Many years ago, Fritz Stahlecker tried to show what difference it makes starting young horses with the traditional method or starting them with HSH. It was a very interesting project with two groups of young horses at the state stud Marbach, which unfortunately was not brought to a good end. But one day Chris Hector passed by and Fritz was delighted to get to know him and give him an idea of how he was working with the horses – at a very early stage at that time. I am very grateful to him that in these days after Fritz’s death he remembered him. Thank you Chris for the nice article in honour of Fritz Stahlecker!http://www.horsemagazine.com/thm/2018/03/fritz-stahlecker-a-new-way-of-training-horses-2/
Devoted to painting as well as to the horses
my life, my purpose and aspiration
Fritz Stahlecker – a lawyer of the horses
He was a lonesome fighter, a man who often felt lonely with his views. He did not let himself be diverted from his path. Very early in the morning he worked with the horses according to his HSH-method to prepare them carefully for riding. When no one spoke of “motivating horses” yet he took advantage of the playfulness, the curiosity and willingness to learn of the young horse. He wanted to put something against training by dominance and learning by avoiding pain. He was way ahead of his time.
An engineer by profession, his technical understanding was ideal when it came to developing a comfortable saddle for the horse, creating the conditions necessary for ground work: a padded cavesson that would make the horses feel good – or a horse-friendly curb bit in which the technical defects of the convention bit were eliminated.
Seeing horses as partners, not taking away their splendor and playful ease, yet claiming their mind as early as possible was his concern. He had in mind to form horse and rider to a harmonious piece of art.
Riding as an art instead of show
Weyden, who was part of the team winning the bronze medal under Sven Rothenberger in Atlanta, was his best known horse trained according to his method. Numerous other horses were successful after having gone through his profound education up to the Grand Prix level. Fritz Stahlecker was not ready to seek success at any price. He wanted to get the dressage scenary out of the dead end of violent riding. “The purpose does not justify the means, the way and the goal must be subject to the same criteria, the careful, respectful treatment of the partner horse.” The aim of his hand-saddle-hand method is to prepare the young horse form the ground for the later expected dressage lessons when riding but in order to spare the young horse’s mouth to train without bit and without rider’s weight. With this gentle early imprint he managed to achieve a partnership with the horse on the ground, which paid off lateron in the saddle in an almost invisible communication with a sensible, sensitive horse and so in the harmony he longed for.
He worked tirelessly on how to steer the sport of dressage back on its feet, how to show more respect to the horse and how to put harmony and riding as an art into the first place instead of competitive sport and show.
Reverence for life
His guideline has always been the credo of Albert Schweitzer, the reverence for life – both humans and animals. In the face of the changing world, he demanded that everyone should consider themselves, that we should all be called to develop a new ethic to overcome violence. His riding philosophy he always led back to the observation of horses in freedom, in their natural behavior. And beyond the horses, he extended the ethics of Albert Schweitzer to all living things. Man should be aware of his responsibility as guardian of nature, as guardian of the diversity of life. Again and again he asked the question: Why is there so much beauty in nature, what is the purpose of it? Seeking an answer, he was confident that there was a sense for it, even if only God knew him.
Tradition and renewal
With the respect for the animal, he also saw it as a necessity to question the traditional again and again. “What everyone does is not necessarily right,” he said. He had developed an extensive knowledge of old riding masters, especially the French school, which he also repeatedly reminded. And yet he had the opinion that it is not about preserving the tradition unseen, but to keep a critical view on it and modify it by new findings, be it technical possibilities, be it from animal psychology or other areas.
He had to face a lot of criticism, he never let himself be discouraged. His profound knowledge could not be ignored. Anyone who had the chance – and people came to him from all over the world – to get to know him better, was impressed by the immense wealth of riding knowledge and experience he readily passed on. Pupils remember him wistfully – his almost unique riding lessons with his own ideas, his valuable hints on using his hand-saddle-hand method, offering unexpected solutions to problems – and never giving up.
Riding as an art, as a search for meaning, as creative thinking
Riding for pleasure was not sufficient for Fritz Stahlecker, for him riding was an artistic challenge and a school of life. He saw the rider in a creative empathy for the horse, as well as being guided by the horse. But relying solely on the feeling was not enough in his eyes. “The head must be in order,” he said. First and foremost, riding is a brain challenge and requires an inner readiness to correct oneself, to learn. “Think differently, ride differently” was his motto, which led him to recall things that had fallen out of sight, but also to break new ground.
