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templari_parisShortly before Christmas I received an email message from Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling announcing, amongst other things, that an English translation of his German book Die Botschaft der Pferde (literally “The Message of the Horse”) is about to be translated into English and will be published by Trafalgar Square Publishing this year. For those of us English native speakers who have read this book in a language other than English this is very welcome news, as this is a book which highlights the very essence of Hempfling’s approach to horses and the humans who seek to interact with them in a way that none of his translated books do, even though it was first published twenty years ago. And those English native speakers who have not yet read this book will have something very special awaiting them.


The original Botschaft

In his email Hempfling states that, “This book is a fantastic autobiographic description of Klaus’ path and in the style of an exciting novel it contains a lot of information regarding the path towards the horses and his inner thoughts he was carrying around to finally live his life the way he is doing it.” Indeed it is written in the form of an “autobiography” but it is a fantastical one and I use the term advisedly.

The cover of the first edition of the book.

The cover of the first edition of the book.

Die Botschaft der Pferde was originally published in German by Franckh-Kosmos Verlag in Stuttgart, Germany in 1995. The cover featured a painting of a naked boy and a horse entitled Boy Leading a Horse by Pablo Picasso and the subtitle Eine Erzählung nach autobiografischen Motiven, which may be translated as “A Story Based on Autobiographical Motifs”. Put another way, the form of the novel, which is what this book is, is autobiographical but the narrative as a whole is a work of fiction. Sometimes though fiction can more effectively reveal the essence of a true story than a recital of the relevant facts and circumstances. The painting and the subtitle were ditched in subsequent editions.


An English version

In mid-November 2008, a little over a year after I had been introduced to Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling through his books and videos, I found myself reading the Dutch translation of Die Botschaft der Pferde for the second time. Never before had I reread a book back-to-back. The book made such an impact on me that I immediately sent an email to Hempfling, who had by that stage done a telephone reading of our mare, Anaïs, for Vicki, stating quite emphatically that, “It is clear to me that Die Botschaft der Pferde is a book which must be published in English, as it seems to embody the essence of your approach in a readily accessible manner”. I also invited Hempfling to discuss the possibility of me assuming responsibility for the project.

Although Vicki and I are professional translators, what I envisaged was not a translation. Instead, as I explained to Hempfling, it would be “an authentic English text which renders the original ideas in the English language in a manner which reflects your intentions, if necessary and possible, under your guidance and with your input”. In other words, the book was to be rendered in English and changed wherever Hempfling might feel it necessary to do so, in order to give him an English voice telling his story again but in the light of all that he had experienced since it was first published.

Hempfling was sufficiently interested to invite me to present him with an example of my work, which I did. Early in December 2008 his assistant, Mireille, emailed me to say that “Klaus asked me to tell you that he likes the English version”. Judging from the number of “Forward” tags in the message, a number of people had seen what I had written. He asked me to present him with a business proposal. Vicki and I decided to channel the project through our translation business and duly drew up and sent Hempfling what we felt was a very generous business proposal, largely because we felt that the project went way beyond business and that an English version of the book would ultimately make a beneficial contribution towards the wellbeing of horses through their carers.

That was when the line went dead. Although I had insisted that everything was negotiable, Hempfling was suddenly very busy and unavailable. After some persistence I was informed that he had decided to put the project on hold for the time being. Years later I spoke to Jo Ross, Hempfling’s then sole senior body awareness coach, together with a number of the people attending one of the two Body Awareness training weekends we organised for her at our home in Bellingen, Australia. She had been helping Hempfling with a project involving research and English writing. What had started as a small request for assistance turned out to be a lengthy investment of time and effort free of charge, which she assured us she would probably not have agreed to at the outset if she had been aware of what it would have involved. It was then that I realised what was more than likely the reason why the English version of the book had not gone ahead.


Hempfling’s way of the horse

So what makes Die Botschaft der Pferde the must-read that I feel it should become if a decent English version is produced? Ultimately, it is precisely what Hempfling himself states in his recent email: the book is a “description of Klaus’ path and … it contains a lot of information regarding the path towards the horses and his inner thoughts he was carrying around to finally live his life the way he is doing it”.

