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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which the most important are sound common sense
and a love of method, without which the most brilliant
qualities remain sterile if not dangerous.

During the training the young horse is always
ridden by the same man. There results from this
association between the man and the horse, a mutual
understanding, which in course of time serves as a
point of departure in the education of the latter. The
training of the horses is superior to any other duty
in the squadron, and exempts the man from having
to train recruits. Consequently the men so employed
are withdrawn from other duties while the training

The men employed in breaking in the horses are
chosen from amongst those who are fond of a horse,
love grooming him, and are known to be patient and

The non-commissioned officers and troopers selected
for training horses should also possess an education


and a proficiency as horsemen, without which there
is no hope of success. In fact, if it is the wxll-trained
horse that makes the good horseman, it is also equally
true that the only man capable of training the horse
is the man who is skilled in riding him.

Care on arrival at the regiment. — On arrival at
the regiment the young horses should be placed by
themselves, and entrusted for some days to the
veterinary officer, who considers them from the point
of view of health ; but this isolation should be as
short as possible. They are then handed over to the
squadrons to which they are allotted, stabled together,
and given a special treatment, intended to acclimatize

The first care should be to keep them healthy, to
adapt them to military life, to develop their strength
by well-regulated feeding and exercise, to get them
accustomed to men, to being shod, groomed and
saddled, and lastly, to the weight of a man on their

The object of the education of a young horse. —
The training lessons are given either in company or
alone, taking into consideration the horsemanship of
the riders and their experience, the character of the
horses, and certain considerations of service, of time
and of place.

The troopers' horses before they can be considered
completely trained, should be able to execute all
movements prescribed by the Cavalry School, and
especially they should be perfectly quiet when being
mounted, should walk freely and regularly in a straight
line, should be handy in all the paces and in all changes
of direction, and should pass or jump every kind of
obstacle, endure the pressure in the ranks, and leave


them readily ; be used to all parts of their equipment,
not be frightened by sights or sounds, and should
be trained to arms.

The various phases in the training should be left
to the initiative of each instructor, but they ought
all to be governed by two fundamental principles,
viz. giving the horse confidence, and the methodical
graduation of the demands of the rider, hased on the
association of sensations.

A horse may be given confidence in an inhnite
number of ways of which the most usual are caresses,
repose following immediately on the least sign of
obedience, the easing of the legs and reins, the passing
to a walk after the faster paces, or even the getting
off the horse after a result has been obtained.

One should never lose sight of the interest which
comes from carrying on the training without haste,
and methodically.

Nevertheless, kindness and patience are useless
without firmness. The persistence in the employment
of the aids ; the energetic use of the legs or of the
spur, the whip, or the cavesson, are means which can
be used with some horses whose will has to be

The measure and the a propos with which one should
combine these various means cannot be positively
laid down ; it is their just ai^plication that displays
the tact of the trainer. The officer in charge of the
training exercises, moreover, a constant and rigorous
control as to the manner in which the riders make use
of the different means at their disposal for overcoming
the resistance of the horse.

Finally, the good condition of the horses, the hard-
ness of their legs, and their good disposition, are the


best criterion of the competency with which the work
has been directed.

Divisions. Breaking in — Training. — Tlie education of
young liorses lasts two years. This is a rule which
admits of only one exception, and that is in the
case of mobilisation.

The preparation of the army horse, for his definite
employment, has two periods, each having its own
distinct object.

1. The breaking in, to which is assigned the first
year of military service of the young horse (four to
five years old) ; it has for its object the physical
development of his power, acquired by appropriate
work, and the formation of his character.

2. The training proper, to which is given the
second military year (five or six years old) and which
has for its object the complete submission to the aids.

These two years, notwithstanding their special
denomination, do not constitute two periods clearly
defined ; they represent, together, the time which is
indispensable to make the remount fit to sustain the
calls of military service. The very words " breaking
in " and " training," convey in themselves, and
constantly impress upon the instructors, the profound
difference which exists between the work which a
young horse not yet fully set can stand, and the de-
mands that can be made on a six-year-old horse.

In effect, the young horse should not be submitted
to the difficult exercises of training, until his moral
development, on the one side, and the development
of his frame, on the other side, permit of his going
through without fatigue.

The gradation to observe in the exercises, to which
the horse is submitted for his development, constitutes


a dclinilc Iriiining with laws, principks, and hygiene,
which originate in the very nature of the horse.

With regard to the training, the ^progression is
much the same as that employed in making the horse-
man. This methodical order proceeds from the simple
to the complex, graduates the actions of the rider
according to the degree of obedience the horse shows,
and progressively varies the combination of the aids.
It is necessary to be careful, at any rate at first, to
execute the movements under the same conditions and
in the same manner, until the horse is confirmed in
the knowledge of the rider's actions by the effect of
repetition. It is only little by little that an obedience,
at first uncertain and difficult, will be transformed
into a habit almost instinctive.

