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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Its direction should be that which it would naturally
take Avhen the unmounted horse is standing still and
balanced on his legs. If one tries to raise the head
and neck too high, the play of the shoulders will
perhaps become more free, but, at the same time, the
loins and the hind quarters will be overwhelmed, and


the quarters and hocks impeded in their action ; the
displacements of the hind quarters will become
restricted, unequal, and irregular, and, in consequence,
the pace will lose both speed and regularity.

If the neck is too low, the shoulders being over-
weighted \^all make the horse heavy in hand and his
control difficult ; the hind quarters also, although
apparently more free, will not function any the better
for being freed from the weight which they naturally
should carry ; they will be too far away from the
centre of gravity, and so place the hind legs behind the

The hind quarters, when too free of the weight
they ought to carry in a proper distribution of weight,
are no longer able to play the part which they should
in locomotion, that is to say to assist the paces by
keeping up the impulsion. The neck should not
therefore be either too high or too low : it shortens
or lengthens itself in proportion as the head leaves the
vertical line. By drawing itself in, the head should
bend the neck at the nape without lowering it ; by
reaching out it should stretch the neck without raising
it. The horse being thus placed, the reins will retain
all their power, the fore legs as well as the hind legs
will co-ordinate their action in the movements, whether
extended or cadenced, as the rider demands.

Nevertheless, when fixing the position of the neck,
one must take into consideration the manner in which
it is naturally attached to the body. Certain riders are
mistaken in insisting on a marked elevation of the neck,
in the case of horses which have naturally a low
carriage of the head. The hand, by acting thus,
arrests the impulsive forces, and, by insisting on an
attitude unsuitable to the conformation of the horse,


tlic rider ovcr^vhclms the hoeks and the loins, and the
horse loses the freedom of his paces.

Lowering the head. — When the line of the horse's
face is shghtly beyond the vertical, the head is in the
position that gives the greatest control over the horse,
and the rider should endeavour to obtain it from the
first day the horse is bridled. In secondary equitation,
it is principally by work on straight lines, by increasing
and reducing the speed of the paces, that the horse
is trained to j^lace his head in this desirable position.
The legs play a very important part in this : they
should always act before the hand, because the head
does not lower itself, nor does the neck bend, except
as the result of forward movement. Immediately the
horse commences to go forward he meets the hand,
which, by remaining fixed and low, gives the mouth a
light sui^port, which restrains the extension of the neck,
fixes the head, and causes the horse to bring his chin in.

The moment the horse obeys, the legs remove their
pressure, and the fingers also ease their pressure on the
reins ; the legs and the hands do not renew their
action unless the head retakes of itself a defective
position. The alternate effects of closing and easing
the fingers of the hand, providing they do not take
from the impulsion, will soon give to the neck the
suppleness which it should have.

Special exercises for the young horse. — These
exercises are intended to develop the power and
suppleness of the young horse. They also serve to
overcome any resistances which may arise.

Resistances. — Fatigue, resulting from conditioning
work, and from the constraint which the young horses
have to submit to during their education, provokes
on their part certain resistances. These resistances



arise cither from physical defects, or from nervousness,
caused by ill-advised or clumsily made demands. The
principal seats of contraction are the quarters, the
spine, the shoulders, and the mouth. Whether the
cause of these resistances is moral or physical, it is by a
rational course of exercises, directed towards different
parts of the horse's body, that one succeeds in suppling
and strengthening the joints and muscles. Certain
movements more especially adapt themselves to the
exercise of these different parts, and the instructor
should regulate their use according to the result he is
aiming at.

A. How to obtain the engagement and mobility of
the hindquarters. — The hindquarters are the seat
of impulsion, and at the same time they are a helm
which causes the changes of direction.