The cover of my preliminary English version

The cover of my preliminary English version

In a nutshell, Die Botschaft der Pferde presents the essence of Hempfling in his dealings with and his approach to horses. Certainly, the story is romanticised to some extent, yet it is devoid of the smoke and mirrors that one is sometimes tempted to associate with his videos. No, the book is not perfect. The pace of the narrative is erratic in parts, especially towards the end and it could have benefitted from some tighter editing, although this is less true than in the case of The Horse Seeks Me, which really begs for a no-nonsense editor. Having said that, very few books are perfect, if any.

Published two years after Hempfling completed the German version of Dancing with Horses in Catalonia, Spain, and set in the same part of that country, Die Botschaft der Pferde describes what I came to call The Way of the Horse, his. This was the title I proposed, as I felt that “message” does not have the powerful figurative connotations of its German and Dutch equivalents (Botschaft and boodschap respectively). I also resurrected the subtitle but changed it to reflect its essence: An Autobiographical Mythology for Our Times.



Anyone who has studied Hempfling’s approach to horses will be familiar with this term. Essentially, it is the process whereby a human enters into the world of the horse, conscious only of the immediate reality around them but so utterly and fully aware of it that there is no longer any place in it for the mind to operate other than as an instrument of awareness. For the time that the human is grounded, life becomes a conscious experiential recurrence of being in which the awareness of oneself and one’s immediate surroundings, including any horse within them, is all that matters and exists. Cogito ergo sum is relegated to the trash heap of meaningless slogans.

Hempfling’s The Way of the Horse, as I prefer to call the book for the time being, includes a vivid example of just such a grounding. And it was when I read it in 2008 that I first came to have an inkling of just what grounding means. It was a key moment in my development and for this reason I would like to share my English rendition of that grounding which is narrated in the book.

The hero has just been called to rescue a young colt that has been cornered with a rope by what passes for Spanish horsemen in a cattle crush and injured with a serreta (a rather vicious metal equine torture implement masquerading as Spanish tack resembling a serrated steel cavasson noseband that would surely have featured prominently in an equine version of the Inquisition).

