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War Department,
Office of the Chief of Staff,

Washington, April 28, 1913.

Authority having been obtained for the use of the
Manual of Equitation of the French Army for 1912, trans-
lated by First Lieut. Adna R. Chaffee, jr.. Thirteenth Cav-
alry, it is herewith published for the information of the
Regular Army and Organized Militia.

By order of the Secretary of War:

W. W. Wotherspoon,
Major General, Acting Chief of Staff.



In the absence of a theory based on simple and logical
principles, the mounted instruction given to troops lacks
unity and, in consequence, force; with no written method
young officers are not sufficiently equipped to well accom-
plish their tasks as instructors.

The Manual of Equitation and Horse Training
is intended to fill this gap, so many times observed.

It contains, however, no innovations, but merely sums
up the advice of Pluvinel, de la Gueriniere, the Comte d'
Aure, Boucher, Generals L' Hotte, Faverot de Kubrech,
de Beauchesne and Jules de Benoist and the application to
horse training of the known laws of the association of sen-
sations, as well as the traditional principles of the Cavalry

The Manual comprises three principal divisions:
1st. The Education of the Rider.
2d. The Education of the Horse.
3d. The Use of the Trained Horse.

The first part treats of the instruction of the rider ac-
cording to his grade in the military system. The necessity of
simplifying the instruction of the recruit to hasten his entry
into ranks and the obligation of pushing the training of the
horse as far as possible have made it necessary, in order to
conciliate these opposite interests, to modify former

The principles remaining always the same, the in-
structor may henceforth grade his instruction according to
the ability and requirements of his pupils— young soldiers,
reenlisted men, noncommissioned officers who are to take
part in horse training, or the officers charged with the in-
struction. These divisions are called Elementary^ Secon-
dary and Superior equitation, according to whom they are

In order to abridge the manual, it has seemed best not
to state again in Chapter I, devoted to Elementary Equita-
tion, the lessons given to recruits which are set forth in
Part II of the Drill Regulations. But the Board has tried


6 Foreword

to indicate those things which should influence the in-
structor in the course of his daily lessons.

Secondary Equitation treats of the management of the
horse (conduite du cheval) ; it permits a detailed study of
the natural aids, with a brief naming of the artificial aids.

This chapter has been drawn up following the princi-
ples of the School of Versailles, transmitted to the Cavalry
School by the Comte d'Aure, whose "cours d'equitation"
approved by ministerial decision dated April 9, 1853, sets
forth the means which a rider has for overcoming or avoid-
ing the diflaeulties born of the use of the horse.

The chapter devoted to Superior Equitation only gives
a general view of the purpose and means of action. The
genius of the "haute ecole" is the genius of art and does
not lend itself to words.

The second part treats of the education of the horse.
It itself is divided into two parts, in which are set forth the
best methods for acclimating and breaking (debourrer) the
young horse, and the rules which govern his training. It
studies the mental constitution of the horse, the principles
which may serve in the adoption of an equestrian language,
indispensible for the accord of rider and mount; it shows
the gymnastic exercises which teach the horse to respond
to the requirements of man.

A table sets forth the several phases of this education
and the work which corresponds to each phase. This table
is merely an indication and should be considered only as a
type of progressive and rational training.

The third part assumes both man and horse to be train-
ed and lays down the necessary rules for the daily use of
the horse out of doors and in combat. The principles here
given may serve as a base in the mounted instruction given
to noncommissioned oflScers and to former soldiers (on

The manual does not pretend to solve all the problems;
long practice with the horse is alone capable of that. Its
object is only to put current ideas in order and to faciliate
the tasks of the instructors, to whom it is exclusively ad-

Officers may draw from it the principles to inculcate
in those under their command. But they alone, be it un-
derstood, will be responsible for their knowledge and ability
to demonstrate these principles.



