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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No matter the hand to which the rider is working,
or the part of the school he is in, the horse can thus be
placed and work indifferently either on the right or
left shoulder-in.

The movement is carried out at the command —
*' Right shoulder-in — Go large." " Left shoulder-in —
Go large."

To place the horse on the right shoulder-in, for
instance^ and to work him in the most favourable
position, the rider removes the shoulders from the
line being followed by an action of the right opened
rein strengthened by the leg of the same side, and
thus starts the horse turning. Immediately the horse
is in this oblique and circular position, the rider con-
tinues in the direction previously being followed, whilst
keeping the horse bent in the form of a crescent. The
right rein now becomes the indirect rein of opposition,
acts in the direction of the left quarter, and affects the
whole body of the horse, which it curves and presses
forward, and to the left.

The right leg, by closing in near the girths, assists
the movement by also displacing the quarters to the
left. The left hand first yields and then limits the
bend of the neck, and then strengthens the action of
the right rein, by also drawing the forehand forward,
and to the left ; the left leg, which is closed in against
the girth, maintains the forward movement. This
movement gives the horse the greatest suppleness and
freedom in all parts of the body.

It creates —

1. Freedom of the shoulders, obedience to the hand,
and consequently lightness of the forehand.


2. Suppleness of the hindquarters, obedience to the

leg, and consequently the engagement of the

3. Flexibility of the spine, which harmonizes the

forehand and hindquarters.

(Part left out merely explanation of above.)

The " shoulder-in " is therefore the synthesis of all
the gymnastic movements that one can demand of the
horse, and it is, as La Guerimere used to say, " the first
and last of all the lessons one can give a horse." Its
execution is easy, and the results excellent and rapid.
It is necessary, as in the case of the side movement,
to avoid carrying out the " shoulder-in " on the track
near the wall, as the horse is always attracted by the
track, tries to get back to it, and only bends his neck
instead of yielding his shoulders, which is contrary
to the end one has in view.

The " shoulder-in " is taught at first on the circle,
and the rider gradually trains the horse by taking him
away from it for a few steps : he then pats him and
recommences again further on.

When the horse understands what is wanted of
him, and carries out the movement all right at the walk,
it is repeated at the trot.

For the proper execution of the movement, it is
necessary that the hand which keeps the shoulder in,
should act fixedly on one rein, held short, and the rider
should especially avoid drawing the rein backwards.

The horse should be frequently exercised in the
shoulder-in, and should be worked alternately on one
shoulder, and then the other, the rider being careful
between each change to walk for a few paces on a
straight line. These suppling exercises should only


be given for a short time, and the rider should profit
from the engagement of the hind legs to press the horse
forward in a vigorous extended trot after straightening
him, the hand only giving the head and neck the
support necessary to assist the extension of the legs.

Easing of the hand and extension of the neck. —
The easing of the hand, defined and commented on by
La Guerimere, and later on adopted by the Baucher
school as one of the fundamental principles of equita-
tion, is nothing more than the proof of good balance.
It consists, after having placed the horse in a certain
balance, in withdrawing, at first for a few moments,
and then for a gradually increasing period, the action
of the legs and hands, and accustoming the horse to
remain in this balance, without the assistance of the
aids, and without decreasing his pace.

The longer the horse remains collected in this
position, the more he shows the perfection of his
condition and of his balance — natural and acquired
— and the comj)letion of his training, whether as a
charger, a hunter, or a High School horse.

The easing of the hand does not of necessity imply
that the legs should be entirely removed, or the reins
quite slack, but the action of the aids should confine
itself to simple contact.

In this position, the horse enjoys an independence
favourable to the economy of his power, and his
initiative is aroused.

Although inapphcable at field practice or during
manoeuvres, because the changes of pace and direction
demand from the rider a frequent and often energetic
use of the aids, and consequently on the part of the
horse a constant position of attention, one should
nevertheless ease the hand whenever there is not


this necessity, as, for instance, when on the road,
or on an individual mission, or when taking a ride

The extension or lowering of the neck is quite
different from the dropping of the hands.

It is evident that the considerable part the neck
plays in the movement of the horse at liberty, makes
it necessary for the rider to be master of the lengthen-
ing and shortening of the neck, if he intends to have
it in his power to regulate the movement according
to his wishes.

When the training is properly carried out, the
connection between the rider's hand and the horse's
mouth ought to be regulated, from the first, by
making the most of the natural attitudes indispensable
to movement, and yet maintaining in the horse the
respect for the hand.

