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Gerd’s Demise? August 4, 2010

Posted by mikeschaffer in balance, Behind the bit, calmness, contact, corrections, dressage, hyperflexion, looseness, Riding, roll kur.

It seems Gerd Heuschmann, Author of Tug of War and, until now, the titular head of the anti-rollkur movement writes better than he rides. The sad fact is he’s pretty awful from all reports. I have seen a short clip of him on You Tube (seems to be missing now) and I thought he looked pretty amateurish. The latest is that he’s been riding in his clinics so badly that he has been kicked out of the xenophon group, and has lost his standing with the German National Federation and the F.E.I.

Here’s the link to an article in a German magazine explaining the problems – it’s in German and I had to rely on the Google translator to see what was said (it seemed to do a good albeit not perfect job.)


I’m not sure yet what I think about all of this…

I do have some observations about just these pictures related to the article


I’m not offended at all by the first two pictures from 16:48 ad 16:49. He seems to be using his aids adequately to ask the horse to release and by the picture at 16:50:27 it looks like he has succeeded – as far as the horse goes. The horse is definitely better in that moment but he is awful. By leaning forward and dropping his hands he hasn’t given the horse a hand to go do or out himself in a position to influence the horse with his body.

However by 16:51 he’s sitting down, his hands are appropriate for this horse and the horse is reaching nicely into them.

By 16:52 he’s back in that silly half-seat so when he asks the horse to go back to trot the horse is lost and starts to go off on his own.

Now Gerd is in a bad half seat so his only tools are his hands which are no effective in his position so the horse rightfully sets out to sort this out on his own. From there things start to spiral downwards rapidly and Gerd is going from too weak and out of balance to too strong. Next it appears he has to use the wall to get the horse to stop – while still using strong backwards pull on the bars of the horse’s mouth. That’s a major no-no in my book.

Still he seems to have gotten things back on track by 16:56:57 but then, instead of just sitting quietly and allowing the horse to figure out the correct balance he’s leaning forward and starting the too free too tight cycle over again.



1. Jenny Pournelle - August 4, 2010

I admire your ability to rise above the fray in this commentary. Were it, say, Anke riding in frame 16:53;26-27, I’m sure there would be no end of howling about abuse. So, in that sprit, I’m not going to pile on with comments on the half-seat and dropped hands – who knows what’s going on there. I’ll just be generous and assume that anyone can have a bad day/ride/moment. Lord knows I’ve seen some monumentally embarrassing pictures of myself looking like an exercise rider from a hunter barn (not that I’m presuming to conduct clinics).

However, my overall observation of all these pix is that, right or wrong, whatever it is that Gerd is advocating with this horse, would, for me, be utterly ineffective. From a sheer physical stance, I just couldn’t do it. It clearly requires a degree of brute strength –and an intact set of rotator cuffs — that I don’t have.

It appears that the editors agree – their point #2 reads: “Gerd Heuschmann obviously rides with a lot of bodily strength. In our summary judgement, to ride a horse with such forcible strength is justifiable only when the rider’s safety is at stake. That was not the case here.” [If anybody wants me to translate other bits I’d be glad to .}

2. Jenny Pournelle - August 4, 2010

I should also add a translation of the professional photographer’s comment: “The Frisian shown here was unwilling and barely accepted rein and leg aids. The horse was rather resistant and lazy.” Hmmm. Sounds like he lacks the basics… I must say he does look rather a clueless bully boy, accustomed to “winning” push/pull contests, with little idea of what better to do. A good candidate for Lesson 1: How To Learn.

3. Deb - August 11, 2010


Thanks for going through the pictures and discussing what is happening, what the rider is doing right or wrong, and how the horse is responding. This is so much more educational than all the arguments going on in various forums about GH and this incident.

I’ve read his book and found it very thought-provoking but too thin on data and evidence (others have talked more knowledgably about the issues he addresses). From what little I’ve seen of his riding he is not a rider or trainer I would like to emulate. He advocates using the “odd two-point” position you noted as a way to relieve the horse’s back, but in fact recent studies have shown that there isn’t a noticeable difference from a balanced seat, and as you point out the stance makes the rider ineffective, since his body weight can no longer be used as an aid. Thus it’s no surprise that he cycles back and forth between too loose and too harsh–he has no middle ground for himself and his horse.


Pam - September 19, 2010


Gerd, is definiely not the type of rider I could spend much time watching. To me, he has no feel for the horse he is riding & to top it off he is very uncoordinated. If he were a dance partner he’d be the type of brute that would step on the woman’s feet!

I think he should take some lessons from Anky.


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