Even the masters of equitation have to admit that it is very nearly impossible to complete the education of any horse without having the animal show some tendency to lack of obedience, some trace of hesitation, refusal, or revolt. The experienced master senses this condition at its beginning; and without losing any time he discovers the reason for it, and corrects the trouble forthwith. At the early stage, correction is comparatively easy. But when the animal has once formed the habit of rebellion, correction is very difficult, indeed. The result is sometimes a downright fight between rider and horse.
The problem is, therefore, to discover the reason for the horse's defense, and then to remove the cause before the horse gets the idea that disobedience is possible. Experience shows, moreover, that these causes are generally physical. The only mental factor is the fear of injury from some object heard, seen, or smelled. This mental state is to be remedied only by persuasion, patience, and good treatment.
The physical causes of defense are bodily pains and the consequent memory of them. A horse will, however, very seldom defend itself against the first sensation of an unknown pain, but only if the pain be prolonged or repeated. Furthermore, a horse does not enter immediately into the state of revolt.
At the beginning, it simply hesitates to act and move as it has been doing. Then it tries to stop. Finally, it does stop, and thereupon enters into complete rebellion. The moment when the horse first tries to stop is, of course, the point at which the rider should quell the approaching revolt. The rider, therefore, so to say, takes hold of the horse's legs and forces these to carry the body forward, at any gait, in order that the animal may not feel that its limbs have any possibility of stopping. Whatever the horse may think, the rider's only argument is: "Yes; forward and straight."
Consequent to this first sign of revolt, the refusal to go forward, there is a contraction of the muscles of the spinal column and of the white and yellow cords, the animal is in revolt against the rider and his main controls are lost, and the defenses become possible. These defenses are of four sorts, rearing, kicking, backing, and bolting. All other defenses depend on the possibility of these four primordial ones.
A horse refuses when, because of its moral state, it uses its great physical strength to disobey the commands of its rider. The two wills, the horse's and the man's, are opposed. The man asks. The horse refuses. The point at issue becomes, then, whether the man is to remain master by virtue of his intelligence.
The initial step is to find the reason for the horse's revolt. Has he, first of all, been obedient, and has he already executed the movement asked? If he has, then something new must have occurred to alter the previous state of submission. With a little experience, coupled with a great deal of calm, it is always easy to discover what this something is. We inspect our saddle and girths, the snaffle and bit and throat latch. We consider whether some small departure from the habit already formed by the animal has not provoked the refusal. Have we not repeated the same movement in exaggerated form? Are we correct in our use of our effects? Are these understood by the horse? Is he tired, or confused, or sick, or lame?
No, everything is all right, and as usual. The horse revolts from pure willfulness, because it desires to be master. Very well, I will tell you how to handle this condition.
If the manege or the road is too much crowded with women, children, and beginners, wait patiently and without provoking any further rebellion, until you are alone and free for the little fun that you are going to give your mount.
First make sure that you are entirely in the right and perfectly calm, with not the least passion or anger. Have a whip brought, but hide it out of the horse's sight, by holding it, handle down and lash up, straight in line with his neck.
Then begin to encourage the horse in a firm, gentle voice. If it obeys, caress it, and let it go on at a walk calmly. Then ask a more complicated movement. If the horse refuses or hesitates, there is a rending sound in the air, followed by a dull one like that of a bullet entering a man's chest. All this is very sharp, sudden, and surprising. The horse turns his head to left and to right, not knowing whence the stroke has come. But the whip has been felt, most certainly; and the horse is vanquished.
If it begins again, the rider is ready, and proceeds as before. Two or three such corrections put the horse back into the state of obedience as he was before his revolt. But if the horse knows, after the refusal, that the rider has the whip ready, it will then obey; and later, when the whip is not at hand, it will again refuse. It is important, therefore, that the horse shall not know that the rider has the whip, nor just what happens to him. Then, if he refuses, the chastisement follows immediately, and there is engraven on his memory the association between the disobedience and the physical pain. But the pain comes as a surprise to the horse, who does not know what caused it nor where the instrument has gone. There can be no complete education of a horse without an occasional refusal. But the point is to see it coming and to forestall it by equestrian tact, or at the worst not to let the habit grow. Raabe, Baucher, and Fillis have all had real tempests of revolt from their horses. I who write these lines have had some fights, but not many. Those which I have been through make me very sad; because they show me that, with all my studies and with all my long years of experience, I do not know enough to ride without being obliged to punish.
RESISTANCE and refusal are very nearly synonymous, but not quite. A horse may refuse to execute certain movements, but will, nevertheless, perform others. Or he may refuse to perform the movement in the way desired by the rider, yet still do it after his own fashion, incorrectly. But when a horse resists, he enters willfully into a state of complete revolt, and tries to free himself from any sort of control. He may carry his rider into a river, and no effort will prevent him. No effects, no means, severe or gentle, will make him obey. Either he will not understand the rider's orders; or else, understanding them, he will not carry them out.
If the horse resists because he does not understand, then the best corrective is patience, perseverance, and persuasion, without punishment. But if the horse understands, yet refuses to obey, the cause may be bad will, fear, confusion, or fatigue.
When fear is the cause, the terrifying object may be seen, heard, or, very rarely, smelt. The cure is to reestablish the animal's confidence, by proving to him that the object is inoffensive.
If the horse resists because he is confused, the fault is the rider's own. He should, therefore, distract the horse's mind until the confused images have faded from its memory. Then he should begin again, avoiding his former error.
If fatigue is the cause of the resistance, the remedy is to proceed with moderation, and to ask only such work as is proportionate to the horse's age, strength, and training.
But if the fault is in the horse's evil will, the rider should first make perfectly certain that all his signals meet the same resistance, without the smallest sign of any return to submission. This done, he should punish, with severity, but without passion. Only thus can the horse be made to understand that its will is to be submitted to the rider's control.
