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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of commencing outdoor work as early as possible.

In the forward movement the reins should be
stretched. If this is not the case, the horse, instead of
being collected, wobbles about, and the rider has no
230wer to direct him.

It is easy to keep the reins stretched in the case of
fairly energetic horses with a natural desire to go
forward ; the rider has merely to fix the hands, and
without checking the horse's pace, to moderate little
by little his keenness. It is more difficult to teach
the habit of feeling the hand to young horses just up
from grass, underbred, and without vigour. These
as a rule only stretch the reins to get their heads carried
when they are tired. With this kind of horse, it is at
first the rider who must search for the horse's mouth.
Later on, when work has strengthened the horse,
it will be he, who, having formed the habit of feeling
the bit, will, when solicited by the pressure of the legs,
search in his turn to stretch the reins. If he obeys the
pressure of the legs, or merely a touch of the heels,
the work on a straight line at the walk, trot, or gallop,
will bring him insensibly to take the desired feeling
on the hand ; it is then for the rider not to discourage
him by inappropriate severity ; a fixed hand with


contracted fingers would spoil the horse's mouth and
have a bad result.

Consequently, in this first lesson of the action of the
legs, the hand ought not to oppose the extension of the
neck ; on the contrary, the fingers should be half open,
so that the neck can readily stretch itself, and that
nothing should run counter to the goodwill of the
horse in his forward movement — to sum up, the legs
are active, the hands passive.

There may be an advantage in putting on spurs
early in the breaking of certain horses especially
lacking in vigour, and which are irresponsive to the
pressure of the legs ; but even in this case the spur
should not have sharp rowels. With well-bred horses
it is usual not to Avear spurs at first. The use of the
spur, in most cases, does not seem to give any si^ecial
lesson : the horse nearly always replies to it by rearing.

In the case of mares or of horses which cow-kick
and refuse to go forward, it generally suffices to put
them back to the cavesson, and to give them a stroke
of the whip at the moment the rider applies the spur.

The halt. — To stop the horse, the rider gradually
increases the pressure of the fingers on the reins, while
at the same time straightening his body. He regulates
the vigour of his action in accordance with the
sensibility of the horse's mouth.

When stopping, the horse should remain well-
balanced and light in hand.

One should not sto]3 nervous horses too often, or
those which are balanced too much on their hind
quarters, or those which have a general tendency to get
behind the hand ; on the contrary, stop those often
which, owing to their conformation, have too much
weight on their shoulders. Training is nothing else


but the search for balance ; halting is an excellent
exercise for horses high and strong in the hind quarters,
and which are consequently difficult to regulate in their

Turning. — Horses are accustomed to follow the
man who leads them with the bridoon reins : it is this
oj^en action of the reins, always responded to by the
horse, which serves as a basis for guiding him.

(a) To turn to the right the rider opens slightly
the right rein by carrying the hand forward and to the
right ; it is necessary in this movement to carry the
passive hand forward and down, so as not to counteract
the active rein.

It is in fact very important with young horses, that
every sensation that we give him should be perfectly
distinct and clear.

The effect of opening the rein should make itself
felt to the side, and with the least possible backward
tension. It nevertheless provokes a slight reduction of
speed which the pressure of the legs should counteract.

(b) The horse having been taught that his main
duty in life is to go forward, as the action of a single
leg, whilst it stimulates him to move forward, pushes
the quarters to the opposite side, one takes advantage
of the fact that the action of the hand tends to the same
result, to associate with it the action of the leg, and
thus strengthen it. Thus the young horse is taught
the action which results from the opening of a rein,
and the pressure of one leg, and accustoms him to
carry the quarters to the side opposite to the actiA^e

(c) When the horse readily obeys, at the walk and
trot, the action of the opened rein, teach him the
action of the indirect rein, that is to say, in view of the


exercise to which he will have to submit later on,
when being ridden with one hand, teach him to turn,
say to the right, with the left rein. It is sufficient, to
obtain this result, to make use of the corners of the
school, and make the horse do some circular movement
by opening the rein ; and the moment the horse com-
mences to obey, we should substitute the action of the
indirect rein by carrying the left hand forward and to
the right ; the opened rein acts as an interpreter to
the indirect rein, and the moment this latter comes into
play we should cease the action of the opened rein and
drop the right hand, so as to allow the indirect rein
to have its full effect. After several successive and
alternative indications of these two actions, the rider
diminishes and then suppresses the employment of the
opened rein, in proportion as the horse better under-
stands Avhat is wanted of him.

The rein-back. — This is a very secondary move-
ment in breaking. It should only be executed when
on foot, and only a few steps at a time.