The second military year being finished, the young
horse takes part in the work of the old horses in the
training of the unit, and thus learns perfect obedience.
It is a useful transition between the training proper
and the time when the horses enter definitely on

Circumstances which influence the duration of the
education of the young horse. — In the education of
the young horse certain circumstances have to be
considered, which wull influence his training. His
health, breed, age, feeding, previous work, character,
natural balance, and his being unused to the saddle,
are so many conditions which will hasten or delay the
progression of the work. Some aged horses sent direct
to the regiment by the remount depots can at once
commence the advanced training, others, on the con-
trary, and in particular brood mares put back to work,
should be kept at the early breaking work until their
strength is sulliciently developed.


The instructor should study and weigh all these
considerations, and he will draw upon his experience
for means which will help him to attain his end, i.e.
to bring all the young horses to seven years old,
healthy, free from blemish, and capable of fulfilling
on all kinds of ground the duties which a soldier has
to perform on active service.

The instructor ought always to keep the following
rules in mind : —

Never commence work without having clearly
fixed in his own mind the end to be attained. Proceed
in the education of the horse from the known to the
unknown, from the simple to the complex.

Employ exactly the same aid effects of placing
and stimulating to obtain the same result.

Remember that in the execution of all movements
position should precede action.

Never demand anything of a horse which still
vibrates under the impression of a previous demand.

Never fight two resistances at the same time.

Never confound the want of aptitude in the rider
with the ignorance or bad disposition of the horse.

Demand a new movement at the end of work ; pat
the horse and get off him.

In addition to these rules it is right to remember
that all through the course of the education of the
young horse " one should be content with a little
progress ever}^ day, to demand it, but nothing more."
" The rider should have clear in his mind the point at
which the horse has arrived on the previous day, and
not aim at the immediate and perfect execution of the
movement " (General I'Hotte).



1. To encourage by good stable management, food, and
work the thorough development of the phj^sical power
of the young horse.

2. To give him the first instruction in the aids, and
to prepare him for their discipline.

It has therefore for its principal object, as has
already been stated, the gradual conditioning of the
young horse. The progressive handling, the time
spent in the special stables, where the young horse is
fed with corn and given a certain amount of exercise,
serve as a commencement of this training and help the
early efforts.

Certain demands, military or physical, necessitate
the division of the breaking into several phases, each
of which has an object imposed by these obligations.

PHASES.— The dates which fix the period of these
stages are —

1. The beginning of January, when the early
training ought to be accomplished.

2. The first days of March, Avhen the mobilization
training commences.

3. The departure for the manoeuvres, which marks


the end of the breuking and allows of an almost com-
plete rest.

The time when the coat changes, and that Avhen
the horses are tm-ned out to grass, complete the series
of phases, which in the same way will again be found
in the second year.

The importance of work. — Work is the most
important factor in breaking. Besides the part it
plays in the development of the organs of the young
horse, it is the regulator destined to keep his health
and character in proper poise.

If the young horse does not get sufficient work he
becomes too fat, and at the same time too lively ; he
damages himself under his own weight, increased by
that of the rider, and he ruins his mouth by fighting
against the hand that tries to bring him to order.
Nevertheless, like all army horses, it is necessary that
the young horse should be in somew^hat high condition.

The w^ork he is given to do out of doors, should
be long and slow, one hour and a half at least ; of
short duration in the school, say half an hour.

The employment of felt boots or bandages is recom-
mended to preserve the legs, and especially while the
horse is being lunged.

Dismounted work. Walking out on the rein. —
Leading the young horse by the side of old stagers is,
during the first days, an excellent exercise, which
alloAvs of the horse getting rid of his superfluous energy
without danger to his legs, of his getting used to strange
objects, and of his finding the calm which is indis-
pensable in useful work. The many circumstances in
which the cavalry horse has to be led in hand makes
this exercise very profitable, but it is not necessar}^ to
continue it for any length of time.


During this exercise, it is advisable to lead the
young horse first in one hand, and then in the other,
so as to avoid always bending him to the same side.

The results to aim at during the first phase, are
obedience on the lunging rein, and standing still whilst
being mounted ; in fact, to teach the horse to adjust
himself under the rider, that is to say, to w^alk steadily
forward in the new balance. This triple aim is of the
very greatest importance for the future, and will not
allow of half measures. The instructor must therefore
give all his attention to the perfect execution of these

Work on the lunging-rein. — This is of the greatest
use in the training. It familiarizes the horse with the
man, whilst at the same time making him feel the
power of his master, and indicating to him the first
ideas of obedience.

