View Full Version : Bent Branderup Clinic

27-05-09, 08:53 PM
I mentioned on CH several weeks ago that I was thinking of going to a Bent Branderup clinic in Germany.

I wasn't sure whether it would be worthwhile; given the apparent eccentricity of his 'public persona', I was concerned that he might live a bit too much in the past, or be a bit inflexible in his thinking. (Whilst I don't understand the dressing up bit, I don't have an issue with it - I've lived in Cologne for the past few years, which more or less 'dress up central' from 11th November until Karneval).

In the end (figuring that even if the clinic was a waste of time, the home made cheese, sausages and wurst at the guest house would make up for it) I headed down for the clinic.

I am very glad I did. :-) BB was no more eccentric in person than I imagine Hercule Poirot would be. And he seems extremely flexible in his thinking (encouraging people to examine other methods etc).

I took many pages of notes, and have typed them out, they can be found here:

They are not structured like a book or essay, and there might be some repetitions; I just typed out the notes as I had taken them down.

It is also possible that there are some interesting terminology uses - this will be because I was listening in German, translating to English, and then writing the notes. I haven't checked to see whether I have made any gross technical errors - if there are errors, they will be mine.

The basic statistics are:
8 horses in attendance
3 theory sessions, 3 practical sessions

- Some of the horses had conformational or mental issues
- Two of the horses were ridden bareback, a third in a bareback pad
- One horse was ridden in a hackamore, two were ridden off the cavesson (the cavesson wasn't a traditional serreta, it was a leather noseband with a flexible chain in the middle).
- Several horses were ridden off the curb bit alone (one handed, Art of Riding style)
- One horse was in traditional english tack
- one horse had a heart problem and is only worked in hand (working on piaffe/passage, and playing with the beginning of levade)
- the most highly trained horse there was the 'hysterical' WB mare, working on piaffe, passage, pirouettes, worked from the curb bit and bareback pad

The most impressive work IMO was that done with a horse with a fore leg deformity from a paddock accident. Ridden bareback, in a hackamore. Looked like a lovely horse to ride, and his owner is doing everything she can to strengthen the horse permanently (i.e. to lighten up the front end permanently, and keep the horse sound for as long as possible). I imagine that most people would just have left this horse in a paddock.

The focus seemed to be on getting the best out of each individual horse, with lightness and smoothness.

A lot of use was made of shoulder in and traverse, including on the circle and at all paces. Transitions from one to the other were common.

I don't think that I would be 100% interested in following BB's Academic Riding Art path, but I would definitely ride in a clinic with BB if the opportunity ever presented itself.

27-05-09, 11:55 PM
thanks for the details.

I've got his DVDs (don't know if they're available in English - I got them here in Germany) and have found them most "interesting".

I find there are some core components common to all "classical" type training and the extensive of shoulder-in being one of them. Mind you, there are always peripheral differences as well, sometimes significant.

Always great to hear of other people's experiences. Great you shared.


PS. I'm based in Warendorf and if you're in the area at anytime, please feel free to contact me.

28-05-09, 12:51 PM
Thanks for the report FF- wish I had been there :-). What impressed you about the work with the leg deformity horse?

28-05-09, 04:33 PM
There were a couple of things that impressed my about the work with the horse with the leg deformity, Ardilla.

The first was that this seemed to be a case where someone was dedicated to using dressage 'for' the horse, rather than 'for' the rider.

The leg 'looked' as if it had been broken and healed crooked (laterally and longitudinally; I don't know what the actual injury was). If it was my horse, I honestly believe I would have retired it - I was actually quite taken aback when I realised how 'bent' the leg was.

But... I believe that the work is helping this particular horse. His footfalls are all very soft (you could barely hear his foot falls in the trot and canter). He is very 'light' in the front.

His movement at the canter was a bit awkward initially (at the canter, he would throw his front end quite 'high' into the air, even though he was still landing softly) - I thought that this was a symptom of his leg problem. BB said no, this is due to the rider's seat. She was leaning forward in the canter (as the front of the horse came up, she would lean forward). BB told her to do the opposite (as the front of the horse came up, she should move her upper body slightly aft, like on a rocking horse).

It took her a couple of circles to adjust, and then (as if by magic ;-)) the horse was doing a really lovely canter. I found this to be a really clear and immediate example of the effect that the seat can have.

