Cavaletti for Dressage and Jumping by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke
c 2014 J.A. Allen London, UK, 151 pages
The name “Klimke” is, I am pretty sure, the German word for “amazing horseman”. The late Reiner Klimke is regarded as a legend, and the written work he left behind after his untimely passing in 1999 remains as relevant today as it did when first published. Daughter Ingrid has carried on in the family tradition and today successfully trains horses to the highest international levels in both eventing and dressage.
The 2014 English translation of Cavaletti for Dressage and Jumping is an updated version of the 1969 publication of the same name written by R. Klimke. Ingrid has modernized the illustrations as well as the phrasing of the original text. I believe she has also inserted her own perspective here and there, though it is clear that her father’s work serves as the main inspiration.
As I planned to be stuck in the indoor for the foreseeable future (as I write this we are experiencing yet another round of 8”-10” of snow), I picked up Cavaletti in order to better understand how these exercises could be used to improve my horses’ strength, spring and suppleness as well as to break up the monotony of the indoor. Klimke’s book takes the reader through how cavaletti work is incorporated into her training regime from start to finish, to the point where the text could be used as a template for any training program.
Klimke’s training philosophy is based on classical principles, and what I really appreciated in this book was how often the importance of slow, gradual and incremental increases in the horse’s training program was emphasized. I have read in other articles by Klimke that she always begins and ends each training session with at least ten minutes of walk on the buckle; I have been trying to be religious about giving my horses a solid ten minute free walk prior to beginning work, which I think has been beneficial. This practice allows the rider time to become focused and present, and allows the horse to limber and loosen their body prior to being asked to complete any real work. I notice that it is at about the seven or eight minute point in the walk that my horses begin to, of their own initiative, swing more freely through their topline and reach with a longer stride. For each stage of the training program, Klimke reminds the reader that the horse must also have a period of “working in” before being expected to tackle new tasks.
Another aspect of this book that appealed to me was the emphasis on the importance of having a methodical, organized, planned progression to training, which includes consideration for the mental health of your horse. “Many training problems can be solved far more easily if you do not rely solely on riding experience, but have a plan for how to go about the training before you start it…In addition, you must take responsibility for the wellbeing of your horse. Only a healthy horse, whose condition and musculature have been carefully developed, can reach his full potential,” (Klimke, 2014, p. 11).
No matter what the intended discipline, Klimke says that cavaletti work can benefit all horses as part of their basic training. Through modifications in the exercises, training challenges unique to specific disciplines can be addressed.
In Cavaletti, detailed discussion is included regarding free longeing in general as well as the use of cavaletti work during free longeing. Klimke also discusses cavaletti exercises which are appropriate for the horse on the longe line. The illustrated diagrams which are provided for basic to advanced cavaletti set ups are such that anyone with a tape measure and the basic required equipment can assemble the exercises. Included are ridden exercises both on straight lines and circles.
The examples of ridden cavaletti exercise ideas show how a horse can be taught to move with a longer or a loftier stride, as well as how they can be taught to think about where to place their feet by removing a rail from a sequence. As Klimke reminds us, “the aim of dressage is that the horse, through systematic gymnastic training, is made more beautiful and powerful and his natural movement is improved” (Klimke, 2014, p. 58). That is the purpose of utilizing many of these exercises, as far as the horse is concerned.
Finally, Klimke provides an excellent overview of the introduction and progression through basic gymnastic jumping exercises, something which should only be presented to the horse once a basic foundation has been firmly established. Klimke states that gymnastic jumping is not just for the jumping horse, “Gymnastic jumping is excellent for improving the relationship between rider and horse. It covers a wide variety of schooling areas that are relevant to all the disciplines—dressage, show jumping and eventing—and for both horses and riders” (Klimke, 2014, p. 71). Klimke also emphasizes the importance of tailoring the jump exercises to the individual horse and rider, which is true of the cavaletti work as well. The distances included throughout the book are meant to be guidelines but of course should be edited to suit the stride length of the specific animal you are working with.
I must say that Klimke is a far more creative grid setter than I have ever been, and I look forward to introducing some of her layouts in my classes and personal schooling sets.
The book concludes with three model outlines for four to six week training schedules for three types of horse: for a horse in basic training, for a dressage horse and for a jumping horse. These schedules provide a glimpse into how these exercises can be incorporated into a more comprehensive training plan.
Overall, I think this book is destined to become a true classic text and is a worthy addition to any sport horse trainer or rider’s library. You can read it cover to cover then leave it handy to serve as reference for specific exercises or phases in training.
For more information about Ingrid, her schedule and her training program, you can visit her website at http://www.klimke.org/