Now I can get to the rope. I cut it. The horse flings his head up again. He pulls his left foreleg up. Now the animal is almost on its side. His right hind leg slides between the rails. The colt’s wild movements are only making his situation more difficult. I ask the men to step back further from the cage.
Pausing, I peer up at the evening sky, gaze at the setting sun. I am aware of my body coming back down to earth, relaxing. I sense the parts that seem to be separate slowly fusing together. Now, finally, I can calm the colt.
“Easy … easy, horsie, take it easy.” I have to get it right. I have to get closer to him but without spooking him into another panic.
“José, give me a rope please.”
Antonio and the other men have confidence in me. They do not interfere.
I watch the drama unfold like a distant spectator. Now the fragrances seem to change. A breeze fans in from the south-west. Still pleasantly warm, it blows almost imperceptibly over a rise towards me, carrying the powerful fragrance of the herbs which thickly carpet the hills in the south-west.
I breathe calmly, slowly. I take my fill of this fine, mild evening. The sun, I feel it warm the left-hand side of my face. The breeze gently teases my hair. I breathe in again and delight in the soft, mild air. Then cautiously I trail the fingertips of my left hand lightly along the colt’s sweat-soaked neck. His eyes half-closed now, he is entirely calm. Whispering so that no one other than the horse can hear, I tell him about the beauty of this evening.
There is a moment when I wonder whether I should first remove the brutal serreta. No, first he needs to be liberated from his cage. Then we will take it from there.
I wind the rope around his raised foreleg and his neck, making it clear to him that now is the time to get up, and to do so in a single motion. The ends of the rope I loop over the top bars of the cattle crush. I ask Antonio and three other men to hold the ends and then to heave with all their might once I give the signal. Slowly I move to the other side of the cage. Carefully I wind a second rope around the pastern of the trapped hind leg.
Across the steaming, sweat-laden body of the horse I peer out over the valley and allow my gaze to soar to the crimson horizon above it. I am aware of my hand as I rest it on the horse’s back. The colt is breathing very calmly now. He allows himself a cautious snort through the blood clogging his nose.
Only a few minutes have passed since our paths have crossed here and yet it is there. That special bond has emerged, a mystical connection between us. It is something that resists explanation, defies description. It is such a rare experience, one that seems to be born of itself: a pulsation, a vibration, an alert, conscious perception. Perceptible for a fleeting moment, it leaves you feeling entirely fulfilled before you are barely aware of it. It is there and it can be of enormous significance. Yet it would seem that you could fail to notice it, were it not for the horse. Utterly calm and composed, it no longer resists but merely waits for you, surrendering and trusting.
Tira! Tira! Tira!” “Pull! Pull! Pull!” I yell at the men and simultaneously jerk as hard as I can on the rope wrapped around the horse’s jammed hind leg to free him. A heavy clang reverberates as the colt’s head bangs against the iron bars. He rears up. His left foreleg hangs in the air. Again his head bangs into the bars. One more time, boy, I think. Just one more time, but this time get it right. Come on, boy, just one more time.
“When he tries to get up again, pull as hard as you can!”
Slowly I pull the rope taut.
Again the desperate animal flings his head against the iron bars. I fall back, knock my head against a pole. Again and again I hear the hooves drum against the bars. I get to my feet … and see the horse gallop off. Antonio moves over to me and asks if I am alright.
“Thank you. Thank you, there is nothing wrong with me.”
Este caballo, es malo, malo, malo,” says Antonio shaking his head.
“No,” I cry, “You are bad, not the horse.” But I scream it so softly that no one can hear.

I was moved so deeply by this passage and yet it was only the first chapter. And so I read and read, and eventually reread it all again. Then I knew this was a book that had to be published in English.


The way of the knight

If you study Hempfling, sooner or later you will come across this term. In The Horse Seeks Me he describes three main ways of being with horses in what passes for civilised horse-keeping in the wealthy West. There is conventional horsemanship with its emphasis on negative reinforcement embodied in that flawed doctrine of pressure and release, which he refers to as “external violence” (p. 58).

Then there is natural horsemanship which seeks to dominate the horse a quickly as possible with join-up occurring as the “last resort” to the horse, “as the only escape from hunting and exhaustion”, not because the horse likes the human or because the latter has suddenly become a trustworthy entity but rather “precisely because everything else has become more intolerable, more painful and more negative” (p. 61). This approach Hempfling refers to as “complete spiritual and mental submission” (p. 58).

Hempfling's inspiration: the way of the knight

Hempfling’s inspiration: the way of the knight

Finally, there is the way of the knight, which Hempfling refers to as “being and trust”. Although this used to be “dominance and trust” in Dancing with Horses, there is an ambivalence in The Horse Seeks Me which is partly reminiscent of his portrayal of the way of the knight in The Way of the Horse. And it is this portrayal which I would like to share with you, because it speaks volumes.

The hero is speaking to his girlfriend, Paloma, describing what he has learned through his observations of a herd of wild horses in the Spanish Pyrenees.

