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Equitation/Chapter 11

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CHAPTER XI
THE FIRST WORK ON FOOT

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

Figure 1 . THE HORSE SEES AND FEELS THE WHIP WITHOUT FEAR
Figure 2. CONTACT OF THE BITS WITH THE MOUTH BY THE WHIP ON THE FLANK
Figure 3. CONTACT OF THE BITS WITH THE MOUTH BY THE WHIP UPON THE CHEST

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.)