Horse Riding Book

An Influential Horse Riding Book

A horse riding book published as long ago as 1733 influences dressage riding even today. The classical principles it describes are still used by The Spanish Riding School of Vienna and the Cadre Noir of Saumur in France.

Its French title is “Ecole de Cavalerie” or “School of Horsemanship,” written by François Robichon de la Guérinière.

The Man

Guérinière was born around 1688 and during his lifetime riding was an essential part of every nobleman’s education. Unlike the beginner to horseback riding today, who rides for pleasure, court members had to ride well for both social and military purposes.

After mastering the basics, they then went on to learn advanced riding at a nobleman’s academy. This included such difficult movements as the piaffe and passage, which today are only for the highest level dressage rider.

Guérinière opened his own riding academy in Paris when he was granted the title of Ecuyer in 1715. The translation of this title is ‘equerry’ meaning a member of the royal household entrusted with the care of the monarch’s horses. In those days this was a very coveted position.

Guérinière’s reputation as a horseman grew, and he was made director of the Académie des Tuileries in Paris in 1730. His fame continued to spread throughout Europe thanks to his book.

The Book

Guérinière was a strong believer in humane training practices. He advocated the use of gentleness, following the ideals of Xenophon (430-354 BC) and of another famous French horseman, Antoine de Pluvinel (1555-1620).

He dedicated himself to introducing the ideals of intelligence and kindness to classical dressage, and he achieved this through the wide circulation of his horse riding book.

Some Methods and Terms

It’s interesting to note that Guérinière talks about holding the reins in one or two hands, which is now a big distinction between English and Western riding. However, riding with one hand would have been necessary to keep the sword hand free.

Although the parts of the bridle are the same as today, there are some interesting bit types mentioned. For example, the pigeon-throat, trumpet cannon and ass-step.

He mentions that to fatten a thin horse one must give him ‘green meat.’ Since meat is poisonous to horses, it’s good to know this refers to newly cut grass or fresh produce such as carrots and apples! Although, these days we avoid giving horses newly cut grass.

‘School of Horsemanship’ gives a fascinating insight into the life of the horse during the centuries when that noble animal was so vital to everyday existence, and still contains useful information for today’s rider.

The External Signs of a Healthy Horse

Posted on 2010-06-01

Whether you ride your own horse or someone else’s, it makes sense to ensure you can tell a healthy horse from an unhealthy one. Buying a good horse riding book with information on equine care is a smart investment.

These are the external signs of well-being in a horse.

1. The eyes should be bright and glossy. Dull, weeping eyes or puffy eyelids, or the horse keeping his eye closed, and you should call the vet immediately. Eye problems are not to be ignored and can herald serious issues.

2. A lightly pinched fold of skin should immediately flatten back into place when you let go otherwise the horse is dehydrated.

3. In summer the horse’s coat should be shiny, and a uniform length in winter. If it looks patchy, or the horse is sweating for no reason, or not sweating when he normally would – these are causes for concern.

4. The gums should be salmon pink: any other color signals a problem.

5. If the horse’s nasal discharge is other than clear - such as white or yellow mucus – a vet call is in order.

6. The horse’s legs should feel well-defined and cool. A good horse riding book will explain how to interpret any swellings, but puffy legs need attention.

7. The hooves should not be hot. If the feet smell foul, the horse has a condition which needs looking into.

8. Although cleaning up droppings is no fun, you need to worry if there are no droppings at all, or if they contain blood. They should be moist and of a firm consistency: diarrhea is a sign of something amiss.

9. Your horse’s urine should be a yellow or dark brown-yellow in color. Dark urine or difficulty staling (urinating) need investigating.

Note how your horse normally behaves, so you can tell if anything changes. If you do notice anything amiss, don’t be afraid to call the vet. Far better to get professional help once too often, than too late when it’s needed.

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