Veterinary science is no doubt correct in the opinion that there are defects in the horse's brain, analogous to those in the brain of a man, which cause obstinacy, if not insanity. My own experience, nevertheless, goes to show that the cause of resistances, refusals, and similar difficulties have their basis in ordinary physical defects, which can be cured by moderate and proper education.
A HORSE is instinctively timid and anxious, even in a state of freedom; and this nervous tension tends to affect the muscles and to cause these to contract and stiffen beyond their normal tonus.
This contraction is likely to be augmented during the animal's education. Its four senses are very acute, and the unaccustomed objects which surround it keep it chronically alarmed. The harness also, and the contact of the rider, with his various effects, and all the various checks and impediments of the domestic life, tend, until the horse becomes wonted to them, still further to increase its nervous alarm. To relieve this state of contraction is one task of the horseman.
Whether this state of anxiety and contraction is treated properly or improperly determines in large measure the future temper of the mount. The well-disposed animal will always be ready to obey as soon as it understands what the rider wants of it. Moreover, until the horse begins to contract itself, it cannot resist. But this contraction is easily detected by the rider, through his seat, legs, and hand. If the rider is inexperienced, he tries to counteract this while the horse is in motion. The abler rider, on the other hand, immediately stops the horse and relieves the contraction. When this is completely at an end, he once more sends the animal forward, properly supple. This is Baucher's principle. Fillis advocates destroying the contraction while the horse is still moving. But a rider of Fillis's ability can do this without danger of confusing his mount, since his seat is so secure that he can resist the defenses which follow the contraction without impairing his effects of hand and legs. But the student or the ordinary rider cannot do this. If he attempts it, he endangers the temper of the horse and the soundness of its limbs. Moreover, the horse gets the idea that it can refuse by contracting; and when the rider applies his effects in correction, the horse discovers that it can resist these by bounding. All this it retains in its memory for use whenever it wishes to defend itself against the rider.
Baucher, on the contrary, always starts from the equestrian axiom: The horse's position of suppleness and balance make possible the execution of the movement asked. This position, since it is the foundation of every movement, must be permanent. To permit the animal to conceive the possibility of movement when not occupying this position is to accustom it to the possibility of contractions, refusals, and bounds. But to stop the horse at the first sign of contraction, to restore its suppleness at once, and only then to carry it forward, is to impress upon its memory the impossibility of moving unless supple and balanced. To follow out this principle invariably develops with the progress of the instruction a second nature in the horse, benefits its morals, and economizes the wear and tear of its physical mechanism. My own opinion and practice agree with those of Baucher.
THE hard-mouthed horse has insensitive bars; and is, therefore, able to resist the bit. Baucher insists that there is no such thing. Fillis admits its existence, but lays it to the lack of skill of former riders. I, in a way, agree with them both.
Fillis offsets the lack of sensibility by using a severer bit. His method is sound and practical for the man who must ride a hard-mouthed animal, yet has not the time to educate his mount. But the severe bit is only a provisional remedy, since the horse will very soon become accustomed to this also and pull against it as before. For the trainer who can spare the time needed for a real cure, Baucher's idea is the right one, and I am completely of his opinion.
I have already explained that, in natural conformation, there are three sorts of bars. I do not, however, believe that the lack of sensibility of any sort follows directly from its shape. It is, rather, an indirect result of other causes.
Consider, for example, two different horses, ridden by the same trainer, who we will assume is entirely competent. One of these animals is well conformed, with a somewhat heavy neck, and heavy or fleshy bars. The other is badly conformed and weak, but with a well-proportioned neck and good bars. The first horse, having ample strength to carry its load, is a good deal at its ease. At the beginning of its training, it will pull. But the hand of the rider being fixed, the horse will very soon find that pulling brings no relief to the sensation on the bars. Thereupon, its jaw will more or less relax; and since the rider's fingers now also relax, the horse finds it profitable not to bear against the bit. Meanwhile, the rider does not allow the horse to take any initiative, but pushes it forward at will, by the effects of his legs. Since the horse is well conformed and carries the weight without too much effort, it complies with the rider's wishes without objection.
Turn now to the other horse. Because of its weakness in legs and spine, this animal cannot carry its load without constraint and a general contraction of all its muscles, so that its balance becomes disturbed. It stiffens the muscles of its neck. The contraction spreads from the neck to the lower jaw. The bars are set. The horse pulls against the hand, and is called hard-mouthed. The longer the training continues, the harder-mouthed does it become, up to the time when the gymnastic exercises have developed its strength sufficiently for it to carry its rider and execute its commands with ease and comfort. Then it becomes like the first horse.
I hold — my experience compels me to hold — that the well-bred, well-conformed horse, strong and sound, very seldom resists the rider. But the case is exactly reversed for the horse that is weak, badly conformed, or unsound. It is for this obvious reason that I insist on the fundamental difference between the training of a horse and its education.
Evidently, then, the treatment of a hard mouth is not a question of using a more or less severe bit.
Sometimes the head is too large and heavy for the front hand to support. Sometimes the weakness is in the loins. Sometimes the croup is too high in relation to the withers.
Where the defect is excessive, correction is very difficult indeed. In milder cases, the imperfection in one part of the body is compensated for by over-development in another; and these the esquire will cure by progressive exercises, especially flexions of the mouth and neck. I especially recommend the progression: flexions, followed by mobilization of the front and hind hands in place. If this work is done with perseverance and ability, the esquire will demonstrate by his success the truth and value of his art.
This defect occurs very often in horses in the United States. The inbreeding of the native stock has tended to make the loins weak; and since a horse, in order to carry its head high, has to shift some of its weight from the fore to the hind legs, weakness of the loins tends to prevent this and so to make the head hang too low. Moreover, the theory, widely held in America, that the natural way for a horse to eat is off the stable floor as if he were cropping grass, tends to stretch the muscles which hold up the head, and so make the horse heavy upon the hand.
TO porter la tête au vent is to pivot the skull at the atlas region, and swing it upward into a horizontal position. The head thus carried, neither the curb bit nor the snaffle bears upon the bars, but merely pulls upon the commissure of the two lips, pressing these against the first molar teeth.
