more than a couple of strides!) then the advanced stuff is just a matter of asking for it. So even though every dang day I'm laboring in the trenches of relaxation, flexion and balance, it doesn't get old because it's all that matters.

So for me at least, by extension through his student and his books, I think I can say I've experienced that.

Trixie's mom
Feb. 16, 2011, 07:17 AM
Thanks for the link, Mike. I aspire to be like that daily! :)

Oberon13
Feb. 16, 2011, 08:14 AM
As a college instructor and a horseback riding instructor, I have to say I'm quite smitten with de Kunffy's ideas here. I see his approach as an honorable one...a philosophy that not only honors the student by teaching well at all times, but it also honors the horse in that it seeks "to unfold and develop his inborn talent and potential."

I have an instructor right now who teaches in this way. Each lesson I have with her is dedicated to the art itself. Sometimes that means dealing with a fractious mare; sometimes that means analyzing the timing of an aid to match the flight of the leg I'm cueing; sometimes that means going through movements not for the movements' sake, but to help my horse unlock and come through...to show her "inborn talent and potential."

Learning is ultimately up to the student. No matter how beautifully I lay out a concept to appeal to all learning styles...no matter how much I demonstrate or offer guidance...it is ultimately up to the student to grasp and wrestle with the ideas presented. However, I must first (as a teacher) take the burden upon myself to honor the student and the horse by teaching in that moment as though everything depends on the way I'm approaching my subject. That's what I think the "Olympic" implication is. Even to the up/down student, mastering that two-point or that posting trot or figuring out diagonals IS her "Olympic" dream, and it is up to me to teach in such a way as to honor that goal of figuring out diagonals as much as I would honor the student who truly aspires to go to the actual Olympics.

scubed
Feb. 16, 2011, 08:22 AM
Absolutely, and given that she actually coaches Olympic riders, it is possibly even more impressive what I get

Velvet
Feb. 16, 2011, 09:36 AM
Problem is, that's not what a lot of the weekend warrior riders want. What they want is to be told everything they do is gold. :no: If you don't act like you think everything is perfect all the time, then you don't get a paycheck and can't make enough money to survive. It's the current culture that I blame.

Lets just call it what it is...pandering to ineptitude.

Not saying that I don't like what he said. I think that's the best approach, but I don't think it's always what is popular and makes you enough money to continue as a coach in the world of dressage these days. You need to cheer them on, but you also need to make sure they know what is right, what is enough for the moment, and what is expected to get to the top. Once again, that's not popular.

Don Raphaelo Rollkurista
Feb. 16, 2011, 10:26 AM
Dont tip the bucket!!!

blackhorsegirl
Feb. 16, 2011, 10:55 AM
Yes, I have an instructor like this.

InsideLeg2OutsideRein
Feb. 16, 2011, 05:27 PM
Oh I do, seriously. Two (clinicians) actually! One saw potential before I could even sit the trot, the other I met a little later, but he elevates my skills and confidence every lesson!

GimmeQs
Feb. 16, 2011, 07:42 PM
What Velvet said!

MelantheLLC
Feb. 16, 2011, 09:29 PM
I guess that's his point. Even if what the rider ostensibly wants is to be told everything is "gold," the obligation of the teacher is to teach them what they (and the horse) need.

To stay loyal to the principles of the art of riding and the well-being of the horse.

It's a choice for each instructor, I guess. And probably a tough one. But to me, if the instructor doesn't give that to the student, instead of what the student believes they desire, then the student never gets the chance to find out what they really needed.

katie+tru
Feb. 16, 2011, 10:19 PM
While I definitely agree that every rider should be taken seriously, regardless of what their current abilities are and where they want to be in given amount of time, I agree that this concept may be frightening to some. Some riders really only want to do Training level as a weekend hobby. They have no interest in the upper levels or competeing more than once or twice a year. While this doesn't mean they should be disrespected or given a lower quality education, they may not want an Olympic level intensity in their lessons.

Overall, I like this idea, because I feel it is also a good approach for classroom students. They all should be instructed as if they're going to college and then all getting Master's degrees. Will they? No. But they all deserve the same high quality, meaningful education.

Beentheredonethat
Feb. 16, 2011, 11:09 PM
The problem is, he doesn't teach like that or he'd actually have students who come somewhere close to that.

There are those who those who talk and sound good, and there are those who get it done. If you get something from what he says, great. I'm sure if you read "Riding into the Light" by Barbier, it would sound really cool, too.

betonbill
Feb. 17, 2011, 12:10 AM
Sounds wonderful at first read.

