The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 11:35 pm 
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Hey Annie;

I have a world and a lifetime to go before I feel like I'm dancing with my horses...I have SO much to learn. This dance conversation has been helpful to me because it's helped to focus something I've been groping towards in my head, but hadn't yet had the courage to make the connections so completely. Just having worked through it here is going to change, I think, how I approach my guys. So thanks, everyone, for providing the chance for me to do so!

On another note, I just took a moment to watch the link that Karen posted a while back of the woman riding sidesaddle with cordeo.

OH MY!!!!!

I was in tears watching this -- they are dancing together. There were moments of greater collection and moments of greater extension, but they were in harmony -- which to me is the point.

(And then she cued the rear and I literally jumped out of my chair.)

If my guys and I could achieve a 10th of the grace that these two have dancing together, or a 20th, or even an iota, I will be happy.

They are so free, so fluid, and so focused. To my eyes, her horse is moving like running water, with no tails flicks or stress in his body, and his body, her body, and her pony tail are all almost equally light! :-)

I wonder if it would help to show Stardust this video to inspire him...???


Oh, Karen, thanks so much for sharing this.

(Off to pick up the little pieces of my brain that have scattered about on the floor like marbles...)


All the best,

Today's quote:
"Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that,
because what the world needs is people who have come alive."***
Harold Thurman Whitman

*** And horses!!!! :-)

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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 4:24 pm 
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Hi Leigh,

Wanted to say, we think exactly a like!
And I too loved that movie! :)

At the moment a very dear friend of mine who is the best PT fitness trainer in the world is working on a special program for people to achive their own collection to help their horses.

We have had several sessions together, brainstorming and discussing and he will come and watch Owen and me train.
If anyone in this world understands the human body, it is him.

Allthough he is no horsetrainer (yet whahah!!), he is fascinated with AND for to him (being a fitness trainer) AND is so logical as opposed to the bits, spurs, pain/pressure etc. which does seem highly unlogical in terms of fitness and health.

Maybe he will join us here soon, when he finds some time.
I am sure we can learn sooo much from him and he from us :)

Anyway, I'd love to be his guinea pig on this one :)
For those who live near enough at Equihof, he will be giving a clinic over the summer! :)
Don't miss that, AND for your body is just as welcome!


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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 6:09 pm 
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Oh, Josepha, how exciting!

I can't wait to hear what the two of you come up with.

And Ania, I'd love to hear what happens if you do bring the experimental theater people over to meet your horse.

I'm so intrigued by what we can learn from one another by shaking out the teachings and metaphors from different disciplines! I think it can enrich our understanding in so many ways.

(This actually is a goal of my work in a lot of ways, and an impetus for me to create my current company. I was working at a university and was talking one day with a graduate student in hydro-engineering. He was writing his thesis on how water flows, and had translated very elaborate data collection into really beautiful drawings. I asked him if he'd ever read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book on flow and he'd never heard of it. I think it would be so interesting to see how he would respond with his very scientific understanding of flow -- and what he could learn from Csikszentmihalyi's ideas.)

( I need to go back and look at Csikszentmihalyi's book again, too, because I think he'd have some interesting things that would connect with the idea of balance and collection in horses, too...).

I so wish I wasn't so far away from you, Josepha -- the clinic you're planning this summer sounds fabulous!



 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 7:26 am 

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I just spent about 2 hours reading all the way through this topic, :whew: :) :clap: :pray: :bowdown: :yeah: :coffee: :rofl:
Wow, some powerful statements, so I decided to try a summary of what all came up in my mind as I read it:
Josepha's statement:
I do not believe in collecting your horse, I believe in collecting with your horse.

That is probably the closest to what I had come to believe about collection (without being able to do it ;) ) before I read through this whole thread. To me it lines up perfectly with some of the reading I have done by Wendy Murdoch: The horse is capable of collection without a rider. Assuming sufficient conditioning of the horse's body (the how-to I'll leave aside for the moment) the horse will be able to be collected if the rider is collected.
She then explains how to achieve collection in the rider.
I was really impressed seeing the video of the lady riding sidesaddle, both with the horse's movement and with her riding ability and relationship with the horse. I was thinking while I was watching that I don't really care if that is collection, it is free , graceful, powerful and natural.

I strongly agree with those who said that collection looks different in each breed and in each horse. My quarter horse will never look like a Spanish horse and to me they are each beautiful in different ways.
As far as the terms collection vs. balance I like to make it simple for myself: A horse that carries more weight on the front legs (about 60%) is on the forehand, a horse that carries equal amounts of weight (about 50%) on front legs and haunches is balanced, a horse that carries more than 50% on the haunches is moving towards collection.
By this definition my horse looks like she is on the forehand most of the time when she is not ridden, but occasionally she will be balanced (usually in extended trot) and sometimes she will be collected (stopping, spinning, taking off for a jump, going into canter).
I don't understand collection enough to have a strong opinion on exactly which muscle groups need to be involved to call something collection, but lean towards the analogy of the ship accelerating and coming up in front because of the power from behind.
The reason I'm trying to keep this simple is mostly for selfish reasons. I'm not currently interested in dressage as a goal in itself, although I appreciate the beauty of a well-conditioned classically trained dressage horse. I really just want to know how far the horse needs to have devoloped from being on the forehand to being able to carry a rider for more than a few minutes. I want my horse to be sound and ridable when she's 30 if possible. Is it enough if she can be balanced for most of the time or does she need to be uphill/collected (carry more weight behind)?
The other question is related to how to get there. I've been reading all the topics on ground work and the recommended exercises for strengthening and stretching. If my goal is primarily to have the horse shift enough weight to the haunches in order to carry a rider better I was wondering how much of the same strengthening benefits could come from just doing a lot of exercising the horse uphill, first on the ground, starting with walk, then trot, then under saddle. Also to do lots of transitions, both up and downward. It seems to me that all the muscle groups that are necessary for collection would be used and I know this is a very common form of conditioning reining horses and cutting horses that are rarely taught Spanish walk, Piaffe, Levade etc. I'm even wondering if this might result in more natural movement as opposed to encouraging movements by using food rewards. I very strongly believe in positive reinforcement but am also very aware that animals can easily get overmotivated to do things that will hurt their bodies. I'm very curious to learn what you all think. :)

 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:39 pm 
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Carrying my background in Asian martial arts to this question of "Collection," has been my practice in the past. I still keep the feeling and picture in my mind of what this means in horse handling.

