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Apprentice Experience with Karen

By Kristen Hassen-Auerbach
(posted with kind permission of author)

KristenValI met Karen a year ago when I had the opportunity to see her work with a horse that I knew very well. The horse, normally anxiety-ridden, tense, and ill-mannered, was, when handled by Karen, engaged, quiet, and confident. As I watched her work with him, I was completely confounded I had no idea how she achieved these results with this particular horse. She was not using any pressure, wasn¹t driving him, backing him, or using any methods to train him that I was familiar with. I knew then that I needed to learn more.

I have been a trainer and riding instructor for nearly twenty years, and was trained first in classical dressage and then in natural horsemanship. I run a successful training and lesson business and I have been lucky to have learned from some talented and well-known trainers in my life. But in the year before I met Karen, my professional and personal life was in a bit of a crisis. The horses I was training were well-behaved, yes, but they were also dull and bored, tuned-out to me and my students. I had to keep adding pressure and teaching my students to use more pressure in their legs and reins to achieve results. My own horse was becoming more resistant and emotionally shut down by the day and I was growing increasingly frustrated and even angry with him. I felt like a failure like I was letting down everybody, the horses, my students and myself. I desperately wanted to do right by the horses and to coach my students in a way that made me feel proud, but I knew I needed help.

I began taking regular lessons with Karen soon after watching her work with that horse and I was sold when I saw the way my own horse responded to her. Within a few minutes, she had reached him in a way that I had never been able to. He seemed to open his heart to her and offer himself wholly. She never used pressure, never asked for more than he had to give her, and she knew exactly what he could offer. There was no resistance or brace when Karen worked with him and I saw the horse within him return.

Since then, Karen has been helping me to learn Feel and Release so that I can have the relationship with my horse that she showed me is possible. Karen is a kind teacher, with a clear yet thorough communication style and a way of making her students feel successful and empowered. She is intelligent and informed about so many disciplines and encourages her students to think and ask questions.

KristenI was so impressed and impassioned by Feel and Release that I wanted to share it with all of my students. Because this method is so different from what I¹ve learned in the past, I know that it will take a long time before I am ready to teach my students correctly and completely in Feel and Release. So I invited Karen to work with my students and our barn to help all of us learn how to communicate with our horses through feel. The results have been amazing.

Thanks to Karen, we have a barn full of horses that seem more alive and engaged, but also more calm and responsive. Now, the horses seem to truly enjoy their time spent with humans and we are all learning so much. I am so grateful to have found Karen not only has she helped us create a whole new barn atmosphere, she has helped me to become a real partner to my horse. Most of all, she has given me the tools I need to feel pride once again in my work with horses and riders.

 

Mark Rashid

RashidBookCover

"I see an 'opening' as anything that allows us to help guide, however briefly, an individual in the direction we ultimately would like to go. An 'opening' can be, and often is, a very subtle form of communication between horse and rider that can easily slip past us if we're not paying attention. 'Openings' can and do work both ways. [...] It amazes me just how small an 'opening' can actually be, whether working with horses or with people, and how easy it can be to create an 'opening' when one is needed."

Mark Rashid

"I truly believe developing the ability to see and use 'openings' effectively is only one piece of what one might refer to as the 'harmony in horsemanship' puzzle. When this idea of understanding 'openings' is brought together with the understanding of two other simlar ideas - making a connection with another indvidual, and the role distance plays in overall communication - I believe it is then that harmony in horsemanship becomes a much less daunting concept for us."

Mark Rashid

Leslie Desmond

LDaudiobook

"Bill knew about a place I did not know existed, or could exist, between a horse and a human being [...] Bill included each one of my horses in that information exchange. Over the course of many months,... he took each one by its lead rope and, later, by the bridle reins. Using what he called his 'better feel', Bill showed me and each of them exactly what he meant by what he did [...] It was not long after I made the switch from force when needed (often) to always customizing the feel I offered to a horse, that two tough horses I had misunderstood for years developed into my most reliable mounts."

Leslie Desmond

The lightest hands carry intent that is recognized instantly by the horse, as seen in the maneuvers he chooses to make with his feet. Whether that horse is ridden or handled, the lightest hands can purposefully influence the speed, direction and sequence of each foot with accuracy, in a manner that is reflected in the horse's body and on his face.

Leslie Desmond

Bill Dorrance

bilsbook

"The Real Masters Understood Feel [...] For example, De Kerbrech, (French officer in the cavalry of Napoleon III) really understood horses. He had it fixed up so the horse could succeed. [...] The first time I read Beudant's book was in the 1950s. The way he explained things, there was no doubt in my mind about what a person needed to do to get these little things working for them and their horse."

Bill Dorrance

“Feel, timing and balance: sometimes it’s best to talk about feel, timing and balance separately, and to learn how to apply each thing separately on the start. But when you apply these three things a little later in your training, then you see that each one of these things supports the other. They are interconnected and all three are real important. You really can’t get along without all three.”

Bill Dorrance

Faverot de Kerbrech

FaverotBookCover

“...plus le deplacement du poids est facile dans tous les sens, plus l'equilibre est parfait. En vertue de ce principe, on dit que le cheval est 'en equilibre' quand de simples indications suffisent au cavalier pour modifier a son gre la disposition du poids sur ses colonnes de soutien”

Faverot de Kerbrech

[Translation: ...the easier it is to shift the weight in any direction, the more perfect the balance. By virtue of this principle, the horse is 'in balance' when a simple indication from the rider is sufficient to modify the distribution of weight across the columns of support (four quarters) accordingly]

Duke of Newcastle

CavendishBookCover

"You must in all Airs follow the strength, spirit, and disposition of the horse, and do nothing against nature; for art is but to set nature in order, and nothing else."

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle

"A confrontational approach ‘Astonishes the Weak Horse […] makes a Furious horse Madd; makes a Resty Horse more Resty […] and Displeases all sorts of Horses’. The alternative however is not ‘to Sit Weak […] but to Sit Easie’, in the understanding that ‘The Horse must know you are his Master’"

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle