We owe the reasoned equitation largely to Baucher. Before his day, even in ancient times, men had, indeed, an idea of the need of the state of equilibrium on the part of the horse; and they had tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain this by various methods, often complicated, and involving series of movements and also mechanical devices. Baucher not only created a system for obtaining the state of equilibrium; in addition, in his L'Equitation Raisonnée, he set forth the principles on which the whole reasoned equitation is based.
These are in brief:
The state of equilibrium is not the result of any instincts of the horse; but, on the contrary, is imposed upon the horse by the rider, in the form of an increased muscular activity which the rider stimulates.
The horse, compelled to the state of equilibrium by the man, is itself in a state of complete submission, in which it cannot use its brute strength to resist its rider, but can nevertheless execute any natural movement with the least possible waste of energy.
The weight of the man, also in equilibrium upon the horse's back, is borne with the least possible effort, and with an ease for which the animal is manifestly grateful to its master.
Now it is absolutely true that only as the result of training are the enormous powers of the horse brought under the man's intelligence, without violence and without physical or moral pain. The one is wise, the other is strong. The two form a friendly unit in which the brute is submissive and happy. But since the reasoned equitation follows a series of progressive exercises, in which the more advanced rest on those which precede, it is essential that the same rider use always the same horse, during the time necessary to complete its training.
A sound and well-conformed animal, energetic but good-tempered, will be the easiest to train. A full bridle should be employed, with a bit of medium power, a Baucher snaffle, curb chain, and lip strap. The work on foot requires a three-foot whip. Later in the training, when the horse is mounted, spurs will be needed. A well-kept second-hand English saddle is better than a new one.
Since the reasoned equitation has for its purpose to teach the rider both how to train his horse, and also how to ride a horse already trained in the system, it is useful for professional riding-masters and trainers, and for all civilians. But it is only after several years of the usual equitation that either the theory or the practice of the reasoned equitation becomes of any particular benefit. Baucher wrote out his method primarily for cavalry officers and other professionals, and his principles are very complicated for an amateur to follow. I have, however, taught the reasoned equitation to a great number of amateur riders, both men and women. I have, in addition, simplified Baucher's theory and clarified his methods so that now the entire system is practical for amateur and professional alike. Breaking in, for the young horse, involves acquaintance with the trainer, so that it will come to him and follow him without fear or anxiety, accept the bridle without reluctance, stand quietly for mounting and dismounting, walk, trot, and gallop under the rider's weight without nervous tension, turn to either side by the rein, stop and stand still. That these movements should all be done perfectly, is not, however, so important as that the horse should be docile and quiet.
This first portion of a horse's training does not need an experienced master. Any ordinary rider can manage it, provided only that he have perseverance, patience, kindness, love for the animal, and a sufficiently good seat to resist the exuberance of a young horse. For a young horse is like a child, ignorant, timid, anxious; and if the trainer is not indulgent, patient, and fond of the animal, sooner or later a little too much severity, the least touch of brutality, will reënforce this natural timidity, and produce restiveness and bad temper that the horse will never outgrow. Many a horse has been spoiled by unintelligent trainers. For the horse's memory is excellent, and very seldom does it forget harsh treatment. Baucher says, and I am of his opinion, that it needs uncommon discrimination on the part of an owner to pick the right man for breaking in a young horse. Indeed, to judge wisely the time required for the work, the state of progress of the young animal and its muscular development, to reward obedience suitably, and to punish with wise moderation, demand a judgment and an experience that come near to talent.
It is far easier to train a child than to reform a criminal: and it is the same with a young horse. But if the instructor lacks patience or kindness or experience, the child will revolt against his teachers, and the horse against its riders, and both will be permanently harmed. And since the breaking in is the beginning of a horse's education, the man who undertakes it can never have too much of each of these essential qualities.
During the breaking in, a single bridoon should be used, rather than a full bridle. The chain and bit produce too powerful an effect on the mouth of a young horse, and it will not understand. Moreover, they cannot be managed properly during the rearing, kicking, and buck-jumping to which young horses are addicted.
If the horse is nervous or violent, I employ the cavesson with the longe. The horse is saddled and bridled, the stirrups being raised against the saddle by a knot in the straps. The cavesson is put on over the bridle, the throat-latch tight enough to prevent
the cavesson from slipping and hurting the horse's eyes if the animal becomes violent. Around the saddle I buckle a surcingle, with two buckles and a little strap, to hold the reins when not in use, and to prevent their falling down in front of the animal's legs.
I have also two buckles on the headpiece of the cavesson; and two pairs of old reins, with holes at each end, equally spaced. One pair buckles to the cavesson and to the snaffle, the two sides just alike. The other ends of this pair fasten at the surcingle, the two reins of equal length. The second pair of reins attaches to the bit, without tension at first, but in due time fastened with the snaffle reins.
All these straps being adjusted, I take the end of
the longe in my left hand and back away to very nearly the full length, while an assistant holds the
horse's head. I stand at the center of the circle in which the horse is to travel, and show the long training whip, which I carry in my right hand. The assistant leads the horse a few steps around the circle to the left, then stops and caresses the animal on neck and head.
When in this way the horse has traveled an entire circumference, the assistant lets go the bridle, and takes the longe with his left hand about three feet from the head. While the assistant continues to caress the horse with his right hand, the trainer, still holding the longe in his left hand, encourages the horse to continue around the circle, by chirping the tongue and showing the whip near the horse's hind legs, but without actually striking. After a few trials, the horse comprehends what is wanted, and goes forward at command. Thereupon, the assistant works progressively farther and farther along the longe away from the horse, until he lets go entirely.
As the horse learns to travel around the circle under control of the trainer, it must learn also to stop on the line, without turning its body inward or outward. For this, the trainer swings his left hand up and down, so as to give a succession of mild jerks on the longe; at the same time, the assistant walks slowly along the longe to the horse's head, while the trainer, in a clear and commanding voice, calls, Hoho, Hoho. Whoa! As the horse stops, the assistant caresses it. At first the animal will turn its haunches outward from the circle. After a few lessons, it will stop straight on the line.
The trainer should always stand still at the center of the circle, never following the horse, but compelling the horse to go round him, to walk, trot, and stop as indicated, but not to come to the trainer unless summoned by a pull on the longe.
An experienced trainer will very soon teach the horse to obey the whip. Shown near the flanks, it means to go to the right or left; at the hind hand, to go forward at the different gaits; in front of the face, to stop. Showing the whip straight, the lash upward, accompanied by a gentle tug on the longe, will bring the horse to the center. If the horse is then rewarded and caressed, the sight of the whip held vertically will alone be sufficient without the pull on the longe.
At the beginning of this work, the reins should not be at all tight. It is, however, impossible to lay down any rules as to their precise tension. An experienced trainer judges, by the animal's temper, conformation, energy, length of neck, and sensibility of mouth, what the effect of the bits will be. In fact, an experienced trainer could fill ten volumes with accounts of the diversities among horses and the various difficulties that he has encountered and overcome. Something less than this, however, confined to principles and method, will better please the publisher and hearten the reader.
Three months is sufficient, by this method, for breaking a horse to the lateral equitation. But if the horse is mounted from the beginning, it will take at least a year, often longer.
When the young animal has made sufficient progress with longe and breaking-strap, the surcingle is removed, and the horse, standing still, is mounted and dismounted by the assistant, the trainer meanwhile holding the longe near the head. After this, the assistant being mounted, the trainer sends the horse around the circle as before, walking, stopping, trotting, cantering, while the assistant, under the direction of the trainer, applies the proper effects of legs and bridle. All this should be done both to the right and to the left, as explained in the discussion of figures of manege.
As soon as the horse has become calm and obedient while the hands of the assistant feel a gentle contact with the mouth through the rein, the cavesson likewise is removed; and the trainer, now mounting for himself, begins progressive work
upon the several gaits, first on a straight line, afterwards at the figures of manege, but always, without exception, by means of the lateral effects.
It is best, when possible, to keep the horse for a year at the breaking in and the lateral effects, before going on to the reasoned equitation. By that time horse and trainer better know one another, the horse is stronger, steadier, and better able to profit by the suppling of the flexions. Moreover, the young or inexperienced trainer is very likely to push his horse's education too hard, and to neglect some items which do not seem important to him. The result is that there comes a time when the trainer has to go back and pick up these neglected elements.
Often, too, it happens that a horse, well trained by a master, is ridden by some one without equestrian tact, and has to go back to the master to be retrained. Sometimes, also, a man buys a horse which has already been ridden, but in accordance with some other method than his own; and since the memory of the horse is very persistent, the training may have to be started over again from the foundation.
In all these cases the trainer needs to be experienced, patient, persevering, energetic, and positive, besides having a genuine affection for his pupil. No two horses are alike in conformation or morale, nor in the results of their first contact with man. The trainer needs, therefore, to diagnose his animal, to consider his strong and weak points, so as to pick the right place for the training to begin. If, for example, a horse is anxious and timid, before I do anything else, I give it confidence, by means of work on foot with the whip. If it is young and not strong. I develop its muscles by means of the cavesson with the Bussigny breaking-straps.
One ought, in a word, to study his horse, find out its special needs, and commence the education by removing the causes of its imperfections. Methodists, as a whole, are too sure of their general principles. They want to have every horse put through the hard-and-fast progression of their particular method. But my experience is that each individual horse has its own physical and moral disposition, and that each needs its own special treatment and training.
This much, at any rate, is certain: no matter how the horse's education commences or proceeds, the earlier portions of it will need more care, more ability, and more experience on the part of the trainer than the later ones. I am, then, fully agreed with Baucher in his criticism of owners who give young horses to their stable grooms to train. And yet, in Baucher's time, equitation was in high esteem. Whereas now horsemanship is almost a lost art, and riding is thought of merely as a wholesome exercise.
Caresses and other rewards are the first means by which the trainer makes the horse understand that it has nothing to fear when under control. A horse is by nature timid and anxious; the first step in its training is to give it confidence and to make it understand that it will meet no ill usage. When that is accomplished, the horse is tamed. As yet, however, it knows nothing. Its education advances by means of rewards when it does well, and by punishments when it fails to do something that it has already been taught.
Caressing may be done with the hand alone, or with the voice, or by the two in conjunction. Early in the training, it is better to employ both together, so that each may help to make the other understood. After the horse gets the idea, it is better to use only one at a time.
When the man is on foot, he commonly caresses the horse by passing his hand over the forehead below the forelock, always in the direction of the hair. But the horse should become accustomed to caressing on other parts of the body—neck, shoulders, loins, abdomen, haunches, and legs. The fingers should be extended and the full hand used, not merely the finger-tips. The horse is thankful for a generous caress with heart in it.
On the other hand, the horse should not be slapped too strongly. A nervous animal, especially, is likely to interpret this as a reproof.
Caressing by the voice is entirely a matter of softness of tone. The animal has no idea whatever of the meaning of the words.
With the horse in motion, whether walking, trotting, or galloping, whenever the rider feels it becoming anxious at the sight of some object or at some noise, or hesitating before an obstacle to be cleared, he commonly employs the voice to quiet or encourage the animal, since the hands are busy with the reins. But standing still, or whenever, in motion, the rider can manage the reins with one hand, the free hand should caress the particular part of the body which has obeyed the rider's signals or been the chief factor in the movement. If the neck has played the leading part, caress the neck. If the croup, caress the haunches or loins. By this means the horse is trained to associate the aids and signals of the rider with the part of the body which is to carry out the command.
In general, a reward given during the act of obedience is more effective than one administered later. It is, therefore, often wise to repeat a movement, already executed correctly, for the sake of giving the caress during the actual performance. But after a difficult movement, well performed, it is often best to dismount, take off the bridle, give a carrot, an apple, or a piece of sugar, and dismiss the pupil to the stable.
Punishments, in the horse's education, are no less important than rewards. These ought always to be administered fairly and justly, with decision, but without impatience, calmly and with self-restraint, and with a sentiment of regretful loyalty on the part of the man.
The means of correction are four: the spurs (to be discussed later), the whip, the voice, and the hand. The whip is especially effective. It is used with sharp but not severe stroke, upon any part of the body, but never on the head. After the training has made some progress, the effect of the whip is augmented if, along with the stroke, the trainer speaks in a sharp, guttural tone. A man working his horse on foot can make a strong impression by looking the animal straight in the eyes, with a severe countenance, while he speaks harshly with the voice. After this, the whip may be suppressed, and the rebuke given by a severe slap of the hand, accompanied by the threatening tone. The same method may then be used mounted.
When the horse has learned to expect punishment when it misbehaves and rewards when it does well, and to trust its rider always, it is well on the road of a progressive and thorough education.
The breaking in has for its object merely to accustom the young horse to the feeling of harness, girths, and saddle, and to the beginnings of control by the trainer. The early work on foot is but a continuation of the breaking in. Its object is to lead the green animal to understand the various contacts and effects, of which, of course, he is, at the beginning, completely ignorant. By this preliminary work on foot, we educate the horse to submit to the contact of the bits, which at first cause an anxiety which must be completely overcome.
The horse, saddled and bridled, is led to the spot selected for the first lesson. The stirrups are raised on the saddle, and the snaffle reins are passed forward over the head, and held in the left hand of the trainer, who stands in front facing the animal, the whip in his right hand. The man speaks soothingly, exhibits the whip, and with it caresses the horse's forehead, nostrils, ears, and both sides of the neck. (Figure 1.)
At first, the horse will be uneasy. But shortly he becomes calm, finding that no pain follows the touch of the whip, and encouraged by the man's voice and his complete immobility. Thereupon, the
trainer raises the whip, and stepping backward, he pulls lightly on the two snaffle reins. When, by this means, the trainer obtains two or three forward steps, he immediately caresses the animal by voice and hand. After a few days of this training, the horse will, of its own accord, advance toward its master as soon as the whip is lifted to the height of its head. As soon as this happens, the pupil should be caressed with the whip on shoulder, chest, croup, and all four legs.
When the horse no longer has the slightest fear of man or whip, the time has come to teach the animal to move forward in response to other effects. The trainer, facing forward, stands at the horse's left shoulder. In his right hand he holds the two snaffle reins, three inches from the horse's chin; and in his left hand he carries the whip, the lash behind and near the horse's flank. In this position he impels the horse to walk forward by light touches of the whip on the flanks near the girths. (Figure 2.)
At this point the horse will sometimes hesitate, or even try to back. But the trainer, remaining always calm, encourages the animal with his voice, which the horse already knows. By drawing forward steadily with his right hand, he should always succeed in obtaining a few forward steps. These, if well recompensed by caresses, will very soon be followed by more at the same signal.
If the horse manifests irritability or violence, the trainer should pass the snaffle reins forward over its head, and while holding them with the right hand near the chin as before, he should also take them near their ends with his left hand, which holds the whip. If, then, any violent movement of the horse forces the trainer to let go the reins with his right hand, he still has the other grip to fall back on.
As soon as the horse advances readily and takes the contact of the snaffle bit against the lower jaw, the training is to be repeated from the other side. When the contact is accepted freely with the snaffle, the same course is repeated with the bit. In this case the little finger of the left hand separates the two reins of the bit, and the ends of these reins leave the hand between the forefinger and the thumb. The snaffle reins, on the contrary, enter the hand between the forefinger and the thumb, and pass out at the little finger. All five digits close upon the four reins.
From this position the trainer urges the horse forward with the whip, as before, against the snaffle. Then, when the horse is moving, he substitutes the contact of the snaffle for that of the bit, by bending the wrist to carry the thumb forward and the little finger backward. This movement of the hand must be done very gently and carefully. When the contact can be made with the trainer on the left side, the same operation must be repeated from the right, with everything reversed.
This procedure is advocated by Fillis, who holds that the whip, acting upon the flank, will help to make the horse understand the action of the rider's legs, at the later stage when the animal is mounted. In this, Fillis is essentially right.
Baucher's practice is somewhat different. He faces the horse, taking, at first, the two snaffle reins in his left hand, and later, bit reins and snaffle reins alternately. With the whip, held in his right hand, he makes light touches on the horse's chest. The horse, thereupon, backs. But as the touches continue, the horse, finding backing of no avail, decides to go forward. It is thereupon rewarded with caresses, until, very shortly, merely showing the whip near the chest will obtain forward movement and contact with the bits. (Figure 3.)
THE horse, when not under the control of the man, balances himself instinctively by different positions of head and neck. But the horse under control has these various positions given to him by his rider, by way of the bits. But the feeling of the bits in his mouth is disagreeable to the horse. The result is a tendency to contract and to keep tense the muscles which close the lower jaw, on which the bits rest. This disagreeable sensation tends, moreover, to affect the entire body, and to produce a general condition of contraction, opposition, and refusal.
The object of the flexions is, by means of certain graduated exercises, to teach the horse that no real pain will follow these uncomfortable sensations, and to suppress their general accompaniments, while accustoming the animal to obey their special effects.
The hands holding the reins can, by different positions and manipulations, produce on the animal mechanism a great variety of effects, of which the three principal are, directing, raising, and maintaining. The work of the flexions will introduce the horse to these different effects, which later, after the rider is mounted, will be further complicated by the effects of the legs. A brief consideration of the bones, joints, and muscles involved in the flexions will help in avoiding certain mistakes.
The bars, on which rest the bits, are the distal part of the lower jaw, between the molar teeth and the incisors. In conformation they are of three types. In one sort the bone is small, and covered by a thin mucous membrane. Such bars are said to be "sharp," and are especially sensitive to the pressure of the bits. Another sort has a large bone, somewhat flattened where it meets the bits, and covered with thick mucous membrane. This sort is commonly little sensitive, and is described as "fleshy." The best type of bar is intermediate between the two.
The temporo-maxillary articulation which connects the lower jaw with the skull lies between the ears and the eyes, just behind the frontal bone. It allows the jaw, moved by the digastricus, masseter, and temporalis muscles, to open and shut, to move laterally for mastication, and to glide back and forth. This joint plays an important part in equitation.
Another important set of bones are the vertebrae of the neck. The first cervical vertebra, the atlas, articulates with the occipital bone of the skull. Next to it comes the axis. These two vertebrae form the atlo-axoid articulation which permits the head to rotate upon the axis, this remaining fixed. The occipito-atloid articulation, on the other
hand, permits four motions, extension, flexion, lateral inclination, and circumduction. Its movements are given by the muscles of the neck, obliquus capitis, sterno-maxillaris, rectus capitis, scalenus, longus coll, splenius, and angularis scapulae. All these muscles are either attached or related to the three other muscles which work the lower jaw. They are, therefore, most intimately concerned in the position which is given to the head and neck, through the sensation of the bits on the bars. It is the position of the head and neck which is the object of the flexions.
Two other especially powerful muscles of the neck are concerned primarily with locomotion. The rhomboideus is connected at the atlas region with the other muscles of the head and neck; but when this atlas region is fixed, it draws the shoulder forward and upward. It is, therefore, related to the scapulo-angularis and latissimus dorsi of the chest. The other large muscle, the mastoido-humeralis, has also one of its ends at the atlas region, and the other at the shoulder and chest. When the atlas region is fixed, at the same time that the rhomboideus lifts the fore leg, the mastoido-humeralis carries it forward. But if the chest region is the fixed point, this muscle draws the head and neck to one side. It is by means of the flexions that we obtain for these two muscles the fixed point in the atlas region. When the horse accepts contact of the bits on the bars, the rider controls directly the muscles of the head, and indirectly those of the neck. Thus by the continual communication of this indirect effect, which in its turn, emanates from the first direct effect of the bits on the bars, the rider controls also the action of the front limbs.
Here, then, is the theory of so much of the animal mechanism as is exercised by the flexions. I urge the trainer, at this point, to regard as essential the character of the flexion obtained by his work, rather than its amount. The important matter is not that the horse shall bend its neck more or less readily, but that it shall respond with head and neck to the tension of the reins; that it does not cease this tension of its own will, but while keeping the contact of the bits, shall obey this tension consistently.
It is desirable for the horse's education, not to commence this work of the flexions unless there is to be time to complete it. Further consideration of the bones, joints, and muscles involved in locomotion will be found under the caption, "Legs and Their Effects" the same illustrations serving for fore hand, trunk, and hind hand.
The masters of equitation before Baucher had already employed a system of flexions for suppling the neck; but they failed to recognize the importance of a further suppling of the mouth. Baucher, in his reasoned equitation, saw the need of suppling the mouth also, and developed a series of flexions for both the mouth and the neck. Fillis objects to the execution of Baucher's flexions on the ground that he bends the neck at the region of the third vertebra and not at the atlas region. The series of flexions by Baucher is very complicated, those of Fillis are very strenuous; the two are difficult of execution for a young trainer.
To remedy these difficulties, I have created a series of flexions similar as to object to those of the two grand masters, but more easy of execution and sufficiently comprehensive for the trainer and the horse. The first condition, sine qua non, is to teach the horse to sustain the head and neck high up, by its own effort and without the help of the trainer. To obtain this result, the trainer places himself facing the head of the horse, holding the left snaffle rein in his right hand and the right rein in his left. By raising his two hands straight upwards, not backward or forward, the horse will raise head and neck. (Figure 4.) When the head and neck are up, the trainer opens the fingers of the two hands maintained at the same height; but if the horse drops its head or neck, the trainer shuts his fingers quickly. The flexion is complete only when the horse holds the head up without help. (Figure 5.) It then becomes a question of obtaining the flexion of the mouth without letting the head change the high position. For this flexion, the trainer, facing the head and neck from the left, and holding the right rein of the bit in his right hand and the left rein in his left, causes a pressure on the right bar by
the right hand, which, acting progressively, forces the horse to open its mouth. The head is slightly inclined to the right, but sustained high, the slightest derangement of the head or neck being corrected by the left rein held in the left hand, which is carried upward, downward, forward, to the right or to the left, according to the effect necessary to correct the false position taken by the head or neck in resisting or preventing the proper position and flexion. (Figure 6.)
When the depression of the lower jaw is obtained, the head being lightly inclined to the right, the trainer, by carrying his left hand progressively backward, places the head straight, always continuing the flexion of the mouth. When the head and neck are inclined to the right or to the left, the flexion is called the right or left lateral flexion. The flexion is called direct when the head and neck are straight. The two lateral flexions are only the means for obtaining the direct flexion, which is only complete when the horse depresses its lower jaw. (Figure 7.) The effect of the bits upon the mouth and neck produces a cause and effect. The mouth refuses because the neck resists, the neck refuses because the mouth resists. This difficulty is found in the different conformations, and to obviate it, the alternate flexions of mouth and neck are the proper work.
For the flexions of the neck, the trainer places himself on the horse's left side near the head, takes the right rein of the bit with his right hand and the left rein of the snaffle with his left hand. The flexion of the mouth is obtained by the right rein and the flexion of the neck by the left hand carried to the right over the nostrils of the horse. (Figure 8.) The lateral flexion of the neck is complete when the head is turned facing to the right. After the lateral flexion of the neck, the head is to return to the direct flexion, by the rein or reins of the snaffle. If the horse has a thick, short, and fleshy neck, it is proper to enforce more bending from the neck. For that purpose the trainer places himself on the right side of the horse for the lateral flexion to the left, holds the right rein of the snaffle in the right hand and the left rein in the left hand. The left rein, bearing upon the neck, is kept at the same tension by the left hand, assuming that the right hand allows the head to flex to the left and follows the head in its flexion backward, so that, by raising the right hand, the head is maintained perpendicular and flexed at the atlas. (Figure 9.)
This position of the head flexed perpendicularly has to be obtained by moderate progress, passing from the position in Figure 9 to that shown in Figure 10, and finally to that obtained by the bit alone in Figure 11.
After arriving at this stage, the trainer continues the direct flexion of mouth and neck. The two reins of the bit are held in the left hand, and the two reins of the snaffle in the right, the forefingers
between each pair of reins. The left hand operates a progressive but continual tension upon the bit, while the right hand corrects with the snaffle the false position possible at the beginning and thus secures the flexion at the atlas only. (Figure 12.) The flexion is completed when the mouth is open.
Finally, to obtain proof of the quality of my work of flexions, the horse straight, the head up and light, and yet in contact with my hands, I place myself facing the horse, the left reins of snaffle and bit in my right hand, the right reins in my left hand, and by a progressive and moderate action of my two hands, I obtain the direct flexion of mouth and neck, the horse keeping the same position of body. (Figure 13.) At the completion of the flexion, the horse is upon the hand, with the lower jaw completely depressed. (Figure 14.) The flexions have to be executed equally to the right and to the left by the same principles, but by the opposite means.
In explaining above the principles of the flexions, I have changed sides several times in order to make it possible for the photographer to reproduce on the plate the position of hands, reins, head, and neck, so they will be more apparent to the reader.
The next step is to secure lightness. The trainer stands facing his horse, with the right snaffle rein in his left hand, and the left rein in his right. By repeated vibrations he raises progressively the head and neck, until, after a few lessons, the horse re- mains straight and still, head and neck elevated, without the help of snaffle or bit.
As soon as this position of lightness is obtained, comes the flexions of the jaw. The trainer, holding as before the two snaffle reins, makes very light oppositions, but without allowing the head or neck to drop. Now begins the "fingering." By this I mean the repeated, rhythmic opening and shutting of the mouth: mouth shut, bit contact, fingers closed on the reins; then mouth open and fingers unclosed, the hand always at the same height.
When the lower jaw is depressed squarely at the effect of the snaffle, the trainer repeats the same exercise, holding in each hand a rein of the snaffle and one of the bit. The snaffle maintains the position of head and neck, while the bit controls the depression of the jaw. But the effect of the two, especially of the snaffle, is peculiarly upon the atloaxoid articulation.
But while this flexion is the most important of all, it is nevertheless so entirely at the atlo-axoid joint that the rhomboideus and mastoido-humeralis muscles are so completely contracted that they do not, in this condition, gain the development which is desirable and which is so noticeable in the neck of "Why-Not."
For all this work, especially, I recommend patience, perseverance, and slow advance. What counts for the future is the quality of the performance. The quantity is a small and temporary matter.
The series given above is sufficient to teach the rider the manipulation of the reins, and to train the horse to yield by mouth and neck to the effects of the bits. Many other flexions have been worked out by methodists to meet special difficulties of conformation and temper. But such a variety of cases is outside the limits of this book. Those which have been given, done first on foot and then mounted, are quite sufficient for suppling neck and mouth.
THE pirouettes are revolutions of one end of the horse's body about the other. In the direct pirouette, the hind feet remain in place, while the fore feet circle around them, either to the right or to the left. In the reversed pirouette, called rotation by the new school, the shoulders are the fixed point and the haunches turn around them.
The reversed pirouette is the first movement of the reasoned equitation. It is also the most important, since on its correct and symmetrical execution the entire education depends. It has, moreover, three stages: the reversed pirouette in lateral, which belongs to the lateral equitation; the direct rotation, which belongs to the reasoned equitation; and that in diagonal, which belongs to the scientific equitation. The three terms, lateral, direct, and diagonal, refer to the lateral, direct, and diagonal effects by which the movement is obtained.
The first step in the horse's education is, of course, the position of "in hand"; which has already been considered in the account of the flexions, and will be discussed still further in Chapter XXII. Up to this point the horse has been trained to take the position given by the rider's hand while standing still. It does not yet understand how to move its weight on its feet, and at the same time, to remain in hand. The grand masters have, therefore, spoken of the direct and reversed pirouettes as the mobilization, respectively, of the front and hind hands.
IF the horse has been given the work with the trainer on foot, already described, the reversed pirouette should also be taught on foot. If the training is done in a manege, the animal should be in the center of the ring. I shall discuss first the reversed pirouette in lateral from right to left.
The trainer stands on the horse's right, between head and shoulder. The right hand holds three reins, two from the bit, with the little finger between them, and the right snaffle rein, which passes from the thumb to the little finger. But the snaffle rein is held shorter than the rest. The whip is held in the left hand, with the lash near the horse's right flank.
By means of the reins from the bit, the trainer holds the horse in hand, and at the same time, with the snaffle rein, he obtains a partial lateral flexion to the right. He calms the animal by his voice, and still keeping the "in hand," he keeps touching the right flank lightly with the whip.
Commonly, at this, the horse will either back or raise the right hind leg. If the horse backs, the trainer will correct the fault by carrying forward the reins. But if the horse merely lifts the right hind leg, showing neither fear nor impatience, then the trainer is satisfied and rewards the action with caresses. After a brief relaxation, the action is repeated from the beginning.
Sooner or later, however, the animal, instead of merely lifting the right foot, will, in addition, carry it to the left, under the body, and set it down more or less in front of the left foot. In that position, before the right hind foot can be lifted again, the left hind foot must also gain ground leftward. (Figure 15.)
This is the first step of the reversed pirouette, the beginning of the mobilization of the hind hand. In a short while, the horse comes to understand that when its right flank is touched with the whip, it is to lift the right foot and step toward the left. After the first step, the second, third, and fourth are readily obtained in the same way. Four such steps, done in proper cadence, are enough. More will disturb the support of the front legs, and will distress the horse, since they are against its natural conformation.
Meanwhile, of course, the horse will have lost the "in hand" position. The only remedy is patience, perseverance, and quality of work. You, Master, are the instructor. You are teaching to your pupil the alphabet of locomotion. On this foundation, your pupil may, in time, become a most
uncommon animal. Do not forget that your whip has still to be replaced by legs and spurs. So do not hurry. Take ample time, remembering that the more time you take at this stage, while still maintaining the quality of your work, the faster progress you will make in the end.
When the lateral rotation is thoroughly mastered to the left, everything is reversed and the movement made toward the right.
In the reversed pirouette, as also in the passage, the trainer must not, under any condition, allow the horse to begin the movement by stepping off with the hind leg on the side toward which the motion is to be made. If, for example, the step is to be toward the left, the right hind foot must first cross over in front of the left. After that, the left foot steps still farther to the left. But the left foot must never move first. In other words, the legs always cross, never straddle.
I cannot insist too strongly on this point. Baucher followed and taught the opposite method, and it gave rise to much confusion in his principles. Moreover, it occasioned terrible fights against horses trained by him, which became confused by the effects of the legs.
When the reversed pirouette is correctly executed in lateral, it can next be readily obtained with the direct flexion of "in hand." For this, the pull on one snaffle rein is suppressed, and the horse's head and neck are held straight, while the four steps of the movement are asked by means of the whip. (Figure 16.)
The reversed pirouette in diagonal belongs to the scientific equitation, and will be taken up with that subject.
THE direct pirouette, usually termed simply the pirouette, is the first movement for mobilizing the front hand. Assuming for convenience of description that the movement is toward the left, the action is as follows:
The left hind leg becomes the chief support of the hind hand, while the right hind foot, as in the reversed pirouette, passes in front of it to the left. Then, in its turn, the left rear foot, without in the least altering its place on the ground, turns on the same spot to face in the new direction. These two alternate, the right foot really stepping round the left.
Meanwhile, the right fore foot passes in front of the left, thus crossing the fore legs. As soon as this has taken the weight, the left fore foot moves off to the left, and restores the first relation. In this manner the fore hand walks round the left hind foot. For movement in the other direction, everything is, of course, reversed.
To obtain this pirouette to the left, the trainer stands on the horse's right side, as for the reversed pirouette, facing to the rear. In his right hand he holds the two snaffle reins close behind the chin. The whip is in his left hand, lash near the horse's flank.
The horse being held straight and "in hand," the trainer, with his right hand, pushes the animal's head straight to the left, while, at the same time, by means of the whip, he checks the natural movement of the haunches toward the right. Thus, by pushing the fore hand round in one direction, and at the same time preventing the hind hand from circling after it, the trainer soon obtains the first step of the pirouette. Then follows the usual pause and caressing; and shortly, the animal learns to complete the action. After this, the direction is reversed.
THE pirouette has now taught the horse to mobilize the fore hand. The reversed pirouette or revolution has taken care of the hind hand. There still remains the mobilization of the entire length of the spine, from the atlas region to the last of the sacral vertebrae. While this remains straight and rigid, correct locomotion is not possible.
Flexion of the spine hinges on the " coupling" between the last dorsal vertebra and the first sacral, which has to bend with each step forward, sidewise, or backward. Unfortunately, this articulation tends to become ankylosed with advancing age, and even in a young animal the unnatural load of the rider tends to stiffen the joint. Both causes interfere with free movement, and occasion kicking, rearing, and buck- jumping.
It is, therefore, essential, during the work on foot, to complete the mobilization of the entire body by exercise in backing to supple the coupling.
Some authors advise, for this purpose, having the trainer stand in front of the horse, facing it, and with one rein in each hand, either of bit or snaffle, pushing the animal backward by "sawing" back and forth on the bridle. Fillis advocates having the man, in addition, step on the horse's feet, first on one, then on the other, as the sawing goes on.
But how, I ask, is the horse to understand that it is to flex its spinal column, just because somebody saws its mouth or walks on its feet? I myself proceed in quite a different manner. I put my horse straight, right side near a wall, "at left hand," as it is called. I stand at the shoulder, whip in my right hand, snaffle reins in my left. With the whip, I touch the back close behind the saddle, repeating several times, very gently, never at all violently or severely. Meanwhile, I pull lightly on the snaffle reins. Commonly, within two minutes, the horse lifts one hind foot. If at this moment I pull on the reins, I hinder with my left hand the movement forward of this leg, which will at once be carried backward. The diagonal front leg will at once follow, and I have obtained the first step. Caress- ings on the croup with the right hand, accompanied by the voice, soon make the horse comprehend what is desired. A single one-hour lesson is sufficient to teach the creature to go backwards, the coupling supple, at the touch of the whip behind the saddle and the gentle tension on the reins. The movement should then be repeated from the right side, reins in the right hand, whip in the left.
This movement backward, alternated with the other movements, forward, pirouette, and reversed pirouette, will very soon bring about a state of complete obedience on the part of the horse. The man, on his side, begins to see the effects of the various means which he is employing and to understand the operation of the animal mechanism.
During the work on foot, if the horse is uneasy from need of exercise, put him at the cavesson and longe, preferably without bridle.
A last word : Patience and gentleness; do not forget that you teach, you educate.
BEFORE proceeding to the further training of the horse with the rider mounted, it is necessary to consider more fully than under the instinctive equitation, the position of the rider's hands and the manipulation of the reins.
No fixed position of the hands is correct for all occasions. What it should be in each special case depends on the degree of education of the horse, on its action, sensitiveness, temper, conduct. It varies with the surroundings, the gait at which the animal is traveling, the character of the road, the state of submission or disobedience. It is modified also by the ability of the rider. It alters from moment to moment with the change of circumstances. All that one can do, therefore, is to give the general principles involved, and the standard position from which variants are taken as conditions change.
Let us, then, suppose a horse, well conformed, properly trained, and quiet, ridden at the promenade trot, by a good ordinary rider with a good seat, in street, road, bridle path, or manege, but without all the paraphernalia and impedimenta generally met with in such conditions. In such a case, the hand will be carried six inches above the pommel, the little finger down and slightly nearer the body than the thumb. The thumb is up and closed upon the four reins, which fall forward of the hand and to the left, when, as is usual, the reins are in the left hand. The fingers touch the palm at the nails, pressing with just enough force to prevent slipping. The hand is exactly opposite the middle of the body, and exactly in line with the horse's neck. The elbow touches the side without stiffness or pressure.
When, for any reason, the hand is moved from this position, one inch upward, downward, or sidewise, is in general sufficient for the full effect of the change. If for any reason, some other position has to be taken for the sake of conduct or control, what this new position shall be is decided by practice and experience according to the particular circumstance. If, for example, the horse rears, the hand should be dropped as low as possible, the rider leaning forward. If, on the other hand, the horse kicks, then the hand is lifted as high as possible, while the rider leans back and lifts the animal's head.
For the rider on a side-saddle, the position is the same, except that the hand is two or three inches above the right thigh.
During the process of training a horse, the position of the hand varies so greatly that no rules can be given. The master will, therefore, vary his position to meet special problems of mouth or neck or of the two together, and all the various contractions and defenses of the horse, as his experience suggests.
In ordinary civilian equitation, in the case of men and occasionally even in the case of amazons, there is really no particular reason why the reins should be held with the left hand rather than with the right. But the army man, the hunter, the polo player, and the woman who uses her whip to produce the effects of a right leg, are obliged, naturally, to keep the right hand free for saber, pistol, mallet, or whip, and to use the left hand only for the reins.
For beginners, for all riders mounted on animals not properly bitted, and oftentimes with hunters and park hacks, it is an advantage to hold the reins in both hands. Both in the hunting field and on the promenade, it is sometimes difficult to keep the horse straight at an obstacle or straight on the road. Evidently, in these cases, the rider has better control, and easier, if he does not have the complication of four reins in one hand.
When both hands hold the reins, each taking those on its own side, the snaffle rein passes under the little finger, and that from the bit lies between the little finger and the third finger. Both then pass upward and forward, above the forefinger, held against it by the thumb. When both reins of the bit are held in the same hand, together with one snaffle rein, the other snaffle rein being held alone in the other hand, the tvwo hands should be kept at exactly the same height, and never more than three inches apart. To make an effect to either side, the hand is carried three inches horizontally, without any tilting of the hand upward or downward.
The reins of the bridle, whether held in one hand or both, are pressed by the fingers only just hard enough to prevent slipping. If the pressure is too strong, the tension will be communicated to the arms, and from them to the whole upper portion of the body. At first sight, nothing seems easier. But in practice, the reins will slip, and unequally. The result is that, when the rider has occasion to draw on the reins, the one which at the moment happens to be shortest, has the most effect.
It becomes necessary, therefore, from time to time, to readjust the reins in the hand.
Suppose that all four reins are held in the left hand. To adjust, let us say, the curb reins, which are those without the buckle, the rider, with his right hand behind the left, takes the free ends with his thumb and first finger, and carries the right hand upward, while at the same instant he relaxes the grip of the left hand on these two. Meanwhile the left hand is kept precisely in line with the horse's neck. As soon as the rider feels with the right hand the equal contact against the mouth, he closes once more the fingers of the left hand and lets go with the right. For the snafHe reins, those with the buckle, the process is exactly the same.
With the reins held in both hands, to adjust the left reins the rider brings the right hand up to the left, takes with the thumb and first finger as before the reins which have slipped too long, relaxes the grip of the left hand, and draws the reins upward to the proper length. If the reins are too short, they are taken in the same way, but in front of the left hand, and drawn forward. For the right rein, the process is exactly reversed.
It is difficult, usually, to teach a beginner properly to close his fingers on the reins; particularly women, who handle the leather as if it were fine lace, and never really grip it firmly nor have the correct length. Yet grip and length are even more important for women than for men, since the latter have the better control by way of legs and saddle. With both men and women, the fault commonly begins during the early lessons in the ring. If not corrected then, it persists as a bad and dangerous habit, so that one often sees even good riders who have always to be adjusting their reins.
Sometimes, for control or for safety, it becomes necessary to shorten promptly some or all of the reins. Beginners carelessly let them slip through the fingers. Many older riders abandon control of their horses or think it proof of a good hand to have the reins too long. The result is that in sudden emergency — as, for example, when the animal by a sudden jump disturbs the seat — the rider can do nothing until he has taken time to shorten his reins. Then it may be too late. While, therefore, even the beginner ought to learn to keep his reins always at the correct length, he should be practiced also in shortening them instantly.
The method is much the same as for adjustment. If the rider is holding all four reins in the left hand, he simply seizes them all with all the fingers of the right hand, or certain ones with thumb and forefinger, and draws them upward to the needed length.
I often tell my pupils that the beginner has always two enemies of his safety — his eyes and his fingers. The eyes never look far enough ahead to see where the horse is going; therefore they tilt the head forward and displace the body. The fingers let slip the reins; therefore are these not ready when needed to control the horse.
I have already noted that the determining factor in handling the reins is the need of holding the horse straight, the backbone acting, so to say, as a sort of keel; and that, on the whole, it is easier to accomplish this end when both hands are employed. Nevertheless, there are conditions which make it at least convenient for the time being to change from two hands to one or from one to two. If, for example, the rider regularly uses the left hand for all four reins, in order to have the right hand free for whip or mallet, he may often need to use both hands to control a case of excitement or refusal.
To separate the reins, changing from the left hand to both hands, the little finger of the right goes over the right snaffle rein, with one finger, or better two fingers, between this and the right rein of the bit. The bit rein is slightly the looser of the two.
It is impossible to give the precise detail of this movement. It has to vary somewhat with the way the reins are carried in the left hand. For much the same reason, it is not possible to dictate the relative length of the two reins, since this is affected by skill of the rider, the speed of the horse, and its education, temper, and surroundings. With certain horses, in certain conditions, at various speeds and gaits, certain ways of holding the reins are better than others. I have experimented widely, and I am convinced that virtually all the methods of the various masters are good in an "intelligent" hand. It is not any fixed position of the reins which gives control over the forehead of the mount, but the effects of hand and fingers on the bits. An able esquire will produce the same total effect with the snaffle or with the bit, with left hand or right hand or both. It is all a matter of equestrian tact.
One cannot, then, dictate the precise method of separating the reins until he knows how they are held all together. But whatever the method, the pupil should be frequently practiced in changing from one hand to both and back again. These manipulations are to be executed, first standing, and later at all three gaits, without changing the regularity of gaits and speed. Then is the beginner prepared for emergencies.
There are three principal methods of crossing the four reins in one hand.
