from an instructor at the French Cavalry School at Saumur (now home of Cadre Noir), in the tradition of French XVIII century riding schools, including François Robichon de La Guérinière ), comes this depiction of a cavalry horse, translated into English and published in London in 1919.
Interestingly enough, the publication of this book on cavalry horsemanship coincided with the events of the last true cavalry war (eg Battle of Komarów between Polish 1st Cavalry Division and Bolsheviks' Budyonny 1st Cavalry Army) that raged between newly restored Republic of Poland and Red Russia, and some fine Frenchmen took part in it on our Polish side, including general Charles de Gaulle:
Cavalry Horsemanship and Horse Training by Lieut.-Col. Blacque Belair,
chief instructor at the Cavalry School, Saumur France, London 1919
The many demands made on an army horse require in him a great many different qualities. He has to carry a considerable weight,* travel long distances, and often at a fast pace ; he has therefore to possess endurance, hardiness, and handiness. These qualities are nearly always found in a horse which has a naturally good balance, good paces, breeding, and conformation. The naturally good balance, which is the first quality to look for in a riding horse, enables him to have constant control of himself, even with the weight of a rider on his back, to easily change from a slow pace to a fast one and vice versa; to be, in fact, supple in his movements, and easy to ride from the first. The theory of balance has not up to now been scientifically considered ; owing to the rapidity and frequency of a horse's movements, the study of balance or of conformation is practically limited to the study of the animal at rest. Anatomy is nothing but the study of organs from which life has been withdrawn. It is therefore only by riding a horse, that one can with any certainty decide on his merits. Experience, nevertheless, enables one to establish certain general rules, which fix the good points to be looked for in a young horse, and to form an opinion as to what he will grow into. If the horse has a wither running well into the back and rather higher than the quarters, the chest deep, and the girth groove well behind the elbows, the saddle will rest in a good position. The rider and his equipment being placed between the two ends of the balance, near the centre of gravity, will not disturb the equilibrium by overweighting the shoulders. This conformation, combined with well- shaped hocks, causes the horse to be easy to handle and control in a fight, and in the daily work the effort is distributed over the body, which consequently does not prematurely wear out. The paces ought to be such as will enable the horse to cover the greatest distance with the minimum of effort. This condition excludes high action, and places value on the level extended paces, which are the least fatiguing for both horse and rider. If the trot is more especially the pace for the road, the pace for fighting is the gallop. More than ever the actual necessities of war require the fast paces maintained for long distances. The army horse ought therefore to be above everything a galloper, and the relative length of the ischium is a characteristic of this aptitude. Handiness is indispensable in going through evolutions in open country, and it is acquired all the more promptly and completely in proportion as the horse has the necessary conformation, an open angle at the junction of the shoulder and arm, and powerful hindquarters. If the length and obliquity of the shoulder, combined with high withers, assists the balance, by enabling the rider's weight to be evenly distributed, it is the relative length and vertical position of the arm, still more than the direction of the shoulder, which gives freedom in the paces and handiness. The power of the hindquarters, which drive the horse forwards or backwards, gives the horse control of himself and of his balance ; it gives him the free use of his hocks and enables him to bring them more or less under his body ; it enables him to pull himself together, or to extend his i^aces according to circumstances ; in fact it puts it in his power to take any direction or speed he wishes. Moreover, if his confidence in his long and oblique shoulders enables the horse to land lightly over a fence without any apparent effort, it is the contraction and thrust from the hindquarters which gives the spring that carries him over. The riding horse should therefore have a large hip bone, projecting well at the side, and extending slightly above the spine, producing what is called the jumping bump. The perfect shape. — If one adds to the requirements just mentioned, a forehand formed less by a useless length of neck than by the addition of cervical vertebrae, and a wither running well into the back, one will have the frame of a riding horse in all its useful beauty, and in consequence, the type to look for.
One of the first qualities of a riding horse is, that he should carry his saddle in the proper place, that is to say, the girths should naturally pass well behind the elbows. The other points to look for are — A broad forehead and a well- set- on head. An open, intelligent eye. A well-proportioned and well- set -on neck. A high wither, running well into the back, and slightly higher than the quarters. An oblique shoulder. A long and straight arm. A forearm with large powerful muscles. A deep chest. A strong back. A wide loin with strong muscles behind the saddle. Well-shaped long quarters, slightly sloping and muscular. Large prominent hips. The muscles of the thighs and second thighs well developed and extending well down towards the hocks. Short, compact body with well- sprung ribs. Knees low down, large, wide, and flat. Cannon bones short and strong. The hocks large, straight, and low. The legs hard and clean, ending in four good symmetrical feet. A fine skin. A horse with these characteristics will not only be well balanced, but will move well and possess a free striding walk ; a trot starting from the shoulder, which is long, easy, and regular ; a gallop which is smooth, powerful, and extended. Quality. — This results from the constitution or power of endurance of the organs with regard to their work ; blood, which by the energy it gives enables the organism to resist the ordinary causes of collapse ; stamina or endurance in any kind of work. Courage, however, alone secures the maximum advantage of this quality. The horse's quality arises from various causes ; it depends upon good food from the earliest age, from the soil on which he has been reared containing lime, and so developing bone and strength of muscle ; but it depends chiefly on the breeding of the horse. It is indispensable therefore to secure the proper mating of the thoroughbred horse with the half-bred mare to transmit the blood, and to maintain the size.''
* the British Cavalry a man, weighing 10 stone 7 lbs, stripped, rides no less than 21 stone, in full marching order.*
Polish cavalry of that war is beautifully described in a book by a Polish scholar and novelist Bohdan Królikowski title '' Ułańskie lato (Uhlan Summer)'' (needs to be translated into English)