The cause of the fault may be too severe a bit, too short a curb chain, too heavy-handed a rider, or too injudicious and severe punishment, which has produced a moral revolution in the horse and made it try to escape the man's control. In these cases, the trouble is only occasional; and the rider, correcting himself, will correct his horse.
But if this wrong carriage is often repeated, and without provocation from the rider, then the cause lies in some defect of conformation, as long and weak loins, or too straight hocks, which are sometimes the beginning of spavin or curb, or else in some local trouble, such as pain in the kidneys, a sore mouth, or sharp teeth. In the latter cases, removing the cause will at once effect a cure. But for weakness of loins or hocks, the remedy is progressive work with the flexions with mobilization of the hind hand backward.
A standing martingale will, of course, keep the head from being carried too high. But it will not remove the cause.
A HORSE pulls against the hand when it takes the bit as a point of support. It may do this in either of two ways. In one case, it may object to the pressure of the bit on its bars, and may try to free itself of the pain, by extending its neck forward with muscles contracted, taking a point of support, and pulling with all its might. The corrective for this is a milder bit, and flexions of the mouth and neck. I say, mouth and neck, because sometimes the bars are the reason for the pulling, and sometimes the neck, so that either may be the cause and either the effect.
In the other case, the cause is a bad conformation which was not corrected at the beginning of the education when the horse was young. A badly shaped neck, a few saccades of the reins in the hands of an unskillful rider, and the horse has so vivid a remembrance that it bears against the hand to avoid flexing its neck and opening its mouth. Sometimes, too, if the fore legs are weak, the animal stiffens its neck and pulls against the rider's hand for the sake of supporting limbs in which it has no confidence. Or, again, the weak point is in the loins, or the coupling; and because the region where the fore and hind hands join is not strong enough to permit the horse's supporting himself with the loins, he keeps himself upon the hand by pulling against the bit.
Some authors have maintained that pulling on the hand is the result of bad conformation of the bars. If this were the case, it should always be possible to find a bit of such a form that it will compensate for this defect. I, however, agree with Baucher's opinion that the trouble lies in a general weakness or bad conformation of the body, which makes it difficult for the horse to place itself instinctively, or be placed by the rider, in the correct position of assemblage. Since, then, the horse is wrongly set, it tries to support itself by pulling against the hand.
In every instance, therefore, the proper way to correct the fault is to develop the animal's strength by progressive gymnastics and by good and ample food, meanwhile, freeing the contractions of the mouth and neck by means of flexions, which will not only supple these parts, but will besides develop their strength and conformation. If the seat of the difficulty is in the loins, the coupling, or the hind legs, the proper treatment is through backing and the reversed pirouette, executed as a moderate and progressive gymnastic until the requisite strength is attained.
NOTHING is more uncomfortable on horseback than a mount which, at the slightest effect of bit or snaffle on its bars, refuses to obey, and to avoid the contact shakes its head in every direction, or, as the French call it, battre à la main.
There are several reasons for this defect. Most generally, it is due to some rider's too severe hand on bars that are too sharp, to a bridle wrongly adjusted to the horse's mouth, to too tight a curb chain, or to some previous saccades against sensitive bars. All these result from ignorance on the part of the rider or of the caretaker. They are corrected by the rider's greater experience, better instruction in horsemanship, a change in the bit, or, mechanically, by a standing martingale.
Very often, too, the beating against the hand is the consequence of some defect of conformation, some wound or lameness. The horse's head and neck are like the balancing pole of the rope dancer; and if there is something wrong with the conformation of the backbone or its spine, some trouble with the kidneys, the coupling, or the pelvis, if the muscles of the back have become sore under the saddle, the horse may, in consequence, shake its head. But the cause will be in some derangement of the animal mechanism. Still a third cause is unsoundness of the hocks, curb, and spavin. For these a veterinarian will have to be consulted. In general, when everything about the horse is all right, it will take the contact when sent against the bit. But if anything is wrong, it will refuse contact and beat against the rider's hand.
THUS Newcastle translates begayer, meaning a stammering or stuttering movement of the horse's lips or teeth.
The properly educated horse takes the contact of the bit, and at the contact opens its mouth by contracting the digastrius muscle. At the cessation of the contact, the mouth closes again by the action of the temporalis. Early in its education, the horse opens and shuts its mouth quickly and at its own will; not calmly and precisely. It lips, stutters, and stammers. One hears easily the sound made by the snaffle, which is first lifted by the tongue and then dropped against the bit. While this is pardonable in a horse at the beginning of its training, it is a serious defect for the more advanced animal, and should be corrected as soon as possible, before the habit becomes fixed. Otherwise, it may become the cause of further refusals of obedience from mouth, neck, or the entire organism.
It is certain that the horse which lips, stutters, or stammers has already developed a mouth more sensitive than before the training began. The ignorant, therefore, whose number is legion, hearing the noise, think that the flexion of the mouth is complete. This is a mistake. The sound really comes from the mouthpiece of the Liverpool bit sliding on the shaft of the branches.
I object, therefore, to this sort of bit for the saddle horse. The effect on the bars is not sufficiently precise. The shaft, by allowing the mouthpiece to slide on the branches, makes it possible for the cannon to transmit the pressure from the hand from below upward along the bars, and in consequence to press the mucous membrane of the bars against the first molars. When the rider's hand is rigid, the mouthpiece stays pressed against these teeth. When the hand cedes, the mouthpiece drops. At the next effect of the hand, it again slides up. Thus it is the mouthpiece only which responds to the pressure of the hand, not the lower jaw, though this yielding of the lower jaw is the sine qua non of the flexions of the mouth and neck.
The horse, properly trained with snaffle and curb, raises its tongue very lightly as it opens its mouth, finds the snaffle with its tongue and lifts this. As the effect of the hand ceases, the tongue returns to its normal position, and the snaffle falls against the mouthpiece of the bit and makes the silvery note so precious to the rider. But with the Liverpool bit, it is the bit itself which gives the sound. The reasoned and the scientific equitation recognize flexions of the neck only as they are dependent upon flexions of the lower jaw.