There is a state of being in some disciplines, very in the Buddhist tradition, of balanced tension.

One is not truly tense as in rigid, nor limp and flaccid in relaxation.

There is a middle way, out of which one can move in either direction. "Move," is the key concept.

In Tai Chi Chuan I can watch a newcomer, tense and struggling with balance mostly, performing the various forms - rather like "frame," as we understand it with horses.

We move from one form to another, Stroke the Peacock's Tail, to Bringing The Moon to the Stomach, White Crane Reaches for the Sky, to Push the Tiger, then Break the Arrow, and the beginner struggles with the transitions, the movement, very much carrying it into the static postures that one might hold for a moment or two. They stagger.

However, their progress can be marked by more balance and less struggle and always achieved by releasing tension, until, as my sensei shows with his own body, the strangest state of relaxed tension. Sometimes he appears to be wearing an Iron Shirt and moves as though under great outside pressure, but yet with smooth ease and absolute control of balance.

Much of the forms we practice are from the base of a single leg, the other moving independently, and as I watch that, or feel it myself, I note the similarity to "collection."

As I ride and the horse advances in condition, balance, power, and finally collection, this is the same feeling I look for from him, and from myself too. When that happens the dance happens.

Donald, Altea, and Bonnie Cupcake

Love is Trust, trust is All
So say Don, Altea, and Bonnie the Wonder Filly.

 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 3:12 pm 
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I try to read everything, but I'm in school right now so only a short answer...

I don't know who it was... maybe someone here...

but he (or she) explained collection as a state of 'being able to do anything in any direction'
Horses use it in play, in flight and in fight, the situations in which a horse has to be capable to move easily left right, up down, slower, faster.
So collection can be in a halt, ready to go forward, backward, upward or sideways. or in any gait, going slow as well as fast.
It's some sort of 'readiness'.
That was why collection was in transitions.

I'm not really sure yet whether or not this is any sort of true, or for that matter whether or not it adds anything to this topic.

I'm more curious about what you guys think of this, and who it came from... hmm... Not that many people I talk about collection with...

time is what you make of it

 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 3:24 pm 
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KDS wrote:
but he (or she) explained collection as a state of 'being able to do anything in any direction'
I'm more curious about what you guys think of this, and who it came from...

Miriam :smile:

She made that point several times, but I am not sure where she explained it in most detail, it was in 2007. But here is one instance, taken from a discussion of how to make the training in itself rewarding.

Miriam wrote:
It's the other things that take more energy that require a very elastic brain from the human. So yes, Blacky can do a canter pirouette now, but that doesn't mean I can just ask it ten times after another at the same spot from the same collected gait. The fact that he should stay collected must be of importance to him, so what we do is to make of the entire haute ecole collection thing a waiting game: we move slowly and highly collected for a while - in a pirouette or terre a terre or in a series of levades - and then I'll shout something like 'get me!' and run away as fast as I can, leavin Blacky behind to explode away himself and to chase me. If he was more collected, he will get away sooner and get to me faster. So for him haute ecole and the really high collection is what it really is for the horse when playing with other horses as well: a way to move in one place and still become/stay so high-strung that you can take off at top speed at any second, in any direction. I'm just being that other horse who dares him by boasting that I will beat him when it comes to speed and agility.

You can find the complete post here (10th post), it's also linked in the 'Special posts' sticky as "making sense of exercises".

Since I read that way of describing collection as a form of "readiness", it has always been my favourite explanation of collection - along with collection as a mental state, but then that goes hand in hand. Also fits nicely to the dancing and martial arts analogies, I think.

 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 3:53 pm 
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Thank you Romy for pointing the post to me
Thank you Miriam for explaining, it gave me lots of inspiration and view on the subject :yes:

time is what you make of it

 Post subject: COLLECTION
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 7:29 am 

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An arched neck by itself does not connote collection. The compression of the vertebrae of the back constitutes collection of the back, the real essence of collection.

Link Refer to the book PASSION OR THE WAY OF A MAN WITH A HORSE Appendix-V, Fig.1 on page 13, last para of page 15 to the end of 1st para of page 17.

 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:04 am 
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Hi tootooimam, I have merged your post with one of the threads we already have about collection. If you want to contribute something here, feel free to do so.

 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 7:10 pm 
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Studying illustrations of Baucher (especially second manner) can mislead many...I much prefer to think of collection as bringing the hind legs under, the forehand lightening, while increasing both activity and engagement. The ramener looks after itself, pretty much ;). Focusing too much on elevation of the neck alone can lead some to drop the back of the horse. It is an over-all rounding of the horse and the elevation of the head and neck is relative to the ability of the horse to remain rounded with the poll higher. That ability depends on many things (breed, conformation, training, etc).

Without the hind legs increasing in engagement, you really cannot have a true collection. To quote JP Giacomini (who has a knack for simplifying complex ideas) " Collection comes from bringing the hind legs under by their own activity through progressive gymnastics". This quote assumes the rider is bringing the horse along in a correct manner that focuses on relaxation and roundness of the horse.

"By their own activity" is a very key concept. Compression of any kind that is directly caused by the rider (such as driving the horse forward into tight contact) is detrimental to true collection and detrimental to the relaxation of the horse. Correct training that does not artificially compress the horse is what leads to the kind of collection that I desire. That is where any compression is simply an artifact of the positive tensions that occur (momentarily) within the body of the horse as he moves. For this reason alone, I would not focus on the word "compression" as a major part of the definition of collection.