The mechanism of the impulsion resides in the play
of the joint formed by the pelvis and the thigh. It is
this joint which, by closing itself more or less, and
bringing the hocks under the body, enables the horse
to cover more or less ground, in consequence of the
more or less energy put into the action of the pro-

This bringing forward of the hind legs lowers the
quarters, and so facilitates rapid changes of direction.
The hindquarters should also be able to move them-
selves freely to one side or the other. But, by reason
of his conformation, the horse cannot execute this
movement without passing, say, the off hind leg in
front of the near hind leg, and in this case also it is
necessary for the horse to lower his quarters and bring
his hocks under the body.

The movements, which assist in obtaining this
engagement and mobility of the hindquarters, are ;


the increase and decrease of speed, the halts, the zigzag
Hne, the serpentine, the circle, the half-turn on the
hindquarters and forehand more and more closely-
carried out, the gallop leading Avith the wrong leg for
the turn, and the rein-back.

(a) The increase and decrease of speed. — This work
comprises the following exercises : —

Being at the walk : first moderate and then increase
the pace. At the trot also, pass from the slow cadenced
trot to the fast trot, and vice versa.

When standing still : start into the walk, halt,
walk fast, and then again halt.

When walking break into the extended trot, and
then halt.

It also comprises the start into the canter from the
trot, walk, canter, halt, and rein-back ; the change
from the gallop to the trot, w^alk and halt, and the
increase and decrease of the speed of the gallop.

The horses have learned, whilst being broken, to
answer to the hand by decreasing the pace, and to the
legs by increasing it. The rider returns to, and
insists on this lesson, until the horse slackens his speed
without the least movement of the head to indicate
resistance to the hand, and increases his speed without
the slightest hesitation. Every time that a horse
fights against the hand, when being checked in the
fast paces, he should be put back to the walk, and be
made to increase and decrease his speed. When once
obedience has been obtained, the rider studies the way
in which the movements are made : the hind legs are
brought under the body when reducing the pace, and
the hocks and loins are stretched out when the speed
is increased. This is attained by alternately increasing
and decreasing the pace at shorter intervals.


This result obtained, the rider will demand more
decided variations in the speed, and will bring his
horse to the dead halt in the fast paces.

In this work, which consists in balancing the horse
between the hand and legs, it is essential that these
two aids should not act together. The horse when
slackening his speed should reduce pace without
raising his action ; and on feeling the pressure of the
legs he should drive himself freely forward. If he
raises his action, it will be because the hand has not
yielded in time to let the impulse pass.

If the horse, when reducing his pace, turns sideways,
he should be straightened by opposing the shoulder to
the quarter.

These suppling exercises are varied by periods of
fast work, with the support of the hand. It is advisable
to especially insist on immediate obedience in increasing
the speed in the case of sluggish horses, and in reducing
the speed in the case of keen horses.

When the work has been well done on the straight
line, it should be repeated on the circle, so as to secure
a thorough engagement of the inside leg. The diameter
of the circle will be reduced as the education of the
horse progresses, but one should not allow the horse to
decrease, of his own accord, this diameter at the same
time as he decreases the speed, that is to decrease it
when reducing the pace, and to increase it when
accelerating it.

In the school one only executes the changes of pace
in the slow canter ; out of doors, one demands that
the speed should be varied in the canter, and fast
gallop equally, and the capability of doing this is the
proof of the results of all the preceding work.

If the horse bores and fights against the hand, he


should be taken back to the school, and taught to stop
in the walk and slow canter. In this way one succeeds
with less risk to the limbs, and more surely, than if one
2)erscvered, till obedience was obtained, in the work
at the fast paces.

(b) The halt. The half-halt.— The halt looked at
from a training point of view is not only useful to
immobilize the horse, but more especially to teach him
to balance himself by bringing his hind legs under the

The halt is brought about by the lingers gripping
stretched reins. If the hocks remain behind the body,
or the quarters throw themselves to one side in order
to avoid an engagement, which is always painful at
first, the rider's legs should be closed, in order to gently
press the hind legs under the body, whilst the hand
remains passive.