According to the first of these, the rider, as soon as mounted, takes the extremities of the snaffle reins in his right hand and places them upon the middle of the horse's neck. He next takes in his right hand the two reins of the bit, also by their ends, and, lifting his hand, gives these a moderate tension. He now places his left hand over these two reins, his little finger between them, and grips them with all four fingers. The free ends pass out between the forefinger and the thumb, which closes on them, and fall to the left side of the hand. Finally, the rider picks up the snaffle reins with his right hand and raises them in front of the left. His left hand thereupon looses its grip with the three upper fingers, but, still holding with the fourth, passes the middle finger between the two snaffle reins, and shuts the thumb against the free ends of both pairs.
For the second method, the rider, as before, lays the snaffle reins on the horse's neck, lifts the bit reins with his right hand, and grasps them with his left. In this case, however, both the third and the fourth finger separate the two bit reins. He next takes the two snaffle reins in his right hand, and passes them between the first finger and the thumb of his left hand, bringing them out below the little finger. The thumb, as before, shuts upon all four reins. According to the third method, the left rein of either the bit or the snaffle is placed below the little finger, and the left rein of either the snaffle or the bit passes between the fourth finger and the third. The right rein of the snaffle or of the bit is between the third finger and the second, and the right rein of bit or snaffle is between the second finger and the first. Thus a finger separates each two adjacent reins.
One last manipulation of the reins remains to be considered—the ancient practice of jerking the bit.
The old school of equitation recognized this action as a means of controlling a disobedient, restive, or vicious animal. At that epoch only stallions were ridden; and the character of the riders had to match their mounts. Pluvinel, de la Broue, and Grisons recommend that, in case a horse refuses to turn to the right or left, to change from gallop to trot, or from trot to walk, or to stop, the rider should "give him several sharp jerks against the mouth; and in the mean time call him with a strong voice, 'Pig!' 'Cow!' 'Scoundrel!' 'Coward!' 'Felon!'" a complete vocabulary of epithets not understood by three quarters of humankind.
Of course these excellent masters did really produce the effects they desired; but it was by the sound of the voice, not by the epithets. Moreover, the jerk on the bit cannot have any other result than to destroy the animal's understanding of the effects of the bit by making him fear the pain. Jerking the bit is, then, a proof of lack of both kindness and competence on the rider's part. For after several repetitions, the horse, remembering the pain, expects still another jerk whenever the rider does anything with the reins; and in order to protect itself, it raises the head very high. In this position, the jerk cannot be operated. If the rider tries it, the horse will get away at high speed and become unmanageable.
The horse's mouth is extremely sensitive, and needs, more than any other part, the study of the rider and the practice of the principle of strength of effects rather than effects of strength. Strength of effects means intelligence. Effects of strength mean jerk and saccade. Brutality belongs to the nature of an animal; but intelligence is the great gift of man. It is not by making the horse afraid of the bit that we make it understand the meaning of its effects. Only by the agreeable contact of the bit upon the bars, and by the sensitive repetition of this contact, does the horse come to understand, without fear, the fingering, the equestrian tact of its rider.
The first action of any animal, man included, on feeling pain in the mouth, is to shut it. But when a horse shuts its mouth forcibly on the bit, no mere two hundred pounds of human rider can pull it open by any effect of strength alone. But strength of effects, the taking and giving of the rider's hand, will release the tension and open the mouth, not because of any pain, but by a pleasant relaxing of the jaw. If along with this, the rider, by the effects of his legs, concentrates the animal's forces so as to bring the center of gravity under his seat, he establishes a control from which the animal cannot escape. But it is not by jerks and saccades that the horse comes to understand the effects of bits and legs.
Nevertheless, if the horse, taking contact with the bits, hesitates to yield the lower jaw, some vibration of the snaffle rein may be needed to relax the mouth. But vibrations and jerks are two different matters. The one is beneficial; the other is useless and dangerous.
All the work done up to this point has been merely preparatory. Now the time has come for the horse to be mounted, and for the whip to be replaced by the aids and effects of the rider's legs.
Other methodists, after completing the flexions and the mobilization on foot, pass directly to the flexions mounted. This I consider a serious error. To mount a young animal, and to keep it standing still during the time of its lesson on the various flexions, is to offer far too many occasions for nervous impatience and disorderly acts. Yet how is the rider to prevent these? The horse does not understand the aids. The effects of hands, legs, and seat are ignored. The rider is at the mercy of the animal's ignorance and caprice.
To meet this difficulty, I have for many years relied upon the following system:
As soon as the preparatory work on foot is completed, I mount the horse, and begin at once the training in the aids, before proceeding to the flexions standing still. First of all, I employ the legs, so that I may be able to push the horse forward against the contact of the bits. Not only do I continue my teaching of the aids of legs without spurs, at the beginning; I employ also spurs without rowels, for the sake of accustoming the horse to their use, to increase the effect of the legs, to accelerate the speed, and to obtain the contact of its jaw upon my hand. I am not satisfied with the walk only. I ask also the trot, since this is oftentimes a very great help in exercising and quieting the animal.
Only after the aids of the legs are well understood, so that I can always determine a free forward movement, do I proceed to the reversed pirouette, pirouette, and backing, for the mobilization of the fore hand, the hind hand, and the body as a whole. On the other hand, I begin the instruction of the front hand by the flexions mounted, while my control by my legs is still only partial, standing still, at walk, and at trot. Thus, without difficulty, restiveness, or rebellion, I arrive at the "in hand"; and finally, after more and more polishing, at the "assemblage."
Meanwhile, with the instruction of the horse, has progressed the tact of the cavalier in using his aids.
The various sorts of equitation employ many different means for directing and training the horse. The équitation raisonnée and the équitation savante admit only three aids—the hands, the legs, and the seat. Cavessons, whips, and martingales, chirruping with the tongue, caressings and punishments, are only means for helping the animal to comprehend the effects of these three. Baucher in his method, though he includes the seat as an aid, gives no theory as to the relation of the seat to the assemblage; and his own position, always correct, is always and invariably perpendicularly above the center of gravity. Photographs of Fillis in action show alteration in his position which act upon the center of gravity in direct proportion to the movement involved. But only in a few of the movements explained in his method does he maintain the need of a proper inclination of the upper part of the man's body in the direction of the horse's motion.
The seat, simply as a means of staying on the horse's back at all gaits and movements, cannot be considered an aid, so long as the horse keeps to his merely instinctive equilibrium. But as soon as this instinctive equilibrium is replaced by the condition of transmitted equilibrium, then the effect of position of the rider's body, acting upon the center of gravity of the horse, becomes very powerful.
I discuss this better later on, after I have considered the theory of the assemblage, rassembler, and the state of collection. For the present, it is important for the student's understanding of the general idea of "accuracy of seat."
A second and more important aid is the hand. For this it makes no difference whether the horse is in instinctive or transmitted equilibrium. In either case, the effect of the reins passes to the mouth, from the mouth to the neck, from the neck to the front limbs, and from the fore hand throughout the entire animal mechanism. Baucher fully understood the importance of this aid, and created the flexions of mouth and neck. So too did Fillis, who was first to apply the expression doigter, that is to say, fingering.
The bridle hand can produce three general effects, which, in their turn, by the fingering and by the different positions of the hand, are still further modified in great variety.
The first is by tension of the reins, a retarding. Its opposite is freedom, permission, concession.
The second effect is by the steadiness of the bridle hand. Its immediate effect is sustension, and later elevation.
The third effect is by the position of the hand, to indicate the direction which the animal is to take.
These effects, in general, should be produced one after the other, but not simultaneously. To produce any one without at the same time producing any trace of any other, or disturbing the conditions involved in the other two, constitutes the "intelligent hand."
The usual position of the hand is that given above. But for control, training, or the like, the reins are carried upward, downward, backward, left or right, to an extent proportionate to the effect desired. During such movements the hand should always continue to feel the bit. When the hand has reached the position where it will obtain the required movement, it remains fixed in place until the movement is completed. Thus the motion of the hand conveys the nature of the movement; the fixation of the hand controls its execution.
BY "legs" one means always the leg below the knee. The thighs remain always in permanent contact with the saddle, and always entirely independent of any movement or pressure of the calves. The common expressions of riding-teachers, "Close your legs," "Use your legs," "Fermez les jambes," refer, then, only to the free portion of the limb. They do not mean, as many beginners mistakenly suppose, that the horse's body is to be enveloped by the whole leg from hip to ankle!
The legs, including the feet, are the second mobile part of the rider's body and the most important means of controlling the horse. They and their effects are the essential promoters of every action of the horse, physical and moral. They must, therefore, act to just the right amount, neither too much nor too little; at just the right instant, neither before nor after, in accord with the fingering of the reins and the cadence of the stride; not interfering with the step, but reestablishing the tempo if lost; coordinated with the sensibility, nervousness, energy, or the lack of these, of the animal. The action of the legs demands, therefore, the highest "tact" on the part of the rider. Many are called, but few chosen to the proper management of this delicate and powerful aid.
To explain the effects of the legs and the causes of these, and to deduce from such general principles the correct manner of using these effects in practice, is the most complicated subject in all equestrian science.
In ancient times, before the invention of the bridle, the legs provided the only means of controlling the horse. Later came spurs. All the masters of equestrian art, from Xenophon to James Fillis inclusive, have laid down the principle that the effect of the contact of the legs is to impel the body forward in whatever direction is indicated by the reins.
This is, nevertheless, only partly true. When the legs are pressed against the flanks of an uneducated animal, their first effect is merely to tickle the panniculus carnosus muscle, which envelops the body from chest to haunch. But although this muscle does adhere to certain of the locomotor muscles, its action is entirely independent of the whole locomotor system. When, therefore, the horse feels the touch of a foreign object, it merely uses the panniculus carnosus to shake the skin, whether that foreign body be legs, spurs, or flies. It is, consequently, only as the result of education that the horse learns to support unmoved the rider's legs and spurs.
But below the panniculus carnosus, from thorax to pelvis, lie the great muscles which move the fore and hind limbs, and which are the principal agents in locomotion. Of these the latissimus dorsi carries the arm upward and backward, the longissimus dorsi, when it acts alone, is a powerful extensor of the vertebral column, and the deep pectoralis, attached at the angle of the shoulder, draws the whole fore limb backward. The student desiring to understand more fully the attachments, relations, and actions which are effected by pressure of the rider's legs, should consult some standard work on the anatomy of the horse.
It is, then, easy to understand that the rider's legs affect first of all the horse's hair, skin, panniculus carnosus, and abdominal tunic, all of which have nothing to do with locomotion; while the great pectoralis and its adjuncts, the latissimus dorsi, and the muscles of the haunches and hind limbs, are either affected only secondarily or remain unimpressed. But the first contact of the rider's legs is for the horse rather unpleasant than otherwise. It takes, therefore, patient teaching to accustom the untrained animal to endure this contact without anxiety, nervousness, or fear. Only after the horse, standing quiet and calm, supports the pressure of the legs on all parts of the body, from as far forward as the rider can reach to as far backward, has the time come for teaching the significance of this contact for the more important muscles of locomotion, such as the great pectoralis. All masters of equitation have heretofore advocated putting the legs in contact with the horse's flanks and holding them there until the pupil makes one or two or more steps forward. I differ completely with this idea. The horse, standing, has all four limbs directly below its body. But in order for it to move forward, one of the fore legs, executing the three movements of the stride, must reach forward and come to the ground, ready to receive the weight. It thereupon becomes the fixed point upon which the great pectoralis acts to pull the body forward. But an acting muscle pulls one of its ends toward the other; not both ends toward the middle. If, then, the rider's two legs press equally upon the middle of the great pectoralis muscles, their natural action is prevented. All that the horse can then do is to stop; or if it be energetic or violent, to rear; or possibly to back, if the fixed point on which the muscles pull is the pelvis, the haunches, the ilium, or the loins. It is some improvement on the usual procedure gently to open and close the legs, making little repetitions of the contact. But even this is not completely satisfactory.
I advocate, therefore, this device. First, I make contact with both legs. Then, still keeping contact with one leg, with the other, very gently, I make and break contact, my leg never going more than half an inch out from the animal's body. Very soon, I see the fore leg on the same side take its forward stride, and at the same time I feel under me the opposite hind leg come off the ground. This is the first step! When one has obtained the first step, if he is a trainer, a master, he may feel sure that millions of steps will follow by and by. Now is the time to prove to your pupil, by caressings and rewards, that what he has done is what you asked. You have obtained the correct response, scientifically and naturally, without the quarrel, doubt, or confusion, which are the result of the wrong method of the old masters of equitation.
I dwell especially, at this point, on the importance of patience and moderation. Do not forget that you are an instructor, and that your pupil does not yet understand the meaning of your effects. Accept, therefore, your duty. Act as if you were dealing with a child who does not yet know the meaning of papa and mamma. Teach by kindness. Do not be violent. Do not kick the animal because it does not yet comprehend you. If you do, you will be sorry afterwards. Remember always that a horse, once properly educated, answers to the delicate and intelligent effects of your legs as it answers to the deftest fingering of your reins; and that all your domination of the animal is the product of your intelligence, a strength of effect, never, never, an effect of strength.
When, from standing, the horse will pass to the walk at the effects of the legs, without showing anxiety or haste, it should be taught by the same methods to pass from walk to trot, and from trot to gallop. It is, however, one of the axioms of equitation that any effect of rider on horse loses its influence more and more the longer it is continued. If, then, bits or calves or spurs are employed continuously, without relaxation, the horse in time accepts the contact, becomes wonted to it, and all the effect disappears.
It is, therefore, necessary, from time to time, to "render the legs" in the same way that one renders the hand. Otherwise the sensibility to the pressure of the legs will wear away, or the hind hand will become fatigued and the horse refuse. But since the effect of the legs is less natural to the horse and less obvious to the rider than the effect of the hands, even more care must be taken to employ this effect with proper moderation. Moreover, if after obtaining motion forward by means of the contact of the legs, the rider continues to maintain the same contact as before, the horse will soon fail to understand the meaning of the first pressure. Relaxation of the contact is absolutely essential for conveying the meaning of the contact.
There are, however, two different ways of rendering the legs. Suppose that, to urge the horse forward, the rider needs three degrees of pressure. He exerts these three degrees, and the horse goes forward. The required speed being obtained, the legs then return to their normal one degree of contact, and the horse continues the movement for himself. This principle applies to all gaits and speeds. There is, in addition, a second way of rendering the legs, which though unrecognized by the reasoned equitation, is far too much practiced—namely, the loss of all contact with the horse's flanks. To do this, one ought to be very sure of his seat, his horse, and his surroundings. Even then it is wiser to confine this meaning of the verb "to render " to occasions when the horse is standing still. Evidently, rendering the legs with the horse in motion, should not involve, at the same time, rendering the hands. One who does this is said to "abandon" his mount, a serious fault.
Thus far, for the sake of simplicity, I have spoken as if the effect of the rider's legs on the horse's body were the same, whatever the precise region of the contact. This is not, however, entirely the fact. There really are three different effects corresponding to three different positions.
Contact well forward near the girths tends to collect the horse and to aid the hand in establishing the state of equilibrium. This position tends also to keep the animal in equilibrium during movement.
Contact far back against the flank, on the other hand, tends to draw the hind legs forward under the center of gravity, and thus to favor stopping, or even going backwards.
The intermediate position between these two is the one which sends the horse forward, as already discussed.
These three different ways of using the legs, understood by both horse and man, will avoid certain mistakes on the part of both.
One more principle is to be noted. The action of one rein alone or of one leg alone has no meaning. The only effect that the horse can learn to understand is the additional or repeated effect of one rein or one leg while the other remains unmodified and uniform.
SPURS had, at first, no rowels; but were stiletto-like and long. At that epoch, the bit, called buade, was very severe; and the saddle had high pommels before and behind. The rider's legs, therefore, extended straight down; and since he could not bend his knee, he needed the long spur to counteract the too powerful effect of the bit. Even to-day the Arabs still use this type of spur, called shabir.
But with the progress of equitation, effects of force have given way to force of effects, arid the stiletto point has been superseded by rowels, severe, medium, or mild in proportion to the sharpness of their points. The choice of the right degree of severity of the rowels needed for any particular animal is governed by the creature's dullness or sensibility, and determined by the rider's equestrian tact. In any case, the horse has to be first accustomed to dull rowels and trained progressively to those more severe.
A great many sorts of rowel have been used, with various theories to explain their different forms. Practically, it is important to have the rowels turn loosely on their pivots. Otherwise, the horse's hairs may collect around them and prevent their turning at all. In that event, the points, being fixed, are a great deal more severe; and the rider may unwittingly spur much harder than he intends. Motion of the rowel from above downward is likewise more severe than in the reverse direction.
The attack with the spurs, at all periods in the history of equitation, has been considered both as a means of correction and punishment, and as an augmentation of the effect of the legs. It has been shown by writers on the subject that the use of the spurs follows, as a necessary result, the invention of bit and bridle. Evidently, the bit in the mouth, bearing upon the sensitive bars, gives rise to discomfort and even pain, so that the horse naturally hesitates to go forward against the sensation. This was especially the case with the earlier bits, with their long branches and their disks with screws attached to the ports. When the legs alone proved insufficient to push the horse forward against the bit, the whip had to be employed. But this can be used on only one side at a time, and is therefore inefficient. Moreover, the mounted soldier, reins in one hand, lance or sword in the other, could not use the whip. Spurs, therefore, had to be invented to force the horse to go forward, notwithstanding the pain of the bit manipulated by the heavyhanded rider.
The first master to begin to use the spur with moderation and intelligence was Comte de la Guérinière. His principle of the "delicate pressure of the spurs" is still noted by the more progressive schools of equitation. But equitation, with the progress made since de la Guérinière's time, has passed from the instinctive to the reasoned basis, and now to the scientific. It is no longer a question of practicing what our ancestors have done, but of following a progressive education, a sequence of reason, cause, and the effect of the means used by the man on the horse.
Now the first principle of the scientific equitation is the force of effect; it denies forever the effect of force. This being admitted, it is no longer by the severity of the bit nor by the severity of the spurs that we train the horse. I say train, as we still do, mistakenly: I mean educate. Following a progressive education, the horse is first taught by a trainer on foot, by the use of the whip on its flanks, to move forward against the bit. This practice with the whip prepares the animal for the effects of the legs upon the same part of the body, when the rider is mounted and the legs give the impulse to the entire machinery. This impulse of the legs is received by the bit, making contact with the bars, so that there is a continual fluctuation of the equilibrium as the center of gravity shifts backward and forward at each step.
To make this matter clear, suppose a horse to be mounted and standing, its training by the flexions of mouth and neck being so far advanced that it is well "in hand." In order to maintain the animal in this position, the center of gravity at the center of mechanism, the rider is exerting, let us say, a force of twenty pounds, ten pounds on the fore hand to maintain the "in hand," and ten pounds with the legs, to maintain the contact with the bit. Otherwise the "in hand" will cease and the state of equilibrium be lost.
Suppose, now, that, in order to send the horse forward at a walk, the rider, keeping always the pull of ten pounds at the reins, increases the pressure of his legs to fifteen pounds and then to twenty; but the horse still keeps its center of gravity where it was, and remains standing still. If at this point the rider gives the hand, the center of gravity will pass forward and the horse will start; but the "in hand," which is part of the equilibrium, will be lost. If, therefore, the legs alone have not the power needed to push the center of gravity forward while the reins continue to act, the rider must have spurs with which to multiply their effect.
The horse having, if I may so express myself, let the center of gravity pass forward, would fall if it did not at once extend a fore leg to receive the weight. This constitutes one step. As the horse moves forward, the spurs abandon their contact; but the legs still maintain their pressure as before the spurs were applied. The center of gravity will return to the middle point; but the horse will continue to move forward, still in the state of equilibrium. All this is in accord with Newton's first law of motion as set forth in his Principia. The body, once set in motion by a force, continues after the force is withdrawn to move forward in the same direction until another force interferes. The horse, therefore, without further spurring, continues to advance at the same speed, until something else occurs.
This, then, is what we mean by the "attack" of the spurs; nothing brutal, sudden, sharp, or unexpected, merely the supplementing of the effect of the legs, which alone were not sufficient. But the animal has life, and consequently, senses and will. It does, for a time, continue to go forward in a state of equilibrium, under the impulse of the original force. Sooner or later, however, some new sensation becomes a disturbing force. It loses its uniform motion in a straight line, and with it the state of equilibrium. Thereupon, hand and legs, spurs, if necessary, must again come into action.
In such a case, the spurs are a corrective, not by their own direct effect, but because they help to restore the state of equilibrium, and thus to inhibit the animars own will, which is the disturbing force. But though the good-will of the horse is a pleasant state, it really is very little matter what the horse thinks. The only point is submission to the will of the rider, who, by complete and continual control of the physical horse, sets quite on one side the will of the moral horse. Then and only then is the horse an utter captive, unable to disobey, unable to move a limb except at the intelligent command of its master.
On the other hand, we must not forget the great principle, already accepted, that every impression made upon the animal loses its effect progressively as the impression is continued. If legs or spurs are held steadily against the horse's sides, it shortly becomes quite insensible to them. It must, then, have its sensitiveness reawakened by repeated attacks.