Some horses, nervous and excitable by nature, sometimes champ their bits because of their own energy and impatience. This is not so much a fault as a proof of energy, which properly directed becomes one of the qualities of a good horse.
STAMMERING is a contortion of the horse's mouth which occurs when the rider's hand asks the direct flexion. There should be a feeling of square contact before the flexion, which, as the mouth opens, should pass into a sort of honeyed sensation in the rider's fingers. This should be exactly square and equal. If, however, one of the bars does not cede precisely like the other, but holds the contact when the other has yielded completely, the horse is said to stammer. The same word is used, also, when the horse grinds, gnashes, cracks, snaps, or slaps its teeth.
The horse's nervousness, irritability, or impatience is what makes it casser la noisette; and the correction is by obtaining the complete direct flexion of the lower jaw. A young horse, at the beginning of its education, is pretty likely to stammer, and must be excused. But the trainer must take care that the stammering does not become a habit, since, when once fixed, it is difficult to cure.
On the other hand, this cracking of the teeth together has been employed successfully by the author to cure the fault of "making forces," discussed just below, and also to correct the habit of putting the tongue over the bit. In either case, the horse will bite its tongue, and having done this two or three times, will desist forever. Such bites of the tongue are not serious. A little salt or sugar, helped by the saliva, will heal the wound in a day or two.
The corrective of stammering is to complete the progressive work of the flexions. The direct flexion will always reestablish calm in the general organism.
A HORSE is said to "make forces" when it takes a wrong position of the lower jaw and resists the effects of the rider's hand. This may take the form of shutting the lower jaw against the upper at the effect of the bit, of opening the mouth too wide and keeping it thus, or of carrying the jaw to the right or left at the solicitation of snaffle or bit and holding it there against the effect of the rider's hand.
The fault is generally the result of bad conformation of the hind legs or of weakness of the loins. In a well-conformed animal, it arises from incorrect, too severe, or badly adjusted bits, from roughness of hand and irregular gaits, and sometimes from too sharp teeth on one side of the mouth. In this latter case, the only remedy is to have the teeth filed by a dentist. If the trouble comes from weakness of the loins, the corrective is progressive exercise of the loin or ilio-spinalis muscles by such movements as reversed pirouettes, backing, and standing; but these are not always effective.
A horse which "makes forces" is not agreeable to ride until it is cured of the failing, because of the uncertainty of control, since it may, at the slightest occasion for bad will or fear of objects, resist and refuse to obey the rider's effects. Very generally, too, the fault is accompanied by some other difficulty with the mouth, and the horse lolls with its tongue, puts its tongue over the bit, or pulls its tongue back behind the bit and carries it rolled into a ball.
Various bits have been invented to remedy these tricks. Fillis recommends a bit with a palette to come in the middle of the free portion of the tongue. In a class for ladies' saddle horses at the National Horse Show in New York City, among twenty-five horses, I found five with rings in their mouths, fastened with strings to the bits. The tongue passed through the ring, and of course had to stay there.
I have, myself, had a number of horses which "made forces"; and I have tried every sort of bit. No bit has been a complete corrective. Yet I have cured every case but one, a thoroughbred steeplechaser named "Minstrel," a very powerful animal, whose bars were too sharp, and so near together that there was insufficient room for the tongue. For this animal, I tried a straight bit, and one covered with linen. I also tried using the snaffle only. But nothing worked. The other horses I continued to ride, after giving them flexions on foot. As soon as they "made forces" I stopped them and flexed again.
One horse was so stubborn that I was in despair, until a gentleman came to see me, riding a horse that was "cracking nuts." Hearing the horse clack its teeth against one another, gave me the idea of training my subject to do the same. Thereafter, it stopped "making forces." But, unfortunately, cassant la noisette is quite an annoyance, since the horse may bite its tongue and rear. Nevertheless, the fact remains that if a horse "cracks the nut" it cannot "make forces." However, in any ordinary case, my advice is to remedy the fault of the mouth by flexions of the mouth and neck, at first standing still, and afterwards at the walk.
WHEN the forward drive which the horse's hind legs give to the entire body, instead of being directed by the rider's legs, is under the control of the horse's will, it is possible for the animal, impelled by fear, to bolt, and to run at full speed against walls or other riders, into fire or trains, over precipices. All sensibility to the rider's effects has disappeared, and only fatigue can reestablish control.It is, therefore, very nearly impossible to stop a horse when once the bolt is under way, though it is comparatively easy to prevent his entrance into the state, except where the habit is already formed as the consequence of defective eyesight or the memory of pains from over-hard whippings or the too severe use of sharp spurs.
One should, then, endeavor to find the reason for the bolting, and remove this. This done, the fault will sometimes disappear.
When a horse is bolting, its vertebral column from atlas to coupling becomes stiff. The neck is rigid. The bit is without effect. It is sometimes possible, under these conditions, to release the contraction of the neck by lifting the horse's head, but not so high that it cannot see out in front, and sawing with the snaffle rein. But if the rider feels that every sort of control is lost, the only thing for him to do is to be very calm, make sure of his seat, and separating the reins in his two hands, try to direct the animal in its mad speed. When, if it be possible, the horse has run enough to tire itself, the rider should try to quiet it by his voice, and by sawing with the reins, to make it take the trot and finally the walk. To stop the horse completely is very difficult, the impulsion being still powerful.
If a rider, himself well mounted, has occasion to stop a bolting horse, the best method is to place himself at the left side of the line on which the animal seems to be running, and to gallop at a good speed in the same direction. As the bolting horse comes alongside, the rescuer increases his speed, and seizing, with his right hand, the reins of the frightened creature close up to the mouth, gallops for some steps beside it. Having next tested his control over his own mount, he tries, by quick jerks of his right hand, to reduce the run, first to a gallop, then to a trot, and finally to a walk, while with his left hand he checks correspondingly his own horse. But, of course, any such performance as this involves circumstances and conditions which it is impossible to anticipate in print.