If the horse engages more and any compression is of his own volition, activity increases. If the horse is compressed by the rider, activity decreases. This is also a concept from JP. I like how he thinks. :D

To each his own however....I'm aware that words have different meanings to individuals based on their experience and how they choose to describe actions. :yes: So I would not wish to get into debate about "what does that word mean"? I'm simply showing what "compression" means to me.

"Ride reverently, as if each step is the axis on which the earth revolves"

 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:23 pm 
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Thought I might add something. Further to my comment about experience coloring our definitions of words, it can also be said that our goals will color our vision of what constitutes collection. :yes: I watched some of the videos at the book link above, and if polo is the main goal, then that kind of collection will look markedly different than, say, one who seeks haute ecole vs one who seeks to have a good cow pony, etc. It looks different. For the polo horses, I would say they are indeed collected in moments when they need it, but the goal is rapid responsiveness in all directions and the ability to go from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat. By some definitions, collection IS the ability to move in any direction instantly.

So I certainly would not argue with that!

I think my only argument is more of a cautionary note than a real argument...and that is using the term "compression" to describe collection. It is a double edged definition and can be understood in different ways.

If one is learning from someone else directly, what you SEE and experience along with the words the teacher uses can cause you to understand a word in a different way than just reading it in a book (or on a forum). This is why I thought it important to expand on the term "compression".

In my mind (and my experience) if horse is rounding his back to carry a rider, he is not at all compressing the back. He is compressing the abdominal muscles. The underside of the horse contracts (as needed - positive tension) and the back actually expands upward.

Ok...must get back to work! :funny: :f:

"Ride reverently, as if each step is the axis on which the earth revolves"

 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:22 am 
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I think to understand the concept of collection, nowadays, one must be aware of the concept of contra collection: ... p/articles


 Post subject: Re: Collection
PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2014 5:00 am 

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Sub: Reference to the book PASSION OR THE WAY OF A MAN WITH A HORSE, Appendix-V


I excerpt from pages 87 and 88 of my book –

“If a coiled spring is compressed there is a collection of energy for eventual release. The visible collection of the spring’s length would not be the actual collection involved, this being, strictly speaking, of energy. It is the same with a horse which may be likened to that spring. That urge to go forward which is impulsion would be collected for eventual release by the visible gathering together of the body and limbs of the animal but the actual collection would be, strictly speaking, of that urge. On the one hand is that urge to forward motion, and opposed to it is the restraint of the hand which bottles up this urge, does not quench it, this urge being all the stronger for its compression, this urge being available for release when wanted, in part or in full, resulting in propulsion or added propulsion. Further, when impulsion is released there may result also upward projection as considered in Chapter 3.

A racehorse before the start is a tightly coiled spring and as it leaps forward as the starting barrier is raised that spring uncoils, perhaps fully. Through the race the restraint of the hand over the added impulsion created by the whip and excitement will permit propulsion to get through in controlled measure so that there be retained the required amount of impulsion for release in a burst at the finish, when the animal having ‘shot its bolt’ no impulsion remains.

In all of the above we see ‘collection’ and ‘extension’ as generally understood in the bodily carriage and movements of the animal concerned which in fact do correspond with the actual gathering and release of the force of impulsion which is the actual heart of the matter.

In the world of advanced equitation in the sense we are dealing with in this book, there is too this ‘bottling up’, which however is different in quality. Collection can mean too the horse being caused to adopt a general disposition that makes it possible for him to not only jump forward but to turn and twist and increase his speed and slow it down and leap and stop on his hocks to again jump forward or round instantly, and for this he is caused to adopt a median disposition which can be instantly modified.”

Much of the foregoing will perhaps be appreciated better if one considers Xenophon’s comment in his THE ART OF HORSEMANSHIP written some 2400 years ago which reads as follows :

“But when a horse is taught to go regularly and smoothly, with a rein rather loose and easy, to bear his neck aloft, and to curl it towards his head, he then does those very things in which he delights, and takes the greatest pleasure. A proof of this may be, that when he is at liberty in a pasture, and meets other horses, and especially mares, he will erect his head and neck, raise his tail towards his back with courage and vigour, trot high and stately, rejoicing in his course, and proud of himself. If, therefore, the horseman can prevail upon him to appear, when mounted, in the beautiful attitudes he naturally assumes when at liberty, he will exhibit a most striking and pleasing figure … … …”

Project this word-picture in your mind’s eye when you will see a high-spirited horse collected at liberty in the natural passage which collection is very similar to that of Baucher’s in his Second Manner. The ramener in Baucher’s Second Manner is not quite complete while that in the natural passage would be somewhat less than his. However, it would certainly involve through the flexion of the neck at the poll a reaction of the bend of the neck on the natural curvatures of the spine which by compression of the vertebrae of the back constitutes collection of the back, the real essence of collection. Since we are dealing with the natural passage of a horse at liberty what more is to be said? Reference may be made to page 16 and Fig. 3 of my book considered in conjunction with the text of that page. Particular attention of the reader is drawn to the fact that the ramener, while less than complete, is sufficient to cause a shortening of not only the underpart but the topline too by the closing of the normal curvatures of the spine and this has been achieved by the use of a dangling rein. The rein has merely sent a signal to the horse which has come to be ramene to the extent that is necessary for the work in hand.

Now to Fig. 87 on page 271 of my book. The off hind of the animal in Baucher’s collection in his Second Manner must presently stretch forward and down to the ground under the horseman’s foot, his leg being nearly vertical. Full engagement is surely involved.

Collection necessarily involves increased engagement of the hindlegs which lends to a roaching of the back and lowering of the haunches. However, increased engagement does not necessarily imply collection. In this connection see Figs. 29, 30, 31 and 32 on pages 83, 84 and 85 of my book which show a horse pulling up from a gallop on its hocks. The engagement of the hindlegs and roaching of the horse’s back have nothing to do with collection for no question of gathering impulsion for future release arises.

