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Andrew and Anaïs

Andrew and Anaïs

So what is that additional element which marks a true as opposed to a mechanical connection between a horse and a human? Which differentiates a connection between a horse and a Monty Roberts or a Pat Parelli, on the one hand, from that between a horse and a Michael Bevilacqua, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, Frédéric Pignon or Imke Spilker, on the other? What is that additional element which is so readily visible to the intuitive eye?


To answer these questions let us start by viewing an example. As if he has heard our need for a current, graphic example, Hempfling has kindly provided us with a brand new video featuring horses and humans currently involved in his ‘One-Year Schooling’ course in Denmark. There are two parts to this video. The first part (80% of the video) sees Hempfling continuing the training of Habanero, a PRE stallion belonging to his senior body awareness coach, Jo Ross (see my post of 9 January 2012 here for more information about this). In the second part we see Jasmijn, a ‘One-Year Schooling’ student, interacting with her 12-year-old PRE stallion, Esperado.

You may want to watch the entire video once with the sound on first and then watch it again with the sound turned off. What we are looking for is to see what the horse is doing, in particular, whether it is mirroring or responding to the human and, if so, how is it doing this and what is it mirroring or responding to. Here I am not referring to what is only visible to the literal eye but also to the intuitive one, in other words, the energy or feeling that you detect. Is the horse present? Is there a connection between horse and human? And if so, is the connection mechanical or is there an additional element?

The very first thing we can note is just how calm, centred and grounded the humans are. Movement and energy have their source in their centre of gravity – their core – and their bodies are relaxed. I remain convinced that there is not another trainer whom I know of, who is as capable of achieving such an awareness of his body and presence, as Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling. And it is also clear from the way in which Jasmijn carries herself that he is also capable of teaching others to develop such a presence within themselves. There is no tension, there are no feigned emotions, just a calm, reassuring presence to guide the horse, so that the human needs only to raise or lower his or her energy almost imperceptibly and to visualise the next move in order to encourage the horse to make the upward or downward transition as the case may be. In Jasmijn’s case this, coupled with the slight extension of the leading hand, was enough to ask Esperado to trot.

The result speaks for itself. Overall, the horses are alert to and focused on their humans but not slavishly so. They are alive and there is an interplay of energy between them and their humans. Yet it is curious to note how differently Habanero initially relates to Hempfling within the small confines of the picadero from a little later on, and also outside, be it in the larger paddock or on the streets of Lyø. Clearly a very nervous horse, Habanero connects more closely to Hempfling outside than initially in the picadero. The installation of an escape route – the first time I can recall that Hempfling has ever revealed his use of such a structure in his printed or video publications – is a welcome addition to the mix in the small confines of the picadero because, as Hempfling points out in the video, the stallion is now able to leave him if he chooses to do so.

Although Habanero is clearly focused on Hempfling, he moves choppily, is heavily on the forehand and has an arched back while being lunged at liberty (why the saddle at this obviously early stage of the training, you wonder). More importantly, you can see that he is very uncertain at first. Then he follows Hempfling and calmly stands before him. Habanero is clearly nervous about the whip brushing him but he remains with Hempfling. The latter explains it as follows:

He can go. He doesn’t know why he’s standing. He is not deciding to stay. It’s just this general feeling more and more of the horse that he is entirely safe, entirely cared [for] with me. Even if there’s a mare in season, in heat, he decides to stay happy.

Some viewers may question whether the other horse behind the opening is indeed a mare or in season. That the stallion chooses to remain with Hempfling rather than join the other horse is enough. There is a connection between the stallion and Hempfling which grows as the calm of the human spreads to the horse. It is consolidated on the lunge. There is now a true connection between horse and human which enables the latter to lead his protégé through the streets of Lyø – Hempfling wisely replaces the stable halter with a cavasson by way of precaution – and have  frighteningly large and loud vehicles pass by without mishap and on a slack lead. The horse trusts that its human will lead and protect it. What is important to note here is that there is no sign of slavish submission on the part of Habenero. He remains alive and alert but focused on his leader.

