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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calmness in himself.

The work on the lunge, carried out either in the
school or out of doors, is an assistance too important
in this part of the training to be neglected. It should
be frequently resorted to during training, but one of
the best means of obtaining freedom and calm, when
a horse is ridden at an obstacle, is to regulate the
pace according to the size of the jump and the nature
of the difficulties. To ride at a pace too fast is to
waste energy and to invite disaster, but towards the
end of the training the horse should be brought to
jump the obstacles, large or small, that he meets, at
the fast paces, without getting excited, and without
checking his speed.

As in the case of the young horse ; it is skill and
willingness, rather than power in jumping, that ought
to be developed during the training. Consequently,
this instruction has the most useful application in the
open, over natural and fixed obstacles.

To give a young horse his first lessons in the school
over movable jumps is to teach him to despise that


which ought to be respected, and to ask him to show
a wiUiiigness which the aids of the rider, at any rate
at the commencement of training, cannot enforce, in
case of refusal.

Practical outdoor horsemanship enables one to
group the difficulties wliich the horse offers, when
being ridden over jumps, in a small number of defences,
which need only be known to be promptly remedied.
Experience has also proved that, in most cases, the
horse limits his resistances to one or two defences,
which he invariably makes use of.

When a horse refuses to jump, the first thing for
the rider to do — as also for the instructor, who in case
of necessity should point out the remedy, or take the
place of the rider — is to consider the nature of the

If the horse has shown on the lunge sufficient
power, and if his education has been properly carried
out, there can be only two reasons for his refusal to
jump when mounted : either he refuses to obey the
aids, or the rider has not sufficient tact. In the first
case it is best not to insist, and to perfect the training,
before recommencing the jumping lessons.

If the refusal is caused by w^ant of skill on the rider's
part, it is sufficient in most cases to explain to him
the fault he has made, in order to obtain the immediate
obedience of the horse.

The different ways in which a horse refuses to jump
can be grouped as follows : —
{a) The horse stops short.

(6) He turns off some distance from the jump,
(c) He swerves when near the jump.

(a) If the horse stops short it is owing to want of
impulsion, or fear of the rider's hand. When there is


want of impulsion the rider should leave the jump for
the time being, and again give the lesson of the legs,
and, if necessary, that of the sj^urs also, and then when
he feels his horse keen to go forward, he should send
him again at the jump, keeping him calm and straight,
and press him forward with the legs the last few strides ;
when the horse has jumped he should dismount and
pat him.

If the horse refuses from fear of the hand the rider
should first alter the bit, if necessary, and then lower
the bar, or if in the open, choose small jumps, taking
them at the walk or slow trot, with long reins, giving
perfect freedom to the neck ; the rider can help the
horse, if necessary, by taking hold of the pommel of
the saddle, whilst jumping, to restore the confidence
of the horse in the hand, and encourage him to stretch
out his head and neck.

(b) The horse who refuses some distance from the
jump, takes sudden hold of the rider's hand, places
his head and neck in a position which enables him to
avoid the action of the bit, and makes his escape to
one side or the other.

The rider, in this case, should divide the difficulty
into its component parts : get his horse into hand
again, calm him, and, after placing the head and neck
in their proper position, put him at the jump again,
holding him firmly till the last moment, with strong
pressure of the legs, and stretched and firmly held

(c) When near the jump the horse refuses either by
throwing one shoulder out or by turning sidewaj^s
and moving with the quarters in front of the shoulders.

In the first case, the rider will draw back the
leading shoulder by opening his reins, if the horse


merely attempts to shy off ; or by the eiierfrctic use
of the indirect rein, if he tlu'ows his shoulder vi^^orously
out of the hne ; und by pressing him strongly forward
at the same time with the legs.

