A review of horsemanship in early literature:Hints on Horsemanship, to a Nephew and Niece

By Colonel George Greenwood (1861)

It is, no doubt, our duty to create the happiness and to prevent the misery of every living thing; but with our horse this is also a matter of “policy”. George Greenwood-1861

What a wonderful title for a book on horsemanship! Despite the sweet title, the book is actually quite technical and packed with advice on riding techniques. The following excerpt from Chapter 1 on why the Colonel chooses to use the word “indications” instead of the still common term “aids” was a delight to find:

By “indications” generally, I mean the motions and applications of the hands, legs, and whip, to direct and determine the paces, turnings, movements, and carriage of the horse. I have used the word throughout instead of “aids”, as being more explanatory and certainly less liable to abuse. For common sense tells us that a horse receives no aid from a pull in the mouth with a piece of iron, or a blow with a whip, or a kick in the side with an armed heel, however these may indicate to him the wishes or commands of his rider. I have also used the term “bearing”on the horse’s mouth instead of “appui”, since to those who do not understand French appui will convey no meaning at all,–and to those who do understand French it will convey the false ideas of the necessity and power of the rider to “support” his horse. I promise my pupil every “aid” and “support from” his horse. But I beg him not to think of offering either aid or support “to” his horse. I beg him to believe that the horse carries the rider, and not the rider the horse. But this we will discuss in another chapter. That the horse supports the rider is common sense: that the rider supports the horse is the common error.

In chapter 10, on colt breaking, the author suggests that one should patient, forgiving and put off the dreaded evil: Force.  Furthermore he goes on to suggest that expecting submission  from the colt, or “ seeing no necessity to give up their will to yours” affects motivation or results in “indisposition to go freely forward”.

The whole affair of colt-breaking is an affair of patience, you cannot have too much forbearance: put off the evil day of force. Forgive him seventy times seven times a-day, and be assured that what does not come to-day will to-morrow. The grand thing is to get rid of dogged sulks and coltishness; of that wayward, swerving, hesitating gait, which says,“here’s my foot, and there’s my foot;” or, “there is a lion in the street, I cannot go forth.” This is the besetting sin of colts; and this it is which, on the turf, gives so great an advantage to a young horse to have another to “make play”, or “cut out the running” for him. For this indisposition to go freely forward results as well from their seeing no necessity to give up their will to yours, as from their incapacity to perceive and obey the indications of their rider without swerving, shifting the leg, &c., and additional labour to themselves. All this is spared to the young horse by the follow-my-leader system.

The next snippet is wonderful! The colonel advices that at all costs the colt must not be alarmed and the trainer should refrain from using force. Great advice really! He goes on to suggest that one should gradually…induce familiarity and cheerful obedience, basically to reduce stress caused by separating the colt from his group or band.

Everything should be resorted to avoid alarm on the colt’s side and force on the man’s, and gradually to induce familiarity and cheerful obedience–to reconcile him to the melancholy change from gregarious liberty to a solitary stall and a state of slavery. I should say that he is the best colt-breaker who soonest inspires him with the animus eundi–who soonest gets him to go freely straight forward–who soonest, and with least force, gets the colt without company five miles along the road from home. Violence never did this yet; but violence increases his reluctance, and makes it last ten times longer. Indeed, it causes the colt to stiffen and defend himself, and this never is got rid of. It is true that by force you may make him your sullen slave, but that is not the object; the object is to make him your willing subject. Above all things, do not be perpetually playing the wolf to him; deal in rewards where it is possible, and in punishment only where it cannot be avoided. Be assured that the system will “answer”.

Yes one can use force by  perpetually playing the wolf to him, but this will only lead to a sullen slave instead of a willing subject, the latter being achieved by dealing rewards and avoiding the use of punishment.

It is, no doubt, our duty to create the happiness and to prevent the misery of every living thing; but with our horse this is also a matter of “policy”. The colt should be caressed, rubbed, and spoken to kindly. He should be fed from the hand with anything he may fancy, such as carrot, or apple, or sugar, and be made to come for it when whistled to or called by name.

The excerpts above are taken from:

Hints on Horsemanship, to a Nephew and Niece by George Greenwood

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