Foreword ^

General ideas— Object and divisions 11-12


Chapter I. Elementary Equitation:

A. School of the Trooper 15

B. Raie of the instructor in the School of the

Trooper ^^^

Qualities of the instructor -Ends to seek 15-16

Establishing the confidence of the rider 16

Maintenance of position:

(a) the seat; (6) the stirrups 16-17

Special gymnastics for the rider 17

Position of the rider 18

Suppling exercises 1^

Chapter II. Secondary Equitation:

The management of the horse 21

Par. 1. Study of the aids:

Aptitudes— Natural aids 21

Action of the legs— Action of the reins 22-24

Accord of the aids— Accord of the two reins. 26
Agreement of the two legs— Agreement of the
legs with each of the effects of the reins___ 27
Lateral and diagonal aids— Lateral and diagonal

effects 28

Table, showing the live effects of one rein.__ 29

The weight ^^

Artificial aids ^^

Mastership of the aids 36

Use of the aids— Tact of the legs 37-38

Tactof the hand 38

Chapter III. Superior Equitation (education of

the officer) ^^

Chapter I. Education op the Horse:

The saddle horse ^^

Qualities of the saddle horse 45


8 Table of Contents

Chapter I. Education of the Horse— Continued. Page.

Conformation 46

Quality— Breeding 47-48

Relation between breeding and training 49

Chapter II. Generalities:

Influence and responsibility of the colonel 50

Influence and responsibility of the troop com-
mander 50

Qualities of the instructor and the trainers 50

Care given on arrival in the regiment 51

Object of the education of the young horse 51

Divisions —

Breaking and training 52

Circumstances which may influence the
duration of the education of the young

horse — General rules 54

Chapter III. Breaking:
Objects of breaking—

Phases— Importance of work— Work not

mounted 56-57

Work on the longe 57

Saddling— Mounting lessons 59-60

Training to bear the saber— Mounted work —

First lessons of aids — Movement 61

Halting— Turning 63

Backing— First lessons at the gallop 64-65

Preliminary conditioning — Organization of
sections: Leaders— Value of the various

gaits 65-66

Defenses of the colt 67

Use of the double bridle — Preparation of the
colt for his future use in case of mobiliza-
tion — Hygiene — Shedding and period on

grass 68-69

Choice of ground — Individual work — Har-
ness — First instruction over obstacles —

Leading 69-70

On the longe— At liberty— Mounted 70-71

Chapter IV. Training 72

Principal factors in training, the instructor,

the rider, the work — Time 73

Physiology of training— Influence of character
and conformation 74

Table of Contents 9

Chapter IV. Training— Continued. p«,i...
Limit of training— Base of an equestrian lan-
guage 74-75

Principles of movement— Impulsion 77

Balance '^

Locomotion— Raie and position of the head in

movement 79-80

Role and position of the neck 81

The gather— Suppling the colt 82

Restistance— To obtain engagement of the
hind quarters and mobility of the haunches-
Extending and collecting the gaits 82-83

The halt— The half halt 85

False gallop ^'

Backing— Suppling of the spinal column— To

obtain free play of the shoulders 87-88

To obtain suppleness of the jaw 89

Two tracks and shoulder-in 91

The cadence trot— Balance— Observation of

the gait 93-94

The gallop departs ^^

Conditioning ^^^

Jumping, the horse being mounted 101


Chapter I. Use of the Horse 10'^

Keeping the horse straight _' 107

To change the gait and in a given gait to
change speed— To maintain a given gait and

a given speed 108-109

Change of directions ^^^

Galloping a horse ^^^

Cross country and over obstacles 113

Individual combat ^^^

Chapter II. Defenses op the Saddle Horse

Ignorant horses— Horses that are afraid-
Horses with bad conformation— Mean hor-
ses— Horses that rear llG-117

Horses that kick— Horses that fight the
hand— Horses that lower the head against
the chest— Horses that star gaze 117-118

10 Table of Contents

Chapter II. Defenses of the Saddle Horse— Cont. Page.
Hot-headed horses — Horses that jig— Horses
that pull— Horses that open the jaws and

pass the tongue over the bit 118-119

Successive phases of the education of the young

horse 119

Tabulation of 119


Object and Divisions. —The object of military equita-
tion is to make troopers capable of managing their horses
in all circumstances and over any country.