It is to these elementary notions of the aids that
the first lessons confine themselves, before taking the
horse out into the open. Every possible movement at
all the paces comes from four elementary actions,
which it is necessary to make him understand, im-
mediately and separately, before associating them so as
to produce combined effects. These actions are, to
move forward to the pressure of the legs ; to slow
down, or stop, on the reins being stretched ; to move
the shoulders and the quarters to the side. These
elements being well understood by the horse, the
ordinary riding exercises, judiciously arranged accord-
ing to his powers, development, and health, finish his
education. This will be the work of the final trainin^f.


First lessons in the canter. — If special courses of
grass or sand are not available, in the case of young
horses, work at the canter should be given in the school.
In the case of horses from the south, which canter
naturally, the simj)le pressure of the legs ordinarily
suffices to bring about the disturbance of balance
which determines the pace desired. It is not the same
with horses from the north-west, often underbred or
descended from the trotting strains. The start of the
canter by extending the trot is difficult, and ought to
be severely discouraged as a cause of disorder and of
accident. It is, on the contrary, by starting, from the
slow trot on the circle, or when turning the corners of
the school, that the horse is got to break into a canter
on the desired leg. In every case the aids to use are
the action of the outside rein drawn behind and across
the withers — diagonal effect — and the pressure of both
legs. These aids, by restraining the action of the
outside shoulder, push the horse to the other side,
disturb the balance towards the side of movement,
and force the horse to strike off at a canter. A few
clicks of the tongue help the first starts.

The riders in adapting themselves to the rhythm of
the canter, by continuing the action of the legs, and by
accompanying the movement of the neck with the
hands, help the maintenance of the pace. After a few
lessons the starts become more and more calm, but
one should not ask a young horse to make too many of
them. It is periods of cantering, and not starting the
canter, which are of importance. Out of doors, as in
the school, the instructor only gives this lesson to a few
horses at a time ; he regulates the number and length
of the canters in accordance with the temperament,
character, and breeding of the horses. Those which


do not gallop go out for walking exercise alone, or arc
mven the mountinfr lesson.

Conditioning. — AVork in the open air ought to
commence as soon as the 3^oung horses, accustomed to
the rider's weight, have sufficient knowledge of the
aids to enable them to be taken out without fear of

The open air, the employment of the paces in
accordance with the nature of the ground, their
regularity, graduation in length and speed, the periods
of rest and slackness intelligently used, are the elements
which the instructor has at his disposal to attain his
object, and to develop normally the organs of the young

Organization of the lessons. The leading horse. —
The instructor divides the young horses into groups
according to their breed, character, temperament, and
paces. The examination which he has made during
the early lessons in the school, the study of the registers,
in which arc entered by the Remount Service the
performances, and the age at which the horse was
iQOught, help to fix their first division.

Every day, as the horses leave the stable, the in-
structor examines the legs of the young horses ; he
then has them walked round him, notices their apparent
condition, and their expression of face ; asks the
riders about the appetite and character of their mounts,
about the difficulties which occur, and as to the results
attained. The instructor groups, in accordance with
the information received, the horses capable of doing
the same work, and marks off those which ought to be
sent out alone.

The horses which work together are divided into
parties of four or five, and do their work on different


routes, or at least sufficiently separated to insure their
independence, and freedom from disturbance. At the
head of each group, at any rate during the first few
days, an old horse is placed to serve as instructor.

The value of the different paces. — The walk plays
an important part in conditioning, because it can be
maintained for a long time without fatigue ; it supples
all the joints when it acquires its full extension',
strengthens and hardens the tendons, and also pro-
duces calmness and strength. By gently following
with the hands the movement of the neck, which is
very pronounced in the extended walk, the rider at
the same time gives confidence to the horse, and
accustoms himself to maintain contact with the bit.
For all these reasons this pace plays a very large part
in the breaking.

The trot is useful at the outset, firstly to settle the
horse down, then to get impulsion and bring him to
accept the support of the hand, which is indispensable
in maintaining movement on a straight line. Thus
held between the legs Avhich push, and the hand which
supports, the horse gets into the habit of stretching
and fixing his neck in the direction of movement,
which assists his future training.

From a physical point of view, the trot quickens
the circulation, whilst at the same time it develops
the muscular system. Tor the young horses, as in the
case of the young horseman, the periods of trotting are
at first frequent and short. The duration of the trot
is increased when through work the horse commences
to get into condition.

The canter is the very best exercise for the young
horse, it places him at the same time on his hind legs
and on the hand, and develops the lungs to the greatest


extent. It is a pace which the horse ought to be able
to keep up for a long time without fatigue, and he
should be taught it early in his training, but on account
of the mechanism and the power of this pace, one
should only demand it, out of doors, on very good
going. If good going is not available, it is preferable,
until the horse is more advanced in condition, to canter
him only in the school.

