Equitation/Chapter 7

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The first prerequisites in a horse that is to clear an obstacle properly are conformation, strength, and energy. Any horse, when free, will jump anything if frightened or pursued. But it has to be trained to jump at the rider's will and under his weight.

For this there are various methods, of which the following has proved by experience to be the best.

A bar of wood or a low hurdle is placed on the ground, and the horse, led by a man holding the

longe of the cavesson, and maintained always in a state of perfect calm and docility, is habituated to passing this at a walk. When the animal has acquired confidence, the obstacle is raised progressively, the trainer following the horse and encouraging him by showing the long whip, not, however, striking, unless the horse actually refuses. Even in that case it is better not actually to strike, but only to swing the whip gently. Meanwhile, the man holding the longe must be careful not to hinder the horse from jumping, or to pull against it after it has passed the bar. As soon as the animal surmounts the barrier calmly, it should be recompensed by caresses or otherwise.

When the horse has learned to take the bar at a walk, it is practiced, progressively, at the gallop. Here, especially, is it essential not to excite the animal, nor to check it by the longe, either before or after the leap. For the horse in leaping has to develop a very great amount of muscular energy; and if the trainer hinders it in any way, or at any time asks too much of it, the horse fails to put forth sufficient energy, becomes disheartened, refuses, and tries to bolt.

After this training with the cavesson has proceeded far enough, the trainer mounts the horse, and proceeds once more with the same programme from the beginning.

From this point on, it must always be borne in mind that the horse clears the obstacle by its own act of will. Being trained to leap, it knows the right way to use its powers. The first essential for

the rider, therefore, is to let the horse alone, and not interfere with it by some wrong position in the saddle or some wrong effect of the reins. The important matter, then, is to gallop the horse straight at the obstacle, neither too fast nor too

slow; to feel the contact of the bit and yet permit freedom to the head and neck, not holding them too high or too low; and not to try to lift the horse's front hand, but, on the contrary, to push it forward during the entire movement by the pressure of the rider's legs upon the horse's flanks near the girths. Meanwhile the rider is to sit firm in his saddle, his body always perpendicular to the ground, his loins supple to neutralize the shock.

No other part of horsemanship has given rise to more theories than has jumping. For no two horses jump just alike, nor do any two men ride in precisely the same way. When, therefore, we consider

the different speeds, strides, and conformations of horses, with their differing energy, the special qualities of experience, seat, conformation, and tact of hand of riders, and the various conditions of ground, the excitement occasioned by the company, the variety in height, width, and stiffness of the obstacle to be passed, to say nothing of the temporary physical and moral dispositions of both rider and horse, it clearly becomes impossible to lay down any invariable rule that shall make every jump invariably like every other.

But after all is said, clearing an obstacle is largely a matter of confidence on the part of the rider.

A horse does not, of course, apprehend directly the rider's morale. But he does appreciate to the full the lack of confidence of a rider who, on coming to the jump, stiffens himself, shifts in his saddle, or pulls against his horse's mouth; and it is this lack of confidence, thus communicated to the horse, that causes the animal to hesitate, refuse, or bolt.

Successful training for the jump, in short, involves not only time and moderation, economy of physical and moral energy, attention to the animal's wind, a light weight increased progressively to the normal load to be carried, and frequent rests to avoid exhaustion. Not less essential are the trust of the horse in its own powers, its confidence in the rider, the confidence of the rider in his horse, and no undue interference with it.


When the horse is performing well at walk, trot, and gallop, there is often much benefit, before taking up the jump, in practicing certain of the so-called figures of manege, such as the double, the change of direction, the circle and figure eight, the volte and half-volte. These are taken progressively, first at the walk, then at the trot, then at the gallop.

In these movements, at the present stage of the rider's progress, the horse is kept to the straight line by means of the "lateral effect." Properly, however, this should be accomplished by the "diagonal effect," with which the ordinary rider is assumed not to be acquainted, and which he should not attempt to use until he has passed through the progressive training that belongs to this branch of equitation. The details of these figures are, therefore, included in the chapters on the scientific equitation.