Not particularly dramatic, perhaps - but sometimes the simple things are the most important. :-)

I don't know whether his videos are available in English, Shahron. I think his books are only available in German. I've seen some clips from the 'slow motion' DVD, but they didn't *really* inspire me to buy it. Maybe there is more to them?

BB seems to be a big fan of Steinbrecht, Pluvinel and de la Gueriniere - as I have these (in English) I thought I would stick with them rather than buying books that are *work* to read.

I did have a couple of 'criticisms' or 'reservations' (which may be unfair, BB didn't ride).

I felt that sometimes the riders didn't have enough 'forward' or 'energy' when they were attempting collected work (piaffe, pirouette etc). BB did comment several times, though, that 'going slowly is not collection'.

And BB would often say 'try for...'. I might have been watching to much Star Wars, but I think my philosophy is a little more Yoda like (do or do not, there is no try). ;-) This "try..." might just have been a trick of the language.

(Shahron, if I'm in the Warendorf area, I'll get in touch!)

28-05-09, 05:21 PM
Thank you very much, Frogfriday :)

What I find interesting is that it would appear he wants the horse to step out a little with his hind legs on the circle, he wants the inside hind to step under the rider's seat and not into the imprint of the front foot on the same side.

Which means, unless he crosses his hind legs, he is crooked. I'm not sure about Pluvinel, but Steinbrecht and de la Gueriniere insisted on the horse being straight.

Am I right in my interpretation of your notes?

28-05-09, 06:09 PM
Thanks FF. I really enjoyed your clinic report and nothing you wrote burst my bubble that I would like to spend some time with BB.

Midnight wrote:

"What I find interesting is that it would appear he wants the horse to step out a little with his hind legs on the circle, he wants the inside hind to step under the rider's seat and not into the imprint of the front foot on the same side.

Which means, unless he crosses his hind legs, he is crooked."

Actually, Midnight that is not true. When the inside hind steps slightly towards the outside and the inside fore steps towards the inside, the horse is straight on a circle. If it doesn't happen then the horse is crooked with either his hip falling in or his shoulder falling out.

The books and gurus have it wrong when they say the inside fore and inside hind should be on the same track. It's not even debatable when you watch a horse move. I don't know where this idea began that the inside fore and hind should be on the same track, but it has now become an accepted fact and it's wrong.

To me, it is very gratifying to hear somebody as esteemed as BB say the same thing as I have been saying for years, when all the dressage world keeps telling me I am wrong and won't listen or watch their horses to learn the truth.

28-05-09, 06:12 PM
I'm not 100% sure, Midnight.

When the horse was on a straight line, he commented (in the 'purity of gaits' talk) that the hind feet should step into the imprint of the front feet.

I'm afraid I don't recall what he stated when the horse was on a circle (and he did mention it).

He did point out the 'correct' imprints on the ground in one of the riding sessions, as well as pointing out some incorrect steps. I *think* that in the correct Shoulder In (which he REALLY wanted to be the 'three legs' viewed from front or back) the hind also stepped into the front foot's imprint.

His comment on Steinbrecht was that regardless of the movement, the horse's feet should never step 'ausserhalb die masse' - out of the area under the 'mass' of the horse. I *understood* that to mean that the feet should always land 'correctly', but always 'under' the horse e.g. not one of those passage/piaffes that you sometimes see where the hind legs go 'base wide' (probably wrong terminology, but maybe you understand what I am trying to say? :-)).

I'm not sure what the effect the traverse and shoulder in on the circle have on the placement of the feet - I have enough trouble attempting a correct shoulder in / traverse on the straight, without putting it on a circle. I would have to draw some sketches to understand the geometry, unfortunately, so can't really comment more on this. :-( They did seem to be something he liked, though, and I had never seen/heard of them as an exercise.

He also commented that he would use shoulder in/travers WITH piaffe/passage as an exercise.(?) That they are 'older' exercises. I may have heard incorrectly, but I'm sure he was talking about P&P with lateral movements.

I think that a 'higher level' rider or judge would probably have got *more* out of the clinic than I did, but then that is to be expected. ;-)

28-05-09, 07:18 PM
Thanks Frogfriday. So firstly we have:

"His comment on Steinbrecht was that regardless of the movement, the horse's feet should never step 'ausserhalb die masse' - out of the area under the 'mass' of the horse. I *understood* that to mean that the feet should always land 'correctly', but always 'under' the horse e.g. not one of those passage/piaffes that you sometimes see where the hind legs go 'base wide' (probably wrong terminology, but maybe you understand what I am trying to say? )."