In the second case, that is to say if the horse refuses
by throwing his quarters out, for instance, to the left,
the rider will use the lateral aids, and place the horse
on the left shoulder in (left indirect rein of opposition
and left leg), and will thus press back the quarters into
the right direction. It is true that the horse's head
is placed in the direction to which he wishes to turn,
but, under the action of the left rein and leg, the whole
body is forced towards the right. The rider will
straighten his horse again at the last moment, and
the impulsion, stimulated by the rein on the side,
of the inside shoulder, combined with the energetic
use of the legs, drives the horse freely at the jump.

All the defences which have just been analysed arc
always preceded, at one moment or another, by a
sudden abandonment of the hand by the horse, who
profits by this moment of liberty to take the position
he prefers for resistance.

The rider when approaching a jump should, there-
fore, always attentively feel with his seat and legs the
movements of the hindquarters, the seat of impulsion,
and keep the reins stretched, so as not to lose contact
with the mouth and keep in close touch with his horse.





As a consequence of the breaking-in, the horse has
become calm and impulsive.

His suppleness and strength have been developed,
and his resistances have been overcome, by tlie special
exercises of the training course.

During this work the horse has learnt to obey the
aids. It now remains to apply, in the daily work, the
results attained.

The following rules serve as a basis on which
instruction in horsemanship can be perfected.

The straight-moving horse. — The first use made of
this obedience has for its object to make the horse a
straight mover, firstly, because of the place he ought to
occupy in the ranks, secondly, because this position is
of great use in obtaining the pace desired, and in
regulating the speed.

The horse is straight when the left shoulder and


the left quarter, the ri<^ht shoulder uiid the right
quarter, are in line with one another in the walk.

In horsemanship it is also right to say that tlic
horse moves straight, although he is working in a
eirele, when the shoulders and the quarters move at the
same distance from the centre.

When the horse is straight, the hind feet follow
exactly the lines traced by the fore feet ; the quarters
and the shoulders arc so placed as to insure the trueness
of their reciprocal action. The two quarters move
equally, the impulsion is equally distributed, and the
transfer of weight from one part to another is regular
and easy. The forces which emanate from the two
ends of the horse do not experience any contradiction
in their combined action, and work for a common end,
i.e. movement in a straight line for which the horse
linds himself perfectly placed.

If, instead of moving straight, the horse moves
obliquely, harmony no longer exists between the forces
of the hindquarters and those of the forehand, there is
no longer true distribution of the weight, and the equal
facility of moving to either side ; moreover, the
quarters are bent round and oppose the shoulders,
and consequently resistance is experienced. There is
therefore good reason, before attempting anything
else, for placing and keeping the horse straight. The
action of the reins and of the legs, which has already
been studied, enables the rider to bring the horse back
into a straight position. In referring to instructions
already given, especially to those regarding the effects
of the rein of opposition, and by making use of the
assistance which the legs give the hands, the rider will
find all the necessary combinations to redress the
shoulders, force back the quarters, and maintain,



and if necessary, bring back the horse to the right

But, to obtain the result which the right use of the
aids should give, it is necessary to maintain the vigour
of the impulsion. True, free, easy paces, depend
entirely on the activity of the quarters and the straight
position of the horse.

To change the pace, and in any given pace to change
the speed. — The execution of the changes of pace rests
on two princijDleSo

1. When the legs close in to press the horse for-

wards, the hand should not opjDose the move-
ment ;

2. When the hand acts to moderate or to annul the

impulsion, the legs should be passive :
consequently, to start the walk from a stationary
position, to extend the walk, to change from the walk
to the trot, to lengthen the trot, the rider should apply
the legs with more or less force, according to the result
he washes to obtain and the sensibilitj' of the horse,
w^hilst at the same time he lowers the hands and slackens
the grip of the fingers, if necessary, to allow of the

The hands, nevertheless, ought to be ready to
resist, and even to act, if necessary, in order to regulate
the pace, w^hen the effect produced by the legs is
greater than was intended.

