Henri Louis Paul Robert Blacque Belair.

Cavalry horsemanship and horse training : (Responses an questionnaire D'Equitation de l'Ecole de cavalerie) online

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influence the balance of the horse is affected to the
extent of turning him either to the right or left, accord-
ing as the weight of the neck is carried on to one or
other of the shoulders. The shoulders unequally
weighted turn to the side on which the excess of weight
inclines them.

The distribution, equal or unequal, of the w^eight
of the horse on to the limbs, which support it, has a
direct influence in imparting a line of movement to
the whole body.

When the horse is mounted, the mass which the
legs sustain is not wholly comprised in the weight of
the horse itself ; it is necessary to add also that of the
horseman, the upper part of whose body in displacing

a. FIRST EFFECT (Lateral).
The Opened Right Direct Rein.


b. SECOND EFFECT (Lateral)
Right Direct Opposing Rein.

S/urr'tr cJ^caa,^*^.

c. THIRD EFFECT (Diagonal .
Right Indirect Rein.



d. FOURTH EFFECT (Diagonal).
Right Indirect Opposing Rein.

cy'/vcrr^' (U^

e. FIFTH EFFECT (Diagonal).
Right Indirfxt Opposing Rein.


itscir contril)utc.s greatly to the modilicutions Avhich
the aids bring about in the balance ol the horse. It
is accordingly necessary to warn the rider not to oppose
the movements of the horse by a bad distribution of
his own weight, but, on the contrary, to assist them by
])laeing his weight so as to favour the direction desired.
In the walk, in the halt, in turning, and in the side
movements, the rider, by carrying his weight on to the
buttocks or thighs in the direction of the movement, can
accordingly simplify and hasten the obedience of the
horse. Whilst sufHciently clearly marked in the break-
ing of young horses, these displacements of the seat
should become less and less marked as the training
advances, and in the High School of Riding it reduces
itself to simple pressure on the stirrup.

Lateral and diagonal aids — Lateral and diagonal effects.
— In instruction, in order to shorten the explana-
tions, the aids should be considered either from the
point of view of the various combinations, which result
from the association of both hands and both legs, or
from the point of view of the direction of their action,
that is to say, of the effects produced.

When the determining aids are applied on the same
side of the horse, for example the right leg and the
right rein, they are called lateral aids. When, on the
other hand, one is applied on the right side and
the other on the left side of the horse, for exam2:)le the
left leg and the right rein, they are called diagonal aids.

If one considers the direction in which the reins
act, lateral effect describes every action of the hand,
right, for example, acting on the right side of the horse ;
e.g. direct rein — opened rein — and the direct rein of
opposition. On the other hand, diagonal effect in-
cludes every action of the hand, right, for exam2)le,


acting at the same time backwards and from right to
left (actions indirect and indirect of opposition).

In accordance with these definitions, if when moxing
sideways to the right, the rider makes principal use of
his left leg and the left rein, he employs the lateral
aids ; but the left hand acting backwards and from
left to right produces a diagonal effect.

If in the same movement the rider employs prin-
cipally the left leg and right rein he uses the diagonal
aids ; but the right rein, in drawing the horse's head
slightly into the direction of movement, produces a
lateral effect.

These remarks show how more apparent than real
are the distinctions drawn by certain writers between
lateral and diagonal horsemanship. True horseman-
ship is nothing but the combination of all the aids,
and of all the effects, lateral or diagonal, which we
have just mentioned. The rider has two hands and
two legs which can act separately or together, laterally
or diagonally, and thus produce various effects. It is
for the rider to use, according to the horse he is riding,
or the end he has in view, the aid or the aids which
should produce the desired effect.

Artificial aids. — The whip, martingales, nose bands,
the dumb jockey, etc. These different aids may be
invaluable, when first breaking a horse, to rapidly
regain lost authority, or to give some difficult subjects
the work necessary for their training, but it must not
be forgotten that most of these means, excellent in
certain hands, become dangerous when used by
inexperienced horsemen. Besides, the results, ob-
tained perhaps very rapidly by means of these aids,
are as a rule superficial, they can therefore only
supplement the true education of the horse, which


consists as miicli in moral submission, as in physical
obedience to the natural aids.