... and yes, I understand what you're saying. I reckon we see more "base wide" passages and piaffes than good ones. When he goes wide behind like that and sort of rocks from one diagonal to the other, it means the collection and engagement and self carriage are lost. It's called "balance" with an acute accent over the "e".

We also have:

"We would like the inner hoof to fall approximately underneath where the rider sits i.e. under the centre of gravity (CoG). If this point is where the horse's centre of gravity is naturally, then the horse will be very easy to work with. If the foot doesn't naturally land under the place that the rider will sit, the horse will be a little more difficult to train."

... which means that the inside hind is to land between the imprints of the 2 front feet, and the outside hind will land out of the area under the mass ..... unless, as I said, he is crossing his inside hind in front of his outside hind.

HQ I know you've said this before, and I know you're an admirer of BB, so I figured that this is where you picked it up. Perhaps I had it the wrong way around? Yes, I did check my own horses carefully when lungeing .... if they possibly could they'd put their quarters out on the circle as an evasion. Under saddle, a correctly ridden and supple horse does follow the same line front and back.

As a matter of interest, every book I have (except my Pluvinel book because I can't find where he says it) states categorically that the front and hind legs should travel in the same line. On one track. If they don't, he is evading the exercise of the circle, of having to take a shorter, higher step with his inside hind and a longer, flatter step with his outside one (my words).

Soooo .. interesting yes?

28-05-09, 09:23 PM
Thanks FF. Your reports are always interesting reading and I have little tingles of jealousy that you are getting to these clinics.

What happens with horses that are wider behind than in front. Podhajsky says that in a straight line you need to keep the shoulder away from the wall or the horse will be crooked with the shoulder out.

Now if the horse tracks closer together with the hindfeet than the hips then, provided the shoulders are between the hips, the hind hooves will step into or over the print of the front feet. But how do you feel this on the circle - that one hip is a tiny bit inside the shoulder and the other a tiny bit outside the shoulder.

Is one or two inches to either side of the front hoof print enough to create a different ideology.

Wouldnt aiming for this

"His comment on Steinbrecht was that regardless of the movement, the horse's feet should never step 'ausserhalb die masse' - out of the area under the 'mass' of the horse. I *understood* that to mean that the feet should always land 'correctly', but always 'under' the horse" actually cover a whole range of placement of the feet provided that the direction of the travel of the leg is towards the CoG which could be travelling forward or sidewards.

28-05-09, 10:12 PM
We KNOW that a horse tracks with his feet closer together than the points of his hips. Let's not muddy the waters??

To show true engagement the hocks must be close together (and if his hocks are close together then his feet *have to be* ...) because once they separate, the engagement is lost .... putting his hocks apart we've discussed elsewhere I think? We all know it's a serious evasion.

Now if we consider that BOTH hind legs step towards the centre of gravity .. i.e. under the rider's seat ... what sort of contortions is he doing with his outside hind?

The outside hind is the one that should step towards the centre of gravity and the inside hind should keep him on one track. Let's keep it simple for the moment and consider circles, straight lines, but work on one track.

To consider 2 track work before the straightness is addressed is confusing the issue here.

28-05-09, 11:51 PM
Ugg - You misunderstand - I'm not telling, I'm asking.

So BB is saying "inside leg to the CoG" but you're saying outside leg - because if the inside leg steps under the CoG then the outside hind leg has to step "outside" the CoG?

On the circle if there is rhythm in the stride, the inside hindleg bending a bit more through the hock to get the height but covering less distance, the outside is taking the longer reach toward the girth therefor "under the centre of gravity".

I wonder, can we increase the collection on this circle or does it require the horse to straighten, keeping the engagement of the inside hindleg and increasing the elevation of the outside hindleg as you travel straight. So the circle might increase the suppleness and the flexion of the hock but not increase the collection until the horse is straightened and BOTH hindlegs are stepping equally under the CoG?

On the other hand I'm certain that my hips are wide enough for both hind legs to step under MY centre of gravity (even though I do realise you are referring to the centre of the horse). :)

29-05-09, 02:53 AM
One of the problems with notes is that you don't always get every word. :-)

I went back to my note book, and this section that we are discussing is an area where I missed quite a bit. I know that, because it's where he drew a fairly complicated diagram, and I was only able to get part of it (although from memory, some of his sketch related to the rotation of the rib cage and hind quarters).