In order to correct a horse that has bolted several times, put it in a large field of newly ploughed ground or on a long sandy beach, and run it till it is tired. Then make it run again. But though this device will work, my counsel is, find the reason for the bolting and remove that. The cure will then go deeper and be more permanent.
Running away is not quite the same thing as bolting. It is rather the result of the habit of getting out of control. The horse bolts because of too severe correction, defective eyesight, too tight a curb chain, too severe jerks upon the mouth, sore bars, a sore tooth, a bit set too high and cutting the commissure of the lips, the continual pricking of the spurs of a rider without seat. The bolt is repeated, until by and by habit and memory suggest the possibility of resisting in the same way all demands of the rider which are unpleasant to the horse. The horse thereupon becomes a runaway. The French express this desperate action by prend le mors aux dents, s'emporter, and s'emballer.
Naturally, the cure for running away is to discover the cause of the original bolting from which it developed, and to remove that. The scientific equitation does not recognize the utility of martingales and other straps. It depends solely on progressive education, holding that, after a horse is properly suppled, it is impossible for it to run away without giving to its rider the opportunity to prevent the first sign of revolt, of which the running away is the sequel.
IT sometimes happens that a young horse not completely trained, or an older animal surprised by a sudden sight or sound, or either when it suffers from lack of exercise, will escape contact with the bit; and so, getting out of control, will travel faster than the rider desires, and will refuse to moderate its speed at the effects of the bit. Usually in such a case, the animal carries its head very low; and if it flexes its neck, does this in such wise as to bring the chin near the chest, so that the more the rider pulls against the bit, the more is the chin drawn against the chest. This position prevents the action of the bit, and the horse goes faster and faster.
The only corrective is to saw with the snaffle. The rider, without losing any time, abandons the reins of the bit, and takes a snaffle rein in each hand, holding it quite short. He then raises his hands, and pulls forcibly, first on one rein and then on the other, until the horse comes once more under his control.
The reason is simple. With its head down and its neck contracted, the animal has the point d'appui which makes resistance possible. The rider, by paising the head, releases the contraction of the neck, and thus destroys the center of refusal. The feeling on the horse's mouth of the mild effect of the snaffle, rapidly repeated, keeps the horse from taking the position of resistance.
It is an equestrian axiom that a horse, in order to resist its rider, must begin by contracting unduly the neck muscles which are the locomotors of the fore hand. The only way to free this contraction is by sawing with the snaffle. But if the contraction of the neck continues, the horse will escape from the rider's control, since, in this condition, his effects are not sufficiently powerful to decide its conduct.
A horse sometimes takes this position when stung on a hind leg by a fly. It bends its neck to reach the insect with its teeth, and at the same time, to make this easier and to shorten the distance, it turns its haunches as far as possible to the same side. This, however, is only occasional, and is not in any wise a defense. As a defense, the horse turns "head to haunches" very suddenly; and is likely, therefore, to mix its legs, and to fall to the side opposite to that to which it turns. In a manege, this need not be especially dangerous. But out of doors on a hard road, the result may be a serious injury both to rider and horse.
Evidently, there is some reason for this sudden movement of the horse; and it is for the rider to discover this and remedy it. Since, then, each individual animal has one side or the other to which the bend is always made, the corrective is to hold the reins in both hands, with the pair on the side away from the bend held shorter than the other. Thus, if the horse swings head to haunches on the left, the right reins are shortened and the rider's right leg is brought nearer to the horse's flank. In this position, the rider does not wait for the horse to begin its defense. He prevents it at the start by flexing sharply the horse's neck to the right and downward, while with his right leg he pushes the haunches to the left. This action turns the horse to the right, in the opposite direction to its defense. In making this turn to the right, the rider should execute only the ordinary change of direction. He should not have the horse perform "head and haunches to the right."
If this work is being done in a manege, the horse should always be at the hand opposite to the side toward which it makes the defense. If, for example, as in the case above, the bend is toward the left, the riding is done with the right side toward the center of the ring. On road, street, bridle path, or track, unless one keeps in the middle, the horse may go on to the sidewalk and injure a passer-by. But by riding at the middle of the road, one keeps himself clear of other riders and of carriages which might hurt him in case of a fall.
I have myself tried various correctives for head to haunches. None of them have satisfied me. It seems to me that the trouble is the result of rheumatic pains in the side of the back, which appear from time to time, suddenly. I have observed that certain horses which have this failing will go straight for days, sometimes for months, and then once more, without the slightest provocation, bend tête à queue. Possibly we are dealing here with the same affection which the doctors call coup de fouet, which is a sudden attack of lumbago or something similar. Evidently, in such a case, a veterinary's care is indicated.
Where head to haunches is a willful defense, it is best to call in the services of a professional rider, letting him know to which side the turn is made. Some masters advocate using a standing short rein, fastened at the stirrup strap, on the side opposite to the twist. I am against such a proceeding; because, although the fixed rein will undoubtedly prevent the defense, it will at the same time hinder the horse from turning its head to the opposite side for the purpose of seeing and avoiding obstacles in the road. The sure result is a fall or other accident. When I am correcting any defense of a horse, I like to be as free as possible and alone with the animal.
A RESTIVE horse refuses obedience, but under certain conditions and circumstances. The disorder is, then, moral; but it is not permanent, nor does it occur always for the same reason.
A restive horse will, for example, carry its rider most obediently for a certain distance. And then, suddenly, without provocation, will insist on going down some other road. It will persist in turning to one side, and no effect of rein or spurs will make it turn to the other. Or, again, the horse will come to a stop with its head in a corner of the manege, and no power will make it budge. Yet at another time the horse will pass the spot where it was restive before without a sign of rebellion. In a word, the horse's restiveness is intermittent, so that very many horsemen attribute the condition to a state of the horse's own will.
But while it is entirely reasonable to suppose that restiveness in a horse is predominantly a matter of will, this volitional state must itself have had a beginning at some point where the possibility of disobeying first took root and started to grow into a habit.