To lengthen the stride, the rider, without ever
losing contact Avith the mouth, gives the greatest
liberty to the horse, so as to allow the extension of the
neck. In this position the horse is most firm on his
legs, has a better view of the ground, and finds himself
in the most favourable position for moving his legs
without fatigue.


To lengthen the trot one should press the horse
forward and keep him from taking an oblique
position, by preventing either of the shoulders pre-
ceding the other. The rider will get assistance from
holding the veins separated in the two hands, so as to
be able to use with greater ease the opposing actions
of the reins.

The horse which, when pressed in the trot, takes
the gallop without being asked to do so, is nearly
always a lazy horse ; he should be corrected when he
makes this fault, pressed forward, allowed to stretch
out his neck, and be brought to take a hold on the bit
which favours the speed.

On the other hand, to reduce the speed of the gallop,
the trot, and the walk, to change from the gallop to the
trot, from the trot to the walk, from the walk to the
stop, and to make the horse rein back, the rider fixes
his hands and straightens his body, the fingers being
lightly closed on reins of a right length. The legs
should be ready to resist and even to act, if necessary,
that is to say if the effect produced by the reins is
greater than the rider desired. They have not, conse-
quently, occasion to intervene, till the horse has
commenced to yield to the action of the reins.

To maintain a certain pace and speed. — In the
case of wT'll-balanced horses, which, whilst moving
forward, are obedient to the aids and respect the rider's
hand, it is sufficient, in order to keep them in a pace
and speed desired, to maintain a gentle tension on the

To keep the horse light in hand and to force him
to yield the lower jaw to the bit, the pressure of the
fingers on the reins should be intermittent, whilst the
impulsion is still maintained.


But it often happens that either because he pulls,
or, on the contrary, because he lacks impulsion, the
horse does not preserve the regularity of the paces.

The horse pulls for many reasons : nervousness,
want of balance, contraction, etc. These various
causes are felt by the hand in two ways —

Either the rider feels on his hand the weight of a
dull mass, heavy to carry, and difficult to displace
(horse on his shoulders), in which case it is called
resistance of weight, and is met by the half-halt, which
obliges the horse to pull himself together and carry
himself. Or the rider feels in his fmgers a resistance
arising from muscular contractions of the lower jaw,
and that the horse resists instinctively or voluntarily
the action of the bit : we call these defences wilful
resistances, and we attack them with flexions or
vibrations on the reins as previously explained. The
horses can, moreover, move slower than desired owing
to laziness, want of energy, fear of the hand, or from
ignorance of the position favourable to the movement.

If it is OAving to laziness, we should attack strongly
with the legs and, if necessary, press in the spurs, in
order to re-establish the absolute respect for the leg.

If it is owing to want of energy, training, age, and
good food, gradually increase the vigour of the horse.
If the horse fears the bit, he shows his apjorchension by
raising his head and refusing the hand ; he thus over-
whelms his hindquarters, and instead of collecting
himself, trots without moving forward. We should
in this case put a lighter bit in the horse's mouth, put
him in confidence on the hand by gentle movements of
the fingers, and provoke the extension of the neck,
which will bring about the relaxation of the loins, and
later on the propulsive action of the hindquarters.


To sum up, in the case of a trained horse, kec^o the
pace equal by means of a Hght hand and mo])ile fingers,
without ever allowing the horse to pull.

In the case of a horse which fights against the bit,
one should have a light hand with always the same
steady tension on the reins, or make use of vibrations.
In the case of a horse heavy in front, one should close
the fingers strongly on the reins and make use of the

In each of these cases the legs should be fixed but

Finally, in the case of horses who are behind the
])ridle, seek the cause of the want of impulsion, and
have recourse cither to the action of the aids, or to
some modification in the general treatment or in the

Change of direction. — The turn is merely the
consequence of a new objective that the rider proposes
to reach. The selection of direction should, therefore,
always precede the turn.

In practice there are three ways of turning —

Turning on a large bend.

Turning on a small bend.

