To the public and to my pupils interested in equitation and to those most especially whose interest and generosity have made it possible for me to complete this work.
- H. L. de Bussigny
For seventy-six years, as cavalier, as student, as instructor, I have ridden, under every sort of conditions, horses of every type, every conformation, and every breeding.
My first experiment, at the age of five, was with a donkey, young and entirely unbroken. At the beginning, I was more often on the ground than on the donkey's back; but after six months of perseverance, all its gambols failed to unseat me. At eight years, I had a pony, thirteen and a half hands high; and I received instruction from the Comte d'Aure, Esquire-in-Chief of the cavalry school. This Grand Master was always repeating, "Seat. Seat. It is the sine qua non. Be a cavalier first. Afterwards it will be possible, with study, to become an esquire."
From eight to seventeen, I practiced the precepts of Comte d'Aure in various riding-schools. At seventeen, I entered the French cavalry. I was at the battle of Solferino in 1859. In 1860, I was fighting in Syria; and in 1861, in Morocco. From 1862 to 1867, I was with Maximilian in Mexico. The next year saw me in Algeria and the Sahara Desert, fighting the Kabyles and Bedouins. In 1870 came the Franco-German War; and I fought the Prussian Uhlans. It was when hunting and fighting other men, hunted and fought by other men, on horseback night and day, that I came to realize the truth of the formula, that seat is the rider's sine qua non.
In the army, for the cavalryman to be able to ride is all that the manual asks, since the discipline is unalterable when moving in troop. But, for the individual, the French army protects and encourages studies of the different methods of the various masters of the equestrian art. Before I entered the army, while still at the college, I followed a course of instruction under Baucher, who was then teaching in the school at Collin, Maneye du Rhone.
Although Baucher's method was never adopted by the French army, his ideas have very deeply affected cavalry traditions, because of the great number of officers who have been sent to Saumur and Lunéville to study and report upon his system. Several of these officers were my instructors after I entered the cavalry; and my studies of the art continued under their very able direction.
Experiment with different methods is, however, nearly impossible in the army; so that it was only after I came to the United States in 1872, and, as a civilian, became proprietor of riding-schools, manager of schools and riding-clubs, head instructor in New York and Boston, that I was able to develop certain principles, certain means, certain effects, which had before not been clear in my mind.
Equitation is the sixth branch of horsemanship; and is divided into military, racing, steeple-chasing, polo, and the promenade. Only the last of these is treated in this work.
Riding is one of the most wholesome of recreations, both for mind and body. It does, however, necessitate a certain special and natural aptitude. Anybody, reasonably well conformed morally and physically, can practice the ordinary equitation as a health-giving exercise, easy to acquire. But riding practiced as an art or as a science offers serious and multiplied difficulties, in the solution of which by the student is found all the mental pleasure of the avocation.
The two greatest masters of the art are Baucher and Fillis. With them, in the light of their principles, riding has become truly an art, because these masters have been satisfied to set forth their practices, without giving the reason, the wherefore, of the acts which they dictate. For example, the two effects of the rider's hand upon the lower jaw of the horse impel the animal to the right or to the left. The pressure of the rider's legs upon the horse's flanks gives two more sensations. Here, then, are four signs, by means of which the rider communicates with his mount and thereby controls its entire mechanism. These sensations, caused in a living animal, certainly have for it a meaning: they oblige certain parts to act. The rider closes his leg upon the horse's right flank, and the horse turns to the right. But what is the mechanical reason? When each and every movement of the horse in response to its rider's signals is explained on mechanical principles, then equitation is no longer an art. It has become a science, and therefore invariable.
The difference between my system of training the horse and the systems of Baucher and Fillis is, in part, that I have carried farther the science as distinguished from the art. But besides this, while Baucher and Fillis trained their horses for the sake of executing the movements of the high school, I employ these airs of the high school, not as an end in themselves, but as a means for developing the physical and mental qualities of the horse itself. These masters specially chose the animals which they were to train. I, by means of my system of gymnastics, seek to improve and develop an animal of any original conformation that may be given me.
The purposes of this manual are, therefore, to explain the mechanical reason for every effect which the rider exerts on the horse, and to set forth the successive steps by which, practically, an actual animal is to be trained and developed. Underlying principles and theories are everywhere explained with the greatest possible clearness. In spite of a good deal of inevitable condensation, the methods here set forth should prove perfectly easy both to understand and to apply.
H. L. de Bussigny
- Boston, May, 1921