Unfortunately, there is the real world with real horses and real riders that don't fit into that classically correct little world.

Sometimes you have to veer off the path a bit to correct a something before you can follow the classic path. Sometimes you have to make allowances to get the job done before you can proceed.

Working with the real world is sometimes a whole lot harder than working within the classical mystique.

Velvet
Feb. 17, 2011, 10:50 AM
The problem is, he doesn't teach like that or he'd actually have students who come somewhere close to that.

There are those who those who talk and sound good, and there are those who get it done. If you get something from what he says, great. I'm sure if you read "Riding into the Light" by Barbier, it would sound really cool, too.

:lol: I laughed so hard I almost cried on that last one. :lol: :lol: :lol:

CFFarm
Feb. 17, 2011, 11:11 AM
I don't see any controversy. I think all he's really saying is treat the student and horse with respect. Give them your full attention. And make sure they get their money's worth. One doesn't need to bitch and pick to correct and instruct. JMHO

saabski
Feb. 17, 2011, 11:33 AM
I don't see any controversy. I think all he's really saying is treat the student and horse with respect. Give them your full attention. And make sure they get their money's worth. One doesn't need to bitch and pick to correct and instruct. JMHO

what CFFarm said.
maybe I 'read' de Kunffy differently, but my take is nOT that he expects to be teaching everyone to be or aspire to Olympic level riding, but rather teach the rider and horse that are in front of you on that day, in that lesson; and give them at least 100%.

Nor do I agree w/ some posters that ammy weekend riders all want to be told everything they do is perfect! I am one. Of course I'd like recognition for something done well, or for an improvement over previous attempts, but I certainly don't want my instructors to blow smoke up my butt! Challenge me, make think, tell me when I've done well (or not)..... horsey will certainly let me know when he is happy with my riding too!

easykeeper
Feb. 17, 2011, 11:39 AM
I don't know about lately, but he used to teach like that. I have taken many lessons (granted 20+ years ago) from Charles as he used to teach at our barn once a month. I have ridden several types of horses (OTTB's , QH's, Warmbloods) and always felt I was getting the best out of my horses during the lessons. He didn't discriminate breeding or rider talent but was very respectful and encouraging. He believes in riding your horse forward with a light giving rein. I always felt my horses enjoyed being ridden that way. I love his teaching style and believe he walks the talk.

Velvet
Feb. 17, 2011, 11:56 AM
Well, my LOL moment was due to DB. I can see him twirling his moustache and speaking wiz zee french akscant. :lol:

Beentheredonethat
Feb. 17, 2011, 10:08 PM
Glad for the light moment, Velvet. When I think of DeKunffy I think of looooong sniffs, the little hat, and "riding the wave." He has some very specific ideas about things that don't make sense if you actually ride and have done it. Him teaching an "L" program course was . . . interesting.

Again, if you learn something, great. But "walking the talk" of teaching at the equivilent of Olympic riders? Not even close.

Mike Matson
Feb. 18, 2011, 01:37 AM
Charles de Kunffy was selected for the 1956 Hungarian Olympic jumping team, but due to the Hungarian Revolution and it's brutal suppression by the Soviet Union, he had to flee his native country.

For those here who have been there done that, please step forward. Would love to see the photos of you in the Olympic selection trials so I can compare them to the ones I have of Charles.

easykeeper
Feb. 18, 2011, 07:09 AM
Thanks for the great post and information Mike...Charles de Kunffy is a treasure.

He "walks the talk" because he TREATS horses and riders FAIRLY and doesn't discount you if you or your horse are not aspiring or capable of "Olympic" level riding. He thinks that all instructors should try to bring out the "inner Olympian" in their students.....and I think that is noble. Nothing said about trying to get his students to the Olympics.

I too agree that not ALL AA middle aged women want smoke blown up our butts during our lessons and told only how great we are. Because eventually we are going to go to a show or clinic and learn the "real" truth and wonder why all the money we are spending on lessons is being flushed down the can....a little tough love never hurt anyone, especially us AA middle aged women!

