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Classical Equitation

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A TIME OF CHANGE AND OF CONTROVERSY

 

 

 

The evolution of the English Thoroughbred may have been an accident of fate, but to the racing and hunting world, it was the coup de grace to the bad old days of expensive importation.  English nobility and commoner alike were now able to enjoy their own hot blood.  National breeding allowed small provincial studs to exist alongside those of the great country houses.  All that mattered was the propagation of a race of stamina and great speed which bred true.  Aesthetically beautiful with fine limbs and delicate head, sensitive, exciting to ride, hotheaded and brave, the Thoroughbred had come to stay.

 

With the Thoroughbred came a complete change of riding style.  Academic study had no place in the lives of most sporting gentlemen. There was a real need to return to a proper study of riding technique since ‘the many fatal accidents which daily happen, sufficiently prove the necessity of acquiring some knowledge of equestrian education, of which a pliability and command of the body on horseback, certainly forms a most essential part.’

 

Frenchmen shook their heads and called this resistance to discipline Anglo-mania, but they also could find no fault with the English horse.  English horses more than any other European have this quality . . .(they) are often out for a whole day without being unbridled, and always they are on the tail of the hounds in their foxhunting, jumping hedges and ditches . . .

 

Those more academic horsemen, who were able to see the value of classical training prior to riding across country, were mostly disregarded or ignored in England.  The balanced, classical set of the manage so necessary for achieving collection, was fast becoming outdated.  Saddles changed drastically to complement a new position; the English hunting saddle was lengthened in the seat to accommodate a shortened stirrup which afforded riders an easy passenger seat when walking or standing at a cover, but gave upward mobility for the faster gaits.

 

The thinking behind the new hunting saddle was basically good.  In 1805 an advocate fist and foremost of manage riding, recognized that for hunting a completely different balance was required.  Riders wedged themselves against the cantle, too close to the horse’s loins.  They were leaning backward rather than forwards, drawing support from the reins, their feet rammed home in the stirrups and Jove help if you broke leather!  Years later, came the ‘the old gentleman’s seat in which the body was back and the feet forward at the canter . . .however pleasurable to the rider, it is very much the reverse to the horse.  It is in fact a travesty of riding, it is not horsemanship.’

 

‘A raw man is much easier taught to do well than one who has learnt ever so long on bad principles for it is much more difficult to undo that to do, and the in respect to horses.

 

Whilst the snaffle bit was recommended for novices, it was important that ‘men use their snaffles delicately; otherwise, as a snaffle has not the power, which a (full) bridle has upon a horse’s mouth, they will use themselves to take such liberties with it, as will quite spoil their hands and teach the horses to pull, be dead in hand, and quite upon their shoulders, entirely deprived of good action.’

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Classical Riding:
A TIME OF CHANGE AND OF CONTROVERSY



The evolution of the English Thoroughbred may have been an accident of fate, but to the racing and hunting world, it was the coup de grace to the bad old days of expensive importation. English nobility and commoner alike were now able to enjoy their own hot blood. National breeding allowed small provincial studs to exist alongside those...

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