Taking weight off the horse’s loins by the rider raising his seat off the saddle, be it a centimetre or a foot matters not, lends to engagement of the hind legs. When movement is in extension, this lightening of the weight on the loins is universally accepted; certainly not so when collection or coming to a halt from speed is involved. This is illogical. The weight on the horse’s loins is also required to be lightened when collection or stopping on the hocks is involved for the simple reason that it aids the engagement of the hind legs. In this connection reference may be made to Fig. 8 on page 32 of my book. Incidentally, TB Bucephalus was straight from a racing stable and at the time when the photograph was taken he had had only two days of schooling. In this connection again reference may be made to Figs. 29, 30, 31 and 32 on pages 83-85 of the book. The roaching of the horse’s back as it pulls up from a gallop may be noted.

To revert to Xenophon who writes “What the horse does under compulsion, as Simon also observes, is done without understanding; and there is no beauty in it either, any more than if one should whip and spur a dancer.” Xenophon was considering a horse-rider partnership when man and mount were emotionally one, when the horse would respond to its rider’s wishes willingly, where there was neither compulsion nor its handmaiden submission. The horseman can only find this willingness first through empathy which then leads to a sympathy between mount and man which results in the centaur, no mythical creature this as we now see.

It will be relevant to consider conformation from the viewpoints of collection and extension.

Of very great consideration is the horse’s mouth. No matter how sensitive the mouth itself may be, the set-on of the head decides the capacity of the horse for the flexions of the jaw and neck which are intimately connected with the quality of the mouth as the horseman understands it. Actually this set of the head on the neck is dependent on the shape of the neck itself.

The noted Athenian horseman Simon, who lived about the 5th century BC, writes in his book on the horse – “Let the neck be slender near the jaw, supple, flattened back to the rear, but bending down to the front from the slenderest part. The head should be advanced and the neck should not be short.” The italics, of course, are mine.

The first two vertebrae of the neck of a horse, the Atlas and the Axis, make an angle with the remaining vertebrae of the neck. This angle varies between animals. When the angle is comparatively acute we get a neck in accord with what Simon indicates above, and when this angle is comparatively obtuse the neck tends to a ewe neck. And we all know how well a horse with a natural arching of its neck near the poll flexes its neck and jaw as compared to an animal with a ewe neck.

The mastoido-humeral muscles which run from the shoulders to below the poll control the movements of the forelegs and when the neck bends near the poll there is a virtual shortening of this muscle causing a shortening of stride and an elevation of the gait in front which are matters linked with collection. Thus, we see the importance of the shape of the horse’s neck and find oneself in complete agreement with Simon. The sort of neck visualised by Simon may be seen in that so beautiful formation of the blood-horse, the game-cock throttle, often found.

Length of the neck is important, what is called having a good rein. General Wardrop in his MODERN PIG-STICKING writes ‘Shoulder and rein I consider vital: they mean the saving to you of many falls’. So Simon and General Wardrop nearly 2500 years after him are agreed that a horse’s neck should be long. Strength in the neck is imperative not only for sustaining the constant weight of the head but also for the muscles which lie along the neck to lift and move forward the forelimbs. Length of muscle generally means ease and quickness of movement so we can see why a long neck is desirable. When that beautifully curved neck of grace and lightness as seen from the side is seen from above to be sufficiently thick and muscular, then it may be taken to play its part in giving the animal a good mouth.

From the point of view of head carriage the neck should emerge from the body at an angle of at least 45 degrees from the horizontal. Some 2400 years ago Xenophon appreciated the importance of a high neck carriage and wrote ‘The neck should not be thrown out from the chest like a boar’s, but, like a cock’s, should rise straight up to the poll and be slim at the bend.’

Full engagement of the hindlegs is important not only in collection but in extension at speed. Apart from the question of the flexibility of the horse’s backbone which influences engagement of the hindlimbs, the positioning of the coxo-femoral joint or hip-joint, about which the hindlegs oscillate in relation to the axis of oscillation of the shoulder which is situated towards the upper third of the scapula or shoulder-blade, plays an important part in the horse’s ability to engage its hindlimbs under the mass of its body. The hip-joint should be situated at a slightly lower level than the axis of oscillation of the shoulder, that is the horse should be built “uphill”. From this viewpoint we may consider the giraffe which is built very much “uphill”. A giraffe when galloping has its hindlegs cross its forelegs on the outside during the period of suspension, which never occurs with the horse which is unable to achieve such engagement of the hindlimbs. Again, from the viewpoint of engagement of the hindlegs, a flexible spine is obviously desirable. A very short back and massive loin, such as the Godolphin Barb is known to have had, imply a lack of flexibility in the backbone and are not wanted.


I quote from page xviii onwards from “Author’s Preface” of my book without illustrations therein:

“From the viewpoint of equitation the philosophy underlying this book may be expressed in one word, lightness.

‘The ‘mark’ of the High School, of scientific, artistic, high equitation, however one likes to call it, is not to be found therefore in extraordinary movements, but in those, whether simple or complicated, that are executed with perfect lightness.’
(General L’Hotte)

The General goes on to say that lightness consists in ‘perfect obedience of the horse to the lightest indications of hand and heels.’

While agreeing with what the General has to say in essence, I have to make the following points. Lightness, consisting of a horse showing perfect harmony in the play of its forces exactly adjusted to its object, can exist in the animal running free. The first aim of any horseman must be to restore to the ridden horse, or rather blood-horse, its natural gracefulness, its natural lightness, which the horseman has interfered with by his weight and by his actions, such as the use of the reins. From this viewpoint of lightness with the horse running free the perfect obedience of the horse to the lightest signal from its rider does not exist. Again, when ridden the horse may of its own volition, through the horseman abandoning himself, perhaps for moments only, to his mount’s care, execute in perfect lightness the movements called for, as happens in what may be accepted as mortal combat in hog-hunting, as will be considered presently. In all such cases the question of obedience does not arise.

In view of the fact that this book deals with advanced equitation generally and in various equestrian activities in the field, I feel that the ‘mark’ the General refers to should be taken as applying to that of high or advanced equitation, which would naturally include academic equitation.

