Charles de Kunffy clinic notes

It’s been a couple years since the last time I audited a Charles de Kunffy clinic. He comes to Dressage Trainer’s barn pretty regularly, but I’ve been off focusing on not getting killed during the jumping phases. This time was kind of perfect though… SO was out of town on Sunday and I was up stupid early anyway thanks to the time change, so planting my butt in a chair for 6 hours to watch CdK at work was quite a treat. Below I’ve copied all the notes that I put into my phone over the course of the different rides. Hopefully you find some of them as helpful as I did! If you have questions just ask and I’ll try to remember the context/give more explanation.


Most warmups included Zig zag up centerline at the walk, leg yield left 4 steps, right 4 steps, left, right. With precision – always practice everything with precision.

Toe in (straight), think of touching the inner calf to the seam of the saddle pad.

Steady elbows, always perpendicular to the ground.

Alternate left shoulder and right shoulder back (NOT the hand, just the shoulders) in rhythm of the gait to connect the seat bone to the horse’s back and improve the shape of the topline.

Down transitions – be sure to stay connected in the outside elbow.

“Grow large” in your upper body in the sitting trot.

Alternate giving the reins (one and then the other) to verify correct connection and to give the horse the feeling that it can always go forward – never stuck in a rigid hand.

In half pass, the reins are only for alignment, do not pull or overbend the horse.

Horses are where their haunches are. (he said this about a million times)

Practice the things that are more difficult for the horse and reward any effort.

Think of dressage as physical therapy for the horse’s body, and slowly build on difficult exercises over time as they gain strength.

Riding without a purpose is totally stupid. (he is not a fan of mindless toodling)

Use constant transitions within the gait to supple the horse and increase rideability – you want to have many different trots to choose from. Don’t just trot around in one set tempo.

The best route to the perfect extended trot is not to practice extended trot but to practice 10 different trots until you have the suppleness and rideability to create whatever trot you want, whenever you want.

Think of the upper body as 3 vertical pillars – the spine and each arm.

Your center of gravity is a direct reflection of the horse’s center of gravity.

First posture, then transportation – which means first get the horse round and bring the hocks up to the bridle before changing gait.

For canter aid, think of bringing the outside knee back.

Always give the outside hand forward a bit in lateral work to allow the horse to travel.

We have to be careful not to disturb the horse’s posture or gaits with our hands. (He told almost everyone to work on quieting their hands – no bouncing)

Don’t stop a horse when it does an unexpected move – keep going and pretend it was intentional. Don’t start a fight. The horse will learn to stay more relaxed and obedient.

A croup high horse needs more development of the lumbar back to have enough strength for collection.

Collection always comes from the seat, never from the reins.

Take time but don’t waste time.

Energy and suspension come from the inside leg.

Teaching is repetition. If you don’t get what you want the first time simply re-organize and ask again, as many times as it takes.

Resistance = confusion. When horses offer resistance, usually it is because they are confused. Always consider how the horse is interpreting your aids and make sure you aren’t inadvertently giving conflicting cues.

14 thoughts on “Charles de Kunffy clinic notes

  1. “Alternate left shoulder and right shoulder back (NOT the hand, just the shoulders) in rhythm of the gait to connect the seat bone to the horse’s back and improve the shape of the topline.” Definitely going to try this one. (Is Mr DK wearing a mosquito net over his hat or is that just the photo? :D)

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  2. if the horse is where his haunches are…. it’s entirely possible that i’ve never actually ridden charlie LOL

    Kunffy is on my list to audit and has come to this area a couple times in recent years, but it’s never worked out. hopefully one day!

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