Consider the case of a young horse, without training, which knows nothing of the meaning ofthe effects of its rider's hands and legs. The trainer, at the beginning of the horse's education, asks a movement perfectly easy to perform. The horse fails to understand what is wanted of him, refuses, and is brutally whipped.
But the whipping does not make him understand anything that he did not know before. So he again refuses; and is again whipped. Thereupon the trainer passes to another movement. But the punishment is engraved on the animal's memory. What is more, this procedure has taught the horse that it can refuse or obey as it pleases. Farther along in its education, the horse again becomes restive. The rider follows the same course as before; and getting no better result than before, again passes over the movement and takes up another. The horse is confirmed in the idea that it can obey or not obey as it chooses. Do we not find exactly the same restiveness in a spoiled child? In the same way, the habit of refusal spoils the horse. It becomes capricious. When it chooses, it obeys. When it does not choose, it disobeys. In short, it is restive.
Punishment, in such a case, will have no result. When the horse feels that the man who happens to be riding him is strong enough to fight and compel obedience, the horse will obey. But as soon as another rider is on its back, the horse will again try what it can do.
I have had a great many horses sent me to be cured of restiveness, and I have never been unsuccessful. My only method is to start the training all over again from the beginning, as if the animal were absolutely green. Very soon, I reach the place where the education has been slighted. I insist on the neglected movement; and confirm the habit of obedience to the special effects which secure this, until the animal has learned to obey without fear of punishment. By degrees, he learns that he is better off to obey me than to be restive and be punished. The horse's contrariness is now removed. But how did it arise in the first place? By the education at the hands of the first trainer, who allowed the horse to refuse to execute a movement or submit to an effect which it did not understand. If the trainer had insisted patiently and gently on the horse's learning that troublesome effect, he would, at the very beginning, have disposed the horse's will in his favor, and instilled the habit of obedience. But by punishing the horse for not understanding some effect, the trainer has impressed upon its will and memory the possibility of successful revolt. The animal knows that it has had the best of the man.
The error really lies in the haste with which masters and public are trying to complete the education of a horse. One who takes a reasonable time and follows without hurrying the sequence of the training should never have occasion to induce any restiveness. Either the horse knows or does not know what the man's effects indicate. If it knows and refuses, it must be punished. But if it does not know, it is to be taught. To educate the horse to understand the rider's effects is to make it superior to other horses and more intelligent, and is the surest means toward success.
A BOUNDING horse springs straight up in the air from all four legs, and comes down again on the same spot. The movement, therefore, cannot be executed if the horse is already in motion.
A jump of this sort is especially disconcerting to an inexperienced rider, since, like any movement which does not carry the animal forward, it tends to a considerable derangement of the seat. Oftentimes, the bound arises from nothing more than exuberance of life or lack of exercise; and in this case, plenty of hard work will correct the fault. Often, on the other hand, the horse bounds in order to free himself from the rider's weight. In this case, the bounding becomes a defense.
The rider should, then, study the position taken by the horse's head and neck shortly before and during the bound. He will observe that the mouth has closed and is rigid, and that the neck is stretched forward and stiff. The bound itself involves a contraction of the muscles which lie along the spine, and a projection upward of the body by the action of the hocks and knees.
As soon, therefore, as the rider feels by his seat that the horse's spine is becoming rigid, he should separate the two snaffle reins, and then, by raising one hand after the other alternately, quite high, he should lift the horse's head, and with it the neck. The head and neck, being up, cannot be contracted preliminary to the bound. The rider should then turn the horse sharply, let us say to the right, by the tension of the right rein and the effect of his right leg; and immediately afterwards, to the left by the reversed effects. By doing this several times alternately, he will make it impossible for the horse to place all four feet at the same time on the ground. The horse is, therefore, unable to bound; and after he has tried several times and failed, he will cease to try.
But since the spine is everywhere rigid, the two hind legs cannot function independently. Both, therefore, act together to throw the croup violently up. Thus the movement becomes a sort of kick, in which, however, the hind legs do not extend backward. Following this, the front legs return to the ground reaching forward. The hind legs follow; and immediately the buck- jump is repeated. Meanwhile, the head is held low and the neck stiff, in order to resist the effect of the rider's hand; since, if the head were up and the mouth and neck relaxed, the spine also would be freed, and the buck-jump could not be executed.
Some horses, already trained, when they have their girths too tight will buck-jump. But, in general, the movement is consequent to some provocation, and employed by the horse as a defense. Not infrequently, a horse, having once freed its back from its rider's weight, will continue to practice this defense until it develops the habit.
Whether the buck-jump be sporadic or the result of a fixed habit, the reason is always the same — the horse refuses to go forward. It makes no difference what the reason is, whether the girths are too tight or whether the weight of the rider is greater than that to which the horse is accustomed, the result is the same.
The remedy is to see that the girths are not too tight, and to accustom the horse to the rider's weight. But when the horse begins the defense, the rider should at once lift its head as high as possible. In this position the horse can raise its front legs, but not its hind ones, which remain on the ground. If, then, the rider is sufficiently sure of himself, he should make the horse back. This will prevent the rigidity of the coupling, and the hind legs will act in alternation. The result will be the walk or the trot, but not the buck-jump.
The effect of too tight a girth is to inhibit the action of the great pectoral muscles, so that these do not draw the hind legs forward as the front legs are extended. From these, the stiffness is communicated to the ilio-spinalis, which, stimulated by the weight of the rider, contracts and paralyzes the articulation of the coupling. This, in its turn, prevents the separate action of the hind legs. These, as a result, act together to raise the hind hand, extended and stiff.
The remedy, therefore, is to keep the horse moving his legs alternately, and so moving forward. If all four limbs are acting to send the body forward, all rearing and kicking are impossible. But if the animal is allowed to stop, then any action of its legs is open to it, and it can lie down as easily as it can buck-jump.
