Equitation/Chapter 9

Breaking in, for the young horse, involves acquaintance with the trainer, so that it will come to him and follow him without fear or anxiety, accept the bridle without reluctance, stand quietly for mounting and dismounting, walk, trot, and gallop under the rider's weight without nervous tension, turn to either side by the rein, stop and stand still. That these movements should all be done perfectly, is not, however, so important as that the horse should be docile and quiet.

This first portion of a horse's training does not need an experienced master. Any ordinary rider can manage it, provided only that he have perseverance, patience, kindness, love for the animal, and a sufficiently good seat to resist the exuberance of a young horse. For a young horse is like a child, ignorant, timid, anxious; and if the trainer is not indulgent, patient, and fond of the animal, sooner or later a little too much severity, the least touch of brutality, will reënforce this natural timidity, and produce restiveness and bad temper that the horse will never outgrow. Many a horse has been spoiled by unintelligent trainers. For the horse's memory is excellent, and very seldom does it forget harsh treatment. Baucher says, and I am of his opinion, that it needs uncommon discrimination on the part of an owner to pick the right man for breaking in a young horse. Indeed, to judge wisely the time required for the work, the state of progress of the young animal and its muscular development, to reward obedience suitably, and to punish with wise moderation, demand a judgment and an experience that come near to talent.

It is far easier to train a child than to reform a criminal: and it is the same with a young horse. But if the instructor lacks patience or kindness or experience, the child will revolt against his teachers, and the horse against its riders, and both will be permanently harmed. And since the breaking in is the beginning of a horse's education, the man who undertakes it can never have too much of each of these essential qualities.

During the breaking in, a single bridoon should be used, rather than a full bridle. The chain and bit produce too powerful an effect on the mouth of a young horse, and it will not understand. Moreover, they cannot be managed properly during the rearing, kicking, and buck-jumping to which young horses are addicted.

If the horse is nervous or violent, I employ the cavesson with the longe. The horse is saddled and bridled, the stirrups being raised against the saddle by a knot in the straps. The cavesson is put on over the bridle, the throat-latch tight enough to prevent

the cavesson from slipping and hurting the horse's eyes if the animal becomes violent. Around the saddle I buckle a surcingle, with two buckles and a little strap, to hold the reins when not in use, and to prevent their falling down in front of the animal's legs.

I have also two buckles on the headpiece of the cavesson; and two pairs of old reins, with holes at each end, equally spaced. One pair buckles to the cavesson and to the snaffle, the two sides just alike. The other ends of this pair fasten at the surcingle, the two reins of equal length. The second pair of reins attaches to the bit, without tension at first, but in due time fastened with the snaffle reins.

All these straps being adjusted, I take the end of

the longe in my left hand and back away to very nearly the full length, while an assistant holds the

horse's head. I stand at the center of the circle in which the horse is to travel, and show the long training whip, which I carry in my right hand. The assistant leads the horse a few steps around the circle to the left, then stops and caresses the animal on neck and head.

When in this way the horse has traveled an entire circumference, the assistant lets go the bridle, and takes the longe with his left hand about three feet from the head. While the assistant continues to caress the horse with his right hand, the trainer, still holding the longe in his left hand, encourages the horse to continue around the circle, by chirping the tongue and showing the whip near the horse's hind legs, but without actually striking. After a few trials, the horse comprehends what is wanted, and goes forward at command. Thereupon, the assistant works progressively farther and farther along the longe away from the horse, until he lets go entirely.

As the horse learns to travel around the circle under control of the trainer, it must learn also to stop on the line, without turning its body inward or outward. For this, the trainer swings his left hand up and down, so as to give a succession of mild jerks on the longe; at the same time, the assistant walks slowly along the longe to the horse's head, while the trainer, in a clear and commanding voice, calls, Hoho, Hoho. Whoa! As the horse stops, the assistant caresses it. At first the animal will turn its haunches outward from the circle. After a few lessons, it will stop straight on the line.