ToN Farm
Feb. 18, 2011, 09:25 AM
He has some very specific ideas about things that don't make sense if you actually ride and have done it. Like what? Seriously.

cedressagehorses
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:27 PM
I try to teach this way every lesson I give. I try very hard to uphold the ideals of correct classical riding no matter the talent or skill of the rider or horse they are mounted on. What is correct is correct and what is worth doing well is worth doing right. I often find that new students that dont agree with this or otherwise don't want to work that hard go away in a few lessons due to the intensity and my degree of drive to get the best out of my students. I'm still making good money and have a steady group of students even though I have a reputation that "he's really tough" so I feel it works for me. I personally can't stand to see instructors allow their students to cheat themselves or their horses out of good solid riding.

Beentheredonethat
Feb. 18, 2011, 10:55 PM
Mike--glad you love him. Let's do a little counting. 1956 was 55 years ago. What I understood is he was a groom in Hungary and left at 18. If he was there and selected for the Olympic team at 18, that would make him 73 right now. He's not young, but he's not that old.

I could have been on the Hungarian Olympic jumping team in the 50's, and I can't jump, so give me a break. I very well knew a lot of the Olympic and international level dressage riders when it was just starting to get big, and what was known about him then, and what seems to be said about him now are not the same. He got his "I" judges card before there was any riding or training requirement to achieve it.

Some of his ideas? People are supposed to have bascules like horses to carry weight. Watch how the hind leg moves from behind and see sideways movement to determine quality of movement.

People/Mike, if you love him, great. I don't. Defend him all you want. Don't attack me. I wasn't selected for an Olympic team, but I actually do have the riding and training requirements to be an I (now S) judge should I want to.

ToN Farm
Feb. 18, 2011, 11:08 PM
I'll bet a lot he is older than 73.

I thought he was born to nobility or royalty of some sort. While he may have worked as a groom at some point, the kind of class he has tells me he was raised in a well to do family.

ToN Farm
Feb. 18, 2011, 11:13 PM
Intellus has him at 75 years old.

Mike Matson
Feb. 18, 2011, 11:41 PM
I could have been on the Hungarian Olympic jumping team in the 50's, and I can't jump, so give me a break.


:lol: I'll have to scan the photos of CdK jumping and link them for the CotH folks to see. Then we can set up the same jumps and find out if beentheredonethat can live up to his/her name. Heck, I'll contribute $500 to his/her favorite charity is he/she can take a horse over the same jumps CdK did.

Beentheredonethat
Feb. 19, 2011, 12:05 AM
Yeah, the royalty thing, too. That wasn't around way back when. Things seem to have changed as to what his heritage is.

Well, Mike, I've seen some of the pictures. I'm not sure why you think that equates to dressage, but OK. So, as I understand it, jumping big ass jumps a long time ago and getting on the Hungarian team makes someone a great dressage instructor who can teach Olympians? Or someone with great knowledge about dressage? Good to know your thoughts on that.

Me, I'm kinda scared to jump much nowadays and too creaky. I have trained and ridden horses to a level where I would qualify as an "S" judge nowadays, but do I think I have something to say about teaching people as Olympic riders? Hell no.

Um. OK. 74 or 75. So, he was 19 or 20 or 21 when selected for the Olympic team with years and years and years of training with the most prestigious trainers, but he didn't get on the team because of the Russian invasion. But, it was on the jumping team, and he came here teaching and judging dressage before there were any requirements to be a judge showing that you could actually ride and train at that level? Does no one else see anything a bit off here? A lot off.

ONE MORE TIME--If you can learn something from him, great. I'm not a fan. Equating him to some big Olympian with a big history of regal associations in lineage and training? I'm not buying it.

rivenoak
Feb. 19, 2011, 12:29 AM
Do you have an instructor who follows the teaching principles described by Charles de Kunffy in this article?

Teachers and judges must remain loyal to the principles of the art of riding. Our commitment must remain the promotion of the well-being of the horse to maximize his useful years in service and to unfold and develop his inborn talent and potential. This is what classical horsemanship stands for.

In a word, yes.

When I started as her pupil, I think she was pleasantly surprised to learn that I read deKunffy's books. It gave us some common ground.

horsefaerie
Feb. 19, 2011, 01:15 AM
I would say I do.

I also say that just because someone is a great rider and/or competitor does not mean they can teach or train.

One of the few sports that people think this way.

Refrigerator Perry would not necessarily make a great coach.

betonbill
Feb. 19, 2011, 09:23 AM
Hey, I've got a lot of his books and have enjoyed them. But I wonder how they really translate into the real world, especially here where the horses' backgrounds aren't exactly like the European specifically bred and trained for dressage ones.