For this purpose, while the horse is walking, trotting, or galloping, the rider, taking a firm seat, closes his legs progressively until he presses with his full strength, the hand meanwhile being firm and steady, and the rider cool-tempered and calm, confident in himself and his seat. These conditions realized, the rider turns his toes outward, the spurs touch the flanks near the girths, pinch, and then release, while the legs press with the same force as before the spurs were applied.
The spurs do not remain in contact with the flanks. The touch is brief, but the pressure is repeated again and again, in about the tempo of a quarter-note in music, until the horse, calm and obedient, in a state of equilibrium, stands still or moves forward at the same speed and gait as at the beginning of the attack. If, however, the horse, at the attack, backs or refuses to go forward, then the tempo of the application of the spurs is increased, until such time as the horse advances, always upon the hand, with the bit in contact with the bars. If the horse drops its head when spurred, the rider takes the snaffle in one hand and lifts the head with the snaffle, never with the bit. The attack is completely successful when the horse's head and neck go steadily upward and forward upon the hand of the rider, the face nearly perpendicular to the ground and the lower jaw open.
Thereupon follows a sensation well known to masters of the art. As the attacks bring the hind legs below the haunches, the coupling is lightly opened, while the hand, acting upon the bit, throws back upon the rear legs a portion of the load previously supported by the front pair. The rider feels the weight pass below his seat. He hears the saddle give a sudden crack as the muscles of the trunk contract. Still, it is not absolutely necessary that these two sensations should accompany the collection of the horse into equilibrium. I have found some horses in which they do not always occur.
To a young trainer, these attacks of the spurs appear terrible and dangerous. To the consummate esquire, they are the simplest matter. The scientific equitation does not regard an animal as trained if it does not respond to the attack by collecting itself, or if the attack throws it out of the state of equilibrium.
The attack of the spurs should always be deft le toucher délicat de l'éperon, is the phrase of the Grand Master, Comte de la Guérinière. These are the most exacting of all our means. They act upon the physical forces of the animal, and upon his moral forces. They affect especially his will. They are, therefore, a most important means of control if employed for their strength of effects. But they are most dangerous when used as effects of strength.
Masters of the equestrian art have all assumed that the spurs have two uses - one for conduct and one for punishment. I admit their use for conduct, but I deny their use as a corrective in the sense in which other writers have taught. I admit their use as a corrective in so far as they augment the effect of the legs. I grant that, when the legs alone are not sufficiently powerful, as a means of conduct, to impose upon the horse, by my will, the position of equilibrium, so as to paralyze movements of revolt originating in the animal's will, I employ the spurs. But the effect of these is always to reenforce the effects of the legs, which are of themselves impotent to obtain the position of assemblage. By means of the spurs I am able to correct a wrong position which the horse takes in revolt, and which would otherwise put in jeopardy my control over him, and bring my intelligent will into subordination to the enormous physical strength of an unintelligent brute.
I do not believe that the animal is influenced by sharp physical pain in any such degree as a man is, who by his education is always more delicate physically, and morally more fearful than the animal, who has no dread whatever of death. It is, therefore, not by inflicting physical pain that the man dominates the brute; but rather by the skillful use of the sensations which the man is able to impose. Whenever pain becomes the custom, the animal no longer heeds it. But agreeable sensations are retained in memory, and so dispose the animal to obey for the sake of the caresses and rewards.
I have already explained that the purpose of the flexions is to obtain equal contact of the bars upon the bit by the effect of the two legs used equally. Evidently, if the legs do not act equally, the contact of the bit will also be unsymmetrical. So much the more, then, must the vastly more powerful spurs be used with precise equality if the animal is to be kept straight and equal in all his steps and gaits.
It is for this reason most important that the teeth of the two rowels be equally sharp or dull, and that the spurs be set immovably at the same height; otherwise the attack will occur sooner, or at a different place, or be more severe, on one side than the other. I hold my own spurs in place by having a small piece of leather at the top of the heel, on which the spur rests, and a very short strap which passes in front of the heel below the boot. But the best method is to follow the advice of Fillis and to have box spurs set permanently in the boots. These cannot be displaced and will always act equally. A rider is said to "apply the spurs" when he brings them against the horse's flanks and holds them there. Oftentimes during the horse's education, the rider needs to bring back the animal's attention, which has been distracted by some sight or sound, or has simply lapsed. This moral state of the animal should never be tolerated, lest the horse come to think that he can get away from the rider's control at his own will or because of what he sees and hears. It is essential that the man shall be master of the animal, always and in every circumstance. To apply the two spurs at the slightest distraction is highly efficient, provided their use is moderate and progressive. The legs should be closed first, and the spurs applied without shock, as the legs alone prove insufficient.
A great many poets and other writers speak of riders who "bury their spurs in their horse's flanks," and thereby start them off like lightning. But the fact is that to bury the two spurs brusquely is precisely the best way to stop a horse running at full speed. The prick of the spurs makes him kick out with the hind legs, which, getting no support from the air, can no longer drive the body forward. The horse ought to bear the touch of the spurs as calmly as he bears the pressure of the legs. It is the repetition of the contact that produces the effect, not the single brusque application.
Burying the spurs has nevertheless its place. Certain horses are thoroughly vicious by nature, or through restiveness or laziness are always trying to escape from the rider's control. With such animals, the man must, from the beginning, assert his superiority with intelligent force. It is not, in such cases, a question of training or education. It is a question of taming, yet without creating fear by excessive punishment. The rider must be positive, strict, and severe; but always reasonable and calm.
The result of burying the spurs in the horse's flanks and holding them there is commonly to inhibit the action of the great pectoralis muscles, and thus to prevent the forward propulsion of the body, while at the same time punishing the creature for an act of restiveness. The horse, therefore, finding himself unable to use his members in rebellion, cannot but feel the rider's mastership. But if the horse does not already understand the effect of legs and spurs, surprise may throw him into disorder. Moreover, the sharpness of the spurs, the strength and temperament and training of the horse, and its native stubbornness, all need to be considered by the rider before he buries his spurs in its flanks.
A rider is said to "tickle with the spurs" when he uses these instruments inopportunely and without reason. Certain riders like to exhibit an ill-founded pretense of knowing how to ride, and render their mounts impatient or frantic by continued tickling. Others, who have no accuracy of seat, let their legs flop back and forth with the movement of the horse. Happily for the latter sort, the horse that supports such treatment is too old or lymphatic to mind anything. Otherwise, with an energetic animal, there would shortly follow a divorce by mutual consent. Still a third sort of rider is the one who has so little confidence in his seat or himself that, when occasion comes, he is afraid to use his spurs with justice and energy. He tickles because he has not the faith to use the persuaders firmly.
In short, the man who tickles with his spurs is like the man who teases his friends. The one makes himself an annoyance, and commonly finds his retribution in lack of comrades and true friends. The other is likely to make, of a good horse, either a nervous and excited animal, or else a poor, lazy, confused victim and slave. Spurs on the wrong heels are like matches, knives, and firearms in the hands of children.
On the other hand, certain horses are " ticklish to the spurs." That is to say, they will not accept the contact without showing dislike or fear. Some horses make continual movements of the tail, or turn the head to look at the rider's leg. Some stop; or, if standing, half rear and half back. Some put back their ears, and roar or growl. Some grind their teeth. Some urinate nervously, in small and repeated jets.
Mares are especially liable to this fault. The cause is usually a too great sensibility of the hairs of the flanks and of the panniculus carnosus. The cure is to ride for a time without spurs and with the legs against the flanks. This is followed by spurs with the teeth filed dull and encased in leather, until the horse becomes progressively accustomed to the ordinary sort. The same treatment can be used for horses that have been made ticklish by improper spurring. A few cases, apparently cured, afterwards relapse. Some animals are quite incurable.
In sum, then, the spurs, properly used, are our most powerful means for obtaining, with the help of the bridle, a position of the animal in which all defense, restiveness, disobedience, or signs of fear become impossible. We do not, indeed, alter the horse's moral state; but we force it to assume a position in which it cannot use its members for the acts which correspond.
On the other hand, the spurs are a dangerous tool when used by a rider who employs them without moderation, delicacy, propriety, and discretion, like a monkey playing with a razor. Nothing is more ridiculous than to see either a man or a woman rider, wearing spurs as an ornament of fashion, with the legs so extended as to bring the heels close to the horse's shoulders. It is easy, in such a case, to understand the sarcasm of a certain master: "It would be better for such a rider to buckle his spurs to his own elbows, and use them against his own flanks." Since, then, the spurs are the most powerful means recognized by equitation, their employment demands moderation, intelligence, experience, justness, exactness, propriety, accuracy, equality, precision, and faith, as moral qualifications, and, as physical basis, that sine qua non, the accurate seat, without which the other qualities are of no avail. In fact, the rider needs as much equestrian tact in his heels as in the hands and fingers which manipulate the reins. The difference is that a mistake made with the hands is usually, in large measure, reparable; but an error committed with the heels will occasion disorder or revolt that is not only dangerous at the moment but may make upon the animal a moral impression that is unforgotten and may be forever irreparable.
I have already explained that the effects of the rider's legs on the horse's flanks are indirect. The muscles of propulsion are overlaid by the panniculus carnosus. On this, the pressure of the legs acts directly; but only by education is the effect of this pressure passed on to the pectoralis magnus. But the function of the panniculus carnosus is to contract at the touch of any foreign or strange object, such as an insect or a twig. The young horse, therefore, when mounted for the first time, reacts to the contact of the rider's legs as to any other annoyance. If he is uncommonly excitable, he simply raises a hind leg and makes ready to kick. Only by the process of education does the horse learn to support the contact of the rider's legs calmly and without impatience.
The first effect of the contact is, therefore, to make the horse raise one or both hind legs. But, by our training, we obtain instead the forward movement, the front leg gaining ground on the side of the pressure. After the first step, comes the second, and then the trot and gallop, all associated with a more or less complex system of signs, based on pressures of the rider's legs. This is sufficient for ordinary riding. But when the horse revolts, no matter what the occasion for his disobedience or disorder, we employ the spurs to reenforce the effects of the legs.
What, then, can the spurs do? Without cooperation of the hand, nothing. But the two, hand and spurs, acting together, constrain the animal to a position of equilibium, in which all his bodily forces are assembled under a center of gravity, in such wise that the horse cannot displace this collection of its powers without the rider's permission and intelligent direction. For in order to displace its body, in case of revolt, the horse would have to use its muscles in a way impossible for it by the law of its nature. These powerful effects of the spurs are, therefore, neither brutal, nor abrupt, nor provocative. Their action is entirely mechanical, and therefore rationally calming and pacifying.
In other words, the spurs, as they affect an animal in a state of moral disorder, act like oil poured upon the waters of a turbulent sea. The cause of the turbulence remains; but the local effect is destroyed. So with the horse: its emotions are the same, but it cannot act them out. Its physical strength is locked, like an insane creature in a strait-jacket.
The progress of the animal's education to the effects of the spurs is, therefore, the same, in general, as its training to the effects of the legs, except that it needs even more patience and kindness. In case the horse has previously been maltreated with the spurs, the training is the same, but still more kind and patient.
For this education, every esquire needs three sets of spurs. The first degree is without rowels, the end of the branches being rounded. The second degree has rowels without teeth. A penny or a ten-cent piece answers nicely. The third degree has the teeth short and dull. If when these rowels are pinched between thumb and finger of the gloved hand, the teeth prick through the glove, they are a little too sharp. The length of the branch depends on the length of the rider's legs and on the width of the horse's flanks, the longer-legged man needing the longer spurs. Only experience determines just what the proper length shall be.
The trainer, equipped with spurs of the first degree, mounts the horse, and stops him well away from the wall, if the work is done in a manege, in order that the horse may not try to rub the rider's leg against the barrier or injure itself by kicking. He then closes his legs with all his might, pressing the horse's flanks near the girths, while the reins, held in the left hand, make their effect. The toes are now turned outward, and the right spur is brought close to the right flank, within perhaps a tenth of an inch. The rider soothes the horse with his voice, and as soon as the animal is perfectly calm, he applies the spur progressively - very progressively - and holds it against the flank, meanwhile caressing the right side of the animal with the right hand, and encouraging him with the voice. Be generous with this, not economical. Put your heart into your voice, and your horse will understand your meaning. Very well! The spur has remained a moment. Begin again with further progression. The horse has felt the iron of your spur, and look at his ears! Ah! Ah! They are immobile. He thinks. He thinks something new, a new sensation. Take care, take care, young esquire. Voice! Voice! You have it again; I see it in your face. You smile. Now encourage with the voice; put your heart in it. Caress with the right hand the nearest possible to the spot where the spur has made contact.
Change now the reins to the right hand, and begin the same progression with the left spur, with the same generosity and the same care. You have it on the left as well as on the right. Now ride your horse at a walk, or even at a trot, for distraction and exercise for the animal, and rest for your own legs.
Stop again near the center of the ring. Apply the right spur — very progressively. Encourage with your voice. Be careful now, for, if your horse is young and you are a novice, neither of you yet knows quite where you are going. You have contact with the right spur. Hold it and come - come - with the left. Voice! Voice! You have contact on both sides. Caress with the right hand, neck, sides, croup. Keep the same pressure with the legs, but take away the spurs. Now voice, caresses. Bring both spurs at once into contact. It is the critical moment. But you have it! Then release the contact progressively, cease the pressure of the legs, dismount, open the curb chain, and send your pupil to the stable. In the afternoon, repeat the same lesson three or four times.
When the horse supports the contact standing still, pass to the next demand. From standing, the two rowels in contact, try, by leaning the body forward in the saddle, to make the horse move forward. After a few steps, lean backward and bring him to a stop. Again forward. And again stop. Rest your legs and caress generously. Repeat again and again. Let everything be always calm and quiet, without disorder, and without anxiety on the part of the horse.
Next, take the pupil at a walk near the wall. As he walks quietly, begin the pressure of the legs, and add progressively the contact of the spurs. Hold for a few steps, and then release, but continue the pressure of the legs. Again make contact with the spurs; hold it as before for a few steps; then cease the touch of the spurs, but continue the grip of the legs. Once more touch and release. Finally, make contact with the spurs, lean back, finger the reins, stop the horse, caress again and again, remove the spurs, ease the grip of the legs, dismount, and send the pupil to the stable.
There should be six such lessons at the walk, the legs pressing constantly, but the spurs making and breaking contact every few steps. After six lessons at the walk, give six lessons at the slow trot.
Now that the horse supports the spurs at both walk and trot, it is time to begin the attacks. If the preliminary work has been well mastered, the next step will be easy.
The horse is standing. The rider, by means of his legs, makes the contact with the bit, the horse upon the hand and light. The rider shuts his hand and holds his fingers closed. As soon as the legs are fixed, their pressure begins. The spurs then make contact; and at the same time, the fingers open. Then come: fixity of hand - fixity of legs- the horse at the walk - caresses - fixity of hand - fingering - fixity of legs - caresses. The horse is walking: make contact with the spurs - shut your fingers - lean back - the horse stops. Forward again: open your fingers - spur - lean forward stop. After this work is thoroughly understood, the same series is run through, from walk to trot, from trot to walk, from walk to stop, from stop to walk, from walk to trot, and so on.
Progress thus far has accustomed the horse to the touch of the spurs, and convinced him that nothing will hurt and that there is nothing to fear. We now complete the attacks. The horse is standing. The rider opposes with his hand and finds contact with the mouth. The legs are closed, the spurs near the girths. Then follows a delicate and repeated contact and release of the spurs, at the tempo of an eighth-note. This continues until, by the flexion of the lower jaw and the alto-axoid joint, the bit loses contact with the bars, though the rider's hand does not move. As soon as this flexion of the mouth and head is obtained, the attack of the spurs ceases. The bits again make contact; the attack repeats as before.
In other words, your hand makes five degrees of effect, and your attack with the spurs makes also five degrees. Your two means are, therefore, equal. The center of gravity comes exactly in the middle of your seat and perpendicularly below your spinal column. There is established an equilibrium of all forces. Your horse is in the state of assemblage. But if the center of gravity is under your spine, while the horse is standing still, it is because your body, from head to coccyx, is perpendicular. If, now, that perpendicular is carried forward, the center of gravity also shifts forward. The equilibrium becomes unstable. The tendency is to fall forward. The front legs advance to prevent the fall, attract to their aid the hind limbs, and the walk or trot begins. Then, if walking or trotting, the equilibrium becomes disturbed, fixity of the hand and a light attack of the spurs will reestablish it, while fingering on the reins will maintain it.
When the horse has so far advanced in its education as to understand well the attack of spurs of the first degree, the work is exactly repeated with spurs of the second degree. Following these, spurs of the the third degree will still further augment the effects of the legs, without affecting the pupil's equanimity.
Finally, to student and novice, I give this advice. As you carry on your progressive work with the attacks, certain imbeciles - stable boys, ridingmasters, the ignorant public - will want to know what you are about, and whether you are afraid of your horse. Do not care. Let them criticize: it is very easy. But if you find one of these expert hunters or polo-players who think they have a seat, get them to try the work that you have been doing, keeping their seats while applying and holding their spurs exactly, precisely, justly, equally, and accurately. Then, if they make the attempt, observe them for your amusement!
THE "in hand" obtained by the series of flexions with the horse standing still has not yet trained the animal to move its limbs while still keeping the head and mouth in the "in hand" position. If, therefore, the rider now tries to send the horse forward, "in hand," the four legs, not being trained to move properly in that position, will become disunited into twos or threes. The problem is, therefore, by means of the pirouettes, to educate the horse to be still further under the rider 's control, the effects acting, at first, separately, the fore legs under the direction of the hand, the hind legs under the direction of the legs, and later, united, collected, assembled under the direction of both hands and legs.
The mobilization of the hind legs is obtained by means of the reversed pirouette, obtained either by lateral or direct effect.
The horse, being mounted and kept standing and "in hand," the trainer will ask the movement from left to right by the effects of the left snaffle rein and of the left leg against the flank. Meanwhile, the reins of the bit will keep the horse "in hand" and standing nearly still on its front legs.
In other words, the left snaffle rein draws the head to the left, while the rider's left leg pushes the hind quarters to the right. The movement begins by the lifting of the left hind foot and its movement toward the right in front of the right hind foot. Thereupon, the right hind foot also shifts toward the right, and the first step is made. Repetition of these effects continues the movement, which, however, cannot proceed beyond four steps. The reversed pirouette from right to left is obtained by the same means, reversed.
If at first the horse does not understand the pressure of the rider's legs, the whip is used to augment their effect, by repeated contact near the leg. Very soon the horse learns to obey the pressure of the leg alone.
As soon as the horse executes the reversed pirouette calmly and correctly by the lateral effect, the rider asks the same movement by the direct effect. For this, the horse is held "in hand" either by the two snaffle reins or by those of the curb, but not by all four. The rider's left leg then asks the rotation of the haunches toward the right, while the right leg urges the horse forward. (Figure 17.) Finally, comes the same movement from right to left.
For the direct pirouette, the horse, being always "in hand," has to pivot on a hind foot, while the fore part of the body circles, let us say, from right to left. For this, first of all, the right fore foot lifts, crosses over in front of the left, and comes to the ground about one foot to the left of the latter. As it comes to rest, it takes the weight in its turn; and the left fore foot, now unloaded, shifts still farther to the left, passing behind the right. Once more the left foot takes the load, and the right foot crosses as before. (Figure 18.)
Meanwhile, the hind legs have carried much of the weight of the fore hand. They have not, however, remained fixed. As the shoulders, after the first step of the right fore leg, travel toward the left, the right hind foot also lifts, moves to the left, and takes the ground in front of the left hind leg. Then, as the right front leg begins its second stride to the left, the left hind foot moves to a position two or three inches forward and to the left of the right, and takes once more the load. Again, as the left front foot shifts to the left, the right hind foot repeats its former movement to the left. This makes two steps around the imaginary circle of the pirouette. Repetition of these two continues the turn from right to left to a complete about-face.
Such is the mechanical motion executed by the horse. At this point I ask of the anatomists and masters of equitation, how is it that the pirouette is anatomically possible, if the scapular and the numerous are fixed to the thorax and the sternum, and the only movement of the fore legs is forward and back, without elongation? When the right fore leg has passed across the left, if it cannot lengthen before coming to the ground, then it can fall to the
ground only as the left fore leg rises. Therefore, is the theory of locomotion false which holds that one limb cannot leave the ground until after its mate has made contact. The sophists will reply that locomotion is always a succession of falls. Very true, but these falls operate successively upon the front legs as each in turn goes forward at the walk, the trot, or the gallop; there is no crossing over of the feet at each step, right to left or left to right.
