Charles de Kunffy
My little Appaloosa DANCED! With Mr. deKunffy riding
In 1974 at the age of 18, I drove my big horse van to Albuquerque, New Mexico from Tucumcari to ride in my first deKunffy clinic. My friend, Anne Gere, had set up the clinic and said I should come ride in it. I'd been trained, in West Virginia, by a BHSI instructor, so I dressed in breeches, boots, a ratcather shirt with choker, tweed jacket, hard hat and spurs. I had taken my little Appaloosa gelding and was riding in an all purpose saddle and hollow mouth eggbutt bit.
I rode in for my lesson and my horse, Choctaw, counter flexed and stuck his nose out and spooked at a lady with an umbrella. After a trot around, Mr. deKunffy stopped me, walked out to me and said, "you have no idea how to put a horse on the aids". He asked me to dismount, he mounted Choctaw and I went to sit on a chair outside the Dressage court. I removed my spurs (he had asked me to do so) and I sat, in tears, watching.
My little Appaloosa DANCED! With Mr. deKunffy riding, Choctaw yielded his jaw, lightened his stride, stretched forward and tracked up. They shortened and lengthened stride then trotted shoulder-in all the way around the track on both reins. Choctaw did an effortless half-pass both ways in trot; then cantered it. My tears became of pure joy to see the possibilities. This little horse had never done this, I had had him all his life. I became very determined to learn!
Back on, Mr. deKunffy explained to me how to line up my shoulders and hips, how to yield the hand instead of take with it, how to keep my leg on my horse and to "scoop" with it, to dance. Onto the track I went and immediately got shoulder-in, over and over around the court, trotting effortlessly. I rode my first half-passes on a horse I had started who had just done them his first time that day. I was hooked. I went to every clinic he taught there after that; for many years... with different horses and I learned, oh my, how I learned!
A couple of years after that clinic, I was healing from a concussion and as depressed as could be. I received, in the mail, a copy of a California Dressage Society newsletter (it was a magazine) in which Mr. deKunffy had written a note to me on his article within - it saved me. Discouragement left me, inspiration filled me. I used everything Charles taught me to become the best horsewoman I could become. I taught, I wrote, I trained, I judged, I kept learning. One clinic changed the course of my life by showing me possibilities and I had the courage to really watch and listen, for the sake of my horse(s).
-Katharine Chrisley-Schreiber NHC, RMT