The clip of Jasmijn and Esperado is unfortunately too short to show definitively whether there is a true connection between them. What is abundantly clear, however, is the sensitivity with which the human moves and the horse responds. There is an interplay of energy between them.

So how can Hempfling or anyone else interact with a horse in such a way that a true connection is established? In Hempfling’s case part of the answer lies in his ongoing daily preparations: the body and spiritual awareness exercises which he teaches his students and which enable him to control his body and mind. This means that when horse and human finally interact with each other, it is possible for the human to banish thought from his mind and go into the moment to connect and communicate with the horse underneath their respective shells and layers at the most basic level of their existence: being.

Michael Bevilacqua and friend

Michael Bevilacqua and friend

In his March 2012 newsletter entitled Being Who You Are, Michael Bevilacqua concludes with the following paragraph:

The basic relationship between you and your horse is not something that can be found in a book or taught to you by someone else. It is very personal and unique between both you and your horse. It is you who can get the ‘feel’ of what kind of mood your horse is in more than would a stranger who is looking on. Likewise, the horse knows your moods, form of expression and way of being. That is very personal and so much can develop and move forward in a personal relationship without you trying to achieve an exact outcome because you are simply being who you are.

(You can read the full article here.)

And who I am in its purest form is not all of the emotional and mental baggage that I and far too many other humans carry around with us every day. It is me as I am were I to be as carefree as a child, being human and totally involved in the moment with every sense of my being but without the emotional and mental baggage. All too often in the past the horses have been looking for the human in me but all they have only found have been layers of disguise and makeup as it were. The challenge lies in learning to shed those layers before joining the horse in the moment, two creatures together being in its purest form, one being horse and the other being human. This is the additional element which transforms the mechanical into the magical, marking the occurrence of a true connection between horse and human.

The essence of this awareness came to me at about three o’clock in the morning on Saturday. I could not sleep, so I got up. The post I had written the day before came to mind. Impulsively, I reached for my smartphone, which I keep on at night to serve as a mini-torch if I need one. I turned on my YouTube app and entered the following into the Search field: ‘horses’ ‘true connection’. It led me to this.

Yes, the video is a bit contrived in that it seeks to create a world of make believe, and yes, the horse is performing tricks. But ask yourself: is teaching your horse to do shoulder-in no less or more of a trick than teaching it to do passage or any of the other movements this young woman and her horse perform. What of the relationship that must have been required to do this without turning the horse into a dead, submissive automaton? What of the trust that this horse clearly has in its human? What of the joy they find in each other? And what of the magical connection they clearly share?

The young woman is called Eva Roemaat. She lives in the Achterhoek (which literally means ‘rear corner’) in the Netherlands relatively close to the German border. She has a personal bilingual (Dutch and English) website here, which provides more information about her and what she does. There is also a bilingual (Dutch and English) website here, which she has set up with a friend.

Three years ago Eva Roemaat started doing liberty dressage with her horses after being inspired by Cavalia, the horse spectacle featuring Frédéric Pignon and Magali Delgado. It is also interesting to note their influence on her interaction with her horses. It occurs in an open space, she makes no effort to exert constant control, her bloopers are posted on YouTube for all to see, she plays with her horses and she shows them affection.

Vicki and I were so blown away that we visited Eva Roemaat’s YouTube channel and watched every video that she has posted. Not only do they feature her but also others who share her passion. And they are all young people. There are also a number of videos that do not feature any horse but reveal a group of carefree friends who are so in the moment being who they really are, that they are worth watching, because it is this very special additional element which they bring to their interaction with horse. These videos will keep you busy for a while, so pull up a chair, get yourself a drink, settle down, enjoy and give thanks for the knowledge that there is a group of young people who are showing the world that it possible to frolic with horses without bits, spurs and other instruments of force, and that the horses are capable of doing all of this without shoes. More importantly, they are able to connect with their horses at the level of being.

You can find Eva Roemaat’s uploaded videos here. Click on ‘Play All’ to view them all. Enjoy!