II. — Self-Control

The discipline of the aids. — However exact theoreti-
cally the effects of the legs and reins may be, their
effects can onl}^ have practical utility, if the aids
which produce them arc perfectly disciplined, and
under the control of the rider's will. In horsemanship
you must not only know what to do, but you must
be able to do it.

The control, which we must exercise over our
means of making ourselves master of our horses,
demands, before everything, the control of the moral
forces mentioned in the preceding chapter. Calmness,
jDatience, and coolness, amid difficulties, are all qualities
indispensable to the right practice of horsemanship.
It is often the case that a horse is disobedient because
the moral of the rider is not in its normal balance.
The absolute independence of the aids (legs, hands,
and the weight of the body) is none the less important
to acquire, because it alone will develop their necessary

Our organism makes the free play of our limbs
difficult, and to be of use the most simple movements
require an apprenticeship.

If, for example, you tell a young horseman to close
in the left leg, you will see nearly always the right leg
automatically remove itself from the saddle to a
distance equal to the movement of the left leg.

An impartial examination reveals, even in the case
of the best horseman, faults daily committed in the


control of the horse. If the horse does not readily
obey, it is not generally owing to ignorance or bad
temper on his part ; it is because the aids, misapplied,
are powerless to transmit the rider's wishes, and do
not indicate the desired movement.

Dexterity and awkwardness. — Since the control of
the nerves, muscles and limbs, is one of the keys of
equitation, it is of the greatest importance that the
instructors should knoAV the scientific causes of what
one commonly calls awkwardness.

In a limb, one half of the muscles are intended to
act in one direction, and the other half in an opposite

In nearly all movements these antagonistic muscles
come naturally into play, and their conflict causes, in
the limb, an immobility which is far from being
repose, and is what is called contraction or stiffness.
This contraction does not confine itself to the limb
in which it started ; it develops in other parts of the
body, where it produces disorder, and either interferes
with the movement or gives rise to what is useless.
The forces thus lost, or which become harmful, are
considerable. The recruit, when his horse is out of
control, brings into play, without stopping him, the
power of his uselessly contracted shoulder muscles,
whereas by making use of his fingers only on the reins,
he would have stopped him easily : this is "waste of

It is therefore indispensable that tlie horseman,
like the marksman, should train his muscles by

In the preparatory work, from the earliest instruc-
tion on horseback, one tries by a series of appropriate
suppling exercises to make the application of the aids,


as it were, more delicate ; to give to the hands and
legs an independence relative to the movement of
the body ol' the man, and of the horse ; but the results
obtained are nevertheless mostly negative, a sort of
inertia. What we are concerned with obtaining now,
is an independence, productive of energy, giving the
aids an active intelligence, and, later on, bringing
about the desired movement.

The work of the instructor who has arrived at this
stage of training, consists in making and multiplying
for the young horseman occasions for the employment
of the aids, and in teaching him to appl}^ them in an
exact and precise manner, separately at first, and
then in combination.

(a) The pupil, holding the reins separated in the
two hands, is told to use, in simple movements, firstly
the effects of opening the rein, then the effects of the
indirect rein, followed by the opposition effects, whilst
completely slackening the rein which does not determine
the movement.

Example : —

" By the right opened rein, turn to the right."

" By the indirect right rein, turn sharply to the

" By the left direct rein of opposition, half turn

to the left," etc., etc.

(b) He is then taught, in combined movements,
to substitute the effects of opening the rein for the
effects of opposition, or indirect effects for the effects
of opening the direct rein.

