The Chiron Riding Style
What is Chiron?
Chiron was the name of a centaur in Greek mythology. Centaurs
have the body of a horse and the torso of a human -- a truly fitting image
for consummate horse-rider communication and harmony. The creator of the Chiron
Jumping Method was Rolf Becher, a German trainer dissatisfied with the heavy
style of riding that was becoming popular. Becher's system, based on Federico
Caprilli's forward seat style, creates lightness and willingness in the horse.
Our modern day showjumping and hunter-seat style also evolved
from Caprilli's forward seat -- so how is this forward seat different? The
Chiron forward seat is based on a triangle, the most stable geometric form.
Here are the details:
- Feet are flat in the stirrups to the arch of foot, preventing springiness,
and instead creating stability.
- Shoulders are low, hips are far back, and hands are forward on the neck
of the horse about a hand's width below the crest (and move forward during
- Shoulder, knee and heel are on a vertical line.
- Calf is vertical, and combined with the horizontal foot, deep in the stirrup,
creates great stability. Springiness comes from the knees and hips, and balance
comes from the feet.
- Stirrup length is shorter than what is often seen today.
Modern Chiron advocates such as Peter Speckmaier, a certified
Chiron Jumping Instructor in Germany, have taken this method one step further
and created a unique holistic approach to horsemanship. By combining natural
living conditions, proper nutrition, barefoot hoofcare, humane saddle and
tack fitting, harmonious horse-human interrelationships, and Chiron jumping
training, a truly optimal foundation is created for performance horses.
Photo courtesy Sabine Kells
A Chiron Riding Clinic by Lynn Spaan, CSHS
On May 18-20, 2002, at Miel Bernsteins (CSHS) beautiful organic farm
and equestrian center in Agassiz, BC, Peter Speckmaier from Germany held a
Chiron Natural Riding Clinic. Peter is a Certified Strasser Hoofcare Specialist,
and one of only a few certified world-wide to teach this riding method developed
by Rolf Becher. Peter taught himself English in only three months before coming
to Canada, but we had no problems at all understanding him. He has a dynamic
personality, and his love for teaching riders to have a better relationship
with their horses is strong.
The Chiron method teaches the horses to become independent thinkers
and be able to approach and jump difficult obstacles safely without the interference
from the rider. The result is a happy, safe horse who loves to jump and jumps
courses efficiently with minimal aids from the rider. I took the clinic on
my big Holsteiner/Clyde gelding who was (in conventional training) an incurable
bolter. I was a little apprehensive in the beginning due to the fact
that Marco had been known to charge and crash through the obstacles he was
faced with. This caused me to become timid at jumping and I was worried that
the jumps would be too big. I voiced this to Peter and he said to me, I
teach only fun jumping - no stress, no stress. He also told me not to
worry about Marco bolting, since a horse that is happy in the mind will not
even require a bridle to jump a course.
Each day of the clinic started off with theory about the horses
anatomy, psychology and nervous system. The last half of each day was riding
and learning the Forward Seat. This position allows the riders to remain in
a solid, secure seat while allowing the horses total freedom to move. Small
jumps were set up in such a manner that the horses learn never to run
out from a jump. The riders approach each jump in the forward seat and
let the horses have total freedom of their head and neck. Of primary importance
to the approaches was the rhythm. Often Peter would be heard coaching a rider
in an approach, More Rhythm! and No Rhythm, No Fun!
Two of the riders were very new to jumping and were riding the
jumps like they had been doing it for years. One of these riders was Lillian,
who works at Zen Equine. We found out at the end of the clinic that she had
never even jumped before, and she was on a horse she had never even ridden!
We were all amazed at how easy this style is to learn and how good it is for
boosting rider and horse confidence.
We all had a fabulous time and all learned how fun and safe
jumping can be when the horse feels comfortable. On the last day, Peter set
up a course of six or seven jumps. Peter told me he felt Marco was ready to
do it without a bridle and asked me if I felt I was ready for it. Well, if
he thought Marco was ready for it, then I was too! I was having so much fun,
I wanted to jump bigger and bigger jumps. So off we went with only a stirrup
leather around Marcos neck for steering. Marco was magic! His ears were
forward and looking for the next jumps. The course was winding and had some
tight corners which he collected himself for and handled beautifully (it felt
like he was sitting to do canter pirouettes!) - then he threw in all the appropriate
flying lead changes to boot! I was truly amazed at how easy he was to ride,
and how much enjoyment he had jumping. Everyone was cheering as we finished
the course and slid to a stop at the treat bucket for Marcos apple/carrot
A truly great time was had by all. We cant wait until
next year for Peters return to teach us again.
Lynn Spaan, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo courtesy Sabine Kells
First Alley: teaching the horse independence. Once the horse is in the alley,
all aids (except those keeping rhythm going) are off and the horse learns
to approach a jump and go over it. First it's done at a walk, in the forward
seat, then later at a trot and canter.
Photos courtesy Sabine Kells
The Chiron Style by Michele Stuurman, a riding instructor
trained in the Netherlands, and CSHS Student
Some years ago I went to a Chiron seminar in Germany, and I have several of
Rolf Becher's books (the 'founder' of the Chiron method). For what it's worth,
here are my two pennies.. The Chiron method was developed by Rolf Becher as
a result of his disgruntlement with many aspects of the style of riding many
of us still think of as 'typical German': very heavy-handed and really sitting
back into the horse's back. The Chiron method is based on the Caprilli school
of cross country riding and jumping. Using a very forward seat, you give the
horse every chance to find and keep its own balance. (Stirrups are very short,
and your bum is waaaay back!) Rolf Becher has also written several books on
riding and training. Here, too, the emphasis is on working with the horse
in a gentle way.
Unfortunately, little of his work has been translated into English,
and most of that is his earlier work. If you want to try to find some I suggest
keeping an eye on Ebay, I have found several of his English books there. But
all of them are small volumes and older, not the more interesting stuff from
his later years. There you can also find some fascinating pictures, such as
from the Italian Cavalry school - horses effortly jumping ONTO a bank of around
seven foot high!
From my own experience I can really recommend this style. It
teaches you 'classical jumping position' in an easygoing and fun way. If you
always have ridden Western, however, you might find this a mighty big transition.
If you only have ridden dressage I can recommend it even more, to give yourself
and your horse a break and use some different muscles for a change!
Most of the jumping saddles as they are sold these days in the
US (the close contact type, with the flat seat) would be excellent. The more
rigid jumping or all-purpose saddles from the seventies and eighties, with
the high seat in the back and all the knee and thigh pouches, make it harder
to get your stirrups up high enough.
This method gives you an excellent way to travel over any kind
of terrain at a high speed. I have had some discussions about the usefulness
of this method for indoor showjumping as it is practiced today. Although I
still love the Chiron style, I reluctantly have to admit that with today's
highly technical and very high courses, you showjump more as if you are riding
dressage... which is not the easiest to do in a very forward seat (but at
least it might get you out of a lot of trouble and keep your horse a lot happier).
But then, how many of us do showjumping? For low jumps, trail riding and just
loafing around it works just fine.
I remember reading a discussion about the decline of US showjumping
results - and as the expert said: 'They ride with too long stirrups now!')
I looked through some of Becher's books again and was surprised
to realize how much he has influenced parts of my teaching, my philosophy
and even my choice of tack. By the way: Rolf Becher is the inventor of the
offset stirrups, he developed them in the fifties with the saddlery firm Passier.