Painting and riding – parallels with nature
Fritz Stahlecker was interested in aesthetics in riding as well as in his painting. In his view, aesthetics has its origin in nature and the goal of the rider is to stay close to it. In dressage as in painting he sought parallels with nature, aesthetics and ethics were inseparable for him. “Only what looks good is good too.” When he was no longer able to do anything for the horses, he put all his energy into his painting and created paintings of incredible luminosity and intensity. “All art unites the people, brings them together internationally, as well as the world of equitation,” he wrote and this unifying element, to enter for a spiritual change, was his hope. Despite constant pain, his joy in nature and in her eternal change was a source of strength for him.
Reitmeister Lörke was a role model for Fritz Stahlecker and yet he went his own way, in painting it was mainly Picasso, Van Gogh, but also many other modern painters, which he thought about – and yet he strove for a painting style, which should stand out from anything else.
He confessed frankly that he had come a long way in his manner of riding until he came to his demand for even finer riding, even more sensitive communication with the horse. Man must continue to work on himself, must keep his ideals in view, even if he does not reach them. Humility has been an important term for Fritz Stahlecker in recent years. Humility towards the creation of God, towards the beauty in the world. As long as man is ready for mental change and critical questioning of his own actions, there is also hope for improvement in our world. And he kept that hope until the last day. If one wants to see a role model in Fritz Stahlecker, then it was certainly his attitude of often making a halt, questioning himself, his commitment to animal welfare and his search for balance, for harmony, without giving up his principles.
An inventor, artist, painter, visionary man, an idealist and humanist,
a fighter for Albert Schweitzer’s ethics of reverence for life,
a great horse trainer has left this world.
His books, his creative ideas, the formulation of a new animal-friendly ethic and aesthetic,
his tireless and internationally respected commitment to equitation,
to nonviolence for the benefit of the horses,
his constant search for the new, the true and the authentic,
but also his modesty, his humor, his wit, his unwavering optimism
will remain unforgotten.
In deep gratitude
we got a very nice comment on the HSH-Center-Curb-Bit – with your help we might get the bit licenced, if just enough people give it a try and write to the German FN about their experiences!
I recently received two of your curb bits and am very very excited by the results with the horses we have tried them on. One is a Lusitanio stallion that was badly ridden in a double while having very sharp teeth and his upper tush teeth are too high so they bump into the bits. He mouth is quieter and he can listen well in this bit, he is usually behind the leg but with this bit combination he is a changed horse, more forward and happy in his work. My 74 year old mother rides him and is enjoying his new found enthusiasm to go forward in your bit!
The other is a very forward very strong mare with a short neck who has a tough time staying up in a double. I usually show her Grand Prix in a snaffle bridle because of her neck length and carriage. I think your bit on her is most magical, she is more relaxed and can maintain an up frame in your curb.
I will submit photos to the USEF to see if it legal in the USA.
Best Regards, Jane Hannigan
Tony Uytendaal, wellknown dressagecoach in Australia, is a good friend of Fritz and a fidel suporter of HSH. He makes so much efforts to help to spread the philosophy of Fritz Stahlecker, his HSH method and the new HSH-Center-Curb-Bit. Fnally he managed to get an article in the august/september edition of the splendid australian mazagine “Equestrian life”. We are very proud of the excellent presentation of the new bit developped by Fritz Stahlecker, HSH Center Comfort Curb Bit it is called in Australien, and it is really such a comfort for horse and rider! You can read the article under Equestrian life.
Thank you so much Tony!
and thank you also to Equestrian life, Australia’s Premier Equine Magazine
Fritz Stahlecker follows the development in international dressage riding and on a regular basis writes articles in which he takes position. He votes in favour of a less powerful dressage riding, demands more respect towards the horse and remembers that riding is originally and art and not competition sports. Here is one of the rare articles in English that resumes some of his ideas: https://lilith16.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/controversial-issue-fritz-stahlecker-and-the-rottenness-of-the-dressage-scene/
For years Fritz Stahlecker has been working on the development of a new curb bit. Through his riding experience he had come to the conclusion that the traditional curb bit has sever disadvantages and his aim was to creat a bit that functions differently. After years of testing and measuring he has now created a bit that is friendly to the horse, no longer a painful but a sensitive mean of communication between horse and rider. Field studies have surpassed his expectations and reports of riders who tested the bit are convincing. We present you the main features of the bit in the overview HSH-Center-Curb-Bit (patent pending). If you want to help to get the FN licence and participate in testing the bit, you are most welcome. The bit is available under “Products and Prices“.