Out of doors there is no question of carefully pre-
pared starts in the canter ; the instructor proceeds
out of doors, as in the school, by upsetting the balance,
and regulates the duration of the periods of cantering
according to the progress of the horse's work, and his
state of condition. At first avoid, under pretext of
regulating the paces, entering into a conflict which is
harmful to the mouth of the young horse, and likely
to break his paces, or destroy his natural impulsion.
During the whole of this part of the work, the principal
aim of which is physical development and the giving
of confidence, the rider plays to some extent a 2:)assive
role, and makes every concession which will not have
a bad effect on the health or character of the horse.

Opposition of the young horse. — When dealing
with these a very great difference should be made
between the manifestations of stubbornness or bad
temper, and bounds which result from lightheartedness.

If it is indispensable to make a point of defeating
the first named, from the commencement, it is equally
a mistake to punish a young horse for shying. When
the rider feels the horse ready for a fling, he should
close in his thighs and legs, drop his hands, close the
fingers on the reins and wait.

In the same way when the young horse gets out
of hand, rushes forward, or throws himself to one side,


one should not try to restore order, as most inex-
perienced riders do, by a regular action of the aids
(since the young horse hardly understands them when
he is calm and in a slow pace) ; one should fix the
hands, and then as soon as the horse is calm, stop him,
replace him, and press him forward. This method of
procedure is, moreover, always, even in the case of old
horses, the one which gives the most certain and
prompt results. In every case the instructor recom-
mends patience and kindness. He moreover instils
into himself the teaching of the most famous masters
of the French school, who had for maxim " to avoid
upsetting the young horse, and not to destroy his
gentleness, because it is with the horse as with fruit,
what is once taken away never returns " (Pluvincl Le
Manege Royal).

Preparation of the young horse for his eventual employ-
ment in case of mobilization. — After a few weeks'
work, it is indispensable to commence to prepare
the horses for the part they will eventually be
called upon to play in case of mobilization. Whilst
rigorously following the progression established with
a view to the exercise of the horse, one can, for ex-
ample by taking the sword and the bridle when
working out of doors, habituate the young horses
from time to time to the equipment, to the distinctive
headdress of the rider, to the cuirass, to sword exer-
cises when standing still, walking, or on the march,
and can also get them used to firing, by being present
at rifle practice.

The bridle. — As soon as the horses have free and
extended paces, and they accept without hesitation
the support of the hand, one can, without incon-
venience, put a double bridle on them, on condition


that only work on straight Hncs is demanded, until
the bars of the mouth arc used to the bit ; by doing
this one also avoids letting the young horses form the
bad habit of carrying their weight on the shoulders,
and bearing on the bit. One should also take off
the curb chains, and choose mild bits.

There is not in training any regulation method
of holding the reins. It is for the rider, in accordance
with the end he has in view, and the resistance he
encounters, to find the method which makes the
most effective use of the actions of the bit and of
the bridoon. But the best method of holding the
reins is that which makes it most easy, when occasion
demands, to separate the reins and hold them in
each hand.

Individual work. — The individual work of the
horses, which it has not been possible to commence
in the school or on the parade ground, is carried out
with great regularity out of doors. The instructor
takes advantage at first of the return journey to
divide the young horses into grouj)S, reduced daily
in number, and sends them by different roads. These
groups in their turn subdivide themselves into smaller
and smaller groups, and the young horse is thus
progressively brought to work alone. The demands
are increased until one has obtained from each horse
a ready obedience and an absolute calmness.

The mounting lesson is frequently given during
the whole time that work is carried out in the oi:)en.
The results obtained in the school have only value,
in so far as they serve as a basis for the employment
of the horse in the country.

Early jumping lessons. — There is an advantage,
in commencing the jumping education of the horse


at an early age, providing one docs not aim at more
than making the horse clever and free. Do not im-
pose on the horse any excessive effort, and whilst
he should be made to respect the obstacle, it is best
to teach him over low but fixed jumps.

Training in hand. — The horses having been ac-
customed by work on the long rein to follow their
riders without hesitation, we make use of it to get
them to jump in hand all the small natural obstacles
which one meets, such as ditches by the side of the
roads and small streams, and to descend steep slopes.
The instructor should not forget that his object is
to develop the cleverness of the young horse, that
this is only secured by calmness, and that calmness
is the result of the trainer's patience. No violent
methods are, therefore, employed in this work. There
is need, nevertheless, to take the greatest precautions,
that the horse does not make use of the liberty, which
is of necessity given him, to turn on the man and
strike him.

Jumping obstacles by the horses led in hand should
not be considered merely as a means of arri\dng at
jumping when mounted, but also as an end in itself.
It is a method of getting over obstacles which should
be taught and made perfect. It is on this method
that a body of cavalry, as well as a single soldier, must
depend, when faced with a difficult piece of ground.

Jumping on the lunging-rein. — As the horses
become stronger the instructor adds to these lessons,
in the case of each individual horse, some jumping
lessons on the lunge or at liberty. These exercises
increase the cleverness, develop the powers, improve
the balance, and consequently increase the confidence
of the young horse.