In course of time, whenever, after getting the
horse in hand, the rider yields progressively the hand,
whilst the legs continue to act, the horse should
search for the bit by lengthening his stride. The
rider's tact will now show itself in finding and giving
to the horse the support which will be best for him
for lengthening his stride, changing the pace, jumping,
etc. It is no longer the dropping of the hand, it is
teaching the horse that when the rider continues the
pressure of the legs and at the same time progressively
eases the hand, he should lengthen his stride, lower
his head and demand from the hand the support and
assistance necessary. The rider brings the head back
into place with the reins, and, the hand having then
more action than the legs, there will be of necessity
a reduction of the pace ; after the horse has lengthened
his stride and then collected himself into a slower



pace, the hands should be eased without the horse
altering his balance. It is by these alternate mani-
festations of submission, and these periods of liberty,
that horses become light in hand and always keen.

The movements of the walk and the halt, as well
as the lengthening and slackening of the pace,
should be carried out with young horses in such a
way as to promptly and clearly establish this under-
standing between the rider and the horse, and they
suffice nearly always to bring about that light con-
nection indispensable to the changes of pace and
direction, and, consequently, to the extension and
draAving in of the neck necessary to movement.

But, wdth certain horses, who get behind the bit,
fear the hand, or are ew^e-necked, sj^ecial exercises
are necessary, which require tact and patience, in
order to get control of the play of the neck, and to
place on the shoulders the weight they ought to carry.
It is by working on a circle with impulsion, in alter-
nating the effect of each bit, by mobilizing the fingers,
and by vibration of the reins, that the rider succeeds,
little by little, in getting the horse on the hand, then
to taste the bit, and lastly to extend his neck either
forwards or to the side. One must not confound the
extension of the neck, which is a slow progressive
action, with the movement of the horse which plunges
forward suddenly and snatches at the reins ; nor
with the immediate and complete abandonment of
the reins, accompanied by the easing of the legs,
which follow the proper execution of a movement :
the first is a defence which must be defeated at once,
the second is the reward and rest, which the obedient
horse deserves.

Balancing. — In the extension, slackening, and


change of the paces which have been studied, the
rider must be carel'ul not to enclose Iiis horse between
the legs and the hand. The rule remains invariable
for the rider to keep his horse impulsise, and at the
same time obedient, by the right action of his hands
and legs. But, in proportion as the training advances,
these actions tend to draw together, and at times to
be simultaneous. The horse, thus balanced Ijetween
the legs and the hands, works in a sort of balance
with his neck and action high, that is to say, in a
state of collection.

Collection in movement aims at shortening the
base of support of the horse, which then works on a
short base, which increases his mobility, whilst neces-
sarily reducing his speed.

Whenever the rider wishes to return to an ex-
tended pace, he should cease to demand collection,
and let the impulsion pass forward ; at the same
time the neck extends itself, the pace increases, and
the horse again works on a long base.

To oblige the horse, according to circumstances,
to work on a short or long base, to accustom him to
change from the most closely collected work to the
roughest country riding — in a word, to balance him-
self, is the aim of military horsemanship, and it is
to the attainment of this end that the changes of pace,
the increase and decrease of speed, with which we
have been dealing, tend.

Observations on the paces. — One can gather from
the mechanism of the walk, the trot, and the gallop,
observations very useful in training.

It is of the greatest use for the rider to know how
to start a pace at the command, and to maintain or
change it. Now, in the walk, and in the trot, the


lateral bipeds move parallel to one another ; in the
gallo]), on the contrary, the horse places one of his
quarters slightly to one side. This remark is necessary,
and it suffices to explain to the rider that at the walk
and trot, the horse should remain absolutely straight,
whilst at the gallop, he yields slightly one of his quarters.
Every time that the rider wishes to start the canter
or gallop with a young horse, he should first give liim
this natural position. On the other hand, whenever
he wishes to change from the gallop to the trot or walk,
he has merely to replace the horse in the straight

Another obligation imposed on the rider, consists
in developing paces which enables the horse to go
long distances without fatigue, and, in order that
the horse may employ as little energy as possible, it
is essential that the impulsion acts in the direction
of the movement.

The horse moves with high or low action, according
to the way in which he is ridden ; he can also move
high in front and low behind.

"The horse will move with high action when, suppled
and trained by exercise and properly ridden, he can
be collected when moving. Then the muscles of the
neck, being bent and high, will raise the forelegs by
their contraction, whilst the hind legs being well under
the body also flex themselves " (General de Benoist).

Thus placed the horse cannot develop any great
speed, because his action loses in extension what it
gains in height, and moreover, his joints are constantly
being flexed, but this position is very favourable to
instantaneous changes in the balance, and conse-
quently in direction and pace. This collected position
has. therefore, a frequent use in secondary equitation,


since whether at manoeuvres, or in single combat, the
horse must be able to work on a short base.