Mounted instruction therefor comprises the practice
of the approved methods for teaching the recruits; the
study and use of the principles necessary for the riding in-
struction of old soldiers and noncommissioned officers;
also the application of approved rules in the training of
young horses.

The mounted instruction includes three divisions:
I. The education of the rider. II. The education of the
young horse. III. The application of the principles of
equitation and horse training to the use of the horse.

Parti. Educationof the rider. —The education of the
rider supposes his horse to be trained. This part of the
instruction comprises all which is especially addressed to
the man; it describes the qualities of the instructor and
the method to be followed to develop the rider's aptitude.
Morally, it aims to establish his confidence; physically, his
muscular suppleness. It teaches the proper seat and the
best means for its maintenance, and it establishes the prin-
ciples for the guiding and use of the horse.

The seeking of these results requires the following of
fixed principles and much practice. The instruction, too,
can not be the same for all grades of the military service.
Elementary equitation is that given to recruits, and
its phases are contained in The School of the Trooper,
Mounted; it comprises only what is absolutely necessary
to the trooper in ranks. Secondary equitation, whose de-
velopment forms the object of this manual, is entirely re-
served for the instructors; they can draw from it the ideas
to impart to the noncommissioned officers and selected
troopers in perfecting their instruction.

The superior instruction in equitation is more es-
pecially reserved for officers who, besides accuracy and

12 Manual of Equitation and Horse Training

the practice of bold riding, should endeavor to acquire all
the "finesse" of the art. This is the object of the riding
instruction given at the Cavalry School.

These several degrees of instruction differ from each
other only in their extent and in the indication of more or
less elementary or scientific methods according to the
abilities of the riders to whom they are addressed; they
rest on the same principle and tend toward the same
object, and insure a harmony of instruction which is indis-
pensable to the proper use and the progress of the Cav-

Part II. The education of the horse presumes, on the
other hand, a trained rider; it comprises the examination
of everything which concerns the horse. It considers,
morally, his mental constitution, and means for establish-
ing his confidence; physically, his temperament, putting
him in condition, then the laws of balance and animal
locomotion from which come training properly called.

Part III. Application of the principle of equitation and
horse training to the use of the horse. — This chapter con-
siders the trained rider mounted on the trained horse
and lays down rules for use in the daily work. There is
nothing fixed in these divisions; they overlap mo;"e or less.
Nevertheless, in assigning a certain place to ideas and
facts they tend toward the clearness necessary in the ex-
tended domain of equitation; they direct the efforts of the
instructor or rider according to the location of faults— the
ignorance or awkwardness of the man or the weakness or
bad will of the horse.


Equitation of the Rider





(See French Cavalry Drill Regulations, Pt. 1, Art. 2.)



Qualities of the instructor. — The instructor is the
prime mover in the riding instruction. He should be a
horseman; a man of character and endurance; he should
be always an example of correctness, tenacity, and exact-
ness. He establishes a logical progression conforming to
the spirit of the Drill Regulations; he assures the regular
succession of the steps in the course, and he keeps his pu-
pils awake and keen by the variety of his instruction; each
day brings out a new but forseen element.

The explanations which he gives while mounted are
reduced to strict necessity. They are formulated with
precision and pronounced in such a manner and place that
every rider shall hear them. They are never given dur-
ing fast gaits. On the other hand, no individual fault hav-
ing bearing on the position or the management of the
horse should be let pass without correction; it is only by
incessant criticism of the same errors that a habit may be

The instructor is guided by the ability of his pupils;
he gives them in the beginning only the simpler difficul-
ties to overcome. He conducts his work methodically,
increasing his requirements little by little.

He remembers that progress does not come from the
movement, but from the manner in which the movement
is executed.

These prescriptions, taken together, form the "ef-prit
de methode," the framework of the instructici , b t i « ;
the soul.