(c) When this exercise of the hands separately is
well understood, and well done, one should teach,
with the same movements, and with the same pro-
gression, the use of both reins, brought into harmony,


the hands acting, resisting and yielding, according to

{d) Then make the movements comphcated and
at fast paces, so as to give to the hands decision and

In the midst of these growing difficulties, the
instructor should satisfy himself that the rider rightly
uses all the action of hands and legs which are ordered,
and that he understands the effects, which are the
consequence. The instructor also shows the position
of the head and neck to be aimed at, the faults to
avoid, and will correct incessantly all the faults

It is by a series of exercises for the hands and legs,
executed with a definite end in view, that the muscular
feeling, indispensable to the proper control of the horse,
is developed. Skill takes the place of the early awk-
wardness, and the rider has only to acquire the tact,
which is the result of experience, to enter into full
possession of all his means of controlling the horse,
and to overcome all difficulties as they present them-

III. — The Proper Use of Energy
The Will

Employment of the aids. — ^When the rider knows his
powers, and is master of them, it remains for him to
decide on their employment, and to use them tactfully.

Equestrian tact, which has been defined as modera-
tion plus a propos, is the sense which watches over
the economical use of the powers of the horse and of
the rider ; it brings the latter to determine the effect
he wishes to produce, the intensity of this effect, and


the right moment to try for it. It enables him to
overcome resistances if they occur, or better still, to
prevent them.

The agents of equestrian tact are the seat, the legs,
and the hands.

The seat. — The seat, of which the importance has
been described throughout from the point of view of
giving recruits confidence, plays an equally important
role, in secondary equitation, in the art of horse control.
It is in effect the scat which enables the rider to
acquire the feeling of the mechanism of the paces,
to perceive a great part of the contractions of the
horse, and in particular the resistances and submission
of the hindquarters, the seat of the impulsive forces.
Moreover, the firmness and confidence, which the seat
gives to the rider, alone allow of his using his aids
independently and employing them accurately, as
taught in the preparatory work ; the seat should be
constantly improved and maintained during the whole
time the man is in military service.

Right use of the legs. — The legs can only act in
one way, but there is in their use a question of a propos
and also a question of intensity, which the spur will
render still more energetic, and which demands, both
in the case of the legs and spurs, a real delicacy. The
rider by his seat and bj^ his legs, can acquire a certain
feeling of the movements, however fugitive they may
be, which constitute the raising, the suspension, and
the placing down, of the legs ; he can therefore profit
by it to hasten or lessen the action of the legs, and to
annul in consequence their combination, and so rectify
and modify the paces.

Qualities of the hand. — The study of the action of
the reins has well marked their theoretical effects,


but these effects produce results verj^ different,
according to the quality or defects of the hand which
causes them.

The quahties of the good hand are fixity, Ughtness,
gentleness, and firmness.

To have the hand fixed, does not mean that the
hand should remain motionless in its position ; it
should, on the contrary, in accordance with the neces-
sity, carry itself upwards, to the right, or left, but in
the execution it should be free from all involuntary
or useless movements.

This quality is the first to search for, and the most
important of all ; without it the others Avill not be
able to show themselves in their fullness. The un-
certain hand, which is the opposite of the fixed decided
hand, can neither have lightness, gentleness nor
firmness, and the most attentive horse is unable to
obey its ill-regulated actions.

The light hand feels the simple contact with the

The gentle hand gives support.

The firm hand gives a decided support. The hand
should also know how to resist with firmness when
necessary, and to yield the moment the resistance
ceases, then return to gentleness, which is alwaJ^s the
touch of union between lightness and firmness. It
is in this sense that one has been able to define the good
hand, as having in the fingers a force equal to the
resistances of the horse, but never superior to them.

If at first, the hand, the wrist, and forearm, take
part in the action, when riding a trained horse, it is
solely by the closing more or less strongly of the fingers,
or the more or less loosening of their hold on the reins,
that the rider transmits his wishes to the horse.