“Paloma, the little horse, all the time I still think of that small mare. What exactly is her secret? To what does she owe her strength and direct approach? None of the horses, not even the young, black stallion, is such a source of fascination to me as this mare. She always stood off to the side when they were grazing. Even her foal was never as close to her as those of the other mares. It raced around wildly but she let it be. The other mares were actually more concerned about her foal than she was. Usually, she stood facing in the direction in which she would later lead the entire herd. She often raised her head, looked around her, sniffed the air and glanced at the stallion. Sometimes he approached her. While the others played with each other, the mare was usually on her own. Yet through her being and her strength she projected a powerful presence without moving. She was simply there. At no time did she fight with the other mares. She simply moved through the herd and was accepted. Although much larger and well-rounded, more muscled and attractive, two mares ranked well below her. They maintained an appropriate distance from the leading mare. And when she circled the herd and drove them together to signal their departure, all of them followed her. They simply followed her.
“How sophisticated is their organisation … how refined … how marvellous is the web which brings and holds them together, in unity but voluntarily. Do you understand? And then such a noble creature enters the presence of a human, who is accustomed to resorting to weapons and violence to enforce his will. How pitiful a creature is a human in the eyes of the horse, how inferior to its dignity. And it is to this weak, worthless creature that it must accommodate and subordinate itself. Do you understand? A proud mare. A proud stallion.
“No, Paloma, only one avenue is available through which to approach these creatures: by making such dignity your own, that inner greatness and purity which the horse recognises and accepts, which it can value and respect, and which it can then choose to follow as it does in the wild. This is the only path that can lead to their secret, to the secret of the amazons, the knights. They shaped their personality to express greatness, to embody dignity and all of the qualities which really matter in the domain of animals and make real trust possible.
“And in the world of humans? Is it not precisely those virtues which I found so readily in the leading mare that count in it? Have these animals not carried within them, for millions of years now, all that humans have aspired to with such difficulty, possibly without the prospect of ever actually achieving it?”
“So how do you think a human should relate to his horse?”
“He must enable it to understand him. This is the first step. I can use words to explain something to you and other people. God has given us the gift of speech for this purpose. But horses cannot speak. They have their own form, their own means of communication. I have not yet seen enough of them yet but, believe me, I shall study them. I want to enter their world, because this is definitely my foremost duty. If I am to understand their true value and respect them, then my first step can only be an attempt to become close to them, abandoning arrogance and the desire for these creatures to enter my world, because mine is a domain of violation and violence, of rage and wrath, of victory and vanity, and of craving and competition. Not a shred of this did I notice during the months I spent out there, Paloma. They don’t have it there. All of it is alien to them. Here in our village when I look around, I ask myself, ‘Aren’t we all searching for this? Don’t we all aspire to achieve such a way of life? So who needs to enter whose world then? The horses in ours or we in theirs? To discover what we are all yearning for. Is this not the path that will lead us to their way, to their way made known to us?’
“This is what I want to do. I have no idea how to do it and I have no idea whether I will ever succeed in doing it. Yet the old man succeeded in doing that and others before our time too. This is what humans need to do: go to them and learn from them.
“Any human who seeks to be with a horse should first have to develop the dignity within himself step by step, which is required to lead such a creature. He has to be able to assume the role of the leading mare. Do you understand? We first need to acquire a minimum quality of being, which every horse out there already has, even the lowest ranking in the herd! Do you understand? A human must start within himself, very deep within himself, because only then – I am convinced of this and I have seen it in the old man up there – will a horse be able to recognise and understand him. And then it will follow you, without force, without struggle, without a whip and without all that rotten nonsense. It will follow you as long it can find trust, protection and greatness in you, the qualities with which it is familiar in the world of the horse. And then, Paloma, then the humans – the trophy hunters, the show jumpers and show-offs – then they will become amazons, horsemen, knights. Just imagine! Just imagine, they will acquire ears to hear, hands to feel and eyes to see it: the way of the horse, their way made known to us!”
“And you think that they will then begin to love, I mean, really love?”
My excitement has brought me upright. Now I slowly lie back down besides Paloma. What remains of my flood of words in response to this brief question which she so gently asks of me.
“Yes, Paloma, you are right. Perhaps they will begin to love. Perhaps we will really begin to love.”

Hempfling and Janosch: a magical connection

This is the Hempfling whose loving relationship with the little chestnut gelding, Janosch, originally set the chain of the development which he describes above in motion within me. This is the Hempfling who has gone AWOL for far too long. Now is the time for that Hempfling to reappear in The Way of the Horse.



Hempfling’s last book suffered at the hands of translators. The Dutch version of the German original of The Horse Seeks Me was particularly appalling. Although the English version is significantly better, it is not up to the standard which Kristina McCormack set in Dancing with Horses and What Horses Reveal.

