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

Work in Long Reins Part 3: Lateral Work, Collection, and Spanish Walk

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Just as in the training under saddle, lateral work also plays a crucial role in the gymnastization of the horse when long reining. Saskia Gunzer demonstrates how she develops the different lateral movements, piaffe, passage, and the Spanish walk in the work in long reins. 

Duration: 00:25:46 Minutes

Helios Journey to Becoming a Dressage Horse Part 3: Riding with a Double Bridle

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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.

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Helios Journey to Becoming a Dressage Horse Part 1: Collecting the Horse

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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: 00:16:24 Minutes

The Joy of Dressage Part 2: Keeping a Horse Motivated

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Videos from Philippe Karl

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

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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: 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

Related videos

Work in Long Reins Part 3: Lateral Work, Collection, and Spanish Walk

Saskia Gunzer

Just as in the training under saddle, lateral work also plays a crucial role in the gymnastization of the horse when long reining. Saskia Gunzer demonstrates how she develops the different lateral movements, piaffe, passage, and the Spanish walk in the work in long reins. 

Duration: 00:25:46 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: 00:13:58 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: 00:16:24 Minutes

The Joy of Dressage Part 2: Keeping a Horse Motivated

Uta Gräf

To allow a horse to enjoy his work and stay motivated, it is essential that the training is adjusted accordingly to each individual horse. Uta Gräf shows us with the 6-year-old Damon Jerome NRW and the 12-year-old stallion Le Noir, what she is aware of when training in order to keep a young horse happy and interested and maintain the motivation of an older, more experienced horse.

Duration: 00:21:54 Minutes

Dressage Training Part 5: Training Towards Throughness and Straightness

Dr. Reiner Klimke

The movements at this level of training improve throughness 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: 00:09:51 Minutes