KFH talks about the remarkable PRE stallion Harmón and why his problems describe the being of so many horses of the world today
A new video clip recently appeared on YouTube about Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling: "Introducing Impressive Harmón". In this clip, we see Klaus working in a very surprising and remarkable way with the 11 year old proud and extremely strong Spanish stallion, Harmón. I went to Denmark and had the chance to talk with Klaus about this special horse, and more.
On a cold but sunny day, I found myself in the house of Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, on the small but beautiful island Lyoe, where this special man lives. We sat in his room, where the soft light coming in through the windows created a warm and intimate atmosphere. In the background I could sometimes hear the voices of his children playing next-door.
In a few moments, we began talking about Harmón, an 11 year old Spanish stallion which Klaus met in September 2009 during one of his courses. When this horse came to Klaus it had, like many other horses who come to him, a tremendous amount of problems, and the owner no longer knew how to deal with him anymore. The horse was, for example, very aggressive and so was very dangerous but also easily scared, and beyond all this, tremendously depressed. However, the recent video clip which is posted on You Tube, 'Introducing Impressive Harmon', shows a completely different picture. The horse is obviously happy, playful and alive again – even more, the horse appears as if he just wants to fly. How did this transformation take place? How does Klaus deal with these kind of horses, and is it something which we can learn ourselves? These were questions I wanted to investigate during my interview.
JE: This horse had, like many other horses which are brought to you, a lot of problems when it first came in. Can you explain what his main problems were?
KFH: The main point with this very strong horse, was in general that he was fighting, and aggressively, against other horses. Even in the stables, with an empty box between him and them, he was always threatening them. In the same way, he also fought against humans if they were in his way. This aggressive potential, this idea 'I am number one, and I want to demonstrate this all the time' was one very obvious point.
The second point was that he was quite nervous and scared of a lot of things, and when he was not aggressive he immediately became tremendously depressed. It seemed like the life went out of his eyes, and it looked like he was completely gone in these moments. I would call this combination of extreme habits, a pretty 'modern' one.
JE: The horse came to you during the Compact Schooling in September 2009, a one month course in which people may learn about the fundamentals of your being together with horses. You then also worked with Harmón, and I could imagine that a lot was already achieved with him during this month. However, after the course he stayed longer. Why?
KFH: During these kinds of seminars, I am frequently working with the horses brought by some of the participants, and in 95 of 100 cases, after some minutes or hours, the main problems are solved. However, more and more often I am confronted with horses with a combined picture of symptoms: they are showing a combination of nervousness, aggressiveness and depression. In some of these cases it is nearly impossible for me to hand them back over to their owners if there are still roots of this behavioural divergence. So they then stay in my hands for a few more days - especially to make them safer for their owners, and in this case, also to find out more about his depression and to bring life back to him again.
JE: What kind of character is Harmón and did his problems have something to do with his character?
KFH: The problems absolutely had to do with the character as well as with the way he has been treated. The character is a mixture between King and Pegasus, so it is a very strong and ruling character on the one side, the side of the King, and on the other side, there is the Pegasus which makes this is a very spiritual and highly sensitive character (the two characters are described at the end of this interview in a small summary from Klaus' book, 'What Horses reveal'). The Pegasus character is very rare, and I cannot remember having seen this combination ever before. It is this combination that creates the charming appearance of the horse, but also the special power which we can see very clearly in the clip.
It is precisely this kind of horse that on one hand will start to fight when there are problems, but on the other hand, immediately retreats inwardly and becomes withdrawn, even up to the point where they are dying from the inside. This is exactly what happened with this horse, and this type of behaviour will be recognized by more and more horse owners today. If these kind of horses, on the one hand, ruling, strong, high-skilled, and on the other hand, so sensitive and with high spiritual qualities, are not treated in an adequate way, they are ending up with a lot of problems and this is precisely what we saw with Harmon. He was dying from the inside.
JE: What were the most important aspects in working with this horse to overcome these problems and make him feel alive again?
KFH: First of all, the important thing is that I recognize the horse, and that I find out what the main problem is. Without this diagnosis, this knowledge, I could not even do the first step. Over and over, I am pointing out in my demonstrations, that even if you think you know your horse, you should always allow the chance to get a new and more complete picture of the inner reality of your friend. The time spent to achieve this will be paid back positively, hundreds of times over, in your later relationship. The important thing is, that by refining these kinds of diagnosis our body, by itself, will react even unconsciously, more adequately to the upcoming situations and this gives us a tremendous clearness in our body language.
