Equitation/Chapter 31

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CHAPTER XXXI
HANDS WITHOUT LEGS: LEGS WITHOUT HANDS

"Hands without legs, legs without hands," is the name applied to a new principle in equitation enunciated by Baucher only a few years before his death. It resulted in a schism among horsemen, and the new ideas were opposed by many masters and esquires.

I have myself experimented with the new methods upon horses of very different qualities. My own conclusion is that the system is practicable only for a very able horseman training an animal of very superior endowments, both physical and mental. I do not regard the scheme as workable for any rider dealing with a horse of inferior conformation, or for an inexperienced rider dealing with any sort of horse.

For it must be evident that, with a horse of superior conformation, the state of equilibrium is both more easily obtained and more easily kept by the ordinary principles of the reasoned and the scientific equitation, hands and legs being used together for the different movements, than with an inferior animal. Moreover, the less perfectly conformed the animal is, the more difficult is it to maintain the state of equilibrium, even with the aid of hands and legs together.

In other words, with a well-conformed horse, the state of equilibrium is very easy for a practiced rider and very difficult for a novice. With a badly conformed horse, the desired state is difficult for the experienced esquire, and very nearly impossible for the inexperienced, even if they both employ both hands and legs.

It comes about, then, that, whether the horse be well or ill conformed, it has to be trained to the condition of equilibrium by means of both hands and legs. But the horse once trained, though not before, it becomes possible to preserve the state of equilibrium by means of the rider's legs without the cooperation of his hands, or by means of his hands without the cooperation of his legs.

But now arises the question, how does accuracy of seat act upon the center of gravity, which is the immediate sequence of the state of equilibrium? The answer is, that this equilibrium is a unit, and the center of gravity is an element. We obtain this unified condition by the accord of our effects of hands and of legs. But if, when we have obtained this unit condition, we employ more effect of hands or more effect of legs in order to execute a movement, we at once disturb the original unity. Thereupon the equilibrium vacillates between the hands and the legs, and does not remain permanently anywhere.

On the other hand, by means of accuracy of seat, we are able to act upon this unified condition of equilibrium without destroying it. I am the first to enunciate this principle of the efficiency of accuracy of seat. I know that I shall be the object of criticism; but I consent to accept this. Beati pauperes spiritu, regnum cœli habent.