The instructor should, in his ii gei uit> ard bii- pr c t i
his role, find the ideas to introduce and the woids to ust


16 Manual of Equitation and Horse Training

which will strike the imagination, amuse, persuade, draw
out, and communicate to all his zeal, his self-denial, and
his faith.

Ends to seek. — The preparatory work described in the
regulations very briefly, involves some developments,
from the instructor's point of view, without which this
work will not produce the expected results.

The successive objects to be attained in this first part
of the instruction are: To give confidence to the rider;
to give him means for holding on ; to lead him to acquire
independence in the use of his aids; to give him the proper
position of the trooper mounted.

Establishing the confidence of the rider. — The mounted
instruction of the recruit is hindered at thebegining by an
unreasoning, instinctive revolt of his nervous and muscular
system which leads to contraction. This is combated by
vaulting and by having the recruits ride by the side of older
men who hold the recruits' horses by the longe, by encour-
aging them, by establishing their confidence, and by out-
of-door work.

The particular contractions which show up from the
beginning of individual work will disappear under the use
of the suppling exercises prescribed in the School of the

In order to miss none of their useful effects one must
follow a logical order; commence by the seat, the loins, the
shoulders, the arms and head, and not undertake the move-
ments of the thighs and legs until ease in the top of the
body is obtained.

The best suppling, however, is good humor, which leads
promptly and directly to confidence.

Maintenance of position.— As soon as confidence is
obtained, we must fix the rider in his seat in order to push
his instruction. The rider is maintained in his saddle by
his seat and the stirrups.

(a) The seat.— Seat is that quality which permits the
rider to remain master of his balance in all circumstances,
whatever may be the reactions of the horse.

It is the first quality to be sought, because it is the basis
of solidity, and therefore of confidence and it is the mea-
sure of a good hand without which neither management
nor training is possible.

Manual of Equitation and Horse Trainincj 17

It results from a general decontraction, particularly
from suppleness of the loin. The road to it is opened by
appropriate gymnastics, and it is acquired after a time from
trotting and galloping without stirrups and from riding
many different horses. These alone put the rider truly with
his horse. However, this result requires long practice;
and in seeking too much in the beginning, we risk soreness
and fatigue — and go contrary to the end in view.

(b) The stirrups.— It is necessary, then, in order to
quickly give confidence to recruits, to have recourse to a
second means of maintenance — not so good, but sufficient —
which will permit them to remain mounted longer and to
progress without chafing and without hurting the mouths
of their horses — the stirrups.

The trot without stirrups will rarely be used except in
the riding hall or for short trips out of doors as a suppling
or proof of the decontraction. The time of the trotting
will at first be short and frequent, then lengthened little by
little, to push down the thighs and place the seat; all of the
riding-hall work, including jumping, can then be done
without stirrups.

Routine work, long sessions out of doors, marches and
maneuvers, in one word — time— accomplishes the end be-
gun without stirrups in the preparatory work, and will give
the men as good a seat as they can acquire in their short
term of service.

By this means one will gain the time necessary to de-
vote to the second part of the instruction, the management
of the horse.

Special gymnastics for the rider. — The management of
the horse depends on the independence of the aids— the
base of their future accord. This independence is the result
of special exercises to which the young rider should be
submitted from the beginning of the preparatory work.

The instructor endeavors to obtain:

(1) The independence of the hands with respect to the
movements of the body and legs.

To obtain this result he commands the flexions of the
trunk, more and more marked forward, backward, right
and left, suppling of the shoulders, etc. In all these move-
ments the hand or hands which hold the reins should remain
in place without stiffness, in contact with the horse's mouth,
but independent of the movements of the trunk. And so

18 Manual of Equitation and Horse Training

too with the legs, the raising and turning of the thighs, and
the bending of the knees should produce no counter blow
against the horse's mouth.

(2) Tiie independence of hands and legs with respect
to each other.