For jum2:)ing on the lunging rein the horse is put
on a circle, or, to be more exact, on an ellipse, so as
to have some distance of a straight run at the jump,
which enables him to regulate his stride and avoids
the necessity of turning sharp after jumping. The
instructor, to keep him on this ellipse, must follow
the horse to some extent. He should always be in
a line with the horse's quarters when he arrives at
the jump. When the horse takes off, and during
a few strides from the jump, he lets the lunging-rein
out. He commences with a bar on the ground, and
this should not be raised till the horse passes over
it at the three paces without lengthening his stride
or slowing down.

To calm the horses and teach them to raise the
points of their shoulder, they should be frequently
made to jump from the walk and trot, and one should
replace the bar on the ground whenever the horse
shows fear or nervousness. Often vary the nature
and the height of the jumps, and train the horse
to jump equally well to either hand. Never try to
reach the limit of the horse's power ; it is by work,
patience, and plenty of small jumps, that his powers
are developed, and he becomes a reliable fencer.
The instructor should consider the jumping lessons
as difficult work, and so give them himself and get
the assistance of the N.C.O.'s and capable troopers.

Jumping at liberty. — Jumj^ing at liberty, in the
circular enclosure or in the riding school, can be
usefully employed to perfect the style of certain
horses, and to give freedom to those w^hich lack this
quality. But it is very delicate work, w^hich requires
the presence and vigilance of the ofUcer.

The work in the circular enclosure makes the


horses calmer than work in a square enclosure, as
they can be allowed to take several consecutive

The enclosure should be made on a piece of ground
measuring 45 by 25 yards. It is composed of two
tracks j^laced side by side, each one formed of two
straight parts joined by a suitably rounded turn.
Each track measures from 3 to 4 yards in width.
The three palings which separate the tracks are, for
instance, the interior one about 5 feet high, and the
exterior one 6 feet high. On the straight portions
are arranged jumps of various kinds, so made that
they can be negotiated both ways. The inner track,
reserved especially for teaching high jumping, only
contains obstacles which can be raised or lowered
according to the capability of the horse. The outer
track, intended to make the horses clever across
country, has fixed jumps rather more formidable
than those the rider is called on to jump when riding
over a country, banks of various sizes, ditches, and
water jumps, etc.

The instructor stands in the centre of the en-
closure and directs the horse's work with the voice
and whip (c/. " Dressage en libcrte du cheval
d'obstacles," by Comte Louis d'Havrcncourt).

Jumping mounted. — When the horses jumj)
cleverly and without hesitation, they should be
mounted and jumped over some small obstacles,
preceded by a clever old horse, the riders taking care
to give the horses the free use of their necks, holding
on by the pommel of the saddle if necessary.

Stable management. — The care of the young horses'
health should be a subject of continual thought on the
part of the ollicer in charge.


Grooming plays a very iin2)ortant part in main-
taining the horse in good health. Stimulate, by
every possible means, the emulation of the trooj^ers,
to secure the perfect execution of this work. The
squadron leader and the officer in charge of the
training should visit the young horses every day in
the stable, regulate the time of feeding, inquire as
to the horse's apj^etitc, examine the teeth, see that
the horses get their full rations, order suitable sub-
stitutes for corn according to the season, fix the days
and the time for mashes and give orders as to
what they should be made of, and, finally, see tliat
the horses have j^lt^nty of bedding, which alone will
give the rest indispensable to their health.

Weekly examination. — Once a week the officers
will have all the horses led out, without clothing,
by the men w^ho ride them, in order to form a better
opinion of their appearance, and of the condition of
their legs, examining carefully the feet and shoes.
This weekly examination gives much assistance in
the future work.

Change of coat and green food. — The change of
coat in March or April, and the diet of green food
in May and June, give rise to depression in young
horses. The easing down of work is at this time
absolutely necessary, as also the extra feeding destined
to overcome this physical dci:)ression, the effects of
which are often felt for some considerable time.

Choice of ground. — The choice of ground plays
an important part in the working of young horses.
Without exaggerating the precautions that should be
taken, there is an advantage in choosing, at any
rate for the gallop, ground as soft as possible. On
hard ground the joints get tired and the tendons


suffer. Heavy slippery ground also has its incon-
venience, the joints have extra work thrown on them,
and windgalls and bogspavins make their appearance.
When the young horse has obtained experience of
outdoor work, has been strengthened throughout,
and balances himself in his paces, it is excellent to
exercise him over a rough and varied country, so as
to arouse his initiative ; one should give him great
liberty of neck, and he soon will learn to get himself
out of difficulties without help.



GENERALITIES.— The trained horse understands the
intentions of his rider from the least movement,
and repUes to it at once rightly, lightly, and with

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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 5 of 10)