Equitation/Chapter 33

[Copy of 1705 B. W. D. 1888]

Proceedings of the Board of Officers convened at Boston, Massachusetts, by virtue of the following order.

Special Orders No. 44.

WASHINGTON, February 24, 1888.

13. A Board of Officers, to consist of

  • Capt. John R. Brinckle, 5th Artillery,
  • Capt. Henry W. Lawton, 4th Cavalry,
  • Capt. George S. Anderson, 6th Cavalry,

will convene at Boston, Massachusetts, on March 5, 1888, for the purpose of examining into and reporting upon Mr. de Bussigny's method of horse training, treatment, and management.

The report of the Board will be forwarded to the Adjutant-General of the Army for the Lieutenant-General.

On the completion of their duties, the members of the Board will return to their proper stations.

The travel enjoined is necessary for the public service. By command of Lieu tenant-General Sheridan:

BOSTON, MASS., March 13th, 1888.
The members of the Board assembled at Young's Hotel at about 10 A.M. on March 5th, and proceeded to the riding-academy of Mr. Henry L. de Bussigny, ... and asked him for both oral and practical demonstration of his methods.

Owing to the presence of Mr. de Bussigny's riding-classes, the Board could not get more than two or three hours per day of his time; and on Saturday, the 10th, he was too much occupied to give us any session. The Board has held meetings of three hours each day but that Saturday to this date.

Owing to the very limited knowledge of English of Mr. de Bussigny, and the difficulty with which he expressed himself, the members of the Board were troubled to understand him. ... He presented papers to the Board, which satisfied the members that he had been a lieutenant of French cavalry. He also claims (and the Board believes him) to be a pupil of Baucher and Raabe, and to have been a close student of horsemanship for over forty years.

He is certainly a most able horseman.

At his own suggestion, he explained his system by answers to the following questions:

1st question. Who is the founder of the system?

A. It was founded by myself after a careful study of all the books published on equestrianism, and after over forty years' practical work in the field. It was eclectic and thoroughly practical. He took as types the systems of Baucher and Count d'Aure. The former, he explained, had a good system for the training of circus horses, but it was too elaborate and thoroughly unfitted for the military service.

The latter based his system on a severe military discipline, but evolved it from a very limited experience. A thorough horseman must know his horse intimately and adapt the treatment to the temperament of the animal.

Q. 2. In what countries and in what campaigns has the author applied this system?

A. The system is a matter of growth with him, but he began it in the cavalry service at the battle of Solferino; has seen service in Mexico, during Maximilian's occupation; also in Algeria, Morocco, and Syria, and in France in the war of 1870. In all of these he has insisted on the individuality of the horse and rider joined—that reconnaissance work should be one by individual horsemen rather than by platoons or squadrons. The seat is the cavalry soldier's true capital, and only when that is perfect is the combination (man-horse) valuable in war. Mr. de Bussigny's squadron had its flag decorated on account of its promptness, energy, and bravery at Pablo del Monte in Mexico. In France, in 1870, he had six hundred green horses ridden by six hundred green men in a hard campaign, and he had hardly a single sore back or lame horse.

He enlarged on the effect of the rider's nervousness on the horse; no matter whether this nervousness came from embarrassment, fright, or want of knowledge what to do, it was immediately communicated to the horse. If he rode a horse without a thought or care as to his management, the rider was left free to devote all his thoughts and faculties to the business at hand.

Q. 3. In what does the theory of the system consist?

A. It is based on the individuality to be given to each horseman, and by its simplicity gives that horseman the possibility of being the trainer of his own animal. The horse is no longer restive; does not want to go wrong; he is controlled by the rider's legs and by them he is impelled forward.