Turning from a stationary position.

1. The turning on a large bend is carried out whilst
moving forward, and on an arc of a circle sufficiently
great, consequently the rider has scope and time. It
is obtained either with the opened rein or with the
indirect rein.

The opened rein indicates to the horse the new
direction : the two legs press him in this direction :
it is the most elementary of the turns whilst advancing.
It is also the one which young horses best under-
stand, and should, therefore, not only be used at the


commencement of the breaking, but also every time
that the horse resists the other effects of the reins.

In order that this turning may have its full effect
it is of the greatest importance not to annul, by a
premature intervention of the regulating rein, the
action of the rein which determines the turn ; one
should, therefore, at the start, yield freely the opposite

The turn with the indirect rein and the two legs
is also a turn whilst going forward. The weight of the
neck inclines the horse to the new direction, towards
which the two legs press him : it is the turn most
usually employed when riding in the open. It is also
the only one which the rider who holds his reins in one
hand is able to make use of. As in the preceding turn,
it is necessary, in order that the rein which determines
the movement may have its full effect and power, that
the regulating rein be slack at first, so as not to inter-
fere with the position which the horse's nose should
take under the influence of the direct rein. When
riding with one hand, the slackening of the outside rein,
moreover, takes effect automatically.

2. The short turn, which the rider makes use of
when he is forced to change his direction quickly, or
when he has not much spare room, can be obtained
either by a lateral or diagonal effect. The lateral
effect (right direct rein of opposition and right leg)
draws the shoulders to the right, and turns the quarters
more or less sharj^ly to the left : the horse turns his
head to the right whilst at the same time slackening his
speed. This turning is of general use during the
training, it gives a short but energetic exercise to the
spinal column, to the shoulders, and to the quarters.
It is equally this movement which enables the rider to


give his horso the first lesson in the use of the leg, and
makes him accept this aid. The short turn by the
diagonal effect (left indirect rein of opposition and right
leg for turning to the right) is the closest, the most
prompt and the most correct of the turns. The left
rein pushes the shoulders to the right, and the horse
turns his head to the right without slaclcening his speed.
To sum up, of the two large turns, the first is the most
elementary ; the second the most usual, in open air
horsemanship : of the two close turns, the first is
excellent to enforce obedience to the leg ; the second is
the more rapid and regular.

3. The turn from a stationary position is employed
when the rider, being at a stand, wishes to change
direction : it is made on the shoulders, on the quarters,
or on the centre. The half-turn on the forehand, when
executed correctly and rapidly, proves the submission
of the horse to the leg, and the suppleness of the hind-
quarters. The half-turn on the quarters, executed
correctly and rapidly, proves the lightness of the fore-
hand, the suppleness of the shoulders, the strength of
the loins, and the submission of the hindquarters. If
one carries out step by step these two movements, the
horse will better understand the mechanism, but they
have not the same suppling effect ; one should, however,
execute them very slowly if wishful to get the best

The half-turn on the shoulders, and the half-turn on
the quarters, are difficult to execute perfectly. The
half-turn in place, in which the horse pivots on his
centre by carrying, for example, his shoulders to the
right and his quarters to the left, is of easy execution
and constant application. It is obtained by the action
of the left rein indirect of opposition, which carries the


shoulders to the right and moves the quarters to the
left, and by the action of the right leg, which equally
pushes the quarters to the left. In all the changes of
direction the action of the leg should precede the action
of the hand. By acting otherwise the quarters prop
and make the turning clumsy. By, on the contrary,
inclining the seat of impulsion in the new direction,
the hindquarters act as a rudder, and impose the
direction w^hich the hand has only to indicate.

The Gallop. Galloping a horse. — The want of breed-
ing in the troop horse, makes it necessary to be
very careful in the use of the fast paces, and puts
a limit on the degree of speed that one can exact
from them, and also on the distance for which they
can be exercised.