The superior school of horsemanship is merely the
normal development and the exact application of the
principles which serve as the basis of all horsemanship.
It teaches the officer to preserve even in the midst of
the greatest difficulties, a perfect and firm seat, with
justice and fineness in the application of his aids,
combined with an absolute discretion in their employ-
ment. It teaches, in fact, the ease and correctness of
position, which proves the control of the rider over
himself and the clear free working of his mind. It
searches for constant forward impulsion in the horse,
calm absolute obedience, and a position rigorously
straight and balanced, in the execution of all move-

Without considering the teaching of the Haute
Ecole, the higher education borrows from scientific
horsemanship the use of certain of its airs, such as
the classical movements to one side, the changing of
the leading leg in the canter, and we might add the
passage movements wliich show in the horse an extra
degree of submission to the aids, whilst at the same
time they develop, to the greatest degree, tact and the


sentiment of the horse, in the rider. By insisting,
both in the case of the horse and of the rider, on sobriety
of movements and gestures, perfection of balance, and
grace of attitude, the superior school of horsemanship
has done much to produce the reputation enjoyed by
the French School. The qualities which it develops,
are a powerful element in discipline, because they
increase the prestige of the instructor, and strengthen
his authority, by showing his unvarying superiority
in the daily work of his command.



demands made on an army horse require in him a <,a'eat
many different qualities. He has to earry a considerable
weight,* travel long distances, and often at a fast
pace ; he has therefore to possess endurance, hardiness,
and handiness. These qualities are nearly always
found in a horse which has a naturall}^ good balance,
good paces, breeding, and conformation. The naturally
good balance, which is the first quality to look for in
a riding horse, enables him to have constant control
of himself, even with the weight of a rider on his
back, to easily change from a slow pace to a fast one
and vice versa; to be, in fact, supple in his movements,
and easy to ride from the first. The theory of balance
has not up to now been scientifically considered ;
owing to the rapidity and frequency of a horse's
movements, the study of balance or of conformation
is practically limited to the study of the animal at
rest. Anatomy is nothing but the study of organs
from which life has been withdrawn. It is therefore

* 111 the British Cavalry a man, weighing 10 stone 7 lbs,
stripped, rides no less than 21 stone, in full marching order.


only by riding a horse, that one can with any certainty
decide on his merits. Experience, nevertheless, enables
one to establish certain general rules, which fix the
good points to be looked for in a young horse, and
to form an opinion as to what he will grow into.

If the horse has a wither running well into the back
and rather higher than the quarters, the chest deep,
and the girth groove well behind the elbows, the
saddle will rest in a good position. The rider and his
equipment being placed between the two ends of
the balance, near the centre of gravity, will not disturb
the equilibrium by overweighting the shoulders. This
conformation, combined with well- shaped hocks,
causes the horse to be easy to handle and control
in a fight, and in the daily work the effort is distributed
over the body, which consequently does not prematurely
wear out. The paces ought to be such as will enable
the horse to cover the greatest distance with the
minimum of effort. This condition excludes high
action, and places value on the level extended paces,
which are the least fatiguing for both horse and rider.

If the trot is more especially the pace for the road,
the pace for fighting is the gallop. More than ever
the actual necessities of w^ar require the fast paces
maintained for long distances. The army horse ought
therefore to be above everything a galloper, and the
relative length of the ischium is a characteristic of
this aptitude.

Handiness is indispensable in going through
evolutions in open country, and it is acquired all the
more promptly and completely in proportion as the
horse has the necessary conformation, an open angle
at the junction of the shoulder and arm, and powerful
hindquarters. If the length and obliquity of the


shoulder, combined with hi<,^h withers, assists the
bahiiicc, by enabling the rider's weight to be evenly
distributed, it is the relative length and vertical
position of the arm, still more than the direction of
the shoulder, which gives freedom in the paces and
handiness. The power of the hindquarters, which
drive the horse forwards or backwards, gives the horse
control of himself and of his balance ; it gives him
the free use of his hocks and enables him to bring
them more or less under his body ; it enables him to
pull himself together, or to extend his i^aces according
to circumstances ; in fact it puts it in his power to
take any direction or speed he wishes.