Consider the case where the fall is greatest. The leaping horse is entirely out of contact with the ground. It comes to the ground at the end of the leap, with its two front legs extended; and immediately after, the hind legs also come down. Is this natural to the anatomy of the animal? Yes! But suppose that the horse finishes the leap with its two front legs in the position demanded by the pirouette or the half passage. What will be the consequence? Answer me, please!
Returning now to the effects employed to execute the pirouette, the front hand has to be unloaded, and the hind legs, which are the support and pivot, have to be loaded, especially the left hind leg. The rider must, therefore, carry the line of his body backward from the perpendicular, and also bear more heavily on the left haunch. The right fore leg, since it makes the longer step, has to be unloaded by a very slight effect of the right rein. But as this right fore leg is to travel over from right to left, the right rein must bear upon the right side of the neck, the hand of the rider being carried to the left. If, on the other hand, the right rein were to operate alone, the result would be to carry the head too much to the right by the flexion of the neck. Consequently, the left rein has to maintain the head straight by the proper opposition. But, of course, the natural effect of moving the hand to the left is to swing the haunches to the right. And since the right hind leg must, on the contrary, pass leftward in front of its mate, the rider's right leg is brought an inch or more behind the girth, to forestall this movement and maintain the haunches as pivot and support.
The pirouette is to be executed step by step. At the beginning, one or two steps are sufficient. It is evident that the "in hand" position must be undisturbed during the entire movement, since it is only under this condition that this mobilization of the forehand has any real bearing on the future progressive education. Again I counsel, for the student, moderation, patience, perseverance; but more important still are positiveness, and quality rather than quantity, since quantity alone will have little value for the future training.
Other masters dictate this pirouette immediately after the "in hand" has been obtained, and before the reversed pirouette. I, on the contrary, first mobilize the hind legs by means of the reversed pirouette or rotation; and only after my horse well understands my effects of leg, do I begin the mobilization of the fore hand by the pirouette. Forty years ago, noting the confusion in the minds of riders between pirouette and reversed pirouette, I renamed the latter, rotation—pirouette for the mobilization of the fore hand; rotation for the mobilization of the hind legs or croup. The change is, at first sight, not important. It becomes so only because it helps to clear the matter for beginners.
Even at first sight, the figure of the pirouette is easy to understand. The difficulty comes in executing it. Moreover, it is sometimes extraordinarily hard to make the beginner comprehend just the difference between pirouette and rotation. I have seen really intelligent men confuse them, month after month. Changing the name from reversed pirouette to rotation has helped not a little.
Finally, for the sake of one of my pupils in particular, who insisted that he was doing the one when he was really doing the other, I hit upon the following device.
Stand facing the edge of an open door, and take the knobs in your two hands. The hinges represent the horse's front legs; your legs are the horse's hind ones. Now pivot the door from right to left, passing your right foot between your left foot and the door, bringing it to the ground, and then bringing the left foot into its usual place beside it. This imitates the movement of the rotation. Taken from left to right, everything reverses, both motions and effects. For the pirouette, turn your back to the door. The hinges are now the horse's hind legs, and your single pair are the horse's fore legs. Once more, swing the door from right to left, and follow it with your feet, by shifting the right foot across in front of the other, and then passing the left foot between the door and the right to its usual position.
Do not, I repeat, attempt to execute these figures on horseback, until you are sure that you understand precisely each detail. After that, if you proceed with moderation, the movements are so easy that, like everybody else who has tried it, you will laugh at the novices who have not yet caught the idea.
When the pirouette is properly done at the walk, it can be tried at the trot, but only after the horse has so far advanced in its education as to trot properly. The chief difficulty with the pirouette at the trot is to gauge accurately the horse's sensitiveness to each of your effects. Otherwise, it may cross its legs too quickly, and in order to avoid the tendency to fall, which is greater at the trot than at the walk, it is likely to change to the gallop, preferring to execute the figure at this gait rather than at the trot.
At the gallop, the pirouette should always be asked at the same hand or same side at which the horse leads—the right-hand pirouette to the right, and vice versa.
Motion backwards is not a gait, but merely one of the three movements which the horse executes by carrying rearward its center of gravity, and consequently a part of its weight.
The movement has given rise, among methodists, to a great diversity of theories, more or less impractical and absurd. Some writers recommend having two men to teach the action, one in the saddle, who pulls alternately on the reins, the other on foot, who touches chest or knees with a whip. Others advocate having the rider dismount, and, facing the horse's head, take one rein in each hand, and push backward, first on one and then on the other. If the horse does not then back, the trainer steps on the horse's fore feet as he gives the tug at the reins. What confusion! There is no real principle. How can one write concerning an art without greater knowledge of it!
It must be evident that, in order to make the horse back, the rider must carry backwards the center of gravity. Then, whenever a hind leg leaves the ground, it must go to the rear to receive the weight, which otherwise tends to fall backwards. If, at the same time, the rider's hand indicates to the horse that it cannot go forward, a front leg must follow the hind leg in diagonal. This makes the first step. To repeat the same effects of hand and legs obtains the second step. The objection of the horse to backing arises from the stiffness of the muscles of the back at the region of the coupling. These muscles and the articulation can, however, be suppled by the preparatory work on foot, with the whip. The rider, standing at the horse's left, holds the two curb reins in his left hand, and touches repeatedly, with the whip, the croup behind the saddle, meanwhile making a moderate but repeated effect with the curb on the horse's mouth. Very soon, the horse backs. By repeating this work two or three times at each lesson, the horse soon learns to execute the movement, first with the trainer on foot, afterwards with the trainer mounted and employing his legs, supplemented if necessary by the whip. A saddle horse, well collected, should move backwards with the same step and cadence as forward.
For the flexions mounted, the rider lays the two reins of the bit on the horse's neck near the withers, their length equal; and holds the snaffle reins, one in each hand, with the free end of each passing between the forefinger and the thumb. The elbows are in contact with the body, but without stiffness. The hands are at the same height as the elbows, and, at most, three or four inches apart. The legs are in contact, but make no effect.
First, obtain contact with the bit. Immediately, yield contact, by opening the fingers. Then close the fingers, and again take contact. When you are sure that you can make the contact when and how you please, be satisfied for the present, dismount, and continue the flexions on foot. The second lesson of the same day repeats exactly the work of the first.
On the second day, mounted, take three minutes to complete the contact, two minutes for the fingering, three minutes of fingering, two minutes of contact. Dismount.
On the third day, take, mounted, two minutes of contact, three of fingering, two of contact, three of fingering, interrupted by rests. Dismount.
For the fourth day, take one minute of contact with the snaffle. Cross the left rein of the snaffle to the right hand, holding the two always equal. With the snafle reins, maintain the position, head up. Take the reins of the bit in the left hand, separating them by the first two fingers, the ends passed over the forefinger and held by the thumb. Make contact with the snaffle. Shift the contact from snaffle to bit. Caress with the right hand; or, if that is occupied, with the voice. Continue this exercise for five minutes. For another five minutes, change the contact back to the snaffle. Do three minutes of fingering alternately with the two hands, followed by two minutes with the reins of the bit and snaffle both in the right, while caressing with left hand and voice. (Figure 19.)
For the second lesson of the fourth day, take the snaffle reins in the right hand, while the left hand holds the reins of the bit, but without effect. Make contact with the right hand. Shift the contact to the left hand, making the same effects. If, now, as you finger with the right hand, the horse champs the bit, begin fingering also with the left, then change to the right alone. Then follow with three minutes of fingering with the bit, helped out, if necessary, with the snaffle; three minutes with the snaffle; then two minutes with the bit. Dismount.
If the flexions have been done correctly on foot, this work of obtaining contact with the two bits alternately will be sufficient to secure, by means of fingering, a flexion of the lower jaw, which will,
nevertheless, still further improve with the following lateral and direct flexions of the neck.
For the lateral flexion of the neck to the right, the trainer takes both curb reins in his left hand, his little finger separating the two, holding them of equal length, and short enough to give the proper contact and to supple the mouth by their fingering. In his right hand he holds the right snaffle rein only, the left lying slack across the curb reins. By carrying the right hand still farther to the right, keeping the same pull on the right snaffle rein, by repeated and progressive pressure, the horse's head will be turned to the right, pivoting at the region of the atlas. This inclination will be very slight at the beginning; but with repetition and caresses, the horse very soon learns to swing its head far enough to transfer at will the weight from one fore leg to its mate, dispose its center of gravity, and make the various changes of direction. During the lateral flexion with the snaffle rein to either side, the hand holding the curb reins should be kept immovable, and only the fingers give and take with the mouth. After the head has been flexed, it is to return to its straight position, little by little, by the progressive slackening of the snaffle rein, always at the will of the rider, never suddenly at the will of the horse. The lateral flexion is complete when the head turns to a right angle with the axis of the body and the frontal bone is perpendicular to the ground.
At the beginning of this work, in order to make the horse understand the compound effect, it will be necessary to carry the right hand over little by little and to cease the fingering of that hand. Do not demand too much flexion at first. The slightest inclination of the head should be rewarded, and the head turned straight.
The object of these flexions is to make it possible to shift the weight borne by either fore leg on to the other, always on the side away from the movement of the head. Thus, if the flexion is to the left, the load transfers to the right front leg; and vice versa. It may happen that, when everything is otherwise correct, the horse will paw the ground with the foot on the side toward which the flexion has been made. This is natural, and not a serious fault. Nevertheless, it is something which the horse does on its own initiative, not in obedience to the rider; and it is, therefore, not to be permitted. Moreover, the horse may learn to paw only, without making the flexion. Furthermore, the horse should not champ the bit under the fingering of the right hand. It should, at the indication of the right hand, complete the direct flexion of the mouth; while at the same time it makes the flexion of the neck to the left and returns straight again, and vice versa for flexion to the right, as shown in Figure 6 and discussed under "Descent of the Hand."
Do not, therefore, accept motion of the lower jaw to right or left. This is not correct. The flexion of the neck to one side or the other follows the direct flexion of the mouth. If the flexion of the neck interferes with that of the mouth, the flexion has no meaning, and the rider who accepts this condition creates an asymmetry of the neck which is reflected throughout the entire body.
If the horse, at the beginning of the flexion of the neck to either side, throws its haunches toward the other, put it straight again, first by ceasing the flexion, and then by slight pressure of the legs. Do not, however, under any condition, kick.
Fillis is entirely logical when he objects to beginning the flexions of the neck before the animal understands the separate effects of the legs. I was myself of the same opinion until I experimented successfully with several horses at the beginning of their training. It is all a question of progression, of moderation in demands, and of perseverance. Without the least doubt it is possible to flex de pied ferme, without the help of the legs. I recognize, however, a difficulty, and to meet this I have advised placing the horse near a wall when the lateral position is being taught, in order that the presence of the barrier may help to keep the haunches straight. We have to consider, also, that the great masters of the art, because of their equestrian tact, are able to omit from their own training the work on foot. Nevertheless, they were themselves obliged to employ this at the beginning of their professional careers; they accept it as essential for beginners, and they include it in their systems.
Only after both the lateral and direct flexions of mouth and neck are mastered standing, should the student proceed either to the mobilization of the hind legs by means of the ordinary rotation, in accordance with Baucher's method: or, following Fillis, should execute a form of the rotation in which the horse moves at a walk in such wise that the tracks of fore and hind feet make two concentric circles, with that traced by the hind feet outside the other. The latter is, in my judgment, the more progressive and the more rational.
When the beginner has mastered the reversed pirouette, he next "carries his horse forward" at a walk, the horse always giving the direct flexions of mouth and neck without altering its gait, and then asks the lateral flexions of the neck. I advocate making this flexion in such wise that the horse's head shall turn toward the wall of the ring. Otherwise, the pupil will think that it is his own leg which keeps the haunches from turning, when really it is the presence of the wall. When, therefore, the pupil tries to keep the horse straight away from the wall, he finds that he cannot do it, and must go back to the wall again.
Even when walking with the right side against the wall, the haunches of the horse tend to be displaced to the right at the lateral flexion of the neck to the left, so that it is by the effect of the right leg that the rider corrects this tendency and keeps the spine straight. I do not, at the beginning, employ my legs to maintain the straight position; but going straight, if I ask the flexion, and the haunches have a tendency to swing (a tendency, only, I say), I do not wait until the haunches have actually swung—it would then be too late—but at the first slightest feeling in my seat, my leg is ready with its effect. But I do not kick. To kick a horse with leg or spur is to me blasphemy.
As the horse reaches the corner of ring or manege, the rider continues the flexion of the neck to the left, sends the horse forward by means of his left leg, and turns it by the effect of the right, as in the reversed pirouette done at the walk. In this, the rider is entirely rational, in complete accord with the nature and anatomy of the horse, the regularity of its motion, and what it has been taught from the beginning of its education. But I submit that, after having taught the horse, with its head to the left, to move its haunches to the left at the effect of the right leg, as in the reversed pirouette or rotation, it is the height of absurdity to turn a corner to the right by means of right rein and right leg, a violation of the nature of the animal, a contradiction of all that it has been taught, and the reason for those terrible tempests of revolt so often experienced by Baucher and Fillis, when they asked movements, by lateral effects, when the r mounts were moving in diagonal action at walk and trot, while they used a diagonal effect with the horse at the gallop, which is a lateral gait.
These lateral flexions of the neck, with the direct flexions of the jaw, are to be done at the walk, not too continuously, but occasionally only, and with frequent return to the direct flexions of mouth and neck. I emphasize this, because the horse is built to travel straight—an axiom of the reasoned equitation—and only occasionally to alter its natural posture.
When these lateral flexions can be done, to either side, at a walk, they are repeated in the same way at a slow trot.
When the animal executes them properly at the trot, the trainer should begin passing a corner to the right, with a half lateral flexion to the left, while he bears down his weight on his own right buttock, but without relaxing contact with his legs.
I recommend to the student, at this point, to take note of his own progress. The work on foot has given him the power to see with his eyes and to feel with his fingers the action which he has asked of the horse. Equestrian tact has been born in him. The problem is now to keep this tact developing progressively. The requirements are quality, not quantity, perseverance, honesty, patience, generosity.
In dividing the time for this work on the flexions, it should be understood that the horse is not to be kept in one fixed position for the entire time indicated, but is to be relieved by intervals of freedom. My own experience is that a few steps forward, light "in hand," or a few moments standing head up, without the effect of the reins, but by the horse's own free will, is a great rest. Without some such respite, the trainer asking the flexions too continuously, the horse becomes discouraged and nervous.
Very probably, too, the rider's own action of hand and fingers will not be altogether correct at first. But practice is the road to perfection, and as I am convinced that my theory is correct, I urge the student to be patient and perseverant. Furthermore, I myself entertain always a friendly sentiment toward the horse; and I try to inculcate this feeling in the mind of the student.
To "render the hand" is to relax the tension of the reins, either by movement of the arms or by loosening the grip of the fingers. It is not the same as to "abandon" the horse, as already discussed. Since, in equitation, the various means act by strength of effects rather than by effects of strength, they tend to lose their effect the longer they are continued. We must, then, cease the effect for a longer or shorter time, in order to renew the sensibility. Raabe, Baucher, and Fillis, although they evidently themselves employed the device, seem not to have thought it necessary to discuss or teach it. I recognize, in rendering the hand, three different actions.
The first occurs when the horse has his head flexed at the axoid articulation, and the muscles of the neck, being under restraint by the tension of the reins, begin to show fatigue, stiffness, and a failure of sensibility. But if, after a time, the rider eases this tension, either by advancing the hand or by letting the reins slip in his fingers, he allows the animal to rest his muscles, and renders his hand in the first sense.
The second way of rendering the hand depends on fingering. When the head is flexed, as in the first instance, the rider's control over the neck is by way of the lower jaw. But since the bars are of uncertain sensibility, if the mouth remains closed notwithstanding the pressure of the bit, the contraction at the tempero-maxillaris articulation will be communicated to the alto-axoid. The result is still greater fatigue, stiffness, and loss of sensibility. But when the neck is flexed and the bit in contact with the bars, pressure of the fingers on the reins opens the mouth, while cessation of this pressure allows it to close. This cessation of the pressure which has flexed the lower jaw is rendering the hand in the second sense. The repetition of this flexing and rendering constitutes fingering.
"Fingering" is the only possible translation of the French, doighter, used by musicians to mean the delicate sensibility by which they distinguish
the quality of pressure which they exert upon their instruments to make them produce the exact quality of sound which renders the musical phrase. Their instruments, however, are machines which do not tire; whereas the horse is a creature with bones, muscles, nerves, and will, capable of fatigue, and needing relaxation, lest the will move nerves and muscles to resist. It is, therefore, to prevent the state of revolt occasioned by fatigue that we must, though always retaining the contact, render the fingers, so that the horse vibrates under the rider's control, without excessive fatigue.
The third sort of rendering the hand consists in allowing the horse to place its head and neck in a position other than that which they have been holding under the rider's control. The horse has completed a series of movements, head in position and fixed point at the atlas region. The contraction starting from this point tends to create weariness, so that the horse needs to rest this region. The rider, therefore, by lengthening his reins, lets the horse extend his neck. The fixed point shifts from the atlas region to the shoulders, and the horse rests. This action of rendering has to be learned by the horse, first standing; then progressively at walk, trot, and gallop.
AFTER the discussions of the preceding chapters, there still remain certain matters, which either have not been touched upon at all or else require still further elucidation at this point.
TO "place the horse " is to put him into whatever position he needs to take in order to understand or to execute the particular movement which is next to be asked of him. This is really one of the difficult parts of the art of equitation; but the esquire who understands placing has always the assurance that the following movement will be correctly performed, since it is by the proper position that the rider appeals to the animal's intelligence and at the same time paralyzes any sign of insubordination. The principle seems paradoxical to the rider who merely experiments, but for the experienced master, the position thus taken by the four legs of the animal is the only one which supports the weight equally on all its members. It is, therefore, the sine qua non of equilibrium, without which the movement is impossible.
Nothing, therefore, is more invariably true than the principle enunciated by Baucher: "The position gives the movement." The fact is, a horse, well conformed, healthy, and well mounted, when under transmitted equilibrium, finds it much more difficult, physically and morally, to alter that state and refuse the movement asked, than to obey. The proof is that the same movement, asked of an inferior animal, will result in revolt.
It is evident, then, that the horse is compelled, by the condition of transmitted equilibrium, to seek instinctively that state of balance which involves a less physical effort in executing any change of gait or direction, than when it is not in balance. After this position of balance is given by the rider, the horse will not refuse to execute a movement which does not compromise the condition. This is the reason why the competent esquire, who knows how to place his horse preliminary to the movement, never has a restive or disobedient animal. What is more, if a well-educated horse, accustomed to the position of equilibrium, is by circumstances put out of that state, it is simply lost and does not know what to do with itself. But, of course, riding of this sort is no offhand matter. It requires study and knowledge, time and self-control.
But, unfortunately, there is always the rider who, for example, asks of his mount the turn to one side at the trot, but neglects first to place the horse in the position which makes the movement possible. The animal necessarily refuses. To whom belongs the fault? Obviously, to the man. Yet it is the horse who is blamed and punished. But will the punishment change a law of nature? The more the poor brute is abused, the less is it correctly placed to execute the movement. No horse will ever refuse what is asked, when its rider has previously made sure that the placement is right.
A standing horse is correctly placed when the four legs, perpendicular to the ground, form a rectangle. In this position, each leg bears one quarter of the entire weight. Very few horses, however, take and keep this position instinctively. They have to be trained to it. In order, then, to place the horse, the rider needs to understand the diagonal effect for standing, walking, and trotting, and the lateral effect for the gallop, since these effects are the only means for correcting a wrong position and for maintaining the horse straight.
A HORSE is said to be straight when the whole spinal column, from the atlas to the last sacral vertebra, is precisely in line.
For the spine of a horse is like the keel of a boat. One could not steer a boat with a crooked keel, without strain on the hull and a waste of force on the rudder. Even more true is it for the horse that, with a crooked spine, the four legs will not carry equal weights, and the steps and strides, with their resultant, the gaits, will not be square and equal. Therefore does the reasoned equitation accept as sine qua non the two basal principles, "straight" and "forward." Indeed, if the horse is not straight, it cannot go forward, but advances in the direction in which the spine points. Then are the steps and strides not equal, the coupling yields more to one side than to the other, and carries with it the pelvis, the haunches, and the hind legs. On the other hand, when the spinal column is straight, the coupling gives equally, the pelvis becomes the center for the motion of the two hind legs, the fore and hind parts of the body act in unison, collection and assemblage become possible, and, equilibrium being secured, the center of gravity finds its natural place in the medial plane. In this condition, strides, steps, and gaits become equal and square, the horse suffers less fatigue and wear, and continues in the best condition to develop its natural and instinctive forces.
Very few riders, amateurs or masters, are able to put a horse exactly straight, and to keep it so while they carry it forward or backward. Yet nothing whatever can be done properly by a horse which is not straight.