16 Responses to “Being Human … with Horses – Part 2”

  1. This is one of your most beautiful and inspiring posts yet, thank you for writing all this. You are a great help to me along my horse journey. And yes, Eva is an inspiration, isn’t she? I’m friends with her on Facebook and she loves her horses dearly. 🙂


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Hannah

      It is humbling to know that you appreciate what I am writing. If you come across any other Eva’s in the world, please let me know.

      Be well!

      • Well, I have compiled some of my favorite videos here http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD808B3951AB1D0C7&feature=plcp and here http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE19BF64B82461016&feature=plcp, so you might find some there that you like. Of course, the disclaimer is that in a great many of them, it is definitely mechanical, a trick-trained, but nevertheless had some element of inspiration I wanted to remember and so bookmarked. Actually, the same goes for my own uploaded videos on there. The other day I nearly deleted them because I no longer feel proud of them or my horsemanship in that way — too forced, too wrong — but have decided to leave them up for now, though I hope to get new ones, much softer, much lighter, much more in harmony with the horse’s being than the ones that are there now.

        Anyway, please keep posting videos you find as well, they are always lovely.


        • Vicki says:

          Hi Hannah

          Thank you for posting your favourites! I had a wonderful time watching all of them (well, some of them for only a few seconds..) and a few really stood out for me: first of all, Fred Ivar with his Frisian horses whom I have known about for a long time when I was still a member of the Nevzorov Forum. It is just a joy to watch him.
          There are some videos in your list of bitless dressage list featuring a group of Russian people. Their horses are simply georgous, and the work highly advanced. I somehow think they too are involved with Nevzorov.
          Then, suddenly on my screen appears a stunning grey Arabian who is obviouly very much in sync with his owner, Susanne Lohas. I love this clip! The combination is fluid, soft, yet full of grace, joy and respect.

          You say about your own videos: The other day I nearly deleted them because I no longer feel proud of them or my horsemanship in that way — too forced, too wrong — but have decided to leave them up for now, though I hope to get new ones, much softer, much lighter, much more in harmony with the horse’s being than the ones that are there now.
          Hannah: don’t feel negative about them; this is where you were at that time in your life. They will give you a wonderful “playlist of progress”, because looking at your website and videos, you are definately searching, learning and discovering different ways of being with horses as much as we are!
          Take care

  2. Lynne Gerard says:

    Hannah wrote: “This is one of your most beautiful and inspiring posts yet, thank you for writing all this.”

    I agree with Hannah, Andrew. You are ever closer to the place where you will find yourself (should I say, “your authentic self?” and will be able to mesh together all that you and Vicki have been studying and experiencing.

    There is quite a shift in awareness emerging (or rolling like a snowball down a mountain?) that is evolving horse human relationships. It’s marvelous that you are in your own way rolling with that ever-growing snowball of positive change and adding your own elements to the circumfrance.


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Lynne

      Thank you for your kind words and thank you too for your contribution on Frédéric Pignon. It came at a time when we knew something was missing following our course in France and helped us to discover what it was.

      Be well!

  3. Dear Andrew,

    First of all for the sake of the debate perhaps, I want to ask the question:
    “Is there any reason why there should not or could not be a combination of a true AND mechanical connection?”

    We are reasonably clear, at least that is what we humans think, on what a true connection is all about.
    Could you perhaps describe to me what you understand a mechanical connection to be.

    The reason asking this question is that I always like to challenge dogma’s. As if a mechanical connection is allways wrong and a true connection is allways right.
    Looking at it from the broadest viewpoint, that the Universe is perfect, maybe a mechanical connection serves a true connection and vice versa.
    Like black and white cannot exist without eachother. So both are perfect as they are..


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Geerteke

      No, I must confess that I cannot see any reason why one could not have a connection with a horse which is not both mechanical and true. On the other hand, there need be no mechanical connection for a true connection to exist, while there are far too many examples out there of the existence of a connection which is mechanical but not true.