It is my sincere wish that Die Botschaft der Pferde does not suffer the same fate. It is too good a book to have botched by an incompetent translator. Hopefully, Hempfling will personally intervene to save it from that fate.



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5 Responses to “Hempfling’s Way of the Horse”

  1. Esther E Zeman says:

    Andrew, thank you for sharing Klaus’ words. It is this Klaus that I can see that the horses’ see and are drawn to. The wording and description here are just as you say the very clearest I have ever read of what I intuitively see the horses expressing when they are with him. Thank you sooo much again for sharing this and I will direct as many here as I am able to. This is what I so am searching for and only find in Klaus’ writings, video’s throught the horses’ reactions and expressions while interacting with him. There aren’t words to thank you enough for your input here. I too hope that he has had his book translated as you have here. I might have to pay you myself to translate it for me if you feel the book isn’t done well!!!

  2. Sybille Doppler says:

    Hello Andrew and Hello Vicky,
    What you are writing about Klauses book “Die Boyschaft der Pferde” intrigues me a lot :
    In fact, I read this book around 1997 and then, I was quite naïve. For example, I didn’t take care of the subtitle “Nach autobiographischen Motiven”, but took it as a real autobiography. I fand it fascinating, read it several times and tried very hard to understand the 3-pillar-live-theory, the symbolic of the white horse, etc… –> and I thought that the old monk really did exist and did “teach” Klaus all theses things.
    But in Summer-Seminar 2010, Klaus said, he was an absolute autodidact and never had a teacher. As I asked him details, he didn’t respond.
    I thought a lot about this contradiction and finally came to the same conclusion as you :

    “Put another way, the form of the novel, which is what this book is, is autobiographical but the narrative as a whole is a work of fiction. Sometimes though fiction can more effectively reveal the essence of a true story than a recital of the relevant facts and circumstances.”

    In fact, today I think, Klaus didn’t really enconter this monk. But in the Middle-Age, those monks (Tempelritter) did exist.
    And in a intuitive way, Klaus was able to retrieve their teachings. In a way, he could summon the soul of such a monk. And he decided to represent this (soul) monk as his Mentor, probably to create a bigger legitimacy.
    It seems, that this is a form of style in literature, which is called “proleptic” in opposition of “analeptic”.

    What do you think about this analysis? I really would be glad to know your opinion.
    Meanwhile, all the best to you in this new year 2015 and a lot of greetings to Vicky!


    • Andrew says:

      Dear Sybille

      You have obviously read this book quite intensively and have now begun to appreciate it for what it is. Your analysis is certainly valid but ultimately, what is far more important, is what you have learned from the book and how it has helped you tap into the “master who dances with horses” who exists within yourself.

      Thank you for your good wishes. May 2015 bring joy to you and yours!

      Be well!

      • Sybille Doppler says:

        Dear Andrew,
        Thank you very much for your answer. It is precious to me because this is the first time I find someone to exchange thoughts about this book.
        Of course you are right. Finally the form of the novel isn’t so important. Nevertheless, I would be eager to learn if you, as a translator, ever did hear of this form of style in literature, which is called “proleptic” in opposition of “analeptic” ?!
        I also would like to exchange with somebody who read the book “Frau und Pferd”. Did you so ?
        Or is there somebody else reading this message and having an opinion about “Frau und Pferd”? If so, I would be glad to know this opinion.
        For the moment, I enjoy reading your book “Challenge”.
        Best wishes to you and Wicki,

        • Andrew says:

          Dear Sybille

          According to the Oxford online dictionary, prolepsis is “the representation of a thing as existing before it actually does or did so”, as in “He was a dead man when he entered”. The term, “analeptic”, is one that I am not familiar with beyond its meaning of “restorative” in relation to medication.

          If I remember correctly, Vicki has read “Frau und Pferd”. Perhaps you could email her or contact her via Facebook.

          It does me good to hear that you are enjoying “Challenge”. It was indeed a challenge but it lead to “Growth”.

          Be well!