I have just finished reading a book by one of my most favorite horsemen: Philippe Karl. The title of the book is “Twisted Truths of Modern Dressage, A search for a classical alternative.” See my Other Resources page for more info about this book.
I was first introduced to PK’s work via his Classical Dressage video series. I appreciated his clear and straightforward approach to training then and this book continues the theme.
PK has been an outspoken critic of the modern German system of riding. What he does in this book is analyze the German system as it is documented in the German Federation’s manuals and then offer an alternative approach based on the teachings of the classical masters such as de la Gueriniere and Baucher.
He begins the book with an overview of thoughts on a variety of subjects such as learning and training, crookedness and balance. He also talks at length, with photos and illustrations, about the negative effects of the current practice of over-bending, AKA “rollkur”. Of course he doesn’t just complain about what is bad, he provides logical, horse centric solutions as counter point. This is in fact the whole premise of the book.
He follows this with chapters on the hands, legs, and seat, on collection and how to get it, and he proposes an alternative to the German linear training scale. Each chapter follows a similar format in which he analyzes the German systems with quotes from the German dressage manuals followed by a discussion of his approach.
One of the points he makes toward the end of the book is how dependent the German system is on the German breeding program. After the First World War the head of German horse breeding laid down the directive that horses shall have, “all the characteristics of a schooled horse, right from the start.” This meshes with my observation over the years that there are some horses who seem to come out of the womb at 3rd level! All wonderful if you can afford it. But what about ‘the rest of us’ who have regular horses? Rather than tell his pupils that they should get another horse (which has been said to me in years past) he says, let’s take an approach to training that works with what the horse we have now offers and makes the best of it. A man after my own heart!
So yes I would strongly recommend this book to anyone with regular horses. It isn’t cheap but it is worth it, IMO.