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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energy. He is, in fact, a horse responsive to the leg,
and light to the hand.

" Training " is different from " breaking " in that
during the fifth year the acclimatization and the
physical development of the young horse is the first
consideration of the rider, who will make the greatest
concessions because of his age, whilst at six years old,
it is the horse who must yield to the demands of the
rider and show a complete obedience.

The training should not be undertaken until the
horse, strengthened by the open air, and a rational
breaking based on the principle of continual impulsion,
and confident in his rider, is in a condition to under-
stand the language of the aids, and to yield to their

To give good results, training should be based on
a system, follow a method, and conform rigorously to
the rules which spring from the one and the other.

The system is a collection of principles established
by experience and justified by reason. In the case of



training, the fundamental principle is to make a
horse calm, impulsive, straight, and handy.

The method unites to the principles the way of
carrjdng them out, and regulates the order of their
employment. It varies according to the particular
ends which one has in view and according to circum-
stances, time, and surroundings.

The method of training here explained aims at — :

1. The development and direction of the physical
forces and moral qualities of the horse.

2. The obedience to the aids obtained by a rational
and progressive education carried out without recourse
to force.

3. The search for balance.

The means employed depend upon the tempera-
ment of the instructor, the ability of the rider, and on
circumstances. An order of procedure, which lays
down neither precepts nor methods, has no interest
beyond its assistance to the memory, and the series
of movements enumerated is merely the naming of
the figures to be traced by the horse.

Now, in training, the figures have only value
according to the way they are carried out. It is the
position given to the horse's body by the aids of the
rider which is of any value. One rider can trace with
his horse, in the best established order, all the figures
laid down in the regulations, without obtaining the
least result. Another, whilst working in the same
figures, but with a clear end in view, for which he
employs the aids, will train his horse very quicklj^

The principal factors in training. The instructor. —
The value of the instructor and that of the rider
plays a very important part in training. The instructor
should possess a thorough knowledge of the horse, of


the science of horsemanship both theoretical and
jH'actical, and the love of method ; and in addition,
if his advice is not sufficient, he should be able to show
practically what he wants done.

The rider. — It is the personal value of the rider
which is the principal factor in the training of the horse.
No matter the method, the quality of the horse, the
value of the instructor, if the rider does not know his
work as trainer, the horse will never be obedient, or
at any rate he will only be imperfectly obedient. In
fact, to train a horse, the first and perhaps only
condition is to be a fine horseman.

The work. — Every method of training which does
not commence with the conditioning of the horse, is
not suitable for military purposes. In training, as in
breaking, outdoor work therefore continues to be the
essential part. It is for the instructor to regulate the
proportion to establish between the work in the open
and the work in the school, in order to best carry out
the exercise and training of the young horse.

Under normal conditions only one-third of the
work should be done in the school. In any case, the
work in the school should not last more than three-
quarters of an hour, and there should be frequent
periods of rest.

The duration of training. — One must not lose sight
of the fact that the moral and physical devcloj^ment
of the horse, no matter how skilled the rider may be,
is subject to the essentially variable laws of nature.
No effort will hurry the natural evolution of the young
horse, and take the place of the work of time.

Patience, and the normal gradation of the efforts,
will make a considerable difference in the training ;
to go slowly is to move quickly.


There is, moreover, in the mind of the horse a
sort of daily process of incubation, which we cannot
perceive, and in consequence of which we see suddenly
appear the position or movement we were trying to
get, and which, but the day before, we despaired of

The psychology of training — Influence of character
and conformation. — The mental constitution of the
horse has also a considerable influence on his
education. It is, therefore, necessary to study it
and turn it to account.

Its characteristic is the memory. This quality
assists the training w^hen one knows how to turn it to
account. On the other hand, it makes mistakes
dangerous ; nothing is more difficult than to retrain
a horse, that is to say, to make him forget his wrong

Aptitudes vary in animals, as also the degree of
intelligence. Some understand at once what is re-
quired of them, thoroughbred horses especially,
whilst others are very dull witted.

The horse is as a rule kind ; he understands kind
treatment, the tone of voice, and caresses. Blows do
not bring him to reason, they only make him irritable
and timid.

He is capable of attention and of reflexion, because
he often executes better next day movements which
the day before he attempted with difficulty. He has
a strong inclination to imitate, and it is on this aptitude
that the utility of the leading horse is based.

He is patient, but his patience is limited, and one
of the greatest difficulties is to understand the limit
to place on one's demands during each period of
training. Notwithstanding the slight development of


his intelligence — nevertheless of a higher level than
one thinks — the horse is capable of ingenious ruses,
he knows how to test his rider, and to find out the
defences which frighten him and make him yield.
Training disciplines the horse, supples his will, but is
not able to definitely change his character. A wicked
or sulky horse, however well trained he may be, is
always to be mistrusted.