Moreover, if his confidence in his long and oblique
shoulders enables the horse to land lightly over a
fence without any apparent effort, it is the contraction
and thrust from the hindquarters which gives the
spring that carries him over. The riding horse should
therefore have a large hip bone, projecting well at the
side, and extending slightly above the spine, producing
what is called the jumping bump.

The perfect shape. — If one adds to the require-
ments just mentioned, a forehand formed less by a
useless length of neck than by the addition of cervical
vertebrae, and a wither running w^ell into the back,
one will have the frame of a riding horse in all its
useful beauty, and in consequence, the type to look

One of the first qualities of a riding horse is, that
he should carry his saddle in the proper place, that
is to say, the girths should naturally pass well behind
the elbows.

The other points to look for arc —

A broad forehead and a well- set- on head.


An open, intelligent eye.

A well-proportioned and well- set -on neck.

A high wither, running well into the back, and
slightly higher than the quarters.

An oblique shoulder.

A long and straight arm.

A forearm with large powerful muscles.

A deep chest.

A strong back.

A wide loin with strong muscles behind the saddle.

Well-shaped long quarters, slightly sloping and

Large prominent hips.

The muscles of the thighs and second thighs well
developed and extending well down towards the

Short, compact body with well- sprung ribs.

Knees low down, large, wide, and flat.

Cannon bones short and strong.

The hocks large, straight, and low.

The legs hard and clean, ending in four good
symmetrical feet.

A fine skin.

A horse with these characteristics will not only be
well balanced, but will move well and possess a free
striding walk ; a trot starting from the shoulder,
which is long, easy, and regular ; a gallop which is
smooth, powerful, and extended.

Quality. — This results from the constitution or
power of endurance of the organs with regard to their
work ; blood, which by the energy it gives enables the
organism to resist the ordinary causes of collapse ;
stamina or endurance in any kind of work.

Courage, however, alone secures the maximum


advantage of this quality. The horse's quaUty arises
from various causes ; it depends upon good food from
the earhcst age, from the soil on which he has been
reared containing lime, and so developing bone and
strength of muscle ; but it depends chiefly on the
breeding of the horse. It is indispensable therefore
to secure the proper mating of the thoroughbred horse
with the half-bred mare to transmit the blood, and to
maintain the size.



The quality and docility of the horses are essential
elements in the value of cavalry.

They can be obtained, or at any rate largely
developed, by the care given to the education of the
young horses.

COMMANDING OFFICER.— The Colonel helps, by all
the means in his power, the regular and complete
course of instruction, which must be considered as
the basis of the value of the regiment as cavalry. By
frequent inspections, by courtesy and encouragement
accorded to officers, non-commissioned officers, and
men, who distinguish themselves in the course of
training, the CO. exercises a personal influence on
the nature of the results obtained. He gives orders
for the perfect upkeep of the riding schools, for the
allotment of exercising grounds suited to the work, as
also for the laying out of courses on which the horses
can be galloped in all weathers, and in every way
shows by the great trouble he takes himself, how
keenly interested he is in the success of the training,
and consequently in the energy which others jDut into
their work.

No horse is admitted into the ranks without having


been submitted to the examination of the Colonel l)y
the man who has trained it.

Influence and responsibility of the squadron leader.
— In each squadron, the squadron leader is responsible
for the training. All the lieutenants and second-
lieutenants as well as the non-commissioned officers,
and certain chosen troopers, take part in the work.

The training lessons, which are given to the young
horses by the N.C.O.'s and others, are directed by an
officer specially selected for this service, and chosen
by the squadron leader.

Qualities of the instructor and the trainers. — This
instructing officer should be selected from among
those who have already had a certain experience,
and who possess sj^ecial aptitudes for the work, of

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Online LibraryHenri Louis Paul Robert Blacque BelairCavalry horsemanship and horse training : (Responses an questionnaire D'Equitation de l'Ecole de cavalerie) → online text (page 3 of 10)