SOME horses are by nature restive and violent, so that they do not respond to kindness until after they have been tamed by energetic treatment. This native excess of bad temper leads such animals to try every means of escape from the rider's domination; and before they finally submit, they sometimes, as a last effort, set their four limbs immovably so that no sort of persuasion can make them stir. S'enterrer and s'immobiliser are names for this action, which I have translated as "bury itself."
When a horse thus buries itself, the only corrective is to apply the whip on the flanks during the time when the horse is set. Do not employ legs or spurs, since the effect of these is to make some horses lie down in a sort of frenzy. Avoid also any caressing of the animal during the time when it is rigid. If both rider and horse are in a safe situation, and if the failing is only occasional and not a formed habit, remain perfectly calm, and keep the animal, or, more correctly, permit him to be, completely free. Very soon he will become exhausted by the tension, will relax, and move forward. The powerful spasm of the horse's nerves and muscles is much like that of a man made temporarily insane by excess of alcohol. If, then, the horse is left to itself, very soon it is sufficiently punished, and as soon as its strength gives out, it will relax.
When, however, a horse continues to repeat the act of burying itself, it is better to consult a veterinarian and have a careful examination of the heart. The horse's heart is susceptible to disease, trouble, failure; and the rider should know the situation before he exposes himself to accident from some abnormal condition.
PREPARING for defense is the action which a horse takes as a preliminary to entering upon the state of non-submission, revolt, and refusal.
This first act of rebellion is very easy to detect. The animal escapes the contact of the bit. It keeps its mouth closed, holds its neck rigid and usually extends it forward, while by carrying the head low, it neutralizes the effects of the bridle. The hind legs are not together, but one of them is too much under the body while the other is extended too far to the rear and does not support its share of the weight. Commonly, the horse stops of its own will, and refuses to advance or to change its position at the ordinary effects. The rider feels as if he were mounted upon an unsteady wooden horse.
Sometimes this condition of fear or stupor is the result of defective eyesight, and is brought about by the sensation of some object the effect of which has spread from the brain to the entire body. The sound of a locomotive or of an automobile sometimes, though not often, has a like effect. In the first instance, the correction is through the treatment of the horse's eyes by a veterinary. In the second, the procedure is to accustom the horse to the noise and to build up its confidence in its rider.
But where the state is the result of an evil will and the desire to refuse obedience, the corrective is, without loss of time, to separate the reins into the two hands, and with right hand and right leg, or vice versa, force the horse to turn round and round in a very small circle.
The horse, thereupon, from fear of falling, will move its legs and relax all its body. After this treatment, it will remember the result of its rebellion and will very seldom repeat the offense.
This position of the horse is the basis of all its defenses. For when the center of gravity is too far back, it then becomes possible for the animal to rear up, to kick, or to plant itself immovably on its fore legs and refuse to advance. It is easy to understand that, with the center of gravity too far back, the hind legs are so overloaded with the weight that they are no longer ready for the impulsion forward. In order to prevent the horse from taking this position, the rider's legs should always, and in all circumstances, in sending the horse forward, act in advance of his hands. Moreover, this action of the rider's legs should continue from the time when the forward movement is first obtained, until the horse is perfectly light in hand and all contractions have disappeared. By obtaining this lightness, the rider makes sure that his mount is not acculé. But a horse that advances at the effects of the rider's legs, giving to the hand of the rider the contact upon the bit, is never accule.
Altogether it is the most dangerous defense of the horse when habitual, and bad enough when only sporadic. In either case, the animal becomes quite impossible for a woman rider.
Rearing may be the result of several causes. The principal ones are: sudden fear; bad eyesight; weakness in the hind legs or loins; pains within the abdomen or in the region of the sacrum, pelvis, or pubis; too tight a curb chain; a too severe hand; saccades against the bars; abuse of means and effects; the physical confusion which results from too rapid progress with the training. Sometimes, too, especially at certain ages, the teeth are growing or are being lost, and the gums are sore. Besides these, there are the moral causes, defects of temper, violence, nervousness, a restive nature.
If the rearing is the result of sore gums or defective eyesight or of weakness in the muscles of the loins, the remedy is treatment of the eyes and mouth by a veterinarian or progressive education at the hands of a trainer to develop the weak spot. If the bars are the cause, the corrective is a bit with a large port and small branches, with flexions of the mouth and neck, done first on foot and then mounted. For such other causes as saccades, improper bitting, a heavy hand, the remedy is to let the animal lose the memory of the pains inflicted on him, and thereafter to use hands and legs with more moderation.
But the rider should always remember that, whether the cause be physical or moral, the horse is able to rear only if the alternate action of the hind legs is arrested for a sufficient time for the animal to bring both hind feet forward under the body. These, therefore, acting as supports, are able to bear the entire weight. A horse cannot rear on one hind leg alone. But if one hind foot is brought forward and held there until the other comes forward beside it, then the rearing becomes possible.
Consequently, the best preventive against rearing is not to allow either hind foot to remain in the forward position, but to keep them both continually in motion, from the moment when the rider feels the first tendency to stop. But when the rider feels that the effects of his legs, used together or separately, are not going to prevent the horse from stopping, he should, as quickly as possible, take his feet from the stirrups, lean his body forward and to one side close to the horse's mane, and loosen the reins. In this position, if the horse has not yet commenced to rear, it is still possible to carry it forward, or at least to keep the hind legs moving. But after the horse is fairly in the air, it is dangerous for the rider to employ both legs together. Nevertheless, he may be able, by using one of his legs after the other, to force the horse to bring its fore feet back to the ground. If, however, the rider feels that the horse, not merely rearing, but already reared, is likely to fall backward, he should rest one hand on the pommel of the saddle, pass one of his legs over the horse's croup, and helping himself with his hand, should slip to the ground, alighting upright on his feet, always of course at the side of the animal, never behind.
The various tricks of spurring, whipping, breaking a bottle of water on the horse's occiput between the ears, are not practicable, although advocated by certain masters.