Nevertheless, the practice of the charge, makes
it necessary for the soldier not only to make use of
the extended gallop but also intermediate speeds.
The instructor carefully regulates the details of this
work, chooses his day, and ground, and gradually
teaches his men and horses to take and maintain a
steady gallop.

In these exercises the rider takes care to press
the horse into the bridle. The greater confidence
the horse has in the support of the hand, the better
he places himself to ensure speed. There is also an
advantage, at first, in riding him in a snaffle or double
snaffle. The first gallops are made easier by the
horses being arranged in groups of two or three at
most, according to their temperaments. In the
gallop, the rider should have his stirrups " home,"
the thighs closed in, and the legs fixed to the horse's
sides, he should also lean slightly forward, so as to
ease the horse's loins of weight, allow the hindquarters


to act with more power, and consequently to ensure
the greatest speed

The reins should be separated, the hands low
resting on the neck, so as to be fixed, and to give the
horse a firmer and more constant support.

The rider is taught to gradually increase the
speed, up to the fastest gallop, and then to gradually
slow down the pace, wnilst always maintaining con-
tact with the horse's mouth and keeping him straight.
These exercises comprise increasing and decreasing
the speed ; the gallop should not exceed 800 yards.
It is necessary to be careful and to regulate the work,
according to the age and breed of the horses. The
periods of walking Avhich follow should be all the
more prolonged, according as the gallop has been
long and fast.

One makes use of this work to teach the rider to
judge the speed of his horse, to regulate it, to see
and make a note of, and reason about all that passes
around him : in a word, to acquire a head, that is
to say, the qualities of coolness, and quick observa-
tion and judgment, which are indispensable in war,
and which the soldier should retain even at the
fastest paces.

Riding across country and over jumps. — The main
principles of horsemanship find their application
when riding over a country and when jumping.
The qualities of dash, of seat, of fixity, of suppleness,
the care of the horse's mouth, the observance of the
laws of balance, which have been constantly men-
tioned in the education of both man and horse, here
play a considerable part. Decision when jumping
is one of the first qualities that an outdoor rider
should possess : it communicates itself rapidly to


the horse, and becomes the best guarantee of his
boldness. If the rider is not keen, the horse soon
finds it out and becomes restive. The seat, which
is the close and supple contact of the pelvis and
thighs with the horse, insures the lightness of the
hand, gives the rider the use of his legs, which be-
come more than ever the agents of impulsion, and
enable him in case of mishap to save a fall by sinking
into the bottom of his saddle.

The seat is independent of the body : a rider
can have the body slightly inclined forward and
still be close to his saddle, in the same way as he can
have his body back and yet be out of the plate.

Fixity, which has been defined in horsemanship
as the absence of all involuntary and useless move-
ment, forbids here all exaggerated projection of the
body, all displacement of the legs forwards or back-
Avards, as also all movement of the hands.

Suppleness is the result of a good seat and fixity
united by the suppleness of the loins ; it is the essential
quality which enables the rider to be one with his
horse in all the variations of pace ; it is what is called
going with one's horse.

The laws of balance and the mechanism of the
paces demand from the rider that he should not
overcharge the working parts when jumping, that
is to say, the hindquarters, the seat of impulsion,
at the moment of the spring, and the forehand, which
supports the weight when the horse lands.

Finally, the play of the neck, all the more pro-
nounced in proportion as the pace is slow and the
spring violent, demands that the rider's hand gives
the head a libert}^ proportioned to the energy of
the extension, so that the horse may be able to


utilize all his power, and that his mouth may not
suffer from any involuntary movement.

No matter what the pace may be, when approach-
ing the obstacle, the rider should fix his legs and
increase their pi*essure, if necessary, to secure im-
pulsion. He should incline the body slightly forward,
the seat bones being still pressed into the saddle ;
the hands, placed low, accompany the movement
of the neck, whilst the fingers release their hold on
the reins to allow the horse the free use of his head

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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 9 of 10)