The halt gathers together the forces of the horse,
fixes his head and his quarters, and makes him light
in hand.

One should practise the halt very progressively,
and at first with great gentleness. Being especially
temperate with horses having ewe necks, and those
which are long in the back, saddle backed, or nervous.
These sort of horses, being generally weak in the loins,
take the halt with difficulty, and the remedy becomes
worse than the evil. One should not halt suddenly
horses which lack impulsion. In fact, the sudden halt
really only suits horses with strong loins, and sufficient
strength in their quarters and hocks to bring themselves
to a halt sharply on their hind legs.

This is not the case with the half-halt. The half-
halt, wliich has been explained in the chapter dealing
with the aids, irritates the horse less than the halt : one


can therefore use it without fear with all horses, except
those that are behind the hand.

The result sought for is to raise the forehand and
consequently to lower the hindquarters without
checking the pace.

(c) The zigzag or broken line, the serpentine,
the circle. — When the turns are demanded by the
reins only, acting on the forehand, they not only
supple the shoulders, but they equally favour the
engagement of the hind legs. These same movements,
when the leg presses the quarters to the outside, give
great mobility to the hindquarters ; it is therefore
necessary, when they are used, to know what one
wants, and to carry them out with a view to the
result desired.

The search for mobility in the hindquarters aims
at keeping the horse on a straight line and in making
turning easy. There resides in the hindquarters,
together with all the impulsive power, the source of
nearly all the resistances, and consequently, if one
wishes to overcome these resistances, the obedience
of the hindquarters must be prompt and absolute, and
show itself by the strict obedience to the leg.

(d) The half-volt, made more and more closely,
draws the hind legs more and more under the body.
The half-turn on the quarters, which is the limit, gives
the last degree of this engagement.

The half-volt on the forehand, made more and
more closely, helps to mobilize the hindquarters. The
half -turn on the shoulders, which is its limit, gives
absolute mobility to the hindquarters, which turn round
the forehand.

(e) Canter with the wrong leg leading. — The rider
trains the horse to canter on a circle, leading with


the wrong leg, by cantering on a broken line, and
making the turns progressively sharper without a
change of leg. He then attempts the figure of eight and
the serpentine. He commences work on a figure of eight
by a large eight between the two ends of the riding
school, executed once only (two changes of hand).
As soon as the horse can do this calmly, the rider
should keep him on the figure for a longer time, and
w^hen he canters calm and free, the size of the figure
should be gradually reduced. He should, how'cvcr,
w^ork the horse frequently on the large figure, in pre-
ference to the smaller ones, especially in the case of
underbred horses.

In the same way the serpentine will at first only
have one bend, and the number of bends will be
gradually increased as the horse gains experience.

This work makes the horse modify his balance of
his own accord, and gives the alternate extension
and engagement, which is the object of this

To avoid the needless difficulty of starting the turn
leading with the wrong leg, the rider should start with
the proper leg leading, and then change. During the
turn on the wrong leg, the inside rein, by a careful
opposition, keeps back the inside shoulder and quarter
to prevent the change of leg. This opposition
diminishes as the horse makes the turn on the wrong
leg more readily.

(f) Rein-back. — Although backing is especially
a punishment for the horse, which, notwithstanding
the halts and half-halts, tries to force the hand, or to
lean unduly on the bit, it is equally an exercise which
helps to supple the spine, and makes the horse balance
himself on his hind legs.


Reining back is another step in the exercises which
aim at alternately increasing and decreasing the base
of support.

The exercises in increasing and decreasing the paces,
which the young horse undergoes, generally make it
easy for him to move backwards.

The horse may, nevertheless, owing to pain or a
bad disposition, refuse to go backwards. He fixes
himself on his hind legs, contracts his spine, and resists
the action of the reins.

To overcome these bad positions, in which the horse
is behind the hand, the rider should disj^lace the
quarters to the side with his legs, or alternately oppose
each of the shoulders to the corresponding hindquarter,
and he will profit from the displacement of the quarters
to again use his hands.