You can blame my slow translation, echo-y halls, squealing babies and growling dogs for my distraction at this point. (Mini dog fights in Village Halls are FUN ;-)).

If Shahron is around, maybe she remembers if BB mentions this point in his DVDs??

My comments and diagram at this point:

(Brust Korb = rib cage, HQ = hind quarter)

Inner foot inside forward.

Inner hind should step under the point ca. where the rider sits. If this CoG is where the rider sits (from nature) the horse will be easy to train.

If the foot doesn't naturally land where the rider will sit, it is a bit more difficult to train.

Horse needs to learn to step under where rider sits.

BB calls it stepping under as a better picture for rider than overtrack."

So, the diagram *indicates* that the horse steps 'toward' the spine and CoG, not directly under it. The comment that BB made of "stepping under" being a better picture for the rider than "overtrack" *seems* to suggest that the place where the foot lands can't be *too far* from an 'overtrack' position. Right...???

I'm enjoying going to some clinics, Bats :-). I'm REALLY looking forward to the Philippe Karl one next month... It's just a shame that I can't put anything into practice at the moment. Next year!

29-05-09, 09:26 AM
Hi Frogfriday havent had a chance to finish reading it all but just wanted to say thank you. the majority of us will never get to experience a clinic like that :(
but the way you described things was perfect, loved the fact that the majority of horses were not what we would call "perfect" and that the riders could all come together while in different stages of "geared up". is this normal for Germany?
as i always had the impression they were very strict with their training.
and some of the clinic I've attended here, made you feel if you didn't have the right horse or gear you wouldn't get a look in.
Can you please tell us more about Bent's background?
cheers Pauper

Fly high, you were a star... now your a angel.

29-05-09, 10:43 AM
Frogfriday your diagram makes things all perfectly clear now ... thank you.

It would appear that the inside hind foot falls under the rider's inside seat bone ... that's all good. I had the (wrong)impression that BB wanted the foot to fall in the middle of the horse ... where the curved line of his spine is, therefore putting the quarters out. Not so. I am happy now. :)

29-05-09, 10:49 AM
Great Conversation .. thanks everyone :D

29-05-09, 03:54 PM
Glad to help, Midnight. :7

Pauper, slightly modified from his website:

"Bent Branderup began riding almost before he could walk.

At the age of 12 the first neighbour farmers brought him horses to train and Military and hunting became part of his life as well.

Bent Branderup´s burning interest in the past made him spend many hours in the Danish Museums and interesting work giving new life to old harness and horse driven carts began.

Then a long travel around Europe began – visiting places of historic and hippologic interest. Iceland, Spain, Germany – just to name a few places. Not surprisingly Bent ended up in "Escuela Andalusa del Arte Equestre" in Jerez, Spain, and became acquainted with Don Alvaro Domecq and Don Javier Garcia Romero. The great personalities and equestrian knowledge of these two masters was of great influence to Bent, and in the hands of Don Javier Garcia Romero the Iberian horse and Bent became acquainted....Bent also was a keen student by Nuno Oliveira in Portugal and Egon von Neindorff in Karlsruhe, Germany. "

During the clinic, he also mentioned spending some months in Hungary with some Chicos, and I understood that he has spent time in South America as well, where he commented that some of the 'oldest' of the Iberian peninsula traditions / tack are still often in use.

I don't know whether riding in Germany is *always* as regimented as we think it is in Aus. In some of the country areas, people do what they want (same as at home). I have seen a couple of decent ('correct') schools where they encourage students to improve their seat by riding / being lunged bareback.

The main difference in Germany (IMO) is the NUMBER of 'riding schools'. And they normally (or often) have DECENT school horses / ponies. So for x-number of 'bad' places in an area, there will be y 'good' places.

29-05-09, 07:50 PM
Sorry. Flat strap. Will try to answer tomorrow.

FF - one big problem with ALL the classical trainers I've seen based in Europe is that the horses are not forward. I'll explain that as well. It's why they haven't made the big cross to work with a lot of warmbloods (hardly any - and they always end up with a trot like a sewing machine when they do get them). Will explain more over the weekend....