Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl
French Riding Master

Classical Dressage

“Riding can only be considered art when knowledge of the horse and sensitivity combine to lead to Légèreté in the hands of riders”

Philippe Karl, a master of the art of riding and advocate of Légèreté (French for “lightness”) is in demand worldwide as a trainer. Beginning as an apprentice rider at the National Riding School, Ecole Nationale d´Equitation, in Saumur, Philippe Karl became a member of the renowned Cadre Noir in 1985. He took part in the ridden exhibitions given by the Cadre Noir in France and throughout Europe for thirteen years.

He eventually left the Cadre Noir and passed on his knowledge and experience to students worldwide. Even today he still holds clinics in France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the USA.
Philippe Karl founded the concept of the Ecole de Légèreté, or “School of Lightness” in 2004 so that people could become qualified riding teachers learning his riding philosophy from the ground up.

“All horses, even the most normal of horses, can learn to collect when trained with the Légèreté philosophy”

The basic principle of the Ecole de Légèreté is total respect for the horse. Force or brutality is absolutely forbidden. The goal of the school of lightness is a diversified training that leads to a horse that is always light to the aids. A trusting dialogue between horse and rider is held in high esteem.

“An intelligent hand is better than any imaginable method of force”

This concept has been inspired by the teachings of Riding Masters such as Xenophon, Fiaschi, La Broue, Pluvinel, La Guérinière, Dupaty de Clam, Hünersdorf, Freiherr von Sind, Baucher, Raabe, L’Hotte, Faverot de Kerbrech, Beudant and Oliveira.

You can find more about Philippe Karl on his website.


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Videos from Philippe Karl

A Training Session According to the Légèreté Principles

Philippe Karl

In this video, Philippe Karl teaches a student and her horse from the ground. You will see that even if the gaits of the horse are not particularly spectacular, his willingness to work combined with the appropriate exercises contribute to developing expressiveness and lead to very impressive results throughout the exercises.

Duration: 00:19:49 Minutes

Working on the Piaffe and Passage According to the Légèreté Principles

Philippe Karl

Working with different horses and students, Philippe Karl shows you how to introduce the piaffe and passage to the training of your horse.

Duration: 00:13:22 Minutes

Teaching your Horse Spanish Walk

Philippe Karl

Spanish Walk is an exercise that can add great value to the training of all horses as it helps them shift their weight to their hindquarters and increases range of movement of the shoulder. In this video, you will learn how to teach it to your horse step by step.

Duration: 00:09:21 Minutes

Flying Changes: One Goal, Different Exercises

Philippe Karl

There are many ways to train and improve the flying changes. Watch as Philippe Karl trains different students and horses using different exercises to achieve successful changes.

Duration: 00:08:20 Minutes

The Canter Work: Lateral Exercises and Counter Canter

Philippe Karl

Working with numerous horses and riders at different stages of their training, Philippe Karl teaches lateral work in canter and counter canter. The canter is the pace that deteriorates most if not properly ridden. It is, therefore, crucial to include lots of variation throughout the training. Learn how to use lateral exercises and transitions for the canter work to be successful.

Duration: 00:21:33 Minutes

Training the Lateral Exercises in Walk and Trot

Philippe Karl

In this video, the School of Légèreté founder, Philippe Karl, trains several couples of horses and riders on the lateral work in walk and trot. You will see each exercise in detail, as well as how they can be combined together in a well thought and adapted way.

Duration: 00:28:51 Minutes

High School Exercises and Jumping According to the Légèreté Principles

Philippe Karl

At this point of the training, Philippe Karl works on refining the exercises and keeping High Noon focused and motivated. Watch as he trains in an open outdoor arena!

Duration: 00:23:23 Minutes

Warming-up According to the School of Légéreté

Philippe Karl

When working High Noon, Philippe Karl alternates between the snaffle and the double bridle. The work must not differ fundamentally as the curb is only used to refine the exercises. In this video, you will learn how to use the reins correctly when working on the double bridle. 