By studying the mental faculties of the horse, and
by associating them with the horse's own efforts, the
rider hastens his submission.

His physical constitution and his temperament
also require careful attention. It is by reason of the
length and direction of his various bones, of the more
or less openness of the articular angles, of the easiness
of nutrition and digestion, etc., that one is able to form
an opinion of the resources of the horse, and the diffi-
culties he is likely to offer.

Nature of the training. — The instructor should
draw conclusions from the examination of each horse
as to the course of training which will suit him best,
and regulate the work accordingly. It is not possible
to bring all horses to the same degree of perfection,
but one can always develop their powers, without at
the same time trjang to obtain by severity that which
they have not the strength to give.

The same principles direct the training, whether
it is undertaken by the officer, or entrusted to a
trooper. The difference only shows itself in the
choice and variety of the means employed, and in
the perfection, more or less marked, of the results

Certain methods of training claim to secure the
absolute domination of the horse, and succeed in


eftect, in completely mastering, under all circumstances,
his intellectual and physical power. But these methods,
which are based on the complete collection between
the bit and the spurs, do not form part of secondary
equitation. The demands of work in the ranks on
all sorts of grounds, appeal on the contrary to the
natural powers of the horse, to his instinct, often even
to his initiative.

It is, nevertheless, indispensable, that in the
execution of such simple movements as the walk,
the halt, and the turn, the indications of the aids
should not only arouse in the horse a superficial
sensation, but that they should, as it were, penetrate
to the very bones, and bring about an immediate and
absolute obedience.

The basis of the equestrian language. — In order
that the rider may transmit his wishes to the horse,
act on his intelligence, and become his master, it is
necessary to establish between them a sort of con-
ventional language, which the rider can easily learn
and make use of, and which the horse can easilj^ under-
stand and accept.

This language rests on the law of associations of
sensations which is as follows : —

" When impressions have been produced simultane-
ously, or have followed one another immediately, it is
sufficient that one be presented to the mind, for the others
tofolloxv'' (Dr. G. Le Bon).

For example, if the horse goes forward to a click
of the tongue, it is because on some occasions he has
seen a long whip, has felt the whip, and heard at the
same time the click of the tongue. This last perception,
which reaches the ears, has but to manifest itself alone,
and the sensations of the sight and the touch of the whip


will present themselves immediately to his mind, and
the horse will go forward just as he had done when he
felt the whip. In the same way when the horse has
learnt to yield his quarters to the whip, he will later
on yield them readily to the pressure of one leg, be-
cause the two sensations will have been associated
from the lirst.

The movements which the horse 7iaturally executes,
under the action of the aids are few. The quietest
horse is, therefore, unable to carry out the instructions
of his rider if he does not understand them. It is by
depending on the principle quoted above, that one
forms the language which will make it possible to
establish this indispensable co-operation. Sight, hear-
ing, touch, and even taste, come successively into play,
and have each their part in this education.

It is on the luno^ino^ rein that the first elements are
taught. The touch, and then the mere sight of the
whip, produces the forward movement, to which will
be associated the click of the tongue, and for which
will be substituted later on the pressure of the

The pull on the lunging rein in the same way
prepares the lesson of the opened rein, which in its
turn will serve to explain the action of the indirect

The actions of opening the rein, and the indirect
actions, will eventually bring the horse to understand
the actions of opposition, on which will soon be grafted
the lesson of the leg, then actions more and more
combined, and more and more secret, perhaps also
less and less precise.

From the first, the necessity is therefore evident
of securing the greatest precision in all transmitted


impressions, because on the precision of these first
indications will dej^end the clearness of the language,
and in consequence to some extent the rapidity of the
education. I say to some extent, because it is not
sufficient that the intelligence of the horse under-
stands the demands, it is also necessary that his will
be brought to accept the exigencies, often painful, of
his rider. It is also the law of association which gives
the means of persuading the horse to obey ; it is
sufficient in effect to follow the right execution of a
movement with a recompense, and his refusal with a
vigorous punishment, in order to teach the horse to
yield and obey.

By the repetition of this method, obedience at first
hesitating, will become more and more prompt, then
absolute and finally instinctive.

The training requires, in order to arrive at this last
result, much kindness, so as not to irritate nervous
horses, and also much firmness, because it is important
that the horse should consider his master the possessor
of an infinite power ; and this is the price of his sub-
mission. During the course of the training there
arrives always the moment when difficulties appear,
or a conflict arises. The tact of the rider consists in
discovering the causes, viz. physical impossibility or
a bad disposition. In the first case it is particularly
necessary to be patient and moderate in one's demands.
In the second case, on the contrarj^ one must enter
vigorously into the fight and come out victor ; other-
wise the horse, having learnt his power — still by
association of sensation — becomes restive. One should,
moreover, be careful not to be misled by the horse's
resignation and be under the impression that his
forces arc disciplined.