I am to take issue with the General’s reference to ‘hands and heels’. The animal one has in mind would surely respond to the merest suggestion of rein aid and calf pressure, a featherlight touch of the calf in fact.

If we accept General L’Hotte’s views, indicated above, which I do with regard to their essence, one is forced to accept that if the horse responds showing perfect harmony in the play of its forces exactly adjusted to the work in hand, that animal carries the ‘mark’ of the High School, of scientific, artistic, high equitation, however one likes to call it, no matter that the horse’s head and neck carriage be not in accord with any or current fashion. I am pointing this out here and now because of the stylisation in academic equitation today which is necessarily absent in similar equitation in the field, as in hog-hunting, in mounted combat, in the galloping of wild elephant armed with but cold steel.

We shall presently consider that ‘contact’ may be made with the horse through the weight of the reins and that ‘tension’ ideally should be no more than this, if it can then be called ‘tension’ at all. We have already considered that the lightest of calf pressure should be sufficient for leg aids. Then taking General L’Hotte’s definition of the ‘mark’ of high equitation, for horse and rider to qualify for this the animal should perform perfectly with a slack rein and a touch of the rider’s calf by way of leg aids. Most horse–rider combinations in the world of international dressage would fail by this standard. See Fig. (i).

I shall close this section of the preface with the observation that there can be no absolute lightness unless the animal concerned shows eagerness and pride. I shall therefore amend General L’Hotte’s expressed views to myself state that lightness consists in eagerness and ability of the horse to act as required, be it by the lightest indications of hand and legs or through its own volition.

Underlying this question of lightness is the mount and man relationship.
Few experienced horsemen are enamoured of fierce horses. Spirited ones, yes, but docility is always wanted. And this docility is often linked with giving a horse liberty. I shall make the point that prior to commencing schooling high-spirited horses may be gentled with advantage not only by kind treatment but also by being given freedom. I have always made it a practice when dealing with fresh young horses to first turn them loose right away. They would then proceed to kick up their heels, gallop, and bound around exulting in this strange freedom, only to soon sober down when no notice was taken of them. And they would not run away. Of course, the sort of horse I am considering is very different in temperament from the almost feral animals grazing free on the range in a ranch. With regard to this liberty, I have done much the same thing with Thoroughbred racehorses acquired by me for turning into hacks, polo ponies, etc. One animal, Belle Ami, responded after her initial mad galloping around by entering my bedroom verandah and poking her nose through the window to have a look at me. Thereafter she took a sudden fancy to my outdoor swimming pool and plunged into it! The pool had to be de-watered and a sandbag ramp built up from the bottom to its edge, the while this supposedly highly strung mare stood patiently on the slippery tiles. Finally my son Bulu, then in his teens, rode her up that ramp and out of the pool sans bridle and sans saddle clad in bathing trunks. And this was a horse which only earlier that week had raced at Calcutta!

Another mare, a very well bred Anglo-Arab tournament polo pony nicknamed by me Lady Strawberry, who used to wander around my garden at will, knocked over some flower pots to be chided by my wife, when this rather highly strung animal showed her hurt feelings by trotting off with that high, collected gait horses at liberty often show to her stable where she sulked for some time!

On coming to me another horse, a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse of some fame in India named Peace, was given this liberty too. On one occasion an English friend of mine, Bob Wright by name, dropped in to see me accompanied by his then little daughter Belinda. Peace, nicknamed Buccaneer, had at one time been owned by Bob who had even tried to make a polo pony out of him—this tall, lanky animal was quite unsuited to be such. Well, on seeing Bob, Peace had to show off and came trotting up to us with that same high, springy, stately action, head held high with neck arched from near the poll, which Lady Strawberry had shown and which has been remarked on by Xenophon and which in fact is the passage. Little Belinda asked ‘Why is Buccy going so, Daddy?’ to which Bob replied ‘Because it is fun, honey-bun.’ A very true comment indeed.

The following little tale, while amusing, should provide food for thought. My TB Gulbagh (his sire was that very well known racehorse out here named Njinsky I) required the dressing of a wound which my wife used to attend to mornings and evenings. Another Thoroughbred of mine, a 5-year-old named Dilbagh (his sire was the very successful racehorse in India Tudor Jet and Hyperion figured in his family tree), was inclined to be more than a little jealous. Seeing my wife attending to his stable mate Dilbagh came up and started pushing her with his nose only to be scolded and shooed away. He trotted off a few yards and deciding to lie down did so on some straw there and was almost immediately sound asleep and snoring!

In December, 1993 I was in Delhi and went round one morning to the Delhi Racecourse to see whether I might pick up a horse — for riding, not for racing. As the horses were coming in from their morning gallops on their way to the stables, an animal played up and nearly jumped over a truck! To cut a long story short I acquired this horse named Sir Xanthos which I rechristened Shataan (peregrine falcon). More of this horse will be found in this book. On his arrival at my home near Hazaribag, he was, as is my wont, immediately turned loose in my outdoor manege. As might be expected, he flew around bounding at times high into the air. In a few minutes he sobered down and started following my syce Chhotku like a dog. I had the manege gate opened and instructed Chhotku to walk straight to the loose-box reserved for this horse which had, as all my stabling has, its own individual paddock. Shataan followed Chhotku into the paddock where this syce commenced grooming him while he stood free much to the amazement of the two syces who had brought Shataan by road from Delhi. Apparently, they had never dared to groom this animal unless he was securely tied to rings on both sides of his loose-box.

In more than seven decades I have had similar experiences with high-blooded horses which I have acquired.

