Equitation/Chapter 2

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THE horse, being saddled and bridled, quiet, and trained to be mounted, is held by the man, who will mount on the left side.


First method: The rider, facing the saddle, in front of the stirrup, and holding the reins in his right hand, places this hand on the pommel of the saddle, while with the left he grasps a handful of hairs of the mane. Rising on the toes of his right foot, he places his left foot in the stirrup, and, after two preparatory swings of the body up and down, by bending and straightening the right knee, on the third, he raises himself upon his left stirrup, assisting himself by both legs and by the left hand. He is now standing erect in the left stirrup, facing toward the horse's right. The right hand, always holding the reins, is next placed upon the right panel of the saddle, the wrist bearing upon the upper part, the upper part of the body is inclined forward, and the right leg is passed over the horse's croup and the rear part of the saddle. Finally, the rider, still supporting his body by the right hand, comes easily down into the saddle, abandons both panel and mane, brings his right hand with the reins in front of him, and without looking or any help, places his right foot in the stirrup.

All other methods of mounting are variations of this, necessitated by peculiarities of either man or horse.

If the horse is tall and the man short, the latter can best reach the stirrup by standing with his left side close to the horse's shoulder, and facing to the rear. Some riders, on the other hand, prefer to face forward, their right side at the horse's left flank, and the right hand, which holds the reins, on the cantle of the saddle.

Still another method, if proportions of man and horse permit it, is to take the left reins in the left hand, which also grasps the mane, and the right reins in the right hand, which rests on the pommel. The rest of the action is like the first method. The advantage is that the rider always has the reins in both hands, and so is ready to control the horse in case of need.


In dismounting, the rider, after stopping his horse, takes all four reins in the right hand, placing this in front of the left and resting it upon the pommel. The left hand, now free, he carries above the left reins and grasps the mane. He then frees his right foot from its stirrup, and raises his weight on his left foot, steadying himself with his two hands. The body being now upright and clear of the saddle, the rider swings his right leg over the croup and brings it near the left. Next, he bends the left knee till the right foot reaches the ground, and takes his left foot from the stirrup, holding all the while to both saddle and mane. Last of all, he lets go the mane with his left hand, and at the same time drops the right reins, still keeping contact with the left, advances two steps to the horse's head, and grasps with the right hand near the bit, either all four reins or else a pair belonging to either the snaffle or the curb.

Mounting and dismounting should be done deliberately, but correctly and without hesitation.

Vaulting is a gymnastic exercise which can be performed, not only with a horse specially trained and equipped for this purpose, but also with an ordinary saddle horse carrying saddle and bridle. When a specially trained animal is employed, it is kept at a canter, in a circle to the left, while the instructor, standing at the center of the ring, with a long manege whip, keeps the gait regular and cadenced.

The best horse for this exercise is a strong, well-rounded, and well-developed cob, of fifteen hands, of good temper and limbs, which has been trained both to hold a regular canter and to stop at the instructor's order. It should have on its back a strong surcingle, with two iron handles, directed forward, not back, and set eight inches below the top of the withers. This must be so firmly fastened in place that it cannot move even if the entire weight of the man bears on one side. The horse is reined from the cavesson with a snaffle to the surcingle.

The beginner is first practiced in springing from the ground when the horse is standing still. For this movement, the pupil stands behind the horse's left shoulder, his right hand grasping the left handle of the surcingle and his left a tuft of hair of the mane, the feet near together and the body straight. He then counts to himself, one, two, three, bending his knees sharply at each count. With the third count, he springs upward, helping himself with his hands, until he holds his body straight, supported on his arms. Then, keeping the left leg immobile, he swings the extended right leg over the croup and seats himself on the horse's back. Meanwhile, the right and left hands have shifted to the handles on their respective sides.

As soon as the pupil vaults easily to the back of the standing horse, he may execute the same movement with the horse walking and trotting.

To vault upon a horse at a canter, the pupil takes the right handle of the surcingle with his right hand, the nails below, and the left handle with the left hand, the nails up. He keeps the same cadence as the horse, the man's leg striding with the corresponding fore leg of the animal. As the horse plants its left foot, the man quickly advances his own right foot to a position near the left, and before the horse again lifts its left foot, the man bends slightly his knees, springs into the air, pulling himself by his left hand, and immediately passes his right leg over the haunches of his mount, shifting his left hand at the same instant to bring the nails below like the other. This movement needs decision, quickness of action, and energy on the part of the man, since he must be on the back of the horse before the latter's right fore foot returns to the ground after its stride. No time, therefore, can be lost.

When the rider is mounted and the horse continues its canter, the man should, for the sake of his future progress, learn to feel the jolt of the horse's motion, and to neutralize this by the relaxation of his muscles and the suppleness of his spine, all in the exact cadence of the step. For it is on this sense of cadence that everything else depends. "If the pupil has not that, he will begin his movement too early or too late, and thus render the maneuver most distressing to the spectator and nearly impossible for himself.

When the pupil has become accustomed to the canter cadence, he may be set to practicing the following progressive series of movements:

Seat the two legs to the left.
Seated to the left, jump to the ground and to the back at the same stride.
Seat the two legs to the right.
From right, jump astride.
From astride, seat to the left.
From left to right.
From astride to the ground and seat to the left.
From left to the ground and seat to the right.
From right to left, jump, and astride.
From seat to the left, to the ground, and from the ground to the right, and astride.
From seat to right, ground to right, ground to the left, and astride.
From astride, jump to the ground, to the left, to the right, to the ground, from right ground to left ground, from left ground to right ground, from right ground to astride.
From astride to facing backward astride.
From astride backward to astride forward.
Same movements repeated at each tempo of the canter.

These movements may be supplemented by others; but this series, well executed, is enough to give confidence and quickness to ordinary pupils. The added movements, even if very brilliant, will not be of great practical use.

When vaulting is taught with the horse saddled and bridled, the methods are the same except that the left hand grips a tuft of the mane instead of the handle of the surcingle.

The instructor will be successful if he makes vaulting a pleasure to the pupil; but not if he makes it hard work.