Rearing is dangerous only if the horse actually does fall backward. But although the horse may, for various different reasons, be willing to rear as a defense or for simple restiveness, it will not voluntarily fall. If, then, the horse does topple over, this is always because it has not the strength to carry its weight aloft on its hind legs. Since the best remedy is to carry the horse forward, it is correct in doing this to use legs, spurs, and whip. But these are not a corrective after the horse has already reared.
A horse which takes frankly the contact of the bit will, if the rider's hand is intelligent, very seldom try to rear. But, naturally, this contact cannot be obtained without the effects of the rider's legs to give the impulse forward. If, then, the rider's legs are able to send the horse forward, so long as the horse is under the control of their effects it cannot stop and cannot attempt to rear.
IN executing the kick, the horse stops its forward motion, plants its fore legs firmly on the ground, and using these as a point of support, sends both its hind legs backward and up. This true kick should not be confused with the kick with one hind leg only, which is called in French ruade. In the ruade, the horse is trying to reach some object with the purpose of damaging it. A kick out with both feet may, of course, injure anything that is near enough to be touched; but it is seldom that a horse of good temper will actually try to hit a man in this way. This does not, however, hold for another horse; so that, if one animal approaches too near the hind quarters of another, the second is likely to deliver either a kick in the proper sense or a ruade. This is instinctive, and is the animal's method of protecting itself from other creatures.
We here are concerned with the horse which kicks when mounted, and uses this action to resist our means of control. This may result from weakness, or from exuberance of energy, or from the stings of bees and the bites of green flies.
If, in summer and fall, a horse kicks when annoyed by insects, the best remedy is a switch of horsehair carried in place of a whip. If it is weak in the loins, time and progressive exercise will give it strength. Then, after the horse has become strong, the fault can be corrected. But if the horse kicks because it does not understand the meaning of our legs and spurs, it has to be taught. When it understands, it will no longer kick. Where kicking is the consequence of too much exuberance of life, a good trot or gallop upon a field, repeated with wisdom and moderation, will work a cure.
In any case, however, the best immediate remedy is to keep the fore legs in motion. Unless the fore legs stop, they cannot receive the entire weight, and the hind feet must remain on the ground to act as supports. Moreover, since, in order to kick, the horse has not only to put all its weight on its fore legs, but in addition must drop its head very low and near its fore feet, raising the head high is also a corrective. There is, besides, a shifting forward of the center of gravity as the weight is thrown on to the fore legs, and the head and neck go forward and down. If, therefore, as the rider promptly lifts the horse's head by means of the snaffle, he also leans far back in his saddle, he will put a greater load on the croup, and thus force the hind legs to continue their support.
It often happens, however, that a horse, while not actually kicking, is, as the French say, croupioner, an expression which, though not correct French, is the usual word among horsemen.
In this state, at the least touch of legs, spurs, or whip, or even at the approach of another horse, the animal checks the action of its fore legs, flexes its coupling downward, lifts its croup with both hind legs, and makes ready to shoot out its feet behind.
The condition affects some mares at certain seasons of the year, on account of a too great sensibility of the muscles of the loins and more or less of the kidneys. It may occur in any animal from the memory of soreness occasioned by a badly adjusted saddle, or by too heavy a weight, which has overworked the loin muscles. In a great many instances, however, the annoying habit results from nothing more than the inexperience of the rider, who has employed his spurs without understanding their proper use, and because of the instability of his seat and his want of control over his legs, is always tickling his horse's flanks. Or the trouble may arise simply from improper attacks of the spurs, made too early in the training or without accuracy and decision.
The horse which is croupioner, though annoying enough, is not dangerous except to riders who come too near. He is, however, undecided and unwilling to carry himself forward strongly. Mares are often cured under a veterinarian's advice. For both horses and mares, where the trouble arises from proper accuracy and decision in the attacks, these should be repeated and carried through. But if the horse has simply been provoked by spurs used without reason, the cure is for the rider either to sit still in his saddle, or else to take off the spurs which have become a razor in the hands of a monkey. Some good exercising at an energetic walk, trot, and gallop will also help to make the horse go forward more determinedly.
"TO jump to one side" seems to be the only possible translation into English of écart, which the Duke of Newcastle uses for the action of a horse which makes a sidewise leap away from an object which it fears.
The Duke advises, in dealing with an animal which acts in this way, that the rider shall be always attentive, never neglecting the accuracy and correctness of his seat, so as not to be caught by any movement, however sudden and unexpected. This grand master recommends gentleness at first, letting the horse come near the object, see, smell, and touch it. But if, after the horse has done this, it again jumps away from the same object, then he recommends punishing the horse so severely that the memory of the pain shall be afterwards stronger than the fear; and he quotes Hippocrates, "To destroy one pain, it is rational to inflict another more severe."
It is, nevertheless, to be noted that the same grand master, after setting forth this theory, goes on to say that his own experience proves that, after a horse has been forced by severe correction to approach the particular object which was the cause of the initial fear, it will shortly commit the same écart for another object. This, in turn, having been corrected by the same procedure, the horse finds, in still another object, the reason for still another écart; and so on for any number without limit. The Duke's theory is interesting and his experience practical. But as instruction for other riders, he leaves a good deal to be desired.
For the fact is, a young horse, not yet sufficiently educated, may, from mere gayety and exuberance, be surprised by the sight of some object, which, though quite harmless, is not familiar. The animal, therefore, fearing physical pain, at once jumps aside. It is a simple matter for a rider to accustom his horse to any particular object; and then to observe whether the écart occurs with one object only, or is produced by several objects of different appearance. If the trouble is simply youth and a too exuberant life, the rational corrective is to have patience, to inspire confidence in the horse, and in the meantime to increase the amount of exercise. But if the horse commits the fault for different objects, and for objects which it has before passed without shy- ing, then the true remedy is to call in an oculist and have him examine carefully the horse's eyes. If the eyesight is at fault, veterinary science will effect the cure, if any cure is possible. Otherwise, nothing can be done. Such an animal can still be used by a young and firm-seated rider who will enjoy, more or less, the eccentricities of his mount. But it is no horse for a timid person, still less for a woman.