At shows grounds in almost any discipline, the sight of horses being lunged on a single line is as common as riders putting their horses through their paces under saddle. Do those doing the lunging know they are compromising, maybe damaging, their horses' vertebrae, muscles
Likely not. Unless they are students of the Andrea Kutsch Academy. Founded in 2003 by the German horsewoman Andrea Kutsch, the Academy researches, identifies and teaches the use of non-violent and science-based training methods for horses.
Andrea's methods have been embraced by some of the world's top horsemen and featured in numerous books and documentaries. Breeder and show jumper Paul Schockemohle, his counterpart in the dressage world, Hans Kasselmann, and their contemporaries of equal renown in the polo and racing worlds are among her training system's believers. Andrea's methods are just now being introduced to the United States, starting with clinics and workshops and including a three-level certification program offered in San Diego and online.
The effects of single-line lunging are one of many examples of training techniques or ideas that the Academy's scientific study has identified as damaging, thus prompting the development of better methods to achieve the same goal. Working with veterinary partners, Andrea and her staff collected saliva samples, monitored heart rates and used x-rays and ultrasound to detect inflammation. The results indicated that the weight of a lunge line threw the horse badly out of balance, causing problems in his vertebrae and the surrounding muscles and tendons. "We showed that after two single-line lunging sessions, for a horse under 4 years of age, you already have a horse that is completely out of balance with subsequent problems that can only be changed through chiropractic care."
It's the same as if an athlete was warming up by running around in a circle forced to carry a weight in one hand and unable to move it to the other. Lunging the horse an equal amount in the opposite direction doesn't fix the imbalance, it just creates another on the other side. "It's unbelievable what we do to the horse's body, then we expect him to go out and compete in good balance and shape," Andrea states.
Learning to lunge a horse in proper balance with two lunge lines is one of many lessons taught in Andrea's program.
The catalyst for Andrea's work was the realization many years ago that "there were no techniques for training horses that were coming out of science-based studies," she explains. "My goal and mission is to create the best possible environment in which the owner and/or trainer and the horse are in a collaborative partnership." Through her workshops, clinics and online certification program, she envisions a worldwide community of horse people embracing the same science-based training methods.
Now a best-selling author whose techniques have been featured in 200-plus TV documentaries, Andrea began her equine adventure as a polo player and supporter throughout the 1990s. She helped German Polo Player Thomas Winter build up his Polo School in Hamburg, Germany, focusing on training polo horses and retraining racing Thoroughbreds for the game. From 1999 to 2006, Andrea was a student of the renowned equine trainer and best-selling author Monty Roberts, known all over the world as "The Horse Whisperer." Andrea learned firsthand from him, conducting workshops, building schools, running international demonstrations, starting young horses and working with remedial horses. During this tremendous period of learning she began fundamental research work to redefine our approach to horses. She began integrating the non-verbal language of horses into her work, to educate and communicate with the horses more effectively and in a non-violent way.
In 2003 she founded the Andrea Kutsch Academy in Hamburg, with an academic program focused on the development of equine communication science. "It is one of the few University programs focused on equine communication and training," Andrea says. "And it is a continuously growing program. Every month we have new results that enable us to create techniques that help people understand and communicate with their horses better and faster."
Andrea's U.S. appearances begin this Fall and will provide demonstrations of her training techniques and workshops for those interested in beginning to learn them. The online certification program begins in 2013 and offers three levels: the one-year Equine Communication, the two-year Equine Coach and the three-year Equine Master Coach program.
Confirmed dates for Andrea's appearances include half-day demos Aug. 11 and Sept. 23, a two-day workshop Nov. 17-18 and a five-day intensive Nov. 28-Dec. 2. All will take place at Creek Hollow Ranch in San Diego County's Romona. A full schedule of appearances will be available on Andrea's website soon.
For more information, visit www.andreakutschacademy.com.