Duration: 00:21:06 Minutes

Training the Lateral Exercises

Philippe Karl

Do you sometimes get confused by the various lateral exercises? In this video, Philippe Karl teaches different riders from different levels of training on how to introduce and improve lateral exercises. From shoulder-in to travers, learn how to include them in your daily routine. 

Duration: 00:41:59 Minutes

The Basics of Canter Work

Philippe Karl

In this video, we watch as Philippe Karl's student works on the stretch in canter. Maintaining a good frame in canter can be challenging. Therefore, is it important to include transitions from and to trot. 

Duration: 00:10:44 Minutes

The Correct Contact and Frame in Trot

Philippe Karl

Once the horse has learned the basic aids in halt and walk, they can be introduced in the other gaits. In this video, Philippe Karl demonstrates what challenges can arise from the work in trot and what how to obtain the ideal contact to the bit.  

Duration: 00:19:50 Minutes

Improving the Position of the Neck in Walk

Philippe Karl

The chewing and bending exercises are now practiced in walk, under saddle. An important prerequisite for good hand action is the flexibility of the wrists. Learn how the correct frame looks when ridden and how to use rhythm and tempo to improve the contact to the bit. 

Duration: 00:23:37 Minutes

Chewing & Bending Exercises from the Ground

Philippe Karl

We can never say it enough: the horse's mouth is incredibly sensitive. For French riding master, Philippe Karl, the horse's mouth activity plays a crucial role in correct contact and frame. Several chewing and bending exercises can be practiced from the ground and help prepare the horse optimally for further training. 

Duration: 00:10:20 Minutes

Training With the Double Bridle and Refining the Exercises

Philippe Karl

When working High Noon, Philippe Karl alternates between the snaffle and the double bridle. The work must not differ fundamentally as the curb is only used to refine the exercises. In this video, you will learn how to use the reins correctly when working with the double bridle.

Duration: 00:13:23 Minutes

Maintaining Relaxation on the Lunge and Under Saddle

Philippe Karl

Regardless of what he asks to the horse, Philippe Karl focuses on keeping High Noon relaxed and focused. See how this works on the lunge and under the saddle. 

Duration: 00:18:53 Minutes

Promoting Expressiveness and Relaxation of the Horse

Philippe Karl

The Hanoverian High Noon has made significant progress under Philippe Karl’s saddle. Watch as he works on improving the lateral exercises as well as the piaffe and flying changes. 

Duration: 00:17:42 Minutes

High Noon Part 6: School Walk, Flying Changes and Preparation for Piaffe and Passage

Philippe Karl

The School Walk and lateral movements are an example of the development of High Noon in his time with Philippe Karl. The French master begins with the development of piaffe and passage and shows us how he prepares for this. The flying changes are taken back a step, to correct the late change behind.

Duration: 00:21:25 Minutes

High Noon Part 5: Collecting the Horse, Use of the Double Bridle and Spurs

Philippe Karl

High Noon has visibly improved. Philippe Karl starts riding the gelding with a double bridle and demonstrates the initial approach to the collecting work of the horse. Not only have the lateral movements and acceptance of the bit improved but High Noon also does his first flying change.

Duration: 00:16:35 Minutes

High Noon Part 4: Lateral Movements and Preparation for Flying Changes

Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl concentrates on High Noon reaching correctly to the bit and increases the gelding’s flexibility and bend with the lateral movements. The Riding Master has an ideal approach for each movement and demonstrates how he trains the half pass and preparation for the flying changes.

Duration: 00:25:20 Minutes

High Noon Part 3: Riding with Contact and Reaching for the Bit

Philippe Karl

The Hanoverian gelding, High Noon, had been badly ridden for a long time. He is hesitant trusting the hand and bit, therefore he doesn’t accept a steady contact when ridden. Philippe Karl helps him improve with chewing and bending exercises both on the ground and from the saddle. Learning to reach for the bit at all gaits is the main priority at this stage.

