Touch n GO Farm

Whitesburg Georgia

Karl Mikolka PDF Print E-mail
karlmikolka_1.jpgFor me, taking instruction from Irma Hotz opened the door to classical dressage training. She helped me realize that the time-tested, European system of horsemanship was the correct path to follow. I held Irma in the highest regard and was grateful that she accepted me as a student. Then in 1986 she suggested I attend a clinic in New Jersey with a trainer she referred to as a Genius and a Riding Master. I had a difficult time believing that Irma would speak of someone with such a reverent tone. To me, Irma Hotz was the epitome of elegance, perfectionism and capability. Obviously, I had to ride with anyone that my instructor referred to as a Master.

The trainer held in such high regard was none other than Karl Mikolka. With Irma's help, I was offered a slot in the clinic and signed up not knowing what to expect. Entering the ring, I started to introduce myself but Karl cut me off and said "Soooo, you are the up and coming FEI rider?" Not a good way to start, I thought. I'm in big trouble. "It would be nice if I become that one day but I am here to learn," was my shaky response. With his characteristic wry smirk, Karl offered no reply. He simply grabbed both of my wrists and shook them. Satisfied that I didn't have joints of stone he placed his hand between my spur and Monarchs side. "Announce when your spur touches my hand," he ordered. I complied, he nodded and the lesson began.

To put it mildly, I was completely lost in no time. Karl described precise patterns that I was to ride accurately while announcing specific footfalls of my horse. Then the individual exercises were placed together to form an elaborate gymnastic exercise all the while calling out when a certain hoof struck the ground or a specific weight was in a specific stirrup. He used phrases like the old masters always said and this is the first test of the inner hind leg. Then questions would follow his description of a movement. It took every ounce of ability, knowledge and luck I had just to keep up, let alone answer questions as I rode! The work was demanding but Karl never overstressed the horse. When the session concluded Monarch began a tired walk and I felt physically and mentally spent. A weak"thank you" was all I could manage as we left the arena but Karl looked me in the eye and said, "You are not so bad." It was later that evening before I could even begin to put together some of the concepts behind the intricate exercises he had shown me.

karlmikolka_2.jpgFrom that day forward I was hooked. Irma was correct in her characterization of Karl and I understood why she respected him so much. Far to many trainers are prone to using the term Master in their advertisements when they have no credentials or results to back up such a claim. Karl Mikolka is the real thing. He began a career he was destined to pursue at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. His education began with Alfred Cerha, one of the finest riders the school ever had and a link in the unbroken chain that traced back to Max Ritter von Weyrother. As testimony to his talent, Karl advanced to the rank of Oberbereiter in an amazingly short time. After leaving Vienna, he went to Brazil on an invitation of the CONFEDERACAO BRASILIERA DE HIPISMO to create a nucleus of Dressage in Rio de Janeiro with the goal to train Brazilian Riders and their horses for future International Competition, including the Olympic Games. Four years later Karl moved to the United States where he forever changed dressage in this country.

My desire to work with Karl was entirely selfish. I realized that he had an understanding of riding that I could not comprehend. If there was any chance of becoming the trainer I aspired to be, I knew I would have to work with him at every opportunity. Wherever Karl went in the Northeast, I would follow. One year I took a two-week vacation and spent it at his farm in New York. Observing him work was like watching an artist create. I have seen him lunge three stallions at once. I have watched him perform the airs above the ground in hand and mounted. I have stared in amazement as he rode perfect piaffe without any perceptible movement on his part. There is no aspect of dressage training that Karl hasn't studied with both an artistic and scientific eye.

karlmikolka_3.jpgIt is impossible for me to completely describe how Karl's teachings have influenced my riding, training and instruction. Every aspect of my equestrian life has been enhanced by the time spent with him. I have ridden under Karl with eight horses, organized clinics with him and even hosted a symposium in 2000. I guess the greatest gift Karl has given me is a better understanding of what is possible. How can a rider understand what a truly independent seat is until they see one ridden to perfection? Who knows what ultimate potential a horse may posses until you see the results of years of perfect schooling in the hands of an accomplished trainer? How can an instructor understand the actual scope of all equestrian knowledge until you have spent time in the presence of gifted trainer who has mastered the art of dressage?

What am I to Karl Mikolka? Well, I will not make the claim, "I was trained by Karl Mikolka!" To me, that statement should be reserved for riders fortunate enough to have worked with him on a daily or weekly basis for several years. Those individuals primarily live in Vienna, Brazil and Illinois. I have never been Karl's working student or protegee so no one who watches me ride should assume that I am purely a product of his instruction. I wish I could make that assertion but my road to classical riding was long and it took me many years to discover Karl. I have to be satisfied in knowing that I am one of his most devoted students and will remain so forever.

karlmikolka_4.jpgWhat is Karl Mikolka to me? Over the years he has become a friend. Some of my fondest memories are not just of work in the dressage ring, but of conversations at the dinner table following the days training. We have known each other for fifteen years and watched from a distance as each of us has enjoyed success and endured personal hardships. In some ways we share a kindred spirit

Webster's defines the title Mentor as "a wise and trusted counselor or teacher." When I think about my diverse riding education, I realize that I have always held Karl in exactly that light. Besides, he never seems to take offense when I refer to him as my Mentor.

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