Heuschmann: 'For the Good of the Horse'
Imagine a towering horse and rider gliding past you in an arena, performing the elevated trot known as the passage.
The horse’s head is tucked tightly to his chest. His movement is eye-catching, almost improbably so. His lips are peeled back, and flecks of foam from his mouth cover his chest and front legs.
In many show rings, this is the current trend. But veterinarian and world-renowned equine expert Dr. Gerd Heuschmann is adamant — this is not an elastic, supple and obedient horse.
In a crusade to end unnatural training methods, Heuschmann holds seminars and clinics worldwide that focus on the biomechanics of the horse and advocating classical training principles.
He’s also written a book and made a film.
He will make a stop in Southern Pines on Oct. 6-7, presenting “For the Good of the Horse: Biomechanics of the Horse in Sport.”
A dinner and roundtable discussion will be held Friday, Oct. 5, at the Hampton Inn in Southern Pines, followed by the symposium — two days of mounted demonstrations and unmounted lectures. The symposium will take place at Bob and Paula Johnson’s Lochhurst Farm on Lake Bay Road outside Southern Pines.
Linda Hoover, chief executive officer for the U.S. Refined Horsemanship Association, is organizing the event.
“The equestrian world is seeing competition horses with injuries and unsoundness. They’re troubled physically and mentally,” Hoover said. “Riders are catering too much to what the judges want. Gerd wants to see people come back to the rules. He says, if we want horses to be sound and have longevity, we need to be students of the horse.”
Heuschmann has spoken out a great deal against rollkur, or hyperflexion of the horse’s neck — a technique that has been popular in dressage, show jumping and reining circles.
Two years ago, Heuschmann carried 45,000 signatures to a closed meeting with the FEI, a move that sparked an outcry against rollkur.
“He took a great professional risk,” Hoover said. “He basically told the FEI, ‘You’re wrong.’”
Heuschmann’s research presents evidence that compelling the horse to carry his head low does not engage the back muscles or produce supple movements.
“It’s a tool of submission,” Hoover said. “This is not how the horse’s body is designed to function.”
Heuschmann’s venture to Southern Pines will be his only U.S. visit this year.
Two upper-level area equestrians will participate as demonstration riders in the clinic — dressage rider Rhonda Dretel and eventer Susan Beebee.
Dretel competes in Intermediare 1 dressage and is working toward the Grand Prix level. Her riding and training is based on many of the same principles as Heuschmann.
“My philosophy is, when force begins, training ends,” she said. “You want to ride a happy horse.”
One of Dretel’s FEI horses, the Dutch Warmblood Titus, will be her partner in the demo. She and the other riders will be illustrating Heuschmann’s central goal — getting the horse round and supple without any force or artificial aid.
“He’s interested in the classical training of the horse,” Dretel said. “He’s not into shortcuts.”
For anyone from the international competitor to the casual trail rider, Hoover assures that this event will prove eye-opening and highly educational.
“As a horse community, we should always be making decisions based on how horses are designed,” she said. “Gerd’s teachings are applicable to every horse in every discipline.”
For more information on the symposium and ticket inquiries, contact Hoover at (910) 639-9910.
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