The lunging-rein, moreover, enables one to make
him work at the fast paces without fatigue, to get rid
of his superfluous energy when he cannot be ridden, or
when his rider is absent, and to dominate by hard w^ork
a vicious horse without fear of damaging his legs. The
work on the lunging-rein is also the basis of training
a horse to jump. One should, moveover, profit from
the authority Avhich it gives to the man over the horse
to get the latter used to being girthed, to carrying the
sword, to standing still at the mounting block (in the
case of difficult horses), and finally to teach him to
yield the quarters with the whijD.

All horses ought to be perfectly trained to the

The cavesson which is used for this work should be
sufficiently large, well padded, arranged so that the
mountings cannot hurt the eye on the outside in the


work on a circle, placed sufficiently high so as not to
interfere with the breathing, and it should not have too
much play, so that the action on the nose should not
be too strong.

The whip is carried in the right hand if the horse is
working to the left, and with the point behind. It
should be hidden as nauch as possible from the horse,
and should only be used to indicate one's wishes or to
touch the horse ; it should never have a lash.

The first lessons are of such importance that they
should be given to each horse by the instructor himself,
or by sj^ecially qualified N.C.O.'s with experience in
the art. Moreover, if these lessons are well given, a
few^ short lessons will suffice.

The instructor holds the lunging-rein in the right
hand, about two feet from the horse's head ; the end
of the rein being looped up and held in the left hand.

After gaining the horse's confidence by patting
him, the instructor makes him move forward, by
stretching the rein slightly and gi\'ing a click of the
tongue. He walks thus alongside the horse in the
riding school in a straight line or in circles. He stops
frequently saying, " way " or " wo," pats the horse
whilst standing still ; lastly, he changes the hands
holding the rein, and repeats the lesson.

If the horse moves forward at the click of the
tongue, stops at command, and walks on kindly without
pulling, the instructor ceases to work on a straight line,
lets the rein slip slightly through the hand, and starts
the horse on a small circle, making use of the long
Avhip, or cutting- whip ; he himself walks round with
the horse, a little behind the shoulder, so as to maintain
the forward movement. He stops the horse often,
goes up to him, pats him, and then restarts him. He


proceeds in the same way in a circle to the other hand.
If the horse hesitates to move forward, the instructor
moves backwards towards the quarters, yielding the
rein at the same time. If necessary, he can get the
assistance of another man. The important point
is not to be rough with the horse, nor by frightening
him to make him pull backwards. When the horse
works well to both hands, calm and at the walk on a
small circle, the rest of the training is a simple matter.

The instructor makes him first trot, then canter ;
to increase the pace he uses his voice or the indications
of the long whip ; he at first always follows the horse
on the circle, walking behind him on a level with the
quarters ; moving on the contrary towards the
shoulders, if he wishes to stop : it is only little by little
that he decreases the circles, and he himself follows till
he becomes nearly stationary.

The length of the radius depends upon the speed.
The cadenced trot on a small circle is an excellent
exercise for the young horse ; on the other hand, at
an extended trot, or at the canter, there would be
danger in restricting to a small circle animals whose
joints are essentially weak.

If the horse rushes off suddenly, it is necessary first
to yield the rein freely, then to oppose the movement
and bring the horse back little by little.

If the horse stops, one can make use of the long
whip to force him to move forward, directing it tow^ards
the quarters. If the horse comes in closer, he should
be sent out again by directing the long whip towards his

If the horse pulls violently at the rein when working
at the fast paces, it is a proof that sufficient time has
not been taken in the training. He should be stopped


frequently, and recommence the work at the cadenced
trot on a small circle.

It helps in the early lessons to work in one of the
corners of the riding school.

The wall can also help in stopping a horse who has
got out of hand.

The voice, used at first with power in order to make
the horse understand, should secure the same obedience
when the indications are more quietly given.

The lunging-rein equally communicates to the horse
the instructor's will ; light horizontal oscillations
send the horse away from the centre ; jerks, more or
less sharp, regulate his paces or stop him, when he
does not obey the voice.

If the work on the lunge has been well directed,
the horse should be calm and regular in his movements
on the circle ; pass freely from one pace to another at
the simple indication of the voice ; come in or go out
from the centre, according to the liberty given him ;
in a word, he should be on the hand when the lunging-
rein is slightly stretched, as later on he should be when
the reins are stretched.

Getting him used to the saddle. — When the horse
has been settled down to work, and is perfectly quiet
in the cavesson, he should be gradually accustomed to
the girth, as this lesson is apt to cause considerable
trouble when it is given in the stable.