Once the main problems are diagnosed, I have to focus on them immediately to show the horse, "look, I know who you are, I know where the problems are," and I have to treat the wound immediately so that we have the chance to heal the inner traumas. The correct way of leading was very important with this horse. Through leading without force, he could start to trust me, learn to be led, and also understand and accept being number two by actually gaining, instead of losing his dignity. He needed to get a totally new image of human beings; from thinking of them as inferior, irritating beings, he had to understand that they can be absolutely fair, and they can even be understandable partners according to his natural way of being – they can support him and make him grow even bigger. So I had to show him that he can benefit from being together with humans.
JE: You said that, especially the problem with the depressiveness of horses, is becoming more and more relevant in our days. Why is this the case and what are you doing in contrast to it?
To bring joy back to Harmón, and this is especially what you can see in the clip, I first of all, had to overlook his depression. This is in general, a very important aspect. If you have a sad child in front of you, you have to keep your own inner balance and joy to transmit this, to be a model for the child. It is much the same with horses . Harmón was standing with his nose literally in the dust, and life had completely vanished from his eyes. It is then always a very special kind of meditation for me, to stay in my inner centre and to keep the trust that help is always possible. The ambience here on the island then also helps very much – the silence, the smell, the soft wind.
In the clip, you can see that we are just outside with no confines, walking, running and playing. You can also see that I trust him implicitly, even though this powerful guy could just plough me into the field. Why should he stop when he is four or five metres away? Why should he come back? You can see that he is doing this, he is stopping and he is coming back. He knows that he can drag me behind him, but he is not doing it. He is accepting this kind of level, which has been set up by both of us, and he is taking care of me in a very soft way. He is treating me as one, now important part in his life, which has to be treated very carefully because I have now become an important supporting and life guaranteeing aspect of his life.
This is something like an inner reality, but the barrier is that there is no real way to describe in words what this feels like, it is only something which can be experienced. Becoming paid back a hundred times for the trust you put into the horse, because it increases your own personal inner strength as well as your innate authenticity, in an extremely deep way. This always leads you to a more automatic way of acting, or rather, a better way of being with the horse, and you are no longer feeling like an actor but like an observer – like a child which is standing always anew in front of miracles.
JE: What kind of level are you talking about exactly?
KFH: With any horse, but especially with monumental horses like this stallion, you will always be confronted with a situation of 'black and white'. The horse is either fighting – so then there is no trust on both sides, or the horse is together with you, finding himself completely on a 'home field' and the horse is trusting you in the same way as you are trusting the horse. Then there is no risk anymore, no danger, no misunderstanding – just playing and enjoying each other – the horse is free, in a nearly magical way.
Would you like a few more practical points?
JE: Yes please, of course.
KFH: What was also very important with Harmón, especially because of his character and the problems he had developed, was that I needed to let him be much more dominant than I would have done in many other cases, and of course still remain as gentle as always – otherwise he would just have become sourer and much more aggressive. This was an extreme contradiction in the job I had to do with this horse. You may still get a sense of this in the clip even though he is partly over that hurdle. Before this point, it was sometimes a real challenge with him to keep the balance of dominance, happiness, play, etc., which was so important because he is such a strong horse in every way and because of the aggression he had developed towards humans. At the same time, I had to help him rediscover the 'sweetness of life' so he would by himself, want to come back to life. This active participation from the horse is always absolutely necessary, and this horse was so depressed, so far away from life and at the same time, so bitter and distressed, that I really had to motivate him very much to help him come out of his inner jail.
JE: I have to stay a bit longer with this very interesting subject to make it clearer for our readers. Towards the end of the clip, there is a part where the horse seems to be scared of something and wants to take off, but he doesn't, and he stays with you. This is for me, the most surprising sequence - how do you control the horse in a situation like this?
KFH: Yes, this is indeed a very interesting point to talk about. A normal reaction in this kind of situation would be to go back, to be scared, to breathe higher, to be insecure by yourself, to raise the hands or even shout. All these kinds of reactions would definitely only give the horse the final signal to leave. However, you can see how I am reacting: I am just continuing on my way, I just keep on walking. The speed stays the same, the shoulders are down, I am breathing deeply, and I don't have any sign of tension, even in my eyes. You can rationally know that you should stay calm in such a situation, but when the moment is there, it has to be in your 'bones', in your body, and in all the muscles. It has a lot to do with trust.