In the execution of this movement the horse should
be calm and straight, and he should walk slowly and
be always ready to move forward again to the pressure
of the legs. At first, especially with keen horses, it is
advisable, after pressing the horse forward again, to
slacken the reins completely and give him ease.

When these results have been attained, one tries
to obtain a change more and more smooth from the
forward to the backward movement, and vice versa ;
one should balance the horse between the forward and
backward movement by making only a few steps in
each direction.

B. How to supple the spine. — The suppleness
of the spine is obtained by the exercises already
mentioned, but especially by work on a small circle
at a canter gradually increasing in speed. It is the
best of suppling movements to the side, and one should
make frequent use of it.


The horses being on a circle at the canter, the
instructor, in order to avoid the fatigue caused by long
continued work on a short turn, should enlarge and
decrease the size of the circle every few turns, and
counteract the tendency of the horses to slacken their
sjiced in proportion as the circle becomes smaller.
The sharp turn at the slow canter is easy ; that which
is dillieult, and which must be obtained, is the sharp
turn at a last pace.

C. How to develop the free play of the shoulders.
— The horse which, when at liberty, goes through
evolutions with ease, and balances himself without
difficulty, becomes generally heavy on the hand the
moment he is mounted ; this change arises partly from
the distribution of the rider's weight, and partly
because the horse balanced himself for movements
which he himself wished to execute, whilst he does not
yet know how to balance himself for movements which
his rider requires of him.

The most suitable exercises for gi^^ng mobihty
to the shoulders, and consequently developing the
lightness of the forehand, are, the slackening of the
various paces, the halts and half-halts, backing, and
csiDccially the zigzag line and the serpentine, in which
the turns are demanded by the reins only, causing
the shoulders to turn round the quarters, the circle
with the croup on the inside, the half-volts — more
and more restricted till the horse makes the half-turn
on the quarters— the double changing of hand, and
moving sidewavs with the shoulder in. There is good
reason for specially working on zigzag lines at the
canter, the number of strides between each turn being
gradually decreased, the horse making the turns without
changing his leading leg. This is the best lesson for


making the horse supple and active in his canter and
gallop, easy to handle, and clever on bad ground.

The different movements which have just been
mentioned should be demanded by the indirect rein,
which acts effectively on the shoulders. Of course,
these movements do not possess, in themselves, a
special power leading straight to the end desired ; the
rider must a]3ply the right aids according to the end
he has in view and the resistances which he meets with,
and he must act with tact, that is to say, with more or
less energy or gentleness according to the circumstances.

At first, in order not to discourage the horse, these
different movements may be large and even irregular,
but they should become more and more confined and
precise, in order to bring about the complete obedience
to the aids, which is indispensable in single combat.

During all the work, the greatest care must be
taken to preserve the forward movement, and the rider
should always, after closely collecting his horse, allow
him to relax his muscles, by extending his stride, before
giving him rest, so as to avoid any loss of impulsion.

D. How to supple the lower jaw. — The supple-
ness of the lower jaw is the visible sign of perfect
balance ; it indicates a general relaxation of the
muscles. In the case of a horse with a normal mouth,
the exercises which supple and strengthen the young
horse produce this mobility of the jaw, which is to some
extent the proof of willing obedience. But some horses,
though the rest of their body may be supple, maintain
an abnormal stiffness in the jaw.

The cause of every resistance is pain. The con-
traction of the lower jaw may be caused by a bit which
does not suit the horse, cither because his mouth is
too sensitive for the bit, or, on the contrary, because


its sensitiveness may have been deadened to siieli an
extent that it cannot feel the effects of the bit. The lirst
remedy consists, in this case, in the careful choice and
fitting of the bit. The shaj)e of the bit, its position
in the mouth, the length of the cheeks, the thickness
of the canons, the height of the port, the length of the
curb chain, help to overcome many resistances.