The trainer should be suOiciently sensitive to
percei\'e the sii^ns whieh preeede impatienee and
re\'olt, and to limit and cease his demands in time.
It is, besides, easy enough to avoid making a horse
imimtient, and one can make him repeat every day
the same series of exercises, providing that a certain
variety is introduced, and on condition that after
each movement has been well done, a few minutes
of rest are given to break the work, and induce a
necessary relaxation.

In order that the education of the horse may be
complete, it is not only necessary that obedience
should be prompt and absolute, but also that it should
be automatic. It is sufficient, when the horse's
education has reached this stage, to give one of the
indications, formerly closely combined, for the mechan-
ism of association to unfold itself and provoke the
execution of the movement required. At first, to
obtain, and with difficulty, the start of the gallop,
it is necessary to use both hands to displace the fore-
hand, and both legs to give the position and impulsion ;
later on, the closing? of the finwrs on one rein, and the
mere touch of the boot suffices to produce this move-
ment, because this action has recalled all the other
sensations now absent.

It is by repetition that associations penetrate the
memory, and consequently the operation is long.
But by substituting for the repetition, or better still
in adding to it, the intensity of one of the sensations
transmitted, we hurry on the education. Strong
impressions, though seldom repeated, impress much
more quickly the associations on the mind than feeble
impressions often repeated, which, according to his
temperament, tire or unnerve the horse.


It is by reason of these principles that the bit and
the spurs, when they are rightly used, enable the period
of training to be shortened. If the horse by want of
attention, idleness, or bad disposition, tries to avoid
doing that which one has the right to expect from
him, the energetic action of the fingers on the reins,
or a simple quick touch of the spur, ^vill instantaneously
recall him to the established agreement.

" To fix the associations by the intensity of one of
the associated impressions is one of the keys of training^''
(Dr. G. Le Bon).

The principles of movement. — The locomotive
energy of the horse takes the name in equitation of
" forward movement " or " impulsion."

Impulsion. — The forward movement is the first
degree of impulsion. This quality exists in the horse,
when he answers to the first indication of the legs by
extending his action without gaining sensibly in height.

Impulsion is forward movement made use of
under the exact discipline of the aids, in accordance
with the end desired. It is the basis of training. Its
seat is in the hind quarters, which push the weight
forward, or at any rate ought always to be ready
to do so.

The forward movement is natural or acquired, it
is natural in the case of the keen, generous horse,
whilst in the case of the dull, lazy horse it is the result
of training, and dies down the moment the action which
provoked it ceases.

A rider is not really master of his horse until the
latter has yielded to him his entire impulsive forces.
Some horses withhold them, only giving a part of
them grudgingly, and even go eo far as to oppose the
most complete inertia. Others use all their muscular


power iigainst the rider, resist him, or even r,'et away
from him altogether Ijy getting behind the legs.
Others give themselves up generously, and seem to
put all their power at the service of their rider. It
is this result, moral as well as physical, of submission
to the aids in the forward movement, which one should
seek for before everything in training.

Speed is in no way a criterion of impulsion. Im-
pulsion shows itself much more by the way in which
the horse gives himself up to his rider, than by the
rapidity of his paces. A horse at the walk, trot,
canter, or even the fast gallop, can lack impulsion,
in the same way as another will show much, when
merely walking.

This freedom in the forward walk should be care-
fully cultivated, not only during the training but also
during the w^hole military life of the horse. The proper
use of the forces, moreover, brings with it the right
distribution of the w^eight, i.e. balance, and conse-
quently mobility and handiness.

Balance. — The muscular force and the weight of
the horse are the two elements which together produce

It is muscular power which produces energy. The
body of the horse having no power of moving itself,
it is muscular force w^hich provokes the displacement,
and its employment therefore determines the good or
bad distribution of weight.

The exact object of training is to control this force —
in the various degrees of speed and in the changes of
direction — in such a way as to oblige the horse to carry
out his rider's wishes.

Theoretically, movement is determined by the
different positions the centre of gravity takes with


regard to the base of support. When the horse is at
rest the centre of gravity is sustained by this base.
The walk is nothing more than the rupture of this
equihbrium, and the movement of the hmbs at the right
moment to support the body and prevent it from
faUing. Consequently the four movements, forwards,
backwards, to the right and to the left, are always
caused by the centre of gravity drawing the body into
one of these four directions.

In practice one calls a horse well balanced, which
moves lightly in all his paces, and is active and quick
in his changes of direction.