The horse moves high in front and low behind
when, ridden by an inexperienced horseman, he carries
his head high either from choice or constraint, and as
in the preceding case, the muscles of the neck raise the
forelegs by their contraction ; whilst the hind legs,
placed far from the centre, are not able to engage
themselves, their movements will be jerky and the
spine will not have any flexibility. The horse will
consequently move with a considerable expense of
energy and discomfort in the loins and hind legs,
showing itself by all kinds of disorderly movements.

Finally, the horse will have a low extended action
when he moves with the neck stretched out in a
horizontal position. The muscles of the neck will
then draw the forelegs forw^ard instead of upw^ards.
The hind legs, answering to the pressure of the rider's
legs, will be able to bring themselves well under the
body in consequence of the position of the neck,
which enables the spine to easily arch itself and then
spring back in the direction of the movement.

This position will, therefore, be favourable to
speed, and all the efforts of the horse will tend to
produce the movement with the least fatigue, since
no energy is lost. It is, therefore, this position,
which the rider must try and make his horse take,
whenever he is working alone, or on a long base.

Considered from the point of view of training, the
paces, which have already been taken advantage of
in the breaking, offer the following further uses.

The free extended walk constitutes a rest to the
horse ; it is consequently the best reward the rider
can give him, to show his satisfaction after the good


execution of the movement demanded, and he should
make frequent use of it.

Furthermore, at this pace, the seat being firm,
the rider is in possession of all his means of action,
and should make use of it to rectify all the bad positions
of his horse, and to teach him the positions which pre-
cede the carrying out of every new movement. The
horse, being all the more disposed to obey as the action
of the aids is more decided, and all the more master
of his balance as the pace is less rapid, finds himself
thoroughly prepared to receive the lesson. Every new
movement, and every new position, should therefore
be learnt at the \valk before it is attempted at the
fast paces.

But at the walk, precisely because of the slowness
of the pace, the effects of the exercises on the joints
and muscles, especially in the movements to one side,
are but shghtly marked. In the same way, if, at the
canter and gallop, the increase and decrease of speed
is an excellent exercise for the spine, the movements
to the side on two lines, on the other hand, have no
useful effect on the horse, because in this movement
he moves in a series of parallel bounds, without any
of the legs crossing one another, and consequently
without great effort.

In the trot, on the contrary, in consequence of the
mechanism of the pace, the movement on two Hues is
a gymnastic exercise all the more efficacious in pro-
portion as the impulsion is greater, and the action more
extended. In order that the near side legs, for example,
may stretch freely to the left, and that the off side legs
may pass in front and cross over them, the horse must
move in big strides, and consequentl}^ maintain his
speed, otherwise there will not be any vigorous working


of the muscles and joints, in a word, there Avill be
neither o^ymnastic exercise nor impulsion.

The start of the canter or gallop. — The importance
of the gallop makes it necessary that the rider should
know all about this pace ; because the way in which
horses commence it, keep it up, modify or leave it,
has a great influence on its execution.

Besides this, the study of a complicated movement,
which calls upon all the knowledge of the rider, and
finally upon the absolute obedience of the horse, gives
the opportunity for applying to a concrete case the
principles laid down in training, and for showing in
detail the role and value of the aids. To analyse
completely the start of the canter, is to make a
synthesis of all the training, and to show by the study
of one movement, how all the rest can be obtained.

The horse, when at liberty, starts the gallop in
several different ways. As a general rule, he begins
this pace according to the causes that make it neces-
sary, at one time by a slight loss of balance, produced
by his throwing his weight forward, at another time,
by his throwing back the weight of the forehand on
to the quarters, that is to say, by bringing his hind legs
under the body and balancing himself.

When mounted he acts in the same way, when a
cause, out of the control of the rider, starts him into
a gallop (a chck of the tongue, the whip, or fear).

When the rider wishes to start his horse into a
gallop by command of the aids, it is necessary to take
into consideration, when making choice of his means,
the effects which the hand and the legs may produce,
since according to his state of training, the horse may
only understand a part of the effects of the aids.

In order to make the horse understand that the


sensations that he feels demand the gallop, it is
necessary to place him in a position which, by removing
all hesitation, leaves him nothing else but a definite
movement to be carried out : the one that is required
of him.

Whether the horse starts the gallop by loss of
balance or by balancing himself, the position should
always precede the mov^ement.

It is the very mechanism of the gallop which
indicates the position which the horse should take.
The gallop is characterized by the advanced position
which one lateral biped takes with regard to the other,
that is to say, that in the gallop to the right, the two
offside legs move in advance of the near side legs
and vice versa,

A. With young horses which are ignorant or
imperfectly trained to the aids, and have nevertheless
to be galloped, in order to develop them and advance
their condition, the rider should put them on to some
circular movement in which the lateral biped on the
inside, having less ground to cover than the biped
on the outside, is able to take with greater ease the
forward position. By making use of the action of
the reins already explained, and by pressing the horse
forward more or less energetically with the legs, the
horse, being thus placed, will break into the gallop
quite naturally, especially if the rider leans his body
slightly forward, and to the right for the gallop leading
with the off fore, and inversely for the gallop to the

The horse, to some extent surprised, and thrown
forward by the action of the legs, falls into the gallop
to the right.