Nevertheless, owing to the action of a brutal or
simply clumsy hand, the most carefully bitted horse
will form habits or take positions which are veritable
resistances, because they enable him to avoid the
constraint of the bit. It is therefore necessary in these
particular cases, to recommence the education of the
mouth with the help of appropriate suppling exercises,
intended to destroy the bad habits and to replace them
with good ones.

A horse is said to yield to the hand when, being in
light contact with it, he slightly opens the mouth on
feeling the fingers close themselves on the reins, and
moves his tongue and the bits for an instant, and then
immediately resumes contact with the hand. The
cession should be confined to the mouth, and should
not be accompanied by any movement of the head or

The first elements of this exercise can be taught
on foot and at the walk ; but as at this pace, with the
instructor on foot, the impulsion is at the best feeble,
the employment of this method may be dangerous in
secondary equitation.

To obtain the desired relaxation, the rider should
put his horse into an extended pace, and by the gentle
fixity of his hand, he will strive to obtain a confident
feeling, wdth the carriage of the head and neck which
is usual to the horse, although it may be a vicious


attitude. This result having been obtained, the rider
will have recourse to an intermittent feeling on the
mouth, by easing one bit and closing the fingers on the
reins of the other one, by drawing the bridoon lightly
from side to side, or by simply easing and closing the
fingers on the reins. These various actions tend to
baffle the resistance, by constantly changing the sup-
port, and overcoming the contraction of the muscles
by keeping them constantly mobilized.

According to the nature of the resistance, the half-
halt or vibrations, administered through one or several
of the reins, will cause sooner or later the relaxation
wanted. When, in consequence of the repetition of
these exercises, the horse obeys without hesitation,
and when every combination of the reins secures the
same submission, the education of the mouth is finished.

The advantages derived from the relaxation of the
lower jaw are the effects produced on the nape of the
neck, and on the neck itself, the muscles of w^hich
soon also relax themselves. The neck first takes its
natural position, and then, owing to progressive
exercise, it arrives at the position that gives the face a
vertical line, and makes the control of the horse easy.
When practising the suppling exercises of the mouth,
the rider must take every precaution to preserve the
impulsion, and he should not recompense a concession
by reducing the pace, but by slackening the reins,
patting the horse, and pressing him on in a brisk pace.

The rider must, if necessarj^, limit the emj^loyment
of this local exercise, and not lose sight of the end
sought in training as a whole, namely, the harmonizing
of all the forces of the horse.

Movement to the side and "shoulder in." — The
movement to the side, carried out with the lateral


aids, is a movement which is applicable in the manage-
ment of the horse, when either ridden by himself or in
a troop.

When the horse is walking with the wall on the left,
the side movement is obtained by the left rein and leg,
which act by pressing the shoulders and quarters
towards the right, the horse is then bent to the side
opposite to that to which he is directed.

In this movement the shoulders and quarters travel
over two parallel tracks, so that in moving to the right,
the near fore and the near hind cross in front of the other
legs, and the reverse w^hen moving to the left.

In training, the side movement is useful to bring
the horse to understand the effects produced by the
combined aids, and, in addition, it is an excellent
exercise for the j^oung horse. The rider should only
demand this movement down the centre of the school,
or when working across it diagonally, and only for a
relatively short time. When carried out on the track
near the wall, the side movement has the incon-
venience of getting the horse in the way of guiding
himself by the wall, instead of obeying the aids.
Besides, it frequently happens that the horse, not being
able to pass the outside leg in front of the inside leg
for fear of hitting it against the wall, passes this leg
behind the other, which does not give the desired

If, by a stronger action of the aids, the rider
slightly increases the displacement of the forehand,
in respect of the hindquarters, the horse changes from
the exercise of the side movement to that of the
" shoulder-in.''

The horse is said to be on the " right shoulder-in "
(inside of the arc of a circle formed by the spine)


when he moves bent to the right ; and on the " left
shoulder-in " when he moves bent to the left.

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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 7 of 10)