En avant, as the French say, means not only forward, but in addition, the condition of the horse when in contact with the bit and ready to advance frankly and without hesitation at the effects of the rider's legs. One often hears a master say, "This horse is not enough forward, "meaning that the animal is behind, not upon, the rider's hand.
Of the two equestrian axioms, straight and forward, this is the more important, since it is easier to have the horse straight when going forward than when standing still. It is from this state of forwardness that everything else becomes possible; so that, very often, even after a horse is far advanced in its training, it has to be carried forward again, before its education can be continued successfully. From the beginning of the equestrian art, by the oldest masters, this state of forwardness has been commended. I am, therefore, of the opinion of Fillis, who reiterates, "Forward, again forward, always forward." One may turn the rudder of a boat as much as he likes, but if the boat has not way, the rudder is without effect. It is the same with a horse; first forward, then direction.
Unfortunately, it is very much easier to keep the fore hand straight and forward by the natural tact given to a man's hands than to develop in his legs the purely artificial tact which comes only with long practice. Nevertheless, a horse is neither forward nor straight, when anything is wrong or crooked at the coupling.
BOTH the reasoned and the scientific equitation use the term, "rein of opposition," to mean whatever effects have to be used to counteract the fault of a horse which is unequal in its movements, and which refuses to be put straight or to stay straight. The matter is seldom taught; and the causes, effects, and corrections have been quite ignored. Authors who have mentioned rein of opposition have not explained it clearly. Frankly, I suspect that very few men have really understood it.
Unhappily, very few horses are straight when mounted, for reasons which are discussed in part under the captions, "Weight" and "Seat." But the horse with a tendency to have the spine crooked tends also to stride unequally, in order to compensate for the first defect. This we correct by means of the rein of opposition.
Suppose, for example, that, instead of walking, trotting, or galloping straight, a horse turns its haunches to the right. The haunches are apparently at fault, so we will start our problem from them. The masters tell us to push the haunches to the left with the right leg. This is an error, in that it attacks the consequence and neglects the cause. The real trouble is that the left front leg is making a shorter stride than the right. The left hind leg has, therefore, too little space for its step, and comes to the ground too soon and too near the right. This pushes the back part of the body to the right, and throws the line of motion of the right hind leg out of parallelism with the axis of the body. The rider can, indeed, for the moment, push the croup over with his right leg. But the effect soon evaporates, and the haunches return to their former place. It is all labor without end, not a corrective.
But why does the left front leg not gain ground equally with the right? For a great many reasons, which are all, at bottom, one. The weight is more upon the right fore leg, so that this has to reach out farther at each stride to check the forward fall of the body. The point, then, is to equalize the load on the two front legs. This we can do by pressing with the right rein against the right side of the neck so as to throw the head over to the left, until the two fore legs are loaded equally. Then the left fore leg will reach out farther, and allow room for the full stride of the left hind leg. This, in turn, will no longer push over the right hind leg, and the horse will travel straight.
But, to go back another step, why was the weight not equal on the two fore legs? The answer is that the spine was crooked. By using a rein of opposition on the side opposite to the shorter stride, we correct the wrong position of the haunches. This means of placing the spine straight will be understood by a horse whose progressive education has gone so far as to include the pirouette.
THE rein of contraction is a complex and special effect of a rein, which, bearing on one side of the neck, pushes the shoulder toward the opposite side.
For example, the rider desires to turn his horse to the right. Holding one rein in each hand, the right hand immovable, he passes his left hand across, above the right, so that the rein bears upon the muscles of the left side of the neck. The horse, therefore, contracts these muscles. But, since his head is held straight by the fixity of the right rein, the result is to pull the left fore leg over toward the right, in front of its mate. But as soon as the left leg takes the Weight, the right leg also steps toward the right. Repetition of the contractive effect will compel a second similar step; and the body will turn toward the right impelled by the hind legs. In order for the horse once more to travel straight ahead, the rein of contraction ceases its effect and returns to equality with the other.
This action of the rein of contraction is what is commonly called " guiding by the neck." I do not, however, understand that the expression, to "guide by the neck," must always mean the rein of contraction. With the rein of opposition or with the rein direct, the horse is also always guided by the neck. But these are really three different effects.
A HORSE is said to be "in hand" when the bars are in contact with the bit with which the rider's hand communicates through the reins. From the invention of the bridle, the "in hand" has been the subject of the researches, writings, methods, and principles of the masters of every epoch and age. A horse so placed has its head perpendicular to the ground, and therefore parallel to its fore legs. But, unhappily, the myology and the physical structure of the horse, and the principle of gravitation, have not always been as well understood as now by these masters; with the result that each one of them has created his own "in hand." When we consider the saddles which force the rider to sit bolt upright with the legs extended downward like crutches, the severity of the ancient bits, the heaviness of the horses, and the movements demanded of them for tourney, carrousel, and battle corps-à-corps, we understand why the riders and masters favored so exaggerated a position. Moreover, in earlier days the horse carried his neck flexed at the fourth vertebra, more to show its elegance than for reasons of utility. It is only in our own time that the development of racing has emphasized the idea of speed, and, ignoring elegance, has altered the "in hand" to the position which, while favoring obedience to the rider's effects, does not interfere with the action of the animal mechanism.
All modern uses of the horse for riding ask the "in hand." The scientific equitation asks also that the head shall be "upon the hand." Baucher required the horse to be "in front of the rider's legs and behind the hand." Raabe asked the horse to be "before the rider's legs and in the hand." The scientific equitation calls for a horse "before the legs and upon the hand."
WHEN the horse is "upon the hand," there is a state of contact of the lower jaw upon the bit which makes possible the communication of sensation in both directions by way of the reins, between the horse's bars and the rider's hand.
Orator and musician must be in communication with their hearers by means of voice or instrument. It is not otherwise with the horse. From the bit, the sensations pass along the nerves to the brain, the will is formed, and the appropriate message is returned along the nerves to the muscles. These, contracting upon the joints, produce the movement. But as soon as this contact ceases, there is an end to the series of sensation, transmission, volition, and act. The horse passes under the control of its own instinctive forces, and is no longer subject to the will of the rider.
It is like the blind man led by his dog. So long as the cord between them remains tight, so long will the man follow it. But if the dog stops, the cord slackens; and the man also stops, uncertain and hesitating, because communication is broken. The case is exactly the same when for the blind man we substitute the horse, and for the dog the rider. The rider ceases to impel the horse forward. The reins are loose. The contact is broken. The horse stops, not knowing where to go.
But if this state of contact between hand and mouth is important for the ordinary equitation, it is a great deal more necessary for the scientific, since this is founded upon the principles of equilibrium, collection, the assemblage of forces continually united in the medial plane and establishing the center of gravity.
From the earliest days of equitation, every rider has studied the "in hand" by means more or less rational. But so many mistakes have been made that I must try to explain the precise nature of the first element of the "in hand," the contact. It is, however, a difficult matter to explain a feeling in words, and though comparisons are useful to illustrate a point, I shall have to ask the indulgence of reader and student.
I touch elsewhere upon assemblage and collection.
A HORSE is forward of the hand, if, on its own initiative, it goes forward against the bit, according to its own will, disposition, or temperament, instead of conforming to the impulsion of the rider's legs. If this exuberance is not the result of unsoundness, viciousness, bad conformation, or bad habit, it is more a merit than a defect in a saddle horse, since it is easily remedied by proper education, while the underlying good quality still remains.
A HORSE is, on the contrary, said to be behind the hand when it is loath to take contact with the bit. This may occur for either of two reasons. A young horse may have become discouraged by being ridden under a hand without tact, which has maintained the contact too long, or has shaken too severely. Or the trouble may be weakness of hocks, haunches, loins, spine, or of the ilio-spinalis muscle or the great pectoralis.
Evidently, if the horse lacks strength in those parts of its mechanism which drive its body forward, it will hesitate to go forward against the bit; and will, in consequence, be behind the hand. Similarly, the horse which, at the beginning of its training, was willing to enter into contact, but has become discouraged, fearing the rider's tactless hand and the resulting pain, is really in an analogous condition to the weak horse. In either case, the fault must be remedied, since an animal which the rider cannot send against the bit is at all times ready to stop and enter into revolt. If the horse is behind the hand because it is badly conformed and weak, training is the cure. But if the horse is well conformed and strong, and still stays behind the hand, the remedy is education — more often for the rider than for the horse. It is, then, somewhere between a horse that is forward of the hand and one that is behind, that we find the ideal condition, "upon the hand." The first two sorts of horse are out of the man's control. The one because it takes the initiative for itself; the other because it does not respond to that of the rider. The third is under control, because the forward impulse of the rider's legs is received by the rider's hand, which, by means of the fingering, accepts it and lets it pass forward, or denies it and sends it back, accepts and raises, accepts and directs.
The first sort, therefore, pulls on the bit, because it pushes by its own will. The second sort does not pull, because it cannot or will not push. The third pushes just so much as is indicated by the legs of the rider, who, by his fingering, accepts or prevents the pulling. The first horse will push, pull, and run away. The second horse will stop, kick, and rear. The third cannot perform other movements than those asked by its rider.
Léger à la main has long been used by masters of equitation to describe a horse which responds calmly and readily to the gentle and progressive effects of the rider's hand.
But the horse light in hand is not at all the animal which escapes the contact of the bit on its bars by shaking its head in every direction. Nothing is easier for a human being than to be a lawabiding citizen on a continent by himself. Very possibly the same man would be a criminal if he were living in the society of others. Likewise, a horse which refuses contact with the bit cannot be directed. Nobody knows in advance what it will do, acting by itself and without means of control. The horse which is light in hand accepts the contact of the bit, without altering its speed or gait, its head slightly out of the perpendicular, its neck directed upward from the withers to the atlas region, and opens its mouth if the rider's hand insists on the contact, but without changing the cadence of its step. But if this lightness in hand is a test of the quality of the horse's education, it is also a test of the rider's skill. Only with accuracy of seat will the rider's legs act with precision to obtain the propulsion forward. Only with accuracy of seat will the hand judge correctly its own effect upon the mouth. If hands and legs are used to correct faults of seat, the horse cannot be light in hand. Bad seat, bad hand, bad legs; good seat, good hands, good legs; accurate seat, accurate hand, accurate legs — it all sums up in the words, "equestrian tact." Any horse, well conformed and well ridden, is always light in hand.
SO Newcastle translated alléger son cheval. Since the horse, at the beginning of its education, does not understand the effects of hands and legs, and is not wonted to the pressure of the girths and the weight on its spine, it contracts its body and is heavy. But a horse of good conformation, breeding, and temper is naturally energetic, so that it is very easy to lighten such an animal by a wise and progressive education. A more ordinary horse, without these native qualities, requires the training of an able master. Yet any horse can, by education, be sufficiently lightened to be mounted with pleasure.
The old equitation advocates for a heavy animal, great vigor and energy in the effects of hand, and still more of legs, helped out by spurs. Nothing can be more wrong. If the horse is heavy because it does not understand the meaning of hands and legs, and therefore contracts itself, surely it is not by still severer effects that the horse will be cured of its apprehension. On the contrary, it is only by especial lightness of effects, applied cautiously and progressively, that the trainer will make these so pleasant to the animal that it will receive them without fear, contraction, or heaviness.
Thus we come back always to the same principle, strength of effects, not effects of strength: intelligence, not brute force. The rider who understands and puts into practice the principles of an equestrian method with a heavy horse, will very soon find himself with a light one.
AN intelligent hand is one which, at all times, under every condition and circumstance, no matter what the motion, action, gait, or speed, the state of obedience or revolt, understands instinctively every impression that comes from the horse's mouth, and is ready at once to accept, refuse, counteract, or suppress both the effect and the cause.
The English expressions, "fine hand," and "light hand," suggest the skill of the pianist or the prestidigitator, whose tools have no will of their own. The intelligent hand responds to and controls the vital forces of a creature animated by the will to live. The hands of the rider are two vowels of the equestrian alphabet; the legs are two consonants; accuracy of seat unites the four letters into a word of the language with which rider and horse communicate. If a letter is lacking, or if the word is not formed, then there is no sense.
All this is no dream, no illusion of the mind. It is a fact, a reality; albeit, it is understood only by the master who knows the language and appreciates the significance of each letter and each combination, as the educated horse understands them. A fine hand means nothing. A hard hand is a fault. An intelligent hand is all in all.
A RIDER is in accord with his horse when his aids are in correct ratio to one another and to the movement which is required of the horse.
The rider's hand retains, sustains, and directs the forward impulse of his legs. But if the legs produce a greater impulse than the hand can receive, the center of gravity will pass to the fore hand. Contrawise, if the hand produces a greater effect than the legs can overcome, the center of gravity will shift to the hind legs, and the forward impulse will be lost. In either case there is lack of accord. Again, suppose that the rider wishes to carry his horse forward at a walk. If thereupon the legs produce so powerful an effect that the hand cannot receive it, the horse will take the trot. Legs and hand, rider and horse, are not in accord.
Not only, however, must the rider's effects be in accord with one another in order to obtain the gait or the movement asked, they must, in addition, be in accord with the nature and energy of the horse. The rider, therefore, to obtain any particular movement, has to ask that particular movement by adjusting accurately his effects to that movement, not to some other. Otherwise, horse and man are not in accord, because the man's effects do not match his special demand.
THE center of gravity of any body is that point upon which the body will balance in all positions. The balance of our own bodies upon the legs, which support the weight and prevent it from falling to the ground at each step, is so familiar and instinctive that we fail to appreciate it or to reflect on the consequences if that balance were to be for one moment destroyed. Gravitation is really an essential condition of our natural existence, like the air we breathe. Its force is precisely measured by a body's weight.
Every animal, therefore, is under the influence of two forces, the inert pull of gravity, and the active force of its own muscles. So long as the animal is recumbent, its weight is immobile, and it is in a position of inertia. To change this position under the first force, the second, the contractive force, is needed. This is developed by the muscles, by a tension sufficient to support the weight immobile upon the legs. But in order to propel the weight in any direction, the animal needs a contractive force greater than that needed to keep the weight immobile. Therefore must the muscular force be sufficient for both the weight and the velocity.
Sir Isaac Newton teaches that the motion of an animal is a series of falls, received and prevented by advancing one leg after the other. Since the force of gravity is constant, the velocity does not affect it. But the velocity does affect the momentum, which varies directly with the frequency of the falls. The greater the velocity, the more do the bases of support multiply their action; and consequently the flatter becomes the trajectory, and the more perfect the equilibrium of the forces involved.
With horses of good conformation, the center of gravity is well established. But with horses of deficient conformation, its position is variable, and this hinders the union of the animal's forces at any center. Though its proper place is at the middle of the spine when the horse is collected, it seldom is actually located here until after the horse has been trained. The beautiful conformation only makes the training easier. But, of course, the horse has also its instinctive center of gravity, when at liberty, without a rider to direct its movements, gaits, and speed.
With these principles in mind, it becomes easy to understand the defenses of the horse. If the horse kicks, rears, or runs away, the cause is always the wrong location of the center of gravity. Kicking means that the center is in the shoulders; rearing, that it is in the haunches; running away, that it is in the spine, but too much forward of the middle.
The constant object of the rider is, then, to keep the center of gravity where it belongs. Equitation cannot completely alter bad construction of the locomotor organs; but it can ameliorate the effect by modifying the cause. By uniting the animal's forces at the proper point, one can paralyze the defenses of a badly conformed animal. This is the reason why the masters have maintained that a well-conformed horse cannot defend itself, without destroying the harmony of its conformation, and at the expense of a very great increase of muscular effort, to give the power needed to displace the center of gravity. For these reasons, also, the scientific equitation insists on the absolute necessity of giving to the horse a factitious equilibrium in place of that which comes by instinct; not only in order to prevent disobedience, but also to remedy faults of conformation by a due combination of the animal's forces at the center of gravity. The entire education of the horse is, indeed, toward this result.
When the center of gravity is established, the horse is in a condition of equilibrium. The weight of the man, combining with that of the animal, becomes, by its position, an essential element in maintaining the center of gravity, in direct ratio to the displacement of this new force, forward, backward, to right or left of the perpendicular. If the man's weight shifts forward, the excess compels the horse to advance a base of support in order to prevent the fall. In this case, the center of gravity does not alter; the change is of the momentum. It is the same with movement backward, or to right or left, always supposing that the horse keeps its state of equilibrium.
BY means of the foregoing work, which has been only preparatory, of the flexions, the mobilization of the fore and hind hands, and the movements backward, the cavalier has mastered the use of his various means, and the horse has come to understand their effects. The rider can now obtain from his horse the position of "in hand." Starting with this position, and using all the effects together, the rider should now be able, by means of the collection or assemblage, to obtain an equilibrium in which all the animal's forces are reunited at a center of gravity, situated exactly beneath his own weight, which, in its turn, bears equally and perpendicularly on the spinal column of the horse.
This position, obtained and continued at will by the cavalier, is the great ideal of equitation, since it gives immediate and complete control of the animal by the man. To the young trainer, at first sight, it appears difficult. Yet it is not. If one has followed the progression of the flexions and mobilizations, and has obtained regularly the "in hand" position, he will also secure, without too much difficulty, the subsequent position of equilibrium. But, of course, the conformation of the horse, both physical and moral, also enters very seriously into the problem.
In the preceding work of the flexions and the mobilizations, the cavalier has used the effects of hands and legs separately. But to obtain the state of equilibrium by means of the assemblage, he must employ hands, legs, and weight, together. This action is often called "effects of ensemble" since it requires the equalization of the forces of the horse, not only to support its own weight, whether at rest or in motion, but also to carry the added weight of the rider, and is brought about by accordant effects of the cavalier.
In short, the separate effects make possible the effects of ensemble. These effects of ensemble produce assemblage. The assemblage gives the state of equilibrium, which is the equal balance of the entire mechanism.
From the beginning of equitation, this state of equilibrium of rider and horse has been the subject of researches and theories, more or less practical. Of these, Baucher's is the most reasonable. Moreover, this grand master has proved experimentally the existence of this equilibrium, and the fact that it is produced by the assemblage. I give here one of Baucher's tests in the form in which I have several times repeated them for myself.
An ordinary saddle horse, properly trained but not practiced in the demonstration, weighs one thousand pounds. I place him, without saddle or bridle, with his hind legs on one of two platform scales and his fore feet on the other. If he took naturally a state of perfect equilibrium, he would thereupon register a weight of two hundred and fifty pounds with each foot, five hundred pounds at each end.
But as a matter of fact, the forward scales register 612 pounds; the rear scales only 388. The horse will not distribute his weight equally between the two pairs of limbs, unless his naturally wrong position is rectified by the demonstrator.
For this purpose, I add a twelve-pound saddle and three pounds of bridle; making the new weight 1015 pounds, which the horse distributes, ten pounds in front and five behind. I take the reins of the bit and raise the animal's head. At once the weights change, and become more nearly equal. The front scales now show 522 pounds and the rear 493. Fifty pounds has shifted to the hind legs.
Still keeping the head up, with the aid of a whip, I place the hind legs side by side, and both perpendicular to the horizontal line of the horse's spine. All the while, I bear lightly on the bit and flex the head at the atlas region. The scales now indicate 510 pounds on the fore legs, 505 pounds on the rear ones. This difference of five pounds arises from the impossibility for a man on foot of keeping the front legs exactly perpendicular upon the scales or obtaining perfect flexion at the atlas region. Allowing for this small difference, we have here an undeniable proof of a state of transmitted equilibrium imposed upon the animal by the man.
The demonstration is still more striking when the horse is mounted. I weigh, dressed, 172 pounds, a total weight of 1187. Letting the reins lie loose, I find that the scales read 722 and 565 pounds. I take the reins, flex the horse's head and neck to bring the animal "in hand," and at the same time, by the contact of my legs, I bring the animal's hind legs into the perpendicular position. The scales now read, in front 598, behind 589, a difference of only nine pounds. In this particular case, the horse had become pretty nervous from having his feet on the unsteady scale platforms; and in order to keep him quiet, I had been neglecting my own position, and leaning slightly forward, for the sake of loading the fore legs and keeping them still. As soon as I rectified this, and sat with head and body erect, the forward scales read steadily 593, while the other oscillated between 592 and 594 with the action of my legs in trying to keep the horse perfectly quiet. It was a convincing demonstration. Moreover, by leaning forward or backward with the head very erect, I could always take thirty-five or forty pounds from the reading of either scales and add it to the other.
For the benefit of any person who wishes to repeat these tests, I add certain practical suggestions from my own experience. I find that one of the great difficulties is to keep the horse calm and still upon his legs, so that I lost a great deal of time and the data were less accurate. To remedy this, I built a stall, three feet by twelve, with partitions four feet high. The scales, I placed under ground, the platforms level with the surface, and over them a thin layer of earth or tanbark to give the horse confidence and to keep it from slipping. If, however, the apparatus is set in a floor, solid wooden platforms should be built upon the scales, at the correct distance apart, and surfaced with tanbark or dirt. All these extra weights will, of course, have to be allowed for. The indicators of the scales should be outside the stall.