Over seventy years ago I purchased a very beautiful chestnut Kathiawari colt from an itinerant horse-dealer which I named Butchu. This rather flighty animal had not been backed till then. As usual Butchu was turned loose in my outdoor manege when, it might be well imagined, he acted much as Shataan did more than half a century later. Butchu came to follow me like a dog as I walked round the manege. I stopped to caress him behind the ears which probably awakened his memory of his dam licking him there when he was a foal. At the time he was bridled with a rubber barred snaffle, the single rein being knotted on his neck. On an impulse I lifted my torso across the colt’s bare back. I could feel him quivering but he stood motionless. I swung my right leg over his back and was astride him. The colt still stood quietly while his trembling ceased. I urged him forward by leg pressure to which he responded by moving gently forward. He was getting used to carrying a weight. In ten minutes I had Butchu trotting and cantering but had to keep up leg pressure on his sides to keep him moving. Eventually he got accustomed to carrying a rider and freely moved as desired by me. A little over half a century later my younger son Hasan, then 16 years of age, effected a first backing of a colt TB Babb’r thus which almost immediately permitted my daughter Nattie, then 15 years old, to ride him freely around the countryside.

The following stills from my film of 1994 SEDUCTION involving a colt belonging to the late Prashant Sahay, Hasan up, will speak for themselves.

In October, 1993 I and my family were the guests of Maharaj Narendra Singh Mewar, the younger brother of the late Maharana of Udaipur, at the Haldighati Horse Fair. I arranged for the first backing of Narendra’s very beautiful chestnut Kathiawari filly by Hasan. An open air manege was constructed with the aid of tent kanats (tent walls), a truck, and a stone wall over 4ft high. Turned loose this so beautiful animal tore round the enclosure a few times and proceeded to leap the stone wall and disappear into the extensive scrub jungle beyond! In ten minutes she was back again over that wall into the arena where Hasan was alone and after a few very fast circlings of the area walked up to him. He fondled her muzzle and just vaulted on to her bare back, picked up the single rein knotted on the filly’s neck, and rode this animal at a trot and canter and dismounted whereupon I accompanied by a 10-year-old lad and a young English lady, a Miss Grey, walked up to them. This 10-year-old boy rode that filly easily. I suggested to Miss Grey that she ride this animal through the crowded road to the Fair site, a kilometre away, which this young lady proceeded to do after I gave her a leg up. So, Miss Grey experienced a road in such circumstances in India with crowds, trucks with blaring horns, and horses being ridden and led a plenty, having as her mount a young horse which twenty minutes earlier had never been mounted.

My son-in-law Atul Yadav purchased TB Italian Glory on 6th October, 2010 though actually the deal was struck the previous day, this because the gelding was entered for the Bhutan Cup at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club races on 6th October, 2010 and its owner stipulated that the sale would be effective after the race. In the event, Italian Glory placed second.

On the next day, Italian Glory was transported around 250 miles by road to our home some miles out of Hazaribag reaching it around 10 PM. On the following morning being the 8th October 2010, as is my usual practice, this horse was free-schooled in our manege and as anticipated he accompanied Atul, being free, through the opened manege gate some 100 yards where he was left to graze. After some 10 minutes Atul walked back with him to his stable. Thereafter he was inoculated against Surra.

The injection in question has rather an unpleasant reaction which lasts for more than two hours. Therefore Atul had a chair placed in the stable paddock and sitting there kept an eye on Italian Glory, or rather Aggageer which he had been now rechristened. The horse started feeling the effects of the injection and moving around restlessly sat down and then got up several times when he finally came upto Atul and sitting down near his feet rested his head on Atul’s knees.

The illustrations which follow speak for themselves.”

I quote from chapter “2. Mixed Harvest” of my book without illustrations therein:

“2. Mixed Harvest

We all know what is meant by ‘walking tall’. The same may be said of a horse showing eagerness and pride. ‘Walking tall’ in a horse is shown in the engagement of the hindlegs and a natural transfer of weight to them while there is a complementary raising of the forehand which is aided by the shortening of the effective length of the mastoido-humeral muscle through a ramener in the required degree made voluntarily . While on this line of thought surely the limited engagement of the hindlegs when the animal is overbent is directly due to overbending destroying eagerness and pride then so apparent from the earsback attitude of the horse, quite different from that when the ears are laid back in a show of temper or viciously .
Incidentally, my friend Mrs. Christina Belton, dressage rider and judge, wrote to me over a decade ago “I love your expression ‘walking tall’, for which there was previously no word in the English, though ‘erection’ has been used as a translation of the German ‘aufrichtung’.” Actually ‘erection’ is not the term to be used, rather one may say ‘walking erect in his pride’.”


General Decarpentry in his ACADEMIC EQUITATION, writes :

“One consequence of the absolute necessity to foster with the greatest care the horse’s instinct for forward movement — in the absence of which everything ceases to exist — is that the rider must avoid using his legs — in frequency, in duration and in intensity — more than is strictly necessary, except as agents of impulsion. Their use as agents of direction or disposition of the body is necessary at the beginning and during the course of dressage, but the progressive substitution of rein effects for leg effects to this end must be a permanent aim of the rider, so that, eventually, the business of channeling the horse’s impulsive efforts will be assigned to the hands only, whilst the maintenance of the development of impulsion will have become the sole object of leg action.”

The General is obviously considering the schooling of a horse within the four walls of a manege; his outlook has a horizon somewhat like that of a goldfish in its bowl.

However as this may be, advanced equitation in the field does not permit such an outlook. For example, in hog-hunting one perforce rides with an absolutely dangling rein and relies more on leg directional aids than anything else. Hypersensitivity to the leg is essential. This was so in the not so distant past in polo when the hallmark of top polo horsemanship was the use of slack reins. Today the mania for “taut reins” has spread into this field. I suppose the great polo players of the past who are no more are turning in their graves! In mounted combat with cold steel the legs had to be used for directional aids to the exclusion at times of the use of the reins. Considering that dressage arose from the requirements of mounted combat we can now see how far academic equitation has drifted from its very source.

The former British view of using the legs for directional aids is rather on account of the former British Empire (India) where in both pigsticking and polo the reins were more or less discarded in favour of the legs. For hoghunting one must ride with a dangling rein leaving everything to the horse which must know its job. A good pigsticker will lengthen and shorten its stride, NOT speed, as the terrain may dictate all of its own, follow its jinking quarry of its own, and when the time comes largely on its own turn and twist and passage (sideways movement is meant) and leap over the foe as might be called for when receiving its savage charges.