Duration: 00:33:54 Minutes

High Noon Part 2: Lunging and Preparatory Exercises on the Ground for the Horse

Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl considers ground work is an important part of the training of a horse; systematic lunging as well as exercises in hand to prepare for the ridden work. The way he does this strengthens the trust he has with his horses, teaches them discipline and establishes important fundamentals for the ridden work.

Duration: 00:16:07 Minutes

High Noon Part 1: Lunging, Correcting the Contact and Acceptance of the Bit

Philippe Karl

In this video series, we watch as the 5-year-old Hanoverian gelding, High Noon, undergoes his new training with Philippe Karl. Through the systematic training on the lunge the young horse learns to trust and respect the person on the ground. The most important lessons for High Noon to learn next under saddle, are to open his poll and accept the contact of the bit. 

Duration: 00:19:36 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 10: Piaffe and Passage

Philippe Karl

The desire of the horse to go forward, along with the ability to lower the haunches, are the prerequisites for a good piaffe. Philippe Karl uses a variety of exercises to develop the piaffe with his horses and to enable them to work in perfect balance. The renowned French master has shown time and again that any horse can learn to do a good passage when we sensibly combine the Spanish walk and the trot. 

Duration: 00:21:17 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 9: Spanish Walk

Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl considers the Spanish walk an indispensable tool in classical training. It helps gymnasticize the horse and, in combination with the trot work, can help any horse learn a correct Passage.

Duration: 00:09:24 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 8: Jumping Training on the Lunge and Under the Saddle

Philippe Karl

Showjumping training, built according to the natural ability of each horse, is a great way to gymnasticize and stretch the horse on the lunge and under saddle. Philippe Karl considers it a vital part of every horse’s training. 

Duration: 00:09:02 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 7: Gymnastization with Combined Lateral Movements

Philippe Karl

Lateral movements are of great importance when it comes to gymnasticizing the horse. Shoulder-in, travers, renvers and counter shoulder-in, as well as fluidly transitioning from one to another result in a chance to play with the balance of the horse. Well executed, those movements lead to an increase in flexibility, suppleness and a prompt reaction to the aids of the rider.

Duration: 00:10:44 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 6: Riding in the Double Bridle

Philippe Karl

After introducing the horse to the double bridle from the ground, Philippe Karl utilizes the different effects of the snaffle and the curb bits in the work under the saddle. He uses the so-called Fillis Hold in order to use both reins separately for more exact aiding.

Duration: 00:09:16 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 5: Canter Transitions, Flying Changes, Pirouettes

Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl explains in great detail both the theory and practical application of teaching the horse a good canter transition. He uses a variety of arena figures and lateral work. Interestingly, the French riding master teaches the first flying changes by having the horse change from the true canter into the counter canter. In order to do pirouette work, the horse has to already be able to show a high degree of collection.

Duration: 00:21:19 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 4: Suppling the Horse with Bending Exercises

Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl now continues the work he started on the ground into the under saddle work. He begins again with chewing and lateral bending exercises at the halt and walk. This teaches the horse the leg and rein aids separately from one another.

Duration: 00:18:39 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 3: Preparatory Groundwork for the Horse

Philippe Karl

The horse’s mouth is sacred. Groundwork can be used to teach the horse the desired responses to the bit. Philippe Karl uses the bit exclusively in a way that acts on the corners of the mouth as low hands create too much pressure on the sensitive tongue.

Duration: 00:11:44 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 2: Lunging is an Important Part of the Training of Horses

Philippe Karl

Lunging not only serves as a warm-up for the horse before riding, but it is also a wonderful tool to introduce the aids to the horse and gymnasticize him in a variety of ways. Philippe Karl strictly rejects the use of side reins or any other auxiliary reins.

Duration: 00:07:28 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 1: Theoretical Principles

Philippe Karl

This video is an introduction to the philosophy of Philippe Karl and his School of Légèreté. The balance of both horse and rider in every gait and every situation are at the core of his training methodology. The accuracy of the rider’s aids are of utmost importance.  

Duration: 00:10:59 Minutes

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