It must not be thought, however, that Baucher, in devising this experiment, or the author in repeating it, had any idea of having it used as a means of training the horse to take the correct position. Its only object is to prove to the student that the state exists, and that it is possible to obtain it by means of the effects and aids.
The deductions from the experiment are highly important. It proves the necessity of the work on the flexions of mouth and neck, since without these there would be no way of obtaining the " in hand." It proves, also, the necessity of mobilizing the front and hind hands, since without this the horse could not be placed with its legs vertical, and therefore the weight could not be made equal on the two scales. Finally, it proves the necessity of the suppling of the loins by movement backward, since otherwise the hind legs could not be brought into the perpendicular relation to the spine.
So long as the horse remains at rest with his four limbs perpendicular, the state of equilibrium can be demonstrated. But with the horse in action, only the eye of the spectator or the equestrian tact of the rider, through his seat, can detect it. The spectator can see the four legs leave the ground and return, two by two, diagonally at walk, trot, and movement backward.
The rider, under these conditions, feels in his seat the squareness and equality both of the different strides and of each step. The horse gives a light and agreeable contact upon the hand, the head and neck are perfectly steady and yet firm, while the rider feels that, with the least tension on the reins, the neck will flex like an elastic band. All the time he feels in his seat that, with the least shifting of his weight or the slightest alteration in legs, hand, body, or head, the equilibrium will vanish. The animal moves between the rider and the ground, rhythmically. Every joint is supple, and every part of the mechanism does its task with power, freedom, and in perfect synchrony. Fillis, the grand master, is right when he says, "The rider feels as if the horse were flying." But Baucher, the great dead, is also right when he says, "The sea is calm, but full of rocks!"
Unhappily, this state of equilibrium tends always to be disturbed in consequence of the various positions taken by the horse as he executes his great diversity of strides, steps, gaits, and movements. The rider must, therefore, by means of his effects of ensemble, be always checking this tendency, or restoring the equilibrium as soon as it escapes. When the horse is standing still, the rider will feel this escape of the equilibrium in his bridle hand. But when the horse is in motion, this feeling comes only through the seat. An able esquire reestablishes the equilibrium by the accuracy of his seat, economizing hands and legs.
These effects of ensemble are employed most efficiently just before the demand for a new movement, a new direction, or a new gait; and also to maintain the equilibrium during the succeeding movement without change of speed or gait. All this is in accord with the principle of Baucher, who created the effects of ensemble: "The position gives the correct movement; the movement should never give the position."
These effects of ensemble, employed on a welltrained horse, are, however, virtually imperceptible to the onlooker.
THE name, "High School" has long been used and is still employed to designate a system of education which trains a horse to execute in the ring of a circus the low and high airs and the various figures of manege. It is a special kind of equitation, for which the state of equilibrium is not important. Baucher, Fillis, Franconi, and other civilian masters of the art have exhibited their horses in the circus, not alone for the immediate financial profit, but still more to make their systems known and appreciated. It was, in fact, from the circus that Baucher and Fillis were called by various European governments to teach their systems to army officers.
These masters, however, had already accepted the anatomical principles of Benton, Borelli, and Bishop, who, in their discussion of animal motion, emphasize the fact that, at walk and trot, the horse advances by the diagonal movement of its limbs. But in accepting this doctrine of locomotion, these masters at once comprehended that the lateral or direct effects of the two older schools are in flat contradiction to the newer ideas of horse anatomy. They found it necessary, therefore, to create the diagonal effects, in order to be en rapport with the movement in diagonal biped.
The horses exhibited by these masters executed all the movements of the high and low airs, but were maintained continually in the state of equilibrium; and they had gait, speed, and manners. So, to emphasize the distinction between their systems and those of the circus, the masters gave to their principles the name équitation savante. The term has been accepted by horsemen the world over, both in the armies and outside. Unfortunately, the only translation into English seems to be the very inadequate "scientific equitation."
As a matter of terminology, the right diagonal biped means the right fore leg and the left hind one; the left diagonal biped, left fore and right hind. Consequently, the right diagonal effect has to mean the effect produced by the right rein and the rider's left leg; while the left diagonal effect is that of the left rein and his right leg.
The equilibrium, which is the foundation of the whole scientific equitation, can be obtained only as the result of two forces opposed to one another, the one pushing the horse forward and the other holding him back. The first of these forces arises from the effect of the rider's legs: the second from the effect of his hands by way of the reins and the bits. If, let us say, the rider exerts ten degrees of effect with his legs to send the horse forward, and at the same time exerts ten degrees of effect with his hands to prevent this movement, the horse, between these two forces, must concentrate its native powers, and establish a center of gravity. The result is equilibrium, that is to say, balance. The effects of the legs are effects of impulsion. The effects of the hands are effects of retention. Thence arises the equestrian axiom: Equilibrium is the consequence of effects of opposition.
Suppose, then, that the horse is being maintained in equilibrium between ten degrees of impulsion and ten degrees of opposition. If, now, the impulsion is increased from ten degrees to fifteen, the opposition still remaining at ten, the horse must move forward, with the condition of equilibrium still maintained.
Precisely here lies the difference between the scientific equitation and the lateral or reasoned. The former, to produce movement forward, keeps the same opposition as before, but increases the impulsion. The others cease the opposition, and thereby allow the equilibrium to disappear. These last cannot do otherwise. They are employing the lateral effect only. Therefore, they cannot maintain the effect of opposition against a mechanism which is driving itself forward by a diagonal action. Only the diagonal effect can maintain opposition while the animal moves in diagonal.
The reader will note that it is always from the fore leg involved that the right or left diagonal biped takes its name. This, in my opinion, is a mistake. The hind leg is the one which gives the impulse and is the cause of every movement. The action of the fore leg is merely the consequence. It would, therefore, have been more logical to have named the bipeds from the hind legs; and more in accord with the equestrian maxim, "Forward, forward, always forward." This means impulsion, and impulsion is possible only by the effects of the rider's legs acting on the hind limbs of the animal.
It must, of course, be understood that when I discuss these motions in diagonal, I am considering only a horse in the state of equilibrium. Moreover, when any master speaks, let us say, of the right diagonal effect and the use of the right rein and the left leg, he does not mean that the left rein and the right leg are to cease their effects. What he means is that this rein and that leg are to increase theirs. Otherwise, the horse will turn its body, its spine in the dorsal region will no longer remain straight, and the forward impulse will disappear.
To accustom horse and rider to the diagonal effect, they should execute mounted the lateral and direct flexions, and mobilization by the reversed pirouette and backing. If, however, at the beginning of practice in the diagonal effect, a young rider training a young horse is confused in his efforts, it is better to begin the rotation by the diagonal effects on foot. For this, supposing that the movement is from left to right, the trainer places himself exactly as for the direct flexion, except that he holds in his right hand the right reins of both curb and snaffle and also the whip. By means of these two reins he secures a partial flexion to the right; and at the same time, by means of the curb rein held in his left hand, he maintains the head, mouth, and neck inclined to the right. Then, with the whip, he makes the animal execute the mobilization of the hind quarters from left to right, step by step. After some practice at these rotations, both from right to left and left to right, the trainer mounts and repeats the mobilizations by the same effects, but using his leg instead of the whip. But an experienced trainer begins these rotations by diagonal effect, mounted.
For the rotation from left to right, by the right diagonal effect, the cavalier mounted, the horse standing still and in equilibrium, both reins of the bit and the left rein of the snaffle are taken in the left hand, and the right rein of the snaffle is taken in the right hand. The left hand keeps the horse's head perpendicular, the "in hand" position, while the right hand, by a light opposition on the right snaffle rein, inclines the horse's head to the right. Meanwhile, the effect of the rider's right leg impels the horse forward, and the left leg, increasing its effect, pushes the haunches toward the right, the animal's right fore leg gaining a little ground to the front. (Figures 21, 22.)
The rotation must be executed calmly and step by step. It is completed when the horse has aboutfaced. In the rotation from left to right, the action of the rider's right leg is absolutely necessary for maintaining the forward impulse while the haunches wheel at the effect of the rider's left. The rotation is stopped at its completion by the effect of the rider's right leg; not by the cessation of the effect of his left. The rotation can be done also at the trot, but only upon a circle, and only after the horse has learned to make two pistes, which makes the figure a half-passage. The rotation at the gallop is very complicated, and cannot be performed until the horse can do the two pistes at a gallop.
The pirouette is asked only by the direct flexion of the mouth and neck and can be done at trot and gallop. Backing is asked by the diagonal effect. It is done step by step, and needs great care to avoid wear and tear of the hocks.
The trot is executed by the action of diagonal bipeds, precisely like the walk except that each biped, remains a longer time off the ground. (Figure 23.)
The gallop is the same as the run, but slower. The canter is still slower than the gallop. The run is natural and instinctive to the horse; the gallop is taken and held under the control of the rider; the canter is an artificial gait given by the cavalier.
These three gaits have given rise to so many theories that the result has been and still is an endless confusion. Some theorists teach that run and gallop are executed by the lateral bipeds. All such
theories are the product of philosophizing by writers who do more riding with a pen than with hands and legs on a horse's back.
The saddle horse is useful to mankind only by virtue of its locomotion. This locomotion is the consequence of impulsion; and impulsion is given only by the animal's hind legs. To drive the body forward, therefore, it is absolutely necessary that the horse should have one or two feet on the ground. A foot in the air, so long as it remains in the air, can have no effect.
But if, let us say, the right hind foot is on the ground, the right hind leg may deliver its thrust either to the right or to the left fore leg. In the first case, the right lateral biped is set in motion, in the second case, the left diagonal biped.
In order, then, to pass from standing still, or from walk or trot, to the gallop upon the right lateral biped, the rider throws his entire weight upon the right lateral biped, and at the same time, by a quick inclination of the body forward to the right, the rider places the horse in the position to gallop. It then remains only to give the action to the whole machine, the legs of the horse moving in accord with the gait asked.
This action will be given by the effect of the right leg of a rider, who at the same time closes the fingers of the right hand upon the right rein of the curb bit or snaffle. These effects of the right leg and right hand have to be executed by a quick movement, yet without occasioning too much surprise. But the effects of right leg and right hand will have a tendency to send the haunches to the left rather than forward. Therefore the rider's left leg has also to be closed, partly to prevent the haunches from getting away to the left, and partly because the attack of the right leg first attracts the right hind leg below the center of gravity, and then calls the left hind leg to its support, the front legs being raised by the effects of the right hand, the right ready to extend to receive the weight as the foot comes back on the ground.
All these effects have to be executed with decision and precision, in a word, with equestrian tact. It is this employment of this left leg of the rider to maintain the horse straight at the beginning of the gallop to the right, which has created the mistaken theory that it is the function of the left leg to start the gallop to the right, and of the right leg to start the gallop to the left. Such was the foundation of the theory of the gallop executed by the diagonal biped.
The motion in diagonal at the gallop shows itself only when the horse changes lead from one lateral biped to the other. With the gallop on the right hind leg, this leg, which is giving the impulse, is always in front of the left, which is the more continued support. But for the forcible change of lead from right to left, the impulsion alters first, and after this the support passes to the other leg. The
right hind leg, therefore, stops, and the left hind leg moves forward into position for the impulse, while the right hind leg becomes the support. The right front leg also becomes a support; but the left fore leg extends forward to receive the impulsion. It follows, then, that before the left hind leg has made contact with the ground and taken over the duty of impulsion, the horse is upon a diagonal biped. (Figure 24.)
In order, therefore, to execute the change of lead from right to left, the cavalier should, at the instant of change, lean to the right, in order to load the right lateral biped. This, thereupon, becomes the support, and leaves the left lateral biped unloaded and off the ground for the very quick movement called "change of foot in the air." This whole motion, but especially the action of the left hind leg, is so rapid that the eye cannot perceive the relations of the different limbs. Even photography is inadequate to show the action clearly. The camera can, however, be made to exhibit the left hind leg in the different parts of its stride. Thus in Figure 25, the left hind leg first disappears behind the right; and next after that the right fore leg is flexed. Finally, in Figure 26, the left hind leg is on the ground, in front of the right and ready for propulsion. The left fore leg is already raised. It will extend forward as soon as the right hind leg has arrived near the left, to assist as support and thus allow the left hind leg to continue the impulse. Note, now, the difference between Baucher, Fillis, and myself. Baucher says, "I do not try to explain something inexplicable; it is for the equestrian tact of the esquire to discover how to execute the movement." Fillis says, "I make my horse gallop to the right by the effect of my left rein and my left leg. To change the lead, I employ the opposite effects."
I, on the contrary, sum up my directions thus: By the effect of my right rein, I lift the horse's right fore leg. (Figures 18-22.) By the effect of my left leg, I raise the horse's left hind leg—the diagonal effect. If, then, the horse's left hind leg is off the ground, his right hind leg is pressed forcibly against the ground. (Figure 18.) Thereupon, by the effect of my right snaffle rein, I compel the horse to extend its right fore leg. (Figure 22.) With my right rein and my left leg—diagonal effect—I obtain the right diagonal biped. With my left rein and my right leg—again diagonal effect—I obtain the left diagonal biped for the walk and trot. (Figure 21.) With my right rein, I raise the horse's right fore leg, while with my right leg I raise the horse's right hind leg—lateral effect. This right hind leg will come to the ground under the center of gravity, and drive the body forward. The right fore leg will thereupon extend forward for the gallop to the right—lateral biped. (Figure 25.) My body, being inclined forward, will carry forward the center of gravity, and the gallop will continue until other forces intervene.
And there is all the demonstration of the theorem and the solution of the problem!
Every horse, however, has one side which is more supple than the other; and it is better to begin practice in changing lead by shifting from the less supple to the more supple side.
Suppose, for example, that the more flexible side is the left. My horse being straight, I start it galloping to the right, by the method given above, and keep it going straight. I then reverse all my effects. If the horse changes lead, I stop it as soon as may be, and recompense its obedience. When it is completely calm, I begin again, galloping to the right. After several steps, I again change; and again recompense.
When the horse understands the change of lead from right to left, I proceed in the same way to teach the change from left to right. At first, I ask the change only after the horse has galloped ten or fifteen steps on the same foot. When the horse manages this, I reduce the interval progressively, first to six or eight steps, then to four, and finally to only two. I need not say that this training takes time that cannot be measured by days or lessons. I progress slowly, ask very little, rest my horse a great deal, and keep calm. I do not, under any circumstances, permit my horse to choose the lead for itself, nor to change foot on its own initiative. It is essential that the rider always impose his mastership upon the horse's intelligence. The rules are: short lessons, precision helped by moderation, recompenses, no overexertion or fatigue. With these, success is assured.
BY "false gallop," we mean galloping on one side when turning to the other. A horse is also said to gallop false when it leads with either side, after the rider has signaled for the other.
A horse galloping in a straight line leads with whichever side the rider determines. If this chances to be the left, the rider must change the foot before making a turn to the right. Otherwise the horse will gallop false.
Turning on the wrong foot is always dangerous. In turning, for example, to the right at the gallop, the center of gravity will be displaced toward the right, and the right lateral biped will take the longer step. All this occurs naturally if the horse is galloping to the right. But if it is galloping to the left, the right leg cannot reach out to receive the additional weight, and the horse may cross its legs and fall.
The false gallop is, nevertheless, employed in training the horse to gallop equally on the two sides, and also in teaching it the change of lead on a straight line without change of hand. But it should be understood that in all such cases the false gallop is always asked by the rider, never taken by the horse at its own will. It is essential to a well-trained saddle horse that it gallop equally to either side, and always at the signal of the rider.
The figures of manege include all the different known movements which a horse executes during training or after it is trained. The number is great and the character varied; but they are all compounded from only six elements. These are: forward, backward, turn to the right, turn to the left, half haunches to the right, and half haunches to the left, all done at walk, trot, and gallop.
The masters before Baucher had a wider range of figures than since his day, for the reason that they trained from movement to position, instead of from position to movement, as is now the practice except for the army, hunting, and polo. The progression for the ordinary equitation has, however, remained the same, and consists of the following figures: the double; the changes of direction or changes of hand; the diagonal; the half-volte, reversed half-volte, and volte; the circle, with change upon the circle and change of circle; the figure eight; the half-passage with head to the wall and with croup to the wall; the shoulder in; the centre-change of hand.
These movements, done at walk, trot, and gallop, have long constituted, and still constitute, the complete education of the horse. A park hack is not considered fully trained until it can execute these movements, which are, indeed, proof of its good manners. They are, moreover, no disadvantage for a promenade horse which is to be ridden by the same esquire who trained it; though the results are most distressing to a rider of less equestrian tact.
The walk of manege is simply a very slow walk, well cadenced, the steps equal and regular, and with the action of the legs less forward, but very much higher than in the ordinary walk.
It cannot be obtained except under the most perfect equilibrium, while the fingering must be even more precise than for the piaffer and the backward trot, which are derived from it. The rider's legs must maintain the center of gravity always exactly between the forces of the front and rear limbs, not allowing it the least motion from side to side, but only up and down with the step. The seat must be especially accurate, and the contact absolutely permanent. The least alteration of the balance will change the walk to the trot, if forward, or, if backward, will stop the horse.
To obtain the walk of manege, the rider gradually diminishes the speed of the ordinary walk, keeping the state of equilibrium as complete as possible. By the effects of opposition coupled with great accuracy of seat, and by the diagonal effect repeated in tempo, he asks slower and slower steps, the horse's action becoming higher and higher as the stride is shorter and less quick.
It is impossible to advise just when in the course of the training to begin the walk of manege. It is useless to attempt it before the horse has learned to keep in equilibrium. It is well not to try for too slow or too high an action, to study the horse, and at the first sign of success, to yield everything, caress, dismount, and stop the lesson. Two, four, or six steps are sufficient at one time, and should be followed by rest and distraction.
Take special pains to prevent the two possible irregularities, the acculer, or getting behind the hand, and the "magpie jump." If either appears, stop the practice of the figure and devote at least fifteen days to sending the horse forward strongly against the bit, equally and at the two hands. This is the only cure for these irregularities or defenses.
Take care not to provoke rearing or the croupade by too much precipitancy in your demands. Rearing will probably be caused by fingering in wrong tempo; the croupade by beginning too early the alternate effect of the legs, so that the signal to lift one biped comes before the other is back on the ground, and there is a brief interval when both are on the ground.
Do not expect to secure a perfect walk of manege until after you have trained two or three horses. Be satisfied at first with a few steps at the gait, and occasional changes of direction. The great point is to perfect your own equestrian tact. When that is done, all your difficulties are easily surmounted. The walk of manege is the highest proof of the state of equilibrium, and you must learn to feel the horse under you flexing all its joints, developing its power, and cadencing its walk with a great but calm ardor, slow and high. When a horse has attained to the walk of manege, in complete equilibrium, every feat of the scientific equitation becomes possible both to rider and to steed.
"To enter the corner" is a manege expression meaning not to let the horse pass the corner of the enclosure close in or far out at its own will.
The manege is commonly rectangular, with two long and two short sides and a surrounding wall. The horse travels straight along the sides, but changes direction at the angles, to the right if being ridden with its right side toward the center—"at right hand" as it is called—to the left if the other way. Naturally, the animal tends to follow the barrier, and will, therefore, instinctively and of its own volition, make the turn before getting quite to the corner, or else will put its head against the wall and stop. In either case, the rider loses an opportunity to practice the management of his mount.
For in a manege of ordinary size, say one hundred and fifty feet by seventy, a horse in the course of an hour's lesson will turn a corner about two
hundred and forty times, half at the right hand, half at the left. If, then, the rider directs the animal at each turn, he obtains valuable practice in guiding his mount, and so learns to perform the act intuitively and without effort. Otherwise, not only does the rider miss the opportunity, but, in addition, the horse, not knowing the difference between being straight and being crooked, gets the habit of crossing its legs, and when asked to go forward and straight, carries its rider to the center of the area.
The ancient and the mediæval equitation had it that the turn to the right is to be made by means of the right rein of snaffle or bit and the left leg. Baucher agrees with this. According to him, the right rein flexes the neck to the right. The left leg prevents the haunches from swinging toward the left, while the right leg sends the rear limbs along the arc of a circle of greater or smaller radius. Fillis, though more practical than Baucher, grants that Baucher's opinion has been generally accepted.
But to turn to the right by means of right leg and right rein involves the principle of the lateral equitation, with all its practical errors, a principle which cannot be accepted by the scientific equitation. It is not merely the horse's shoulders which turn; it is the entire horse. The horse is first straight and upon the rider's hand. Then the rider gives the new direction by the reins, and by his legs impels the animal in it. But, of course, the effect of the right rein is to send the haunches toward the left, so that the horse is no longer straight. Then comes the effect of the left leg to keep it straight by preventing the swing of the haunches to the left. But under the impulse of the left leg alone, the horse executes a pirouette, haunches pushed to the right by the rider's left leg, shoulders pulled to the right by the right rein.