      What I understand a mechanical connection to be is as follows: horse and human connect through the use of a method or technique in the absence of a true connection, e.g. join-up. See also the distinction I draw between the approach adopted by Hempfling et al. and that of natural horsemanship in my post at http://horsesandhumans.com/blog/2012/02/05/2moons-part-1/.

      My personal feeling is that, in the absence of a true connection, a mechanical connection is simply another means for a human to make a horse do something for the human. I would personally prefer not to go down that track.

      This is not a dogma. Rather, it is a personal conviction. If I see any dogmas running around for you to shoot down, I shall let you know. 🙂

      Be well!

  4. Dear Andrew,

    Looking at the video from 0 – 0.33 …..QUOTE The very first thing we can note is just how calm, centred and grounded the humans are. Movement and energy have their source in their centre of gravity – their core – and their bodies are relaxed….UNQUOTE
    I fully agree with you when ´checking out´ KFH´s energy.

    The horse’s energy from 0-0.33 is a completely different story, though.
    The horse feels emotionally out of balance and insufficiently grounded. The different layers of the horse’s aura all look out of balance. The main attention is asked by the most outside layer (being the farthest away from the body) being the layer where the spiritual information can be found/read. It seems to be giving the stallion a feeling of physical discomfort without anything physically being ‘wrong’. It seems that it has something to do with having lost the connection with his spiritual herd. The horses he is connected with on the soullevel in the different dimensions. As if he is moving back and forth between HERE and THERE and not having found his ´safe home´ yet.

    Then when looking at the stallion´s 7 Connections (read: energy canals) it seems that the energy there is (already) sufficiently flowing. This could very well be the result of the work KFH has already been doing with this stallion before this clip was edited.
    The subsequent restoration of the balance in the aura field and the chakra´s is perhaps a matter of time.
    Please note that I seem to be talking about energy aspects as if they are separate from one another. That is not the case. Everything and anything flows her and there and everywhere. However, to be able to get a more clear picture and be able to take a look at all kinds of aspects ´things´ are sort of ´taken apart´.

    QUOTE…. . I remain convinced that there is not another trainer whom I know of, who is as capable of achieving such an awareness of his body and presence, as Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling…..UNQUOTE
    I do not agree with you here. Although I do agree with you at the same time, as you don’t know of such a person yet. However, you are making it so damn difficult for yourself to become such a person/trainer. Which is your greatest wish I have been made to understand through all your blogs. It is like looking for your spectacles and not being able to find them while they have been sitting on the top of your head all the time.
    Everything you recognise and admire in KFH is what you possess yourself. What you have at your disposal. You would otherwise not be able to recognise that. It is just there waiting for you to discover. Or more accurately un-cover.

    Okay, Andrew, I will leave it at this.
    If there is a wish I would be happy to take a further look at the clip.

    Be well

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Geerteke

      If body and spiritual awareness were the metaphorical equivalent of a pair of spectacles (it has been a while since I seen that word), rest assured that I would have found them by now.

      It is my experience that body and spiritual awareness are aspects of ourselves that we can develop as opposed to uncover. I recognise my potential to develop them and I acknowledge their ongoing development, which would not occur in the absence of a conscious decision to pursue a course of action to facilitate it. In my case I find it useful to read Echart Tolle and to do Tai Chi as part of this course of action.

      I simply recognise in Hempfling a level of body and spiritual awareness in relation to horses which is way ahead of mine or anyone else I know, and I acknowledge that. Does this make him the foremost guide on horses? No, but it does mean that he is way ahead of the pack in terms of providing guidance to humans as to how they can best prepare themselves for interaction with horses.

      Incidentally, I am keen to hear what you think of Eva Roemaat and the things she and her young friends are doing with horses.

      Be well!

      • Hello Andrew,
        I just watched a couple of Eva’s video’s.
        I had such a good laugh with the so-called blooper ones. They are fabulous and so amusing. They make me feel happy. The video where Eva is on Silas, he gets hold of her shoe and pulls her of his back. Hilarious.
        The horses and humans are really enjoying eachother.