He is sustained and directed by his bridle. The two legs of the rider producing an equal effect will equally impel the horse forward. By the bridle, he will be equally sustained and directed, and the motion will necessarily be straight to the front. The impulsion forward given to the horse by the two legs of the rider, being increased by one of the legs without relaxing the effect of the opposite leg, will determine the horse to turn to the right or the left. If the pressure of the legs is equal, and the horse equally sustained by the bridle, he will have his spine straight, and consequently be able to carry weight, to regulate his gait, and be less fatigued, and consequently less subject to lameness and sickness. If the impulse given by the legs be decreased, and the sustaining effect of the bridle increased, the horse will diminish or stop his motion forward. The effect of the legs and bridle being applied to the horse, and the effect of the bridle then increased, the impulsion of the horse will be backward. The horse being stopped, a quick increase of effect of the left leg of the rider, without relaxing the effect of the right leg, will determine a quick answer of the left hind leg of the horse. The immediate raising of the hand of the rider will raise the fore hand of the horse, and as it is impossible for him to sustain the weight of his body on his left hind leg only, the opposite (right) will come immediately to sustain and assist the impulsion. The cessation of the effect of the hand will allow the fore hand to return immediately to the ground, and the gallop will be determined to the left. In this system there is no change of position of the rider. He leans neither forward nor backward; consequently, there is no unusual strain on the horse, and a perfect seat is kept at all times. The charge is only an extension of the gallop.

The leap is accomplished by increasing the effect of both hand and legs at the same time instant, and then diminishing them simultaneously, afterwards sustaining the horse by a renewal of both.

Q. 4. What is the practicability of applying this system to the Army?

A. It is very essential to have a system that is uniform, and one that will combine all that is necessary in the fewest possible movements. To this end he has reduced them to three simple ones. First, to go forward; second, to go backward; and third, to turn to the right or to the left. Baucher used fifteen, most of which were unnecessary and impractical; as Mr. de Bussigny has simplified it, it is within the comprehension and ability of any soldier, and must make a good, if not a perfect horseman of him.

Q. 5. What was the result of the practical work before the Board?

This question he left the Board to answer. All of this work was that of a master, whether he used old and thoroughly broken horses, trained, or new and unbroken animals. With his own horse he showed all the gaits and motions of the circus rider; made him walk, trot, and gallop in place and backward. In short, he showed him a thoroughly trained animal. New animals that he had never ridden before were got under control immediately, and gaited to his taste. The Board is convinced that few men are capable of arriving at the degree of perfection attained by Mr. de Bussigny, but it believes that the system is the best of any known to the Board, and that it can be applied to the Army in general with great benefit. The system was most satisfactorily illustrated to the Board by some of Mr. de Bussigny's pupils. The only system of treatment that Mr. de Bussigny used or desired to explain was one for horses broken down and not diseased, or those having deficient muscles. His entire system consists in determining exactly what muscles needed increasing, diminishing, or treating, and then by proper gymnastic exercises correcting the defect. Several horses under treatment were shown and the results to be obtained were explained. The methods were certainly ingenious, and would probably be attended with success, but the Board did not remain long enough to witness any thorough accomplishment of his purpose. Mr. de Bussigny's only idea is to strengthen and develop the weakened or stiffened parts by a system of flexions and exercises, and by throwing out of use parts too highly developed, to partially paralyze them.

The subject of management is entirely considered in the preceding résumé, and may be described in a word as one of gentleness, kindness, and careful training. His system is entirely unwritten and difficult to explain. He makes no claims for the handling of vicious or diseased horses other than as indicated.

The Board, believing that nothing further could be accomplished without extensive personal practice in this system, adjourned March 15th.

J. R. Brinckle,
Capt. 5th Artillery, President.
H. W. Lawton,
Capt. 4th Cavalry, Member.
George S. Anderson,
Capt. 6th Cavalry, Recorder.
Headquarters of the Army,
March 29, 1888.

Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.

The report of this Board shows that Mr. de Bussigny's methods could be best employed if understood by officers. I know of no place where they could be carried into effect except at the Military Academy, where instruction in riding and horse management is now given to cadets who subsequently become commissioned officers, and I therefore recommend that his services be obtained for that post.

P. H. Sheridan,
Lieutenant-General, Commanding.