I always use the example of a balloon. When you have a balloon and you take a needle, and, even if the needle is only taking a micro millimetre out of the balloon, it is gone. It is the same way with trust. You cannot say I am trusting 98 %. This is not trusting anymore – trust cannot be divided or split. You have to know deep inside that everything is going to be all right, whatever is going on. The more that is going on, the calmer and more trustful I am becoming. Therefore, this kind of situation is for me, an absolute symbol and a sign of life.
However, trust does not come just like this, like rain from heaven. Trust has to be built up on authenticity and on positive experiences. This is the way I am trying to transmit, and to teach how to be together with horses. Trust also has a lot to do with responsibility, and in this way, trust is a very structured and predictable partner. So it can be learnt – everybody can learn it, because it is something you can form with your own hands. It is a process. You only have to find the right entrance.
JE: Thank you for this thorough explanation – but again for me and the readers, I would like to ask you for some more insights into this important subject. Basically, the first thing humans need to have is trust: trust in life and trust in destiny. This is what I have understood so far, but how did you achieve this by yourself?
KFH: Let's take for example, bow-shooting. You can shoot an arrow with different kinds of instruments and pointing tools or you can do it with a bare bow, like the Zen-monks do it. With a bare bow, you have to shoot by intuition because there is nothing on the bow to point with. What you need is a special kind of intuition, you need trust, and you have to be completely relaxed, because if you are not relaxed then all kinds of tensions and sensations from your body will influence the flight of the arrow. So we are talking about invisible spiritual issues and body awareness. Another part of this is that you need physical power, force. You need a powerful body because you have to pull the bow. You need endurance with your body, and you need to have practical knowledge about arrows, bows, the right position, and more of these things.
It is like this with everything in life, and especially with horses. You have to know yourself. You need body awareness, spiritual awareness, historical knowledge and knowledge about horses; how they are moving, where they are coming from, how they should be treated, etc. Then the foundation is big enough for real trust finally to arise. Far too often people are splitting terms and ideas like trust, awareness, and spiritual consciousness from the fact that, first of all we have to stand and live with our feet on the ground. To achieve all these 'nice attitudes', we have to go through an always clearer reality, we have to collect more and more experience, we have to collect more and more moments of being awake, and we simply have to learn according to our natural authenticity.
JE: It sounds like we need to know and work on a lot of things, but it also sounds very nice once we get there. Can you add a few more words about where we should, or could, start if we would like to achieve this sort of trust or knowledge?
KFH: Children have, more or less, all of these qualities – we all had them. Authenticity has a lot to do with wisdom, and the horse by itself, is the symbol of wisdom. Wisdom is the opposite of fear. Trust, fear, wisdom, authenticity – all these terms belong together, and they are taken out of a world which seems to be more and more on a decreasing platform in our time.
I personally grew up in a very 'wild' way. Therefore, I could save a lot of feelings and insights from my childhood to transmit them to my way of life today. Maybe it sounds funny, but in Germany we say that children and drunks always speak the truth, so I would like to point out, that this is for me one extremely important starting point: just try to be honest to yourself, to everybody, and for sure, to your horse. Try to open your eyes just to see the reality as clearly as possible.
Destiny and horses are never asking for an objective quality, but always for a subjective and relative quality. This means that what is not important, is what you are able or not able to do in comparison to anybody else, but it is tremendously important what you are doing or not doing, in relation to your own abilities. Destiny and horses are asking you for one simple thing; be yourself. Just give everything you can. This is always enough.
JE: Thank you very much for the first part of this interview. I have one more question. I believe you are writing a new book at this point, and I am wondering if you are also including all the things that you are talking about here, in it. Can you tell us something about this?
KFH: You are welcome – and yes, I have indeed written a new book. The title is: 'The Horse Seeks Me'. I wanted to write down a short, but also as clear as possible, exposition of everything about the practical part of my work with horses, and what I am doing in all kinds of different situations. It is very practical, and in comparison to 'Dancing with Horses', I could refer to thousands of examples with horses, people and experiences. With this new book, which has hundreds of pictures and is more than 300 pages, you will now have an extensive overview and a deeper understanding of what I try to teach, and what my work is about.
The video clips mentioned in this article may be found here.
Klaus Ferdinand Hempflings new book "The Horse Seeks Me" will be published in the Spring of 2010 in English, Dutch, German and Danish.
Summary of the character types "The King" and "Pegasus is" from Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling's book "What Horses Reveal".