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Karen Rohlf’s Signature Concepts:

These concepts are vital to every horseman’s success, regardless of discipline or level. Together, they create a dynamic of partnership and balance between you and your horse that sets the stage for unlimited possibilities. These were created and crafted by Karen to help you avoid or solve the most common problems that hold riders back.

1. Habits For Excellent Horsemanship ™

Excellent horsemen create horses who are Calm, Attentive, Responsive, and Eager.

The 9 Habits that make excellent horsemen are: Attitude of Partnership, Clarity, Reflex to Relax, Curiosity, Timing, Communication, Feel, Consistency/Variety, Sense of Humor. (Click links to read more about each habit.)

These foundational habits are taught in our online course, The Habits For Excellent Horsemanship.

2. Sweet Spot of Healthy Biomechanics ™

For every horse, in every moment, in every movement, there is a certain combination of Relaxation, Energy, and Balance that will yield the most positive qualities with the greatest ease. The fastest way to find the Sweet Spot is to experiment with great awareness. When you are in the Sweet Spot, you will work less and your horse will offer you more.

The Sweet Spot concept is specifically taught in the Video Classroom and Book, and in-depth and with support in the Sweet Spot course.

3. Connection with Reins

Most issues of the contact need to be solved somewhere other than in the contact. A bit is not required to have excellent posture and biomechanics.

There are 3 things we need reins for: subtle positioning of the head and neck, receiving information from the rest of the body, and as another point of connection in the circuit of energy.

Through playing at liberty and bridle-less riding, we discover that we don’t really need reins to do anything else. Our best chance for true lightness within Connection is to only use our reins for these 3 things.

A horse’s posture (‘roundness’) is affected by the horse’s mental, emotional and physical state.

Their shape is a result of balance, and their balance is a result of movement. Movement is a result of communication, and communication is a result of the partnership. Therefore the best solutions for contact issues take the whole horse into account.

The Sweet Spot concept is specifically taught in the Video Classroom and Book, and in-depth and with support in the Sweet Spot course.

4. Freedom Within Connection

“Freedom is when you’re easy in your harness” ~Robert Frost

The body and mind connection we establish in our liberty, online, and rein-free riding needs to be preserved when we ride in connection with our reins.

Freedom within the connection means the horse does not feel constricted by the contact. He has been educated to relax into greater ranges of motion within his body. We use our seat and body to communicate with him so he doesn’t feel controlled or restricted by the hands even in collection.

This key concept filters through all DN educational material.

5. Self Carriage

There is mental, emotional, and physical self-carriage. Self-Carriage is where the horse is comfortable, calm, and content being exactly where he is.

Often self-carriage is seen as an end-goal; rather, it is a concept and practice that should be developed from the first moments in a horse’s training and should be preserved as he advances.

When your horse understands and can practice self carriage in the least demanding moments it will make it easier for the horse to take responsibility for their own self carriage during physically difficult maneuvers. 

This key concept filters through all DN educational material.

6. Moving Massage ™

This exercise completely changes the relationship you have with your horse through touch. It creates deep relaxation during movement, increases your horse’s self-awareness, decreases defensiveness, builds trust, and creates freedom of movement from the inside out.

This is taught in The Video Classroom, and in-depth with support in the Sweet Spot course

7. Precision & Play

Precision arrives out of the possibilities that play creates. The truth is in the middle and this concept helps students free themselves from the ‘correct vs incorrect’ trap.

Experimenting with great curiosity while trusting your instincts and responding to your horse in the moment is more powerful than techniques that put your horse in the ‘right’ shape’. Both horses and humans immediately appreciate this concept!

This key concept filters through all DN educational materials.

8. Upward Spiral of Gymnastics ™

The specialized movements of the upper levels are a gift from our horse. Forcing fancy movements at the expense of our horse’s healthy posture or willing partnership is not condoned. However, we embrace and support students through the sometimes messy reality of training.

We know that the feeling of power in partnership, as well as the amazingness of learning to perform collected upper-level movements together, can bring a feeling of pride to both horse and rider.

DN focuses on teaching the 6 Essential Gymnastic Abilities ™ . These vital skills are taught in a way that they can be mastered even at the lower levels, and will allow a horse and rider to progress more easily.

The 6 Essentail Gymnastic Abilities ™ are:

  1. Riding corners vs circles
  2. Bend without inside rein
  3. Releasing into up-transitions
  4. Riding forward into down-transitions
  5. Connecting the inside hind with the outside shoulder
  6. Riding into the bend

These are taught throughout the Video Classroom, and in-depth and with support in the Upward Spiral Online Course.