Philippe Karl

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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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Related videos

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Long rein work part 4: Canter work

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Helios journey to becoming a dressage horse Part 1: Collecting the horse

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Videos from Philippe Karl

High Noon Part 6: School Walk, flying changes and preparation for piaffe and passage

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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: 21:25 Minutes

High Noon Part 5: Collecting the horse, use of the double bridle and spurs

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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: 16:35 Minutes

High Noon Part 4: Lateral movements and preparation for flying changes

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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: 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 the riding with a steady contact. 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: 33:54 Minutes

High Noon Part 2: Lunging and ground preparatory exercises of the horse

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Philippe Karl finds that 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: 16:07 Minutes

High Noon Part 1: Lunging, correcting the contact and acceptance of the bit

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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: 19:36 Minutes

The school of Légèreté Part 10: Piaffe and Passage

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The desire of the horse to go forward, combined with bending the hindquarters is the basis of a good piaffe. Philippe Karl uses various exercises to teach his horses the piaffe and bring them into perfect balance. Every horse can learn to passage correctly when one sensitively combines the Spanish walk with the trot, something the world-renowned trainer has seen continually happen over the years.

Duration: 21:17 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 9: Spanish Walk

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Philippe Karl sees the Spanish walk as a valuable exercise in the classical training of a horse. It helps gymnasticize the horse and, in combination with the trot work, can help any horse learn a correct Passage.

Duration: 09:24 Minutes

The school of Légèreté Part 8: Jumping training on the lunge and under saddle

Philippe Karl

Showjumping training, built according to the natural ability of each horse, is a fabulous possibility to gymnasticize and stretch a horse, both on the lunge and under saddle. Philippe Karl feels it belongs in the training of every horse.

Duration: 09:02 Minutes

The school of Légèreté Part 7: Combined lateral movements

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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: 10:44 Minutes

The school of Légèreté Part 6: Riding in a double bridle

Philippe Karl

Once the horse has been familiarised to the effects of the double bridle on the ground, Philippe Karl then continues this from the saddle. He rides using the Fillis hold, enabling the use of the two bits separately.

Duration: 09:16 Minutes

The School of Légèreté Part 5: Canter transitions, flying changes, pirouettes

Philippe Karl

Philippe Karl gives us not only a theoretical understanding but also explains how to put this into practice, today teaching a horse the canter transitions. He uses various arena figures and lateral work to help the horse. It is interesting to watch how the French Master teaches the flying changes, from working canter to counter canter on a circle. A high degree of collection is necessary before commencing the canter pirouettes.

Duration: 21:19 Minutes

The school of légèreté Part 4: Suppling the horse with bending exercises

Philippe Karl

Once the horse feels comfortable with the chewing and bending exercises from the ground, they can be continued under the saddle. Philippe Karl works on simple transitions between walk and trot. Correctly ridden lateral work is the key to really gymnasticizing the horse.

Duration: 18:39 Minutes

The school of Légèreté Part 3: Preparing with ground work

Philippe Karl

The horse’s mouth is sacred. Ground work can be used to teach the horse how he is expected to react to the bit, in order to build a connection as gentle and soft as possible.

Duration: 11:44 Minutes

The school of Légèreté Part 2: Lunging is an important part of the training of horses

Philippe Karl

Lunging a horse is not just a way to warm up and loosen horses but a brilliant possibility to educate the horses about the aids and gymnasticize them. Philippe Karl does not believe in side reins or any other auxiliary aid designed to “make a horse round”.

Duration: 07:28 Minutes

The school of Légèreté Part 1: Theoretical basis

Philippe Karl

Those who wish to understand the philosophy of Philippe Karl and his School of Légèreté should firstly understand the theoretical aspects behind it. The foundation of his teachings is harmony and balance between horse and rider. The effectiveness of the rider plays a deciding role on the journey their training takes.

Duration: 10:59 Minutes

Related videos

Dressage training Part 4: Riding and training the elementary dressage exercises

Dr. Reiner Klimke

In this video we see two 5-year-old horses established for the elementary dressage exercises. We watch the first horse in a training session and the second at a competition in an elementary test, ridden and commentated on by Reiner Klimke.

Duration: 12:52 Minutes

Dressage Training Part 5: Training toward straightness and thoroughness

Dr. Reiner Klimke

The movements at this level of training improve thoroughness and straightness. We watch in this video as dressage legend Reiner Klimke explains and comments on an established elementary horse, ridden in a double bridle.

Duration: 09:51 Minutes

Helios journey to becoming a dressage horse Part 3: Riding with a double bridle

Uta Gräf

Helios is now 8 years old and Uta Gräf has started getting him used to the double bridle. The well-known dressage rider makes sure, both in the warm-up and the working phase, that Helios accepts the bit and goes to the hand.

Duration: 13:58 Minutes

Long rein work part 4: Canter work

Saskia Gunzer

When training with long reins, the canter work is definitely the biggest challenge you will have to face. In fact, it takes time before the horse really collects the canter and master the half pass as well as the flying changes and the pirouettes. Nevertheless, with patience and repeated training, you will be able to achieve great exercises with your horse.

Duration: 28:18 Minutes

Helios journey to becoming a dressage horse Part 1: Collecting the horse

Uta Gräf

For this training series, we follow Uta Gräf being filmed at regular intervals, as she trains her 7-year-old gelding, Helios. Collecting work is a very important step to prepare to horse for more technical dressage movements. In this first video, we see how lateral work and flying changes can be prepared with various collecting exercises.

Duration: 16:24 Minutes