In Memoriam: Peter Speckmaier

Horseman extraordinaire: barefoot advocate, bitless riding advocate, and teacher of Chiron riding and Strasser Hoofcare.


January 9, 1955 - February 5, 2012

Read the tribute to Peter from The Horse's Hoof Magazine Spring Issue 46.

Articles about Peter Speckmaier and Chiron Riding from past issues of The Horse's Hoof Magazine:

Chiron Riding by Lynn Spaan, from THH Issue 8

Chiron in the UK! by Erica Lynall, from THH Issue 13

Chiron in Action (South Africa & UK) by Erica Lynall, from THH Issue 16

Chiron in New Zealand Photos, from THH Issue 17


The Chiron Riding Style

by Yvonne Welz ©2002-2012

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.


Rolf Becher

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 the jump).
- 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
On May 18-20, 2002, at Miel Bernstein’s (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 horse’s 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 Marco’s 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 Marco’s apple/carrot reward.

A truly great time was had by all. We can’t wait until next year for Peter’s return to teach us again.
Lynn Spaan, e-mail: gspaan@infinet.net


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.
Michele Stuurman

Sale! The Centaur Reborn by Peter Speckmaier and Sabine Kells

Sale! $30.50 (regular price $39.50) Click here for more info.

Holistic Riding book featuring the Chiron style of training, written by Peter Speckmaier and Sabine Kells. The Centaur Reborn gives insight into how to establish optimal horse health, horsemanship, and top equine performance. In addition to a brief review on correct lifestyle and hoof care, it covers areas such as tack fit and horse nutrition, psychology, anatomy and physiology, especially as these relate to training, riding, and rehabilitation. Peter Speckmaier, one of the authors and the world's first Certified Strasser Hoofcare Specialist, is also a Chiron Jumping instructor; in this book he showns how basic Chiron jumping training can establish a horse's willing cooperation without force. Chiron-trained horses are often jumped without reins or headstalls, over obstacles such as ropes or streams of water shooting out of a garden hose. This book concludes with a brief history of Caprilli, the man who revolutionized jumping in the late 1800s. Click here for more info.

©2002-2012 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.


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