Thank you Josepha, this article and his video clip is very helpful.
The question that remains unanswered for me is whether there are general rules about what is good for each horse when it comes to balancing weight.
It makes more sense to me to teach a horse to rock their weight back and elevate their front (head and shoulders) on cue, just so they know how to do it, and then let the horse decide how they are most comfortable carrying weight at any moment.
Now if I understand this right, Hempfling is arguing that it is impossible for horses to do this on their own at will unless they have the conformation of a Camargue pony or Welsh Cob?
I have to wonder at the context in which he'd make such a statement. Certainly he can't be referring to a horse at liberty - as they often show just such behaviors, including holding in a particular gait and running through many degrees of extension (onto the forehand heavily at one end) to little levades, extreme collection even including piaffe and passage on their own.
I took a few minutes to read the article and Klaus VK being quoted from his book, I believe. He is discussing differing conformations ... my Altea for instance has the physique for collection, heavily muscled, short coupled, shorter heavier neck, and I have seen her pick her front up and come fully half around without touching down in front, and quite slowly at that - not a leap or thrust around but clearly lifting herself over her quarters in a controlled manner.
She is utterly green, never any training other than being backed a bit of low pressure riding by me for exercise, and still she can do this, even with me on her back, loose reins, no prompting from me. Though I admit I have to be careful now that I have shown her the leg yield - she will attempt, instead of walking the forehand around simply lifting and turning.
I am puzzled at his claim. It's not my experience that there are kinds of horses that cannot collect without the use of reins. Thee is, in my experience though, a number of riders and trainers that cannot do it without reins.
And I can think of at least one horse that disproves the proper build for natural collection which would be the Fresian. They have a very collected, true collection, way of going yet that terribly long body. I'd add the American Saddlebred too that short list as well, and the have very long necks.
We see on AND some folks with horses not built like ponies, longer bodied, etc. that in fact do collected movements at liberty with the encouragement of their human companions.
These same horses mounted, being ridden with no reins, possibly a cordeo, certainly do collected movements.
My attention was caught by his remarks re guarding the relationship between horse and rider being critical. I agree. I never had the opportunity to see Nuno Oliveira ride but in the videos I've watched, on loose reins at collected gaits I've not see the "collapse," that Klaus points out. "Sometimes you see people in the baroque way of riding without reins, like Nuno Oliveira - who sometimes did it to show that it is possible for a horse to perform piaffe and passage, etc, without reins, but you can see that the horse is then "collapsing."
I'll have to look closer. And I don't recall Nuno riding other than those very horse types, Spanish for the most part, that had the close coupled build, short neck, etc. that goes with natural dressage.
I guess I'd want to know more what Klaus meant when he said "collapse."
I would agree, for instance, with "collapse," when it comes to the slow collected circle that western reining horses are asked to perform as part of the pattern for judging. I've always considered it more of a shuffle at the lope, not a collected canter in the dressage sense, certainly not the classical one at any rate.
In fact the same horses doing a so called collected trot aren't doing it, but too, shuffling with little short slow strides.
Now THAT is "collapse."
This is not what I saw in videos of Nuno riding the piaffe or passage on a loose rein.
And it may all be more a matter of semantics than anything else.
Remember the subject, I have to remind myself, is "contact," in the way Josepha points out. Not simply the use of the reins. What Klaus refers to, I believe, is the use of the reins, as he clearly says, to give signals to the horse.
It's something I spend a good deal of time trying to find the words that students will understand for themselves, the light touch, the "discussion," I have with the horse through my hands. Little reminders, little calls to attention to notify the horse that I'm about to ask for something, little suggestions, and sometimes too, to feel what comes back to my hands - feeling chewing, or downright irritation with me by tugging, or dropping the nose, etc.
I think the thing that disturbs me most about "contact," is that for me at least, it removes the fine subtleties of communication ... though I'm sure some modern dressage riders would disagree.
But I see it like this. If I am pressing hard against your shoulder a small movement on my part may be missed in the larger pressure, where as if my touch is so light you can barely feel it you will notice the slightest touch, and releases will be almost subliminal - just the way I wish to communicate with my dance partner - and that means human or horse.
I have never been able to see a partnership in modern dressage riding, whereas in the ancient classical methods I do.
To each his own.