The trainer should always stand still at the center of the circle, never following the horse, but compelling the horse to go round him, to walk, trot, and stop as indicated, but not to come to the trainer unless summoned by a pull on the longe.

An experienced trainer will very soon teach the horse to obey the whip. Shown near the flanks, it means to go to the right or left; at the hind hand, to go forward at the different gaits; in front of the face, to stop. Showing the whip straight, the lash upward, accompanied by a gentle tug on the longe, will bring the horse to the center. If the horse is then rewarded and caressed, the sight of the whip held vertically will alone be sufficient without the pull on the longe.

At the beginning of this work, the reins should not be at all tight. It is, however, impossible to lay down any rules as to their precise tension. An experienced trainer judges, by the animal's temper, conformation, energy, length of neck, and sensibility of mouth, what the effect of the bits will be. In fact, an experienced trainer could fill ten volumes with accounts of the diversities among horses and the various difficulties that he has encountered and overcome. Something less than this, however, confined to principles and method, will better please the publisher and hearten the reader.

Three months is sufficient, by this method, for breaking a horse to the lateral equitation. But if the horse is mounted from the beginning, it will take at least a year, often longer.

When the young animal has made sufficient progress with longe and breaking-strap, the surcingle is removed, and the horse, standing still, is mounted and dismounted by the assistant, the trainer meanwhile holding the longe near the head. After this, the assistant being mounted, the trainer sends the horse around the circle as before, walking, stopping, trotting, cantering, while the assistant, under the direction of the trainer, applies the proper effects of legs and bridle. All this should be done both to the right and to the left, as explained in the discussion of figures of manege.

As soon as the horse has become calm and obedient while the hands of the assistant feel a gentle contact with the mouth through the rein, the cavesson likewise is removed; and the trainer, now mounting for himself, begins progressive work

upon the several gaits, first on a straight line, afterwards at the figures of manege, but always, without exception, by means of the lateral effects.

It is best, when possible, to keep the horse for a year at the breaking in and the lateral effects, before going on to the reasoned equitation. By that time horse and trainer better know one another, the horse is stronger, steadier, and better able to profit by the suppling of the flexions. Moreover, the young or inexperienced trainer is very likely to push his horse's education too hard, and to neglect some items which do not seem important to him. The result is that there comes a time when the trainer has to go back and pick up these neglected elements.

Often, too, it happens that a horse, well trained by a master, is ridden by some one without equestrian tact, and has to go back to the master to be retrained. Sometimes, also, a man buys a horse which has already been ridden, but in accordance with some other method than his own; and since the memory of the horse is very persistent, the training may have to be started over again from the foundation.

In all these cases the trainer needs to be experienced, patient, persevering, energetic, and positive, besides having a genuine affection for his pupil. No two horses are alike in conformation or morale, nor in the results of their first contact with man. The trainer needs, therefore, to diagnose his animal, to consider his strong and weak points, so as to pick the right place for the training to begin. If, for example, a horse is anxious and timid, before I do anything else, I give it confidence, by means of work on foot with the whip. If it is young and not strong. I develop its muscles by means of the cavesson with the Bussigny breaking-straps.

One ought, in a word, to study his horse, find out its special needs, and commence the education by removing the causes of its imperfections. Methodists, as a whole, are too sure of their general principles. They want to have every horse put through the hard-and-fast progression of their particular method. But my experience is that each individual horse has its own physical and moral disposition, and that each needs its own special treatment and training.

This much, at any rate, is certain: no matter how the horse's education commences or proceeds, the earlier portions of it will need more care, more ability, and more experience on the part of the trainer than the later ones. I am, then, fully agreed with Baucher in his criticism of owners who give young horses to their stable grooms to train. And yet, in Baucher's time, equitation was in high esteem. Whereas now horsemanship is almost a lost art, and riding is thought of merely as a wholesome exercise.