Below is an excerpt from the chapter titled “Riding Down A Panther” in BIG GAME ENCOUNTERS :

“So came the tense moment. There were unknown factors. What the panther would do; still more what Horace would do, for after all it was a novel experience for both. For my part I was only conscious of one determination, and that was to keep the panther on my off side. About Horace my anxiety was soon relieved, as getting nearer he had his ears pricked forward till the tops nearly met, and had shortened his stride and roached his back as if he intended to deal with the panther himself!
I had made to come up a little wide of the panther with the idea of then closing in to spear on my off side, when he suddenly turned round and came at us with an angry ough, ough. As I was going fast, I had to check Horace to avoid having the panther on his quarter. This made him prop and plunge, and my jab at the panther’s mouth did little damage. But it turned him, and he threw himself into a small, thick clump of tamarisk and disappeared.
* * *
…………………………………………………. … ……………………………………………….
Suddenly out he came. Straight at me, making a panther’s terrifying noises.
Never take a pig’s charge standing is an honoured maxim — and I suppose it must hold good for a panther. Anyhow, Horace bounded forward, and next thing I knew was the panther had impaled himself on my spear. The point had caught him just behind the base of the neck, and had gone right through and into the ground the other side. The gallant fighting beast struggled round and seized and splintered the shaft with his teeth, but could do no more.
And when all was over, a very brave little horse put his nose down to sniff his fallen foe and snorted! ”

I quote chapter “18. Predators” of my book in toto without illustrations therein:

“18. Predators

Horsemen accustomed to the best of hunters, as understood in England, show jumpers, and even polo ponies but who have never had the good fortune to have indulged in the king of sports in partnership with a perfect pigsticker, may have difficulty in fully appreciating how an ideal animal of this type will follow a pig, or for that matter other animals being hunted, of its own accord.

Lord Baden-Powell in his book on hog-hunting has referred to a well known, in his day, English mare who used to be ridden with the Muttra Hunt and who invariably gave vent to a sour vein in her temper by doing her utmost to come up with a hog and trample it, and many a charging boar has had to retire the worse from wear after encountering her iron-shod hooves. She would follow a hog of her own accord, turning and twisting as it jinked. There was little doubt of her keenness in hunting the great, grey Indian boar.

Major Henry Shakespear writes in his The Wild Sports of India:

‘I never had a horse so devoted to all sports as this little Arab. On one occasion, before dawn in the morning, as I was galloping out to the meet, he suddenly jumped off the path with me, giving chase to an animal, which turned out, when there was sufficient light to see it, to be a hyena.

His sight was such that I trusted it in preference to my own; and I have known him fix his eye on a certain patch of jungle on the hill above us, which the beaters were driving; and though not one of us could see any game in it, and the beaters themselves had driven up to the bush, a red deer, or sambur, has suddenly sprung out of it. I felt the little horse’s heart beat against my heel, and remarked to my shikarees (native huntsmen), that I was certain there was some game in the bush; the distance was two hundred and fifty yards from us. I had several falls with him, owing to his utter recklessness when following wild hog. If I were riding down a hill, and a boar jumped over a rock or impractical place, this horse would follow exactly where the chase went; and he has in this way rolled me over several times.’

Lt. Col. Fife in his Mosaic of Memories refers to a flea-bitten grey Arab pony which was not only a perfect pigsticker but which would in high grass actually follow the quarry by scent. And Col. Kesri Singh of Jaipur always preferred Arabs for hog-hunting due to their tendency to hunt a boar of their own accord, even though Arabs tend to be small, which can be a disadvantage.

The following little tale, while amusing, does bring out my point. My then 8-year-old son Hasan owned a 9.3 hands high part-Arab pony named Rani. One day while he was riding this spirited little animal in our riding school one of our pets, a somewhat belligerent billy-goat called Rana, found his way into it and made the mistake of threatening them with lowered horns. Rani swung round on her haunches and literally flew at the startled intruder and as he turned and fled she hunted him as a terrier does a rat with arched neck and ears laid back on her skull , all of her own accord and on a loose rein. Young Hasan, startled too at first, soon entered into the spirit of the “hunt” and riding with an easy seat and a slack rein let his little mare turn and twist at speed after their prey, Rani changing leading legs as called for of her own accord. Poor Rana made good his escape by diving through some post-and-rails at the end of the school! On reflection, little Hasan was fortunate in having received while yet a child what in effect was a miniature Arab as a plaything. It was something of an anticlimax to see him playing with more usual toys for one of his tender years just after he had been galloping and leaping his pony.

The keenness shown by good horses in actually themselves hunting down the quarry is entirely due to the sympathy between mount and man which then exists. The horse understands what is happening and eagerly takes part in it even though, normally, only predators hunt of their own accord. In this context, the tale of my close friend the late Rajkumar P.C.Barua of Gauripore and his famous elephant Pratap Singh is relevant. In the annals of elephantback tiger and leopard hunting, Lalji, as the Rajkumar is popularly known, is unique in that nearly all of these carnivora shot by him were not shot from the howdah of an elephant but from the mahaout’s place on the elephant’s neck when he himself was driving his own shikar elephant. In this most exciting form of shikar his wonderful elephant Pratap Singh was an eager partner and would actually follow the quarry’s trail, smelling this with his trunk.

In 1940, when I was still in my teens, a pair of leopard took up their abode in some broken ground across the Konar River on the Hazaribag-Barkagaon Road in what was then the outskirts of Hazaribag Town. They took a toll of village cattle and goats, not to speak of village dogs, and I was appealed to by the villagers of the area and asked to come and slay these trouble-makers. I arranged for beaters to be collected, and sent out there a 15-hands-high strawberry-roan Australian gelding rejoicing in the name of Strawberry who obviously had more than a little Arab blood in him. This animal had a mouth of iron, the courage of a lion, and was active as a cat, always with a leg to spare going across impossible country. In spite of his hard mouth, if left to himself he galloped across country with high head carriage, neck arched from near the poll. I used to ride him in a short-cheeked half-moon Pelham with loose reins and leave him to his own devices when crossing a difficult country.