I've had him judge me many years ago in the past, and I don't have any complaints in that area. I do know that he was a royal PIA to a local show committee where I used to live.

On the other hand, one of his students (again eons ago) gave a clinic and was able to get a little TB mare that I was having trouble with to go very nicely (whereas this same mare was in a clinic with Froissard, who stated, "This mare is crazy."

Guess if you like him great, if you don't great too. My instructor has insinuated previously that perhaps some of those older Europeans (DeKunffy, etc.) are more classical concept than real life. JMO.

MelantheLLC
Feb. 19, 2011, 12:12 PM
His concepts translate just fine into real life, in my experience. Like any concept, the putting into practice is always the tricky part. This is true of anything, including the German training scale. Right now I'm successfully using some hints he gave in his Dressage Today article for slowing down a very forward, big, long-backed wb and asking it to shift balance back on its haunches instead of evading by rushing. The article reminded me to go back to CdK's books and look for some exercises for this horse. We're making progress that is measured in days, not weeks or months. (Ask my current trainer! She's pleased as punch.)

In the past, his books, articles, and the trainer I worked with helped me greatly with a stiff, resistant TB. Helped me get over my dependence on hand. Helped me develop independent hand, seat and leg. Hours of lunging to work on these issues. God knows there's always a long way to go, but I don't hang on my horses or try to set their heads or ride front-to-back, the way I was originally taught by a clueless German kid.

There's nothing fake-uber-classical about that. It works, makes sense and is very useful. If any of it contradicted the same principles I hear from every other legitimate instructor, or seemed gimmicky, invented, or designed to make money, I'd wonder. But none of it does. It's just straightforward dressage theory. However, I can say that it's taken me years, if not decades, to really begin to fully understand much of what he's written and feel it in practice.

Not having ridden with him, I dunno about "the wave" and "tipping the bucket," but the metaphors an instructor happens to use to try to teach a feel don't worry me too much. I've had ski instructors talk to me earnestly about bars of soap under my feet. Individual students either find them useful images or not, and every good instructor must have a storage room full of them.

Some posters seems to be hung up on the word Olympics. Several people have pointed out that his quote doesn't make any claim that he teaches Olympians. It says that the instructor should teach each student with the same dedication and principles they would use to teach an Olympic hopeful, regardless of that student's goals or talent. That the horse and the art itself deserve this, regardless of the external circumstances.

But I guess you read the words and you get that or you don't. The same is probably true of his teaching in general, you get it or you don't.

Never met the guy but certainly he seems to be eccentric, with the hat and the accent. Kind of a Poirot character. Who knows if his life stories are embellished or not. It's his dressage knowledge that interests me, and that's solid. If you don't personally like him, fine, I can see that he might well rub people the wrong way.

horsefaerie
Feb. 19, 2011, 02:04 PM
What is everyone's problem with classical?

Yes, I am old as dirt. Studied in Germany for almost two years, studied in England for four straight months 6 days a week. Riding all the time. Did clinics with lots of different people and chose the long way, the hard way, "classical". Relaxation! Wow, how hideous! Forward with relaxation and yes ride every horse to the best they can be and instruct every rider without leaving gaps and holes in their training!

Every year the riding seems to get worse in the show ring. Shortcuts, gaps and those who do NOT want to practice and refine and discover their ability to use their body and brain to finesse and dance with their horse. They prefer force and domination, and of course that score.

I have no desire to bash them until people jump up and down and want to bash those of us who have spent decades refining training and teaching methods. Good grief.

CDK writes and says things that should inspire. Never met the man but have seen video which is sometimes good and sometimes not. There are many super successful BNT's that nauseate me. Little good but lots of appearances.

Eh, rant over. Thanks for pointing this out Mike.

Strictly Classical
Feb. 20, 2011, 05:26 PM
I love De Kunffy; I have worked with a long time student of his for quite a few years, and NOTHING that I have ever been taught by this person contradicts correct riding and horsemanship. Quite the contrary - everything I was taught has led to having a healthier, happier, sound horse. I have also ridden in clinics with two more of De Kunffy's long-time students and again have nothing but good things to say about the instruction I received. I have also audited CDK and it was an extremely valuable learning experience.

For those who doubt that he can produce Olympic-caliber riders one has to look no farther than Jessica Jo Tate. JJ is the epitome of classical riding in the modern show arena. She "walks the walk" and she has many horses that she has produced to prove it along with a show record as long as your arm filled with top scores to prove her skills.