In order to obtain this liberty the instructor will com-
mand all suppling exercises tending to isolate and to render
independent the movements of a hand or a leg with respect
to each other. The most useful movements to obtain the
result sought are the rotation of one arm to the rear; fist
blows to the front and rear, tapping the horse on the right
buttock with the left hand, and vice versa, girthing and
loosening the girth, etc. The instructor watches always to
see that the movement of one of these parts of the body
does not lead to movement of the others. The results of
this work are proved by extending the gait, sitting to the
trot or trotting without stirrups. If this gymnastic work
has been well directed, the joints and members have
acquired an independence such that the reactions of the
horse, received by the spinal column, have no deranging
effect on the rider's hand, which remains light and steady.

From the beginning the riders must be impressed with
the importance of these exercises. It is necessary to see,
besides, that they neither let the reins flop nor make too
much use of their strength. In a word, one should seek to
teach them to just feel the horse's mouth. This feeling, in
developing little by little, will serve to establish the prin-
ciple of the stretched reins and of the gentle contact of the
hand with the horse's mouth. It must be spoken of, and
sought from the beginning.

Position of the rider. — This is defined in the Drill Regu-
lations. By reason of the positions given them, the superior
and inferior aids can act with a maximum of promptness,
aptness, intensity, and "finesse."

Certain of the suppling exercises facilitate the play of
the joints, and permit the correction of physical defects and
the overcoming of the resulting contractions.

A general suppleness being acquired, the instructor
seeks a new objective, to place the rider and then to fix his
position at all gaits, on all horses, and over all terrain.

When the instructor commences to take up position he
should utilize the first time at the walk to place each rider
individually before starting the section to trot. As soon as

Manual op Equitation and Horse Training 19

the positions are deranged, he must retake the walk, re-
place the riders, and start off again. Whence conies the
necessity, at the beginning, for short and frequent periods
at the trot? Thus, good positions will be acquired.

Fixity on horseback is the absence of all involuntary or
useless movement and the reduction to strict necessity of
those that are indispensable. It is the opposite of bounc-
ing. It permits the aids to act with precision and exacti-
tude, and in conseqence it leads to calmness in the horse
and contributes to his lightness.

It must be understood that regularitj^ in the position is
subordinate to union with the horse. To be with his horse
is the first quality in the rider. To be well placed generally
leads to being with the horse; there are, however, some
conformations which would only lose by being forced into

A good position of the rider depends above all on the
manner in which his eyes, hands, buttocks, and knees are

(a) The fact of having his eyes alert and sweeping the
horizon wall lead to the rider's holding his head up, keep-
ing his chest square, and sitting down in the saddle. Fur-
ther, from the beginning, the men learn the habit of observ-
ing what goes on around them.

(6) If the hands are well placed, separated as they
should be, the nails face each other, the elbow^s come
against the body naturally; in consequence, the shoulders
fall back, the chest is free, and the head is easily raised.
On the other hand, if the nails are down, the elbows fly out,
the shoulders come forward, and close on the chest; the
head follows the movement of the shoulders, the eyes are
lowered, while the buttocks tend to slide to the rear.

(c) The seat results from the position of the buttocks.
They should be as far forward as possible without leading
to an exaggerated sinking of the spinal column.

(d) If the knees are well turned inward the muscles
of the leg are placed under the femur and the flat part of
the thigh bears naturally. The position of the knee con-
trols that of the foot, which hangs normally.

Suppling exercises .—It may be seen from the above
that the suppling exercises play an important part in the
instruction of the rider; but their use demands tact. Used
by some instructors, without order or method, they give

20 Manual of Equitation and Horse Training

only mediocre results; by others, however, they very quickly
improve even the least gifted riders.

Considered together, the suppling exercises have a
triple end, as they serve to obtain: 1, General supple-
ness; 2, suppression of involuntary movement; 3, regular-
ity of position.

The instructor chooses and groups for these three ob-
jects the exercises which to him appear most suitable.

In the first two cases the exercises commanded are ad-
dressed to the whole section, since the instructor seeks a
general result. In the last case, however, the proper ex-

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Online LibraryFrance. Ministère de la guerreManual of equitation of the French army for 1912 → online text (page 1 of 10)