        I can imagine why KFH’s view is that games with horses is dangerous as you mentioned somewhere. It can be with the bigger horses. Eva’s horses are a bit smaller.
        Some of the moments on Eva’s videos make me think of Nevzorov as shown on The Path of the Horse by Stormy May.

        But it is real fun and pride watching her connect with her horses.

        And I very much like Lynne’s quote from Imke Spilker’s Empowered Horses.

        Warmly, Geerteke

  5. Lynne Gerard says:

    Andrew, in one of your earlier blog entries, in the comments section you put forth the good query which so many of us ask these days:
    “The question that I am left with though, is what is in it for the horse?”

    I think Eva Roemaat puts in a good answer, simple and profound at the same time. From her website:
    “We don’t perform to show off, but we perform to show the world what is possible with a horse if you just believe, trust and work together! Pride and fun: that’s what it is all about.”

    Pride and fun. I love that!

    And of course, the added benefit of pride and fun (and the natural collection that results) is that the horses physical and mental capacities are raised to a higher level, which have multiple benefits. Imke Spilker talks of this frequently in her book and I will type here just one example. She is here talking about mounted work, but it is the relationship on the ground which has lead to the heightened connection while ridden:
    “Through this close connection with a human being the horse experiences himself in a new way. In the continuous checking-in with and inquiring after his rider, he is continuously checking-in with and inquiring after himself, expanding his own physical space as he makes the rider part of his own body awareness. He feels strong and proud in the encounter. The process that we call collection plays a decisive role in this. Collection as a process of teamwork with the human being unlocks additional powers for the horse. He discovers potential in himself that was not accessible until now. As we noted before, collected movement does occur in nature. However, collection in our way of working is far more than that. In this work with a human being a horse’s natural abilities are cultivated. In the language of horses, collected movement signifies play, self-confidence, and impressiveness–empowerment. Whether or not a horse living in the wild comes into this state depends on external circumstances and his behavior, too, is directed toward the outside, to external circumstances. In our work, collection is a path inward. This collection makes the horse himself the center, the focal point. Play, fighting, impressing others–these situations are coincidental. A horse that has learned to consciously collect himself can summon up collected movements at will, and can get the good feelings connected with them independent of external circumstances.”Pg.188 / Imke Spilker / Empowered Horses

    I’m glad you discovered Eva Roemaat and pointed us to her videos and website. She represents another very inspiring source to show the world “what’s in it for the horse”.

    • Dear Lynne,
      I have read your above QUOTE from Imke Spilker a couple of times now.
      Every time I read it it touches me more deeply. The reason is that apart from my growing interest in KFHempfling, F Pignon and all the others that are involved with horses the way they are and the most interesting and inspiring way Andrew ánd Vicky’ run’ this blog, I am also a dressage instructor. And I do teach and have taught riders that compete.
      And one might agree or not the way those horses are being trained. My mission sort of is to enlarge and develop those rider’s understanding and their awareness. I always hope and try to get them look at and feel their horse from a different angle. It is very interesting and challenging.
      I have trained horses up to the piaffe like movements. Or the ‘halbe tritte’ as the Germans call them. Which leads to collection. As part of their training. It is in fact a fun thing. Not at all with the intention that perhaps in time the horse will be showing that in a Grand Prix dressage test. When done well and with the right intention it can be taught to young horses as well. It makes them very confident. And I have during the past couple of years probably subconsciously been looking for something that Imke Spilker has so beautifully and clearly put into words. And I can now put my feeling into words as well. Thank you sooooooo much for sharing.

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Lynne

      Thank you for bringing the strands together. I can only echo Geerteke’s reply to your comment: thank you so much for sharing this.

      Be well!

  6. Andrew, I thougth I would let you know that in this month’s NRPS magazine there is an interview with Jesse Drent and his Arabian mare Andorra (their picture is even ON THE COVER!) who is ‘working together’ with Eva Roemaat.


  7. Sorry I have not been drinking any alcohol….still ‘thougth’ should be ‘thought’