I followed up in my 3 litre Red Label Bentley tourer, and into the tonneau went a couple of short, heavy “jobbing” spears. While fording the Konar River the Bentley broke its propeller-shaft’s fabric universal joint and stranded me in some two feet of water, with me breeched, booted, and spurred and quite unwilling to wade to the far bank of the river. By dint of much shouting my men gathered some way off came up, and eventually so did my sais with Strawberry. As this rather excitable animal impatiently pawed the water, sending up great splashes which drenched me, I transferred from Bentley to saddle and away we went in great, splashing bounds.


The area to be beaten is a network of ravines caused by erosion. The whole of it has to be taken driving north to south, and it is planned to get these leopard out across some open ground and heading for extensive scrub jungle four or five hundred yards away. I hope to close with one or the other of the beasts in a fast burst — Strawberry is very fast. I station myself just to the south of that broken ground in some scrub which borders it.

The drive commences with a rat-a-tat of tin cans being beaten and the exploding of crackers. Strawberry stands trembling with excitement, ears cocked, reins loose on his neck. I expect a gallop southwards across that open maidan, but we face almost towards the beat, looking north-west. Suddenly, without any warning, my mount bounds forward nearly unseating me and ‘leaving me behind’ — the loose reins on his neck prevent him getting a jab in the mouth. A few bounding, smooth, strides — Strawberry has perfect shoulders — and I have picked up the reins and a nala is almost under us into which Strawberry drops lightly, all of 6 feet, amongst the biggish, rounded boulders of its bed; like a cat he slips up the opposite bank to stop trembling on a little island-like strip covered in dense lantana bushes. Beyond is a good 15-foot drop, quite impracticable for a horse. Down in that ravine almost at our feet a few savage grunts roll up and I see in a blur of gold and black the hind-quarters, with tail straight as a ramrod in the air, of a leopard going in great bounds up that narrow dry watercourse to be immediately lost to view.

The yells increase, the tin cans being beaten rattle into a crescendo to — silence. The quarry has got through.

There is no sign of any other leopard.

Through all this I have been helpless, a passenger in my mount’s care.

Strawberry had obviously seen that leopard sneaking out of that eroded area being beaten long before I was aware of its presence. His impatience has headed it back.


Seven years later I had a somewhat similar experience. This time the sisal plantation of the Hazaribag Jail was the venue for hunting a leopard with horse and spear. My mount was again a strawberry-roan animal, a very beautiful Anglo-Arab tournament polo pony named Rigveda. I had bought her from Her Highness the polo-playing, tiger-hunting Begum of Bhopal. Rigveda was all fire and docility and went happily at but two paces, the walk and full gallop, had so light a mouth and was so intolerant of interference through the bridle that you had to leave the reins alone, but she responded so well to leg pressure that the reins were not required in any case, and if she was not to get unmanageable you had to ride her with a very loose seat. I had for her my special Imam Saddle and girthed very loose. For a bit I used a rubber-covered 9th Lancer. She could have come up quickly with any leopard in rideable or barely rideable country.
The beat was put through by jail prisoners supervised by a warder who brandished a most dangerous-looking and large revolver. As the very enthusiastic but somewhat unusual beaters came up towards us my so beautiful mare stood trembling, ears cocked, reins loose on her neck. Suddenly she bounded between the rows of sisal straight towards the beaters. I was just able to glimpse the tail and hind-quarters of a leopard slipping down into an impracticable ravine which ran through that sisal plantation. My mount’s overeagerness had again sent our quarry breaking back as had happened on that occasion some seven years earlier.

A British Sergeant-Major of Police, I think his name was Smedley, decided that a rifle was better medicine for a leopard than me with horse and spear. He hunted that leopard in the sisal, an orderly accompanying him, and had this man mauled for his pains, the leopard getting away.”

“No slave but a comrade staunch in this
Is the horse, for he takes his share
Not in peril alone but in feverish bliss,
And in longing to do and dare.”
— Gordon

Are whips and spurs for comrades?


I excerpt from the book the entire Epilogue without illustration therein :


Major (later Major-General) Wardrop, author of MODERN PIG-STICKING, was hog-hunting with some companions in the Ganges kadir riding his horse Crispin. The party put up a very big panther which jinked back towards one of the hog-hunters. His horse would not face it nor give room to Wardrop to spear, and when he did all of the horsemen had come to a halt. Wardrop speared the panther in the shoulder but could not hold it off. It sprang up, sprawling on the pommel of Crispin’s saddle and the horse’s withers. Wardrop was able to drive the panther down with the spear still in its shoulder. The beast again sprang and this time bit Crispin through the windpipe while Wardrop was doing his utmost to keep the panther off. The panther again sprang and wrenched the spear from Wardrop’s hand. Then seizing Wardrop by the thigh it pulled him off his mount. Captain Talbot of the 17th Lancers arrived on the scene. The brute made a tremendous bound and seemed to come down in a curve on Talbot with Talbot trying to spear the panther in the air. He missed. The beast took the whole of his hand in its mouth and dragged him off too. Others came up but the panther got away and was lost. Captain Luxmoore, R.A.M.C. was out that day. His skill and care saved Wardrop’s life and he was able to ride in the Kadir Cup two months later.

Crispin, bitten through the windpipe and badly clawed on shoulder and throat, obeyed hand and leg till his rider was unhorsed. With his rider on the ground he stood by him patiently.

Major Wardrop writes ‘You will not wonder that Crispin and I do not part in this life.’

Every racehorse born has been born to be whipped every day of its working life – in racing, in training. It is nearly so with every horse born. Crispin could not have ever been so treated.”

In 1856 Lucifer imported from Arabia into India ran unbeaten in nine races without being touched by spur or whip.

S.A.H.A.A.Imam alias Tootoo Imam.
Phone : 0091-93347 26855(Resi)
Mobile : 0091-94311 40179(Roam)
0091-89691 14632(Roam)
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