Monday, September 27, 2010

Xenophon of horse ridding - bit, briddle and hand

Continuing the Horsemanship Chapter IX :


Of the proper management of the bit and bridle.

l. But whoever would desire to have a horse serviceable for war, and at the same time of a stately and striking figure to ride, must abstain from pulling his mouth with the bit, and from spurring and whipping him ; practices which some people adopt in the notion that they are setting their horses off; but they produce a quite contrary effect from that which they intend.

2. For by drawing the mouths of their horses up, they blind them when they ought to see clearly before them, and they frighten them so much by spurring and striking them, that they are confused and run headlong into danger ; acts which distinguish such horses as are most averse to being ridden, and as conduct themselves improperly and unbecomingly.

3. But if a rider teach his horse to go with the bridle loose, to carry his neck high, and to arch it from the head onwards, he would thus lead him to do everything in which the animal himself takes pleasure and pride.

4. That he does take pleasure in such actions, we see sufficient proof; for whenever he approaches other horses, and especially when he comes to mares, he rears his neck aloft, bends his head gallantly, throws out his legs with nimbleness, and carries his tail erect.

5. When a rider, therefore, can prompt him to assume that figure which he himself assumes when he wishes to set off his beauty, he will thus exhibit his steed as taking pride in being ridden, and having a magnificent, noble, and distinguished appearance.

By what means we consider that such results maybe attained, we will now endeavour to show.

6. First of all, then, it is necessary for a rider to have not less than two bits ; and of these let one be smooth, and have rings of a moderate size;' and let the other have rings that are heavy, and hang lower down, with sharp points;2 in order that, when the horse takes the latter into his mouth, he may be offended with its roughness, and consequently let it go, but when he finds it exchanged for the other, he may be pleased with its smoothness ; and that whatever he has been trained to do with the rough bit, he may do also with the smooth.

7. But if, from making light of it for its smoothness, he press upon it frequently with his teeth,1 we in that case add large rings to the smooth bit, that, being compelled by them to open his mouth, he may let go the bit. But it is possible to vary the rough bit in every way, by relaxing or tightening it.

8. But whatever sorts of bits are used, let them all be yielding ; for as to a stiff bit, wherever a horse seizes it, he has the whole of it fast between his teeth, as a person, when he takes up a spit, wherever he lays hold of it, raises up the whole.

9. But the other sort of bit is similar to a chain ; for of whatever part of it a person takes hold, that part alone remains unbent, but the rest hangs down. But as the horse is always catching at the part which escapes him in his mouth, he drops the bit out of his jaws ; and to remedy this inconvenience rings2 are suspended by the middle from the two parts of the bit,3 that while he catches at these with his tongue and his teeth, he may omit to seize the bit between his jaws.4

10. In case any one should be ignorant what flexibility, and rigidity, in a bit are, we will explain the terms ; for a bit is flexible when the two pnrts of it have broad and smooth joints, so as to be easily bent; and everything that is applied about these two parts, if it fit loosely, and not with a close grasp, conduces to flexibility; but if every part of the bit opens and closes with difficulty, it is to be called hard.

11. But whatever sort of bit is used, the rider must do everything with it in the manner which I have stated, if he wishes to make his horse such as has been described.

12. He must pull up the mouth of the horse neither too severely, so as to provoke him to shake himself free from it, nor too gently, so that he may be insensible to it. But when, on pulling him up, lie raises his neck, the rider must immediately give him the bridle. In other respects, too, as we do not cease to repeat, he must, whenever the horse has acquitted himself well, show him some indulgence.

13. When he perceives that the horse is pleased with carrying his head aloft, and with the looseness of the rein, he should then put him to nothing disagreeable, as if he would force him to exert himself, but should coax him, as if he wished him to be at ease; for thus he will feel greatly encouraged, and will advance of his own accord at a swift pace.

14. That a horse delights in going fast, there is sufficient proof; for no horse, on getting loose, goes off at a slow pace, but runs. With this speed he is naturally delighted, provided we do not compel him to run longer than is reasonable; for nothing whatever, immoderately protracted, is agreeable to either horse or man.

15. When the horse was brought to perform his exercise with grace, he was trained by us,1 we know, in the early part of his practice, to advance at full speed after sundry turns. But if any rider, when his horse has learned to do this, should rein him in, and give him at the same time a signal to hasten forward, the horse, being at once checked by the bridle, and incited to speed by the signal, will advance his chest, and lift his legs higher in anger, but not with ease; for horses, when they are annoyed, will assuredly not use their legs with greater agility and grace.

16. But if when he is thus animated, the rider gives him the bridle, he will then, from delight at supposing himself, on account of the looseness of the bit, freed from its restraint, bound forward with exultation, in a noble attitude, and with an easy motion of his limbs, and expressing in every gesture the grace with which he approaches other horses,

17. Persons who view such a horse pronounce him noble-spirited, prompt for action, fit for military exercise, high-mettled, superb, and at once pleasing and formidable to contemplate.

If any one desires such qualities in a horse, let what we have so far written serve as instructions for him.

Greek cavalry Ancient Riding Hellas

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