Every horse, when at liberty, naturally balances
himself. His movements are more or less easy ; the
mobility which he shows proves that he is master of
himself, and that he can make a judicious use of his

With rare exceptions, the moment a horse is
mounted, this balance is destroyed by the weight of the
rider, which displaces the centre of gravity ; and in
addition to this, the actions, voluntary or involuntary,
of the aids, provoke numberless contractions.

Part of the muscular power of the horse is thus
employed in resisting the rider.

The less a horse resists his rider the better he
balances himself, and the more handy he is.

The conformation of the horse also influences, in a
great measure, the use he makes of his forces. A well-
shaped horse balances himself better under the weight
of the rider, because his forces transmit themselves to
the bones in the best possible dynamic conditions.

Whatever may be the conformation of the horse,
the rider should tr}^ and make him retake, as soon as
possible, a natural balance, or as near to it as he can be


brought. At first he will therefore give the horse
mueh hberty, beeause in restraining his movements he
prevents him from recovering this bahxnee, which is
indispensable to the proper execution of the movement.

The more steady, moderate, and conciliatory the
rider is in his actions, the more confidence the horse
will gain, and the sooner he will recover his balance.
As the training progresses, the number of resistances
diminishes : the horse, obedient to the aids, will make
better use of his forces and distribute his weight
better : the rider will then be able, without difTiculty,
to place him in the proper position for the movement
he wishes.

Locomotion. — The order in which the horse moves
his limbs in the different movements, and in the
various paces, constitutes the object of the study of
the laws of locomotion.

In the High School of riding the application of
certain of these rules will bring good results ; in
secondary equitation one must take a larger view of the
employment of the horse, so as not to enter on a course
of little practical value, and likely to aggravate the

The rider has therefore no other care than to give
the horse the position, which should precede the
execution of each movement, and give him time, of
his own accord, to suitably place his limbs.

The role and the position of the head in move-
ment. — When the horse disposes of all his natural
means suitable for the execution of his movements, he
makes use of his head and neck as a balancing pole,
with the aid of which he balances his forces, or, at any
rate, modifies their employment. If he wishes to go
forward, he stretches out his neck so as to draw the


centre of gravity in the desired direction. If, on the
contrary, he wishes to halt and go backwards, he
brings his head in, shortens his neck, and thus com-
municates to his body the backward movement. In
the movements to the side, obhque or circular, it is
still the displacement of the head and neck to the right
or left, which assists, regulates and maintains the turn.

The rider who wishes to remain master of his horse
must place the head in such a way that the bit may be
able to regulate its displacement as well as that of the
neck. In this way the neck bends itself, or shortens
or lengthens itself, according to the impressions that
the mouth receives from the hand of the rider.

In order that the indication of the hand may be
transmitted to the horse's mouth, clearly and without
interfering with his breathing, his head should be in
front of the vertical line. It is this position that we
should make it take in the ordinary paces, and in the
simple regular movements.

The more we wish to shorten the stride, the nearer
should the head be to the vertical position ; on the
other hand, the more we wish to increase the pace, the
further forward of this line should the head be.

In these two last cases, the vertical position may be
considered as normal, since it is favourable to the
reduction or the increase of the paces.

The head can take an irregular position, that is to
say, it can be within or beyond the vertical, either on
account of the defective conformation of the forehand,
or on account of a badly placed bit, or owing to an
excessive sensibility of the chin or of the bars, or
lastly — and this is most frequently the case with horses
who poke their noses — owing to a fault in the conforma-
tion in some part of the hind quarters. Not only is it


by the judicious use of the aids that the rider succeeds
in overcoming defective positions, but also by employ-
ing a bit more or less severe, by placing it more or less
low in the horse's mouth, and lastly by tightening or
loosening the curb chain.

Thus, with a horse who pokes his nose, one should,
in order to bring the head into position, increase the
effectiveness of the arms of the lever, and consequently
use a bit with long cheeks and place it low down in the
mouth ; on the other hand, in the case of the horse
which carries his head low, or bends his neck too much,
the bit should be placed as high as possible in the
mouth, and it should have short cheeks.

If, in the natural state, the position which the head
takes is determined by the position of the neck, when
the horse is bridled, it is the bit which, by its action
on the mouth, causes the head to take a position to
which the neck is forced to yield. It will consequently
depend upon the action of the hands, whether the neck
will be able to raise or lengthen itself, and to bend itself
to the right or left.

Role and position of the neck. — The neck, being
the lever indispensable to movement, its position at
the point where it joins the head ought to be such,
that it maintains its position, and even a certain degree
of firmness from the withers to the centre, whilst at the
same time, being supple, and accepting without
resistance displacement backwards and sideways.

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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 6 of 10)