If you are interested in further details, please contact us.
Unfortunately the first book, Das motivierte Dressurpferd, is still not available in English, but we can offer you the Practical Training Guide for the HSH-Method. Fritz Stahlecker wrote this manual in 2007/2008. With this much more concise and in comparison to the book revised manual he gives a sort of guide line how to proceed when practising HSH. He describes week by week which exercise would be recommandable and explains how to go on. Very helpful and encouraging for all those who work with this method on their own!
In our stable at Bärenbachtal we got the nice visit from Federico Padrón and Jan Braren. On the initiative of Katharina Braren, editor of the spanisch Dressage Magazin “Trofeo Doma Classica”, they came to talk to Fritz Stahlecker and did interviews, videos, fotos of our HSH-work. They want to introduce this method in Spain as an alternative to the traditional way of breaking in and riding young horses. We spent two very intensive days and are convinced that this could be the beginning of a very interesting and effectif cooperation for both sides. In a first step, articles in the magazine “Trofeo Doma Classica”, give an introduction to the philosophy and work of Fritz Stahlecker: The introduction (HSH in Spain part 1) followed by detailed description of the first steps on working in hand according to Fritz Stahlecker’s method (part 2, part 3, part 4). We are very happy to have met real horsemen who immediately understood the idea behind HSH and the aim we are heading for – together we stand up for a better life for our horses.
Bill Sanders, rider and trainer in Baroque education, influenced by Jean Racinet and student of the famous Luis Valenca (Portugal) came to know about the Hand-saddle-hand-method. He got the equipement and started working with it. He was so kind as to put the link on his website:
I wanted to tell al my students and readers about some information and products that will GREATLY help them in the schooling of their horses. Some time ago I heard of a trainer who was working with young horses and schooling them in the classical moves, more importantly to be light in the hands in these moves even prior to backing the horse .I was able to make contact with this trainer’s assistant who speaks English and have now done my homework on the techniques, philosophy and equipment being used . As I personally have all of it. I can tell you Francois Baucher would be proud of this work . But here is the thing it is coming from GERMANY!!! Yes, now understand and I make no bones about it , generally speaking I do not approve, nor use the competitive German methodology, BUT, that is not what I am seeing here. The mans name is Fritz Stahlecker.
Fritz is 82 years young and has developed a system he calls Hand -saddle -hand Method. Basically he is teaching the horse at three years of age how to carry itself with the correct position, in lightness, using a system of a special cavasan and a type of long draw rein that is ONLY attached to the cavasan ( The draw rein was actually a French invention, later the Germans attached it to the bit creating all the problems associated with that now ) His Cavasan reminds me a lot of the old Baroque ones seen in the books of Gueriniere etc. and is very thick and padded for the young horse with a unique ring arrangement. The horse using these long reins is basically taken through all the lateral exercises, taught to stop square, even do the pirouette before being ridden. I was VERY glad to see the horse is quickly taken also to the double bridle, although the bits are hardly touched as the horse has learned how to carry himself previously. No heavy bearing on the snaffle here. The work is fantastic and low stress for the horse. Once the horse is ridden at four it already knows the advanced moves and has the correct muscling and MOST importantly is light in the hand with all the work. Fritz has a web site that is just being translated into English , it is www.hsh-fritz-stahlecker.de He has two very detailed DVD’s part one and two of in hand work which every person training a young horse should purchase and then of course has the full line of very hi quality leather training equipment you will need and is specific for this Buy it all if you are even thinking of training a young horse. Legerete, riding without a strong influence of the hand is what these tapes preach and produce. I have always been a fan of working a horse in hand, to every movement before it is put under saddle, so much tension and fighting is eliminated and here is a system clear and easy to follow and learn from. Fritz is a true master of riding in lightness. Go to the web site now and do yourself and your horse a favor and get started.
Bill Sanders: www.baroqueequitation.com