The saddle is first put on without stirrup leathers,
the girth is at first loose, and it should be gradually
tightened up during the work. When the horse is
used to the saddle and girth, the stirrup irons are
added, and are allowed to hang on both sides, whilst
the horse walks and trots. He is thus prepared for
the mounting lesson, which becomes easy ; resistances


arc generally the result ol' saddling and mounting a
young horse for the first time on the same day.

The mounting lesson. — The instructor, in accord-
ance with circumstances, decides on the most opportune
moment for giving the mounting lesson, but he should
always give it after work, because the consequent
fatigue is a guarantee of calm. This lesson can also,
in certain cases, be given during the lunging lesson,
but always when the horse is relaxed by exercise.
The instructor personally directs the first lesson, which
is given to each horse individually, and he will exercise
the greatest gentleness and patience.

Accompanied by an assistant, carrying if desirable
a sieve full of oats, he places himself in front of the
horse and pats him, without taking hold of the reins,
except in case of necessity. The rider goes up to the
horse's head, strokes him on the face, the eyes, the
neck, and the quarters ; strikes the saddle, moves
the stirrups about ; then he takes the reins, at a good
length, and mounts the horse without haste, but also
without hesitation. If during the lesson the horse
moves or goes backwards, the trainer goes back to the
horse's head, draws the horse forward with the bridoon
rein, and again mounts quietly. The rider takes care
when placing the foot in the stirrup to drop the toe
so as not to irritate the horse by touching the side.
After raising himself in the stirrup, he should imme-
diately place himself in the saddle ; as, by placing
the whole weight of his body for any length of time
on the one side, he disturbs the balance of the horse,
and makes it impossible for him to stand still. He
will place the right iron on the foot with the right
hand ; if he searches for it with his toe he will probably
frighten the horse.


He should generally avoid starting the horse into
the walk immediately he is in the saddle, so as not to
associate the action of mounting with forward move-
ment in the animal's brain. It is even useful at first
to finish work with the mounting lesson, and then
return the horse to the stable as a reward.

If any of the horses give serious difficulty they
should immediately be replaced on the cavesson.

The mounting lesson should be given on both sides,
and be repeated every day. This part of the education
of the young horse should be thorough. It is necessary
to obtain absolute docility in the midst of noise and
movement, in fact in all circumstances in which it
would be essential in war to have a horse absolutely
stationary when being mounted.

Nevertheless, one should not, at first, be too exacting.

Training to the sword. — The lunge can be used
for getting the horse accustomed to the sword. As in
the case of all new experiences, it is as well to wait till
work is over before giving this lesson. At first the
scabbard only should be placed on the saddle, and
when the horse ceases to fear it, the sword can be
added. This work, which is done at the three paces,
is, it should be understood, varied with caresses and
frequent periods of repose. It is no more than a
prelude to the series of exercises, intended to accustom
the horse to the sword, w^hich are practised when
working in the open.

Mounted work out of doors and in the school. —
As soon as the horse is accustomed to a rider, commence
to get him into condition. This work continues without
interruption till the end of the military year, that is
to say, till the manoeuvres, and it should be given as
much as possible out of doors.


It is evidently in the open, and in working on
straight lines, that the young horse acquires most
rajiidly the fullness of his power. Nev^ertheless, the
early exercise is given in the school, so that the in-
structor can give a more personal supervision and be
able to study more carefully the horses and the men,
and to avoid accidents which are always possible.
Some old well-broken horses introduced amongst the
young ones, will have a good influence. The work is
also carried on in the school during cold weather, and
the opportunity will be taken for giving the first lesson
in the aids.

Early education in the aids. — This early education
is indispensable before a horse can be ridden out of
doors. It consists in teaching him to go forward to
the pressure of the legs, to reduce his pace and stop
when the reins are felt, and to turn when simple
indications are given.

The horses are bitted with a double snaffle or with a
bridoon only. The quality, upkeep, and placing of the
bits is an object of special and constant attention.

The walk. — The basis of all training is a free,
vigorous, forward movement, and it is necessary from
the very first to train the horse to yield to the pressure
of the legs. This is the first lesson to give, and it
should be constantly repeated. It demands at first
the following precautions : —

1. Never allow the legs to remain fixed against the
sides, but apply them by frequent intermittent touches.

2. Close in the legs near the girths, and do not
animate the horse by applying them too far back on
the flanks.

3. Commence by giving this lesson when changing
from the walk to the trot, afterwards when extending



the trot, and later on in passing from a stationary
position to the trot.

4. Assist the action of the legs by accompanying
it, if necessary, with a click of the tongue, or with
touches of the whij) on the shoulder. This last recom-
mendation is especially relevant to the forward move-
ment Avhen the lesson is given in the school ; when out
of doors, especially when walking behind an instructor,
the young horse has a natural tendency to go forward
in following him, and this is another reason in favour

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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 4 of 10)