The rider has taken advantage of the favourable


position taken by the horse himself to start the gallop.
In this way the horse becomes used to this pace
combined with the weight of the rider. With practice,
the starts become more and more easy, and the horse
enters on the gallop voluntarily, and with increasing

Such is the first part of the lesson in the gallop.
This method of starting is sufTicient for giving to the
young horse the necessary work ; it is, moreover, the
only one which can at this time be employed, since
the horse is ignorant of the action of the aids.

B. But the rider does not always start the gallop
from a curved line ; he must be able to start with
changing direction, that is to say from straight lines.
The work which brings about this result constitutes
the second part of the training, in which the rider
must be able, at his wish, to place the horse in the
position which commands the gallop. The horse
must therefore be taught the elementary action of
the aids.

To start with the off fore leg leading it is necessary
to restrain the near side legs, or to advance the off
side ones. Now, to obtain this result it is sufficient
either to restrain the action of the left shoulder, whilst
freeing at the same time the right shoulder, or to
place the left quarter slightly to the right, or to bring
the right quarter forward slightly in advance of the

All the actions of the reins or of the legs which
will bring about these results are right, although in
different degrees, and will prepare the horse, accord-
ing to the state of his training, to start on the desired

1. To restrain the left shoulder, the rider must


resist with the left rein, either by a Hght direct effect
of opposition, or by an indirect effect of opposition,
employed, one or the other, according to the nature
of the resistance.

2. By assisting one of these actions of the left rein
with the left leg, the rider obtains a deviation more
or less pronounced of the left quarter towards the
right, and places it behind the right quarter, in the
position for the gallop leading with the right leg.

3. To obtain the start of the gallop by causing the
right quarter to advance, the rider must use his right
leg against the girth, so as to bring the right hind leg
under the body (High School Riding). Of course the
rider can combine these various actions in order to
obtain an effect more quickly and accurately. When
once the position has been obtained, the rider has
merely to give the impulsion necessary for the speed
of the gallop by an equal pressure of both legs.

The start of the gallop to the right, by the resistance
of the left rein, is very simple and irresistible ; it is
the method employed during the early part of training,
and generally whenever the rider finds any difficulty
in getting his horse to start on the desired leg.

The start of the gallop to the right, by the pre-
dominant action of the left leg, has the inconvenience
of forcing the horse off the straight line, and, if the
horse starts with an excessive action of his inside leg,
he may start false.

The start of the gallop to the right by the predomi-
nant action of the rider's right leg, pressed in against
the girth, is certainly the most correct, since the horse
starts straight ; but this effect of the leg is rather the
result of education than natural. This method of
starting the gallop can only be employed when the


training is nearly finished, and should only be attempted
by experienced horsemen having precision and tact,
and with horses which arc calm, obedient, and sensitive.

The rider should make frequent starts on one or
the other leg, in order to get the horse accustomed to
them. It is for the instructor to judge as to what
he can, or ought, to demand. The only rule to fix
firmly in the mind, is never to require anything of a
horse until he has recovered calmness, and, on the
other hand, never to cease w^ork ^vith a badly carried-
out movement. We have only dealt here with the
determining aids, which do not, however, exclude the
other aids. These, by regulating or strengthening
the demand made on the horse, give great assistance
to the regular and prompt execution of the movement.

To sum up, the progression we have followed is that
from the known to the unknown, that is to say, in
teaching the start of the gallop only to use the effects
of the aids which the horse is able to understand,
according to the advancement of his training.

To make use of, at any rate at first, the positions
which a horse assumes when at liberty, and only to
modify these little by little, while constantly bearing
in mind the necessity of substituting the straight
position for that with an inclination to one side, and
the well balanced instantaneous start for an uncertain
disorderly one.

To change from the canter to the trot, or from the
canter to the w^alk, the rider must replace the horse
in a perfectly straight position : when thus placed the
horse Avill modify the combination of his legs and
resume the trot or the walk.

When once the gallop has been checked, the rider
should press the reins with the fingers more or less


firmly according to the pace he wishes the horse to
take, and the rapidity with which he wishes the change
to be made, it being borne in mind that, whilst the
legs remove their pressure, they should nevertheless
remain in contact with the sides, ready to close in
again to maintain the forward movement as soon as
the horse has taken up the new pace.

Jumping when mounted. — The horse should be
regularly exercised v/ith the object of making him
clever over rough ground and free at his jumps.
Calmness is also an indispensable quality in a riding
horse, and the trainer should endeavour to obtain it
by every means in his power, especially by developing

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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 8 of 10)