I myself hold to a more rational theory, which differs from the principle of the old lateral equitation, and also from the reasoned equitation of Baucher and Fillis. The horse is either assembled or it is not. If it is not, go as you please. The horse makes the turn, and that is all. If the horse is assembled, the rider controls the center of gravity. This is sine qua non for the scientific equitation, which, moreover, admits at the walk and trot no other effects than the diagonal, either to obtain the equilibrium or to execute any movement. The gallop, which is the only lateral gait, requires other effects for changes of direction, of which more shortly.
When the horse is traveling straight at the walk, its feet follow the two parallel lines AC and BD, by a diagonal stride in which BC and AD support alternately the center of gravity at O. In order for the horse to turn to the right, the line CD moves to the position PL, it sends following the arcs of concentric circles, as the center of gravity travels from O to M; otherwise the equilibrium will be lost. Evidently, the two left legs must travel farther than the two right legs.
But the length of the stride does not affect the velocity or the momentum; consequently, it does not change the center of gravity. The left front leg, if it is to gain more ground than the right, must be unloaded, since the rule is that any leg cannot leave the ground before the weight which it carries has been transferred to another support. This we accomplish by flexing the head slightly to the left, arid at the same time we establish the fixed point of the rhomboidus and mastoido-humeralis muscles at the left side of the atlas region. Thereupon the unloaded left shoulder will cover the longer distance CL while the loaded right shoulder is covering the shorter distance DP and serving as pivot and support for the center of gravity, which remains on OM.
But for the impulsion of the hind quarters, both the rider's legs are necessary. The left prevents the haunches from yielding to the effect of the right, and thus departing from the proper path ACL. The right leg of the rider pushes forward the right hind leg of the horse, and since this is prevented from moving toward the left off the line BDP, the center of gravity must remain on the line OM; and momentum, velocity, and equilibrium remain altered.
The same movement at the trot is executed in accord with the same principles and by the same means. The rider, however, needs to make a somewhat more forcible effect to obtain the same result—a fact which goes to confirm this theory of change of direction in diagonal.
The idea of using the left rein for a turn to the right is bound to give rise to much discussion. But the reader is already familiar with the rein of contraction, or guiding by the neck, where the rider employs his right leg, and at the same time, by carrying his hand to the right, draws on the left rein. This new principle, created by myself, I have considered and practiced long years. The results convince me of its truth.
The horse mounted by a rider carries a very considerable weight, a fact which both Baucher and Fillis have completely neglected. Baucher, to be sure, has recognized the seat as a third means of control. But what is the seat, if the weight supported by it is ignored? These two masters advocate, with reason, collection, the assemblage of all the forces of the animal at a center, and the resulting state of equilibrium. The horse is placed in this state by the effects of hand and legs, and maintained there by the same means. They point out, rightly, that the horse in equilibrium is comparable to a large ball, in contact with the ground at a single point, so that the least weight added to one side starts the movement in that direction. When, therefore, a horse is in equilibrium, the shifting of the rider's weight from his left haunch to his right will turn the horse and send him forward to the right. Are we, then, outside the natural laws of motion? No. We are obeying the law which teaches that a body in motion will continue to move along the same straight line until another force interferes. This other force is the rider's weight, which, when applied at one side of the center of gravity, displaces this and forces the horse to turn in that direction.
All this is undeniable. It is easy, therefore, to understand the fights of these two masters with the horses educated by them. The horses walked and trotted in diagonal. The riders employed the lateral effects. The horses galloped in lateral. The riders, to train them to that gait, used a half-diagonal effect. Naturally, the horses became confused between their instinctive gaits and the riders' effects which were flatly contrary to them.
However, if a horse is not in a state of equilibrium, this change of weight will have no effect, and the scientific equitation is not concerned with the matter.
The double is a figure of manege in which the rider crosses the quadrangle from side to side and returns to the original piste at the same hand. It involves, therefore, merely two changes of direction to one side or the other.
The movement is simple, and easy of execution for the experienced rider with a horse that is sufficiently advanced with its education. The essential point is to manage correctly the first change of direction, and then to guide the horse exactly straight across to the other side of the manege for the second change which completes the double. At first view, it looks very easy to do this; but in practice it is not so simple, and the maneuver is asked of the horse precisely in order to accustom it to change and return straight. The rider also will find the double educative if he does it correctly. The point is to cure any hesitation on the part of the horse in turning to either side, and to get it to place itself exactly straight from head to croup as soon as it has turned. The rider who can do the double correctly at walk, trot, and gallop is on the road toward the perfect education of his horse.
Change of hand is very useful in training horses to be equal in their gaits, and also for teaching riders to execute figures on either side when instruction is given in classes.
Both the old and the newer schools of equitation prescribe that in riding at the right hand—that is to say, with right side toward the center of the ring—both reins of the bit, together with the left rein of the snaffle, are to be held in the left hand, while the right rein of the snaffle alone is to be held in the
right hand, since all turns are to be made to the right. This arrangement follows from the confused ideas of the lateral equitation and from the principles developed by Baucher for changes of direction.
The scientific equitation, on the other hand, prescribes that, in riding at the right hand, the two reins of the bit and the right rein of the snaffle shall be in the right hand and the left snaffle rein in the left, for all movements in diagonal, that is to say, at walk and trot. But for movements at the gallop, the curb reins are to be transferred to the left hand and only the snaffle rein held in the right, because the gallop is a lateral gait.
When riding at the right hand, the horseman may change hand by means of a great variety of movements—changes in width, in length, in diagonal, the half-volte, or the reversed half-volte, all of which will be discussed shortly. All changes of hand are, however, really nothing but changes of direction. But since in reversing the side which is toward the center of the ring, there has to be also a reversing of the position of the reins in the hands, changes of direction have come to be called changes of hand.
The circle is a figure of manege executed near the center of the ring by a single horseman, or by several horsemen following one another. This figure may also be executed on a road, a piste, or a field.
The ancient equitation and that of the Middle
Ages used the circle to train the horse to bend its spine in the direction of the turn, by yielding to the lateral effects of hand and legs, but without alteration of gait. It was employed especially to teach the
animal to take the gallop, since a horse walking or trotting on a circle to the right is already placed. Its neck is already somewhat turned by the snaffle, and to change to the gallop it needs only the impulse of the rider's legs to augment the action of the right hind limb. The circle, therefore, taken alternately at the two hands and by means of the lateral effects, will soon teach the horse to gallop to either side.
This movement, very easy in the lateral equitation, is much more complicated in the reasoned equitation at the trot and walk. In this case, the center of gravity has to be maintained by the rider's seat, while at the same time, in circling to the right, the horse's neck has to be inclined slightly to the left, in order to unload the left front leg, so that this may gain more ground than its mate, which acts more or less as a pivot. Meanwhile, the rider's right leg is impelling the horse's right hind leg around the circular path, and his left leg is preventing the haunches from getting away toward the left at the effect of his right.
At the gallop, circling to the right, the position and the effects of the rider's legs are the same, except that now the horse's nose is carried a little to the right, by the action of the snaffle, in order to unload the right fore leg, which now has to be lifted higher than the left and to gain more ground. The center of gravity is now more on the right side, but always in the middle, though slightly back under the rider's right haunch.
Doubles upon the circle are executed by crossing on a diameter and continuing once more along the circumference at the same hand. If, however, the rider, after passing the center, turns in the other direction on the circumference, he is said to execute a change of hand on the circle. Evidently, the circle is merely a continuation of the two voltes, in which the horse is maintained upon the circular line.
The important point in this work on the circle is to keep the horse, whether walking, trotting, or galloping, always with all four feet in the circular path, never letting the hind quarters stray inside or outside the fixed line. Evidently, in circling at the right hand, the partial flexion of the head to the right will tend to throw the haunches outside the true path, so that it requires a very accurate effect of the rider's outside leg to correct this fault to just the right degree. Moreover, the circle itself, throughout the movement, should remain of precisely the same size, in spite of the tendency to become smaller or larger.
The volte is a circular movement, executed in the manege or outside, in which the horse changes direction in three steps of one yard each, and in twelve steps completes the circle.
Before the days of the scientific equitation, the volte was asked at all three gaits by the lateral effects. The new equitation asks the volte at walk and trot by means of the diagonal effects, and only at the gallop by means of the lateral. In this, I am completely opposed to the principles of my predecessors, Baucher, Fillis, Anderson, and their contemporaries.
Consider, therefore, just what is involved in the execution of a volte, let us say to the right. The horse, in order to send its inert weight to the right while keeping the center of gravity at the middle
point of the medial plane, must dispose its legs in the following manner: The right front leg is the chief point of support, since it is nearer the center; but the left leg, since it is farther away from the center, travels the longer path. The right hind leg has to do more work than the left, since in addition to supporting its share of the weight, it does more than its share in driving the body forward.
It follows from this that at walk and trot the proper effects for the volte are a very limited flexion of the head to the left, pressure of the rider's right leg close behind the girth, and pressure of the left leg farther back, to keep the horse's left hind leg on the circular line. At the gallop, on the contrary, the flexion of the head is to the right, to unload the right front leg and allow it to gain more ground than the left. The effects of the legs are, however, exactly the same as for the diagonal gaits. The rider's right leg maintains the gallop to the right by its stronger effect on the horse's right hind leg, while his left leg holds the rear limbs in the circle.
Now, the walk and trot are movements made in diagonal. Why, then, ask a creature, which naturally and by instinct moves in diagonal, to turn by lateral effects? Fillis himself had doubts concerning the propriety of this method of changing direction; for after considering the question he adds, "The opinion of Baucher has prevailed and the lateral effect has been accepted." But in the lateral effect, the right rein flexes the horse's neck to the right, and therefore loads the left front leg, although this has to gain more ground than the unloaded right. Meanwhile, the rider's left leg pushes the haunches to the right and upon the right hind leg, directing these to the right instead of to the left in order to turn the horse to the right. It is even the more surprising that these same masters execute the volte at the gallop by the very same means as at the walk and trot, notwithstanding the fact that these gaits involve an entirely different disposition of the mechanism.
My own honest opinion is that these masters were asking, by lateral effects, movements which the horse executed by diagonal gaits, and so confused their mounts thereby that, when they attempted such diagonal movements as the piaffer, passage, Spanish walk, and Spanish trot, the animals resisted. The result was quarrels and fights between man and horse. I, on the other hand, never have fights. When my horse walks or trots, in diagonal, all movements are asked by diagonal effects. But when the horse gallops, in lateral, all movements are asked by lateral effects. My mount has always all its natural forces in their instinctive relation.
In executing the half-volte, the horse makes two successive changes of direction, so that he faces the opposite way from his original position. Suppose, for example, the horse is traveling along a piste, at right hand, and near the wall. A change of direction at the corner of the manege, followed immediately by another, places the animal about three steps away from the wall and facing toward what was the rear. Thereupon, moving on a diagonal line, the horse returns to the piste.
The half-volte is, then, simple enough as a movement of the ordinary equitation. It becomes decidely complicated when performed as a figure of the reasoned equitation. The rider, as above, employs the left diagonal effect to reverse the direction of the horse's movement; and then immediately changes to the right diagonal effect to return to the piste by means of a half-passage of twelve steps at the most. The formula is, therefore, for walk and trot: left rein; right leg near the girth, to maintain the hind hand for the about-face; then, when the two changes of direction are complete, right rein, left leg behind the girth, right leg near the girth, to maintain the regularity of the forward action during the half-passage.
At the gallop, the means are still more complicated. The horse is at the right hand and leading to the right. The procedure is, therefore: right rein, right leg near the girth, left leg behind the girth to maintain the haunches during the turn; then, for the half-passage, left leg behind the girth to push the horse to the right. As the horse comes once more to the piste, the action becomes: left rein and left leg to control the left lateral biped, right leg to maintain the haunches straight and to change the lead from right to left, since we are now riding at left hand.
One should practice the half-volte several times in the simpler form before trying to add the half-passage, and should not attempt the latter movement until the figure is perfectly clear in the mind. But the ordinary half-volte is nothing more than the ordinary pirouette, taken at walk, trot, or gallop, and continued by the twelve steps of the half-passage with a change of lead.
In the reversed half-volte, the horse travels over the same path as in the direct figure, but in the opposite direction. Thus, for the reversed half-volte, done at the right hand, a half-passage to the right of twelve steps takes the animal away from the wall of the manege. Then two changes of direction or a half-circle to the left complete the return to the wall with an about-face and a change of hand.
The means are, therefore, for the half-passage at walk or trot, the right diagonal effect—right rein, right leg near the girth, and the haunches pushed over to the right by the left leg behind the girth—with continuance of the same effect to produce the two changes of direction, until the horse is once more straight, but at the opposite hand. At the gallop, the horse makes the half-passage leading to the right; the lead then changes to the left for the two changes of direction. Consequently, after the completion of the half -passage, the left rein and the left leg alter the lead, while the right leg prevents the haunches from going too far to the right and maintains the gallop by keeping the horse inclined upon the circular line.
If the horse's education has been wisely progressive, especially if the progress has not been too rapid, the two half-voltes are easily performed simply by the master's equestrian tact. But if the training has been irregular, then they become complicated and difficult. In this case, it is better to have the horse move in a straight line in place of the half-passage, changing the lead when necessary. Done in this way, the figure belongs to the ordinary or lateral equitation. Properly, however, it is twelve steps of the half-passage, completed by a reversed pirouette at walk, trot, or gallop.
The figure eight involves two circles, one to the right, the other to the left, done at the center of the manege or anywhere away from walls.
The older methodists, both of the Middle Ages and of modern times, prescribed the lateral effects of hand and legs in order to hold the horse's entire body, from front limbs to rear, flexed upon the circle on which it travels. It is necessary for this
figure that the horse's education shall be somewhat advanced, in order that the curve of the spine may conform to that of the path. When, in addition to this, the flexion has to reverse with each new circle, the difficulty is much increased, so that the figure demands great suppleness in, and perfect collection on the part of, the horse, and for the rider an equestrian tact sufficient to enable him to reverse his effects at each change of circle without disturbing the equilibrium of his mount.
The figure eight has been a great deal used for suppling the horse, and is still employed for this purpose by modern teachers and in military schools. The scientific equitation, however, comes to it only after the horse is completely suppled. Inexperienced trainers often utilize the figure to teach a horse to change lead; and this method is harmless and practical. Judges at horse shows have the competitors execute the figure eight in order to discover the degree of suppleness and training of the horses. It serves also as a test for the side and the limb affected by lameness.
Shoulder-in is an old air of manege, in which the horse moves sidewise. It differs from the half-passage in that it is performed in lateral, whereas the half-passage is in diagonal. The name is a misnomer. Possibly it arose from the fact that in executing the figure the horse is usually headed toward the center of the manege with croup toward the wall.
To obtain the shoulder-in, from left to right, the rider, having his mount in hand and forward, increases the pull of the left rein to flex the head and neck slightly to the left. At the same time, he increases also the effect of his left leg, carrying it a little backward on the flank, and thus pushes the haunches toward the right. Meanwhile, the right rein prevents the complete flexion of the neck to the left, and forces the left shoulder toward the right in front of the right leg.
The result is that the horse's left front leg passes in front of and across the right, while at the same time the left hind leg also passes in front of and across its mate. Thereupon, the horse, in order not to fall, steps out to the right with both right legs, and the first step of the shoulder-in is completed. Continuing the same effects continues the movement.
But the student, who considers anatomically the mechanism of the horse and its action in the various movements, will agree with the anatomist that the muscles and articulations of the horse's shoulder are not designed to allow natural movements of the humerus and scapula in any direction except forward and back. The horse, in short, is not a crab, built to go sidewise. The shoulder-in and the half-passage are therefore unnatural contortions compelled by riders who know no better.
This air can be asked of the horse only after it has learned to cede from the neck at the effects of the reins and from the haunches at the effect of the legs. To obtain the movement, the horse, walking at left hand, is first stopped, and then made to execute a reversed pirouette, by means of the rider's right leg and a quarter flexion of the head to the left by means of the left rein. Thus, the horse's head stays against the wall, while the haunches make a half-circle to the left. This first movement is complete when the horse has faced about and is at the right hand. Immediately thereupon the rider caresses the horse's right flank. The position of collection is again asked, and the horse carried forward at right hand. After a few steps, the animal is again halted and put through the reversed pirouette from left to right.
In all this, the rider has to remember that the employment of one of his legs does not mean the complete cessation of the effect of the other, and he has also always to bear in mind the principle, sine qua non, forward, forward, always. Consequently, when the reversed pirouette is asked from right to left, the rider's right leg first sends the horse forward.
As soon as the horse understands the reversed pirouette after being stopped, the rider has it execute the same movement without the stop. When
this is mastered, the rider, still keeping the animal moving forward by the effect of his inside leg, by repeated effects of the left leg, causes the horse to execute two or three steps of the reversed pirouette while still gaining ground forward, the head against the wall and the haunches toward the center of the
manege. After a few steps of this, the horse is again sent forward; and after a few more steps, the half-passage is again asked. When the horse executes this movement calmly and with ease, the rider first asks the half-passage, and then completes the movement by half a reversed pirouette, to complete the change of hand without stopping. The horse being now at the new hand, the half-passage is again asked, and as before completed by a reversed pirouette after a few steps at the new hand.
When the horse does the half-passage correctly with its head against the wall, it is removed from the barrier by a change of hand in diagonal. During the entire time of this diagonal change, the horse will be kept straight. But when it comes to within five to seven steps of the wall at the new hand, the rider will begin the half-passage, so as to reach the wall at least ten steps from the corner.
For example, the rider, at right hand, makes the diagonal change of hand by going straight through the center of the ring, and, having passed this, keeps straight on until the horse is five, six, or seven steps from the wall. Here, he asks the half-passage from left to right—right leg for forward, right rein and augmentation of the effect of the left leg for the half-passage. When, by this movement, the horse is brought parallel to the wall, the rider stops the horse, caresses its left flank, and keeps it standing still for some moments to allow the movement to fix itself in its memory. It is then carried forward to pass the corner.
The rider, now at the left hand, once more asks the diagonal change of hand and the half-passage with everything now reversed. When the five to seven steps of the half-passage are done correctly, their number is progressively but moderately increased, until finally the entire diagonal change of hand is made by means of the half-passage.
When the animal is able to cross the ring at the half-passage correctly, it is taught the original movement with its croup, instead of its head, against the wall. For this, the rider, after passing the corner of the manege and starting down the long side, begins an ordinary diagonal change with the horse straight.
But as soon as the horse has completed, at most, four steps of this movement, it is made to execute a half-passage, with head toward the center of the ring and tail toward the wall. After a few steps of the half-passage, the horse is again sent forward, parallel to the wall but four steps out, and then is brought back to the wall, at the same hand as at the beginning, by a few steps of another half-passage. With moderate progress at each lesson, the horse is, after a few days, brought to travel the entire length of the side of the manege at the half-passage.
By the same progression as for the half-passage at the walk, the horse is next trained to the half-passage at the trot.
When this is well executed, then comes the shoulder-in at the gallop. Galloping to the right hand, head against the wall, does not need a change of lead. But for the change of hand diagonally, the horse must change the lead when the change of hand is completed and before passing the corner. So too, for the shoulder-in with the horse's head toward the center of the enclosure and the croup toward the wall, the horse has to be galloping at the opposite hand.
If, for example, the rider is at right hand and wishes to execute the shoulder-in from right to left, at the same hand, over a line parallel to the long side of the manege, and with the horse's head toward the center and the croup to the wall, it is evident that the first part of the movement which puts the head inward must be done with a right lead. Then for the shoulder-in, the lead must change from right to left. But when the horse once more travels straight along the wall, it is, as before, at the right hand and must lead once more to the right. At first, however, it is better to decompose the movement, changing from the gallop to the trot, at the end of each portion, and then returning once more to the gallop with the proper lead. When,
however, the horse makes the change of lead in the course of the movement, these changes are made without pause or change of gait.
CONTRE-CHANGE of hand is a figure of manege resembling the square. After the horse has passed the short side of the ring and has taken about ten steps on the long side, the rider begins a diagonal change of direction by the half-passage. Arrived at the point, A, ten steps from the center, O, of the manege, the horse is put straight again for twenty steps to B; and after that returns to the long side by a half-passage at C, at the same hand as before the execution of the figure.
At the walk the figure is quite complicated if the tempo of the gait is regular; but the trot is more complicated, because of the difficulty in obtaining the tempo and the regular number of steps.
At the gallop, the difficulties are multiplied by the three changes of lead. The rider being at the right hand before the movement, executes the half-passage leading to the right to A or B, at which point the lead has to be changed from right to left to execute the half-passage from B to C. Arrived at C, the lead is to the left and has to be changed to the right at C. Finally, the horse, now returned to the right-hand lead, has to turn the corner at this new hand, which is the same as that before the execution of the figure.