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The History of Horsemanship in America
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MtnHorse
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 Posted: Tue May 19th, 2020 06:15 pm
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First my question and then some background and my own research that some might enjoy. 
 
In the American Colonies and the Untied States prior to the Civil War, how much was horsemanship taught in contrast to just getting on and making do?  

I have an electronic book, Nolan's System for Training Cavalry Horses that has a publish in America and dated at the time of the Civil War by Kenner Garrard.  Nolan gives almost all credit to Baucher (Although with the forward note date of 1852 I would be inclined to say it was largely first manner and not second in the tactics it teaches).   I have also read of the horse shows as told in the book Tom Bass in the late nineteenth century, if it is accurate as to what was being ridden in those shows, they would have had to be teaching "fine" horsemanship. I question that, because I couldn't follow the authors documentation to original sources. Not saying they were not there, I just didn't find it.
 
I also have copies of books before the turn of the nineteenth century from Tyndale, Pembroke, Gueriniere etc that outline horsemanship in Europe but I have not been able to track it across the water.  I am a history buff as you might guess and when I talk about the history of horsemanship in America the biggest argument I get is that those guys were raised around horses and they just got on and rode.  Indeed, I have recently come across the idea that some of the English from the early 1700's onward had their own ideas of the horse that involved more racing and hunting and at least the artwork makes the horses look much less collected or controlled.  I find it hard to believe that at least some of the Americans that had the means to own a riding horse wouldn't want to be known to ride it well.  Also, as many here can probably attest horses can be rather unfathomable without some help.
 
With your digging into the bloodlines and breeding of the horses have you ran into credible information on how horsemanship itself was taught in early North America? 

Now sorry for a second question but I have been studying that first idea and am now curious of another inquiry.

I have always thought that English riding or perhaps dressage came to us from England and France.  In contrast, I thought of Western riding coming from Spain and Mexico.  Yet, as I study more I find that things like the side pass (step) and neck reining seem to have a background in Baucher and his followers.  I recall you, Dr Deb, hinting that America was really the place that became Baucherist.  I find evidence of that in Bill Dorrance reading Beudant, Charles Williamson learning from a circus rider, and the above referenced book of Nolan's.  I have read a number of places that the old range riders were rather rough.  Is there a reasonable explanation that puts the foundation of good Western riding more in the Baucherist  school than coming to us through the old Spanish sources?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed May 20th, 2020 09:19 am
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Well, how very odd, MtnHorse: I see from looking at your I.P. not only that you use multiple computers to make your posts, but that you and "Riverdaleranch" must be close neighbors. And also, do you happen to know a local farrier by name of Brian Hyodoo? I've had recent correspondence with this person also and find that their I.P. also is in your sub-zone.

As to your query in this thread: like Mr. Hyodoo (who was asking questions about horse anatomy), I had to tell him that he has been laboring to re-invent the wheel. This comes of having an incomplete education, particularly, an education that somehow left out the part where the student learns how to research a given topic. Although he told me that he is a current subscriber to The American Farriers' Journal, for which I am currently writing a series on the exact topic he was inquiring about, somehow he said he had not seen any of that series and indeed had lost one of the issues containing an installment, the content of which he needed to see. So, my point is, "how to research a given topic" would begin with making full use of what is readily available. In your case, Mtn Horse, my book "Conquerors" would help you quite a bit, I think; and all you have to do to obtain one is to hop over to our "Bookstore" section and order one.

In addition to the readily available material, properly researching a subject also entails a very broad base of reading. I'm glad to hear you own copies of Gueriniere and some other 18th-century works, and the early 19th-century Baucher. However, you will not be able to properly interpret these works without understanding the cultural matrix or you might say, "the tone of the times" in which they occurred. It is absolutely unfair and wrong to say that "those old boys didn't have much horsemanship" or "they just got on and rode." Gueriniere, for example, is a wonderful example of the kind of highly educated and sophisticated man who embodied the European Enlightenment. These people were the first modern scientists, and they took a highly analytical, very systematic approach to all that they did with horses, beginning with the study of anatomy (both human and equine). They were experimenters too, again in a fully modern sense; there was no indoctrinated idea (as there now is, especially in dressage competition) of what was 'correct' or 'incorrect', and they felt very free to try all kinds of techniques, tack, bitting, bitting rigs, and other appliances to try to understand 'how horses work' and solve problems that they commonly encountered.

They were also highly acculturated in the arts, including dance and its affinities to riding, geometry, music, and the visual arts; and they had a fine conception of beauty, based on the idea that nothing can be beautiful that does not flow from the easy, graceful, elastic, and freely energetic movement that horses put forth when happy and free in a field.

As to how horsemanship was taught in Colonial and 19th-century America: again, you need to make better use of what (has been) freely available. Particularly I would recommend that you go over to The Eclectic Horseman mercantile and see if you can get the back issues with my articles on 'bogus ideas in physics', particularly the installments concerning saddling fantasies (issue no. 103, Sept./Oct. 2018), and the two prior to that one, in which I review the contributions of Henri de Bussigny and E. L. Anderson. As far as that goes, for a couple of hundred bucks you can buy used copies of the books by both of these 19th-century authors. I attach some images to this post which demonstrate, better than any description, how much de Bussigny owes to Gueriniere, but also to Baucher; and this is reasonable to expect, because Baucher is the man in history who completed the unfinished parts of the work of Gueriniere.

That same Eclectic Horseman back issue on saddling fallacies will answer another of your questions: there is no such thing as either 'western riding' or 'English riding' unless for the latter you mean a particular style practiced in England itself. What is now called 'western' style riding is a modern hybrid that takes elements from the old Iberian style ("jineta"), from northern European medieval and Renaissance styles ("brida"), and from the historical hybrid of these called "estradiota". Competitive dressage is also a modern hybrid, having almost zero to do with the 18th Century enlightenment or the ACTUAL practices of riding masters of that century, nor of any earlier century. I have gone into that at great length in previous threads in this Forum and so I suggest that you avail yourself of the search function directions which are posted at the Forum Home Page, and read up.

As to "the old range riders" being rather rough: catch up on that by reading my recent work in EQUUS Magazine concerning the history of the Quarter Horse. Particularly, you will want to obtain back issues 490, 492, 493, 495, 497, 498, 499, 500, and (out this month) no. 501. They cover all the "range riding" there ever actually was and should certainly be read in context of the Eclectic Horseman article on bogus concepts in saddling which I have already recommended.

I make a great effort in all my historical writing to put whatever I am explaining into context -- "the tone of the times", and not just write about "horses". Horses plus people are what it takes to produce horsemanship, so it makes a great difference what sort of culture the people happen to represent. -- Dr. Deb


Attachment: De Bussigny horsemanship techniques FORUM.jpg (Downloaded 32 times)

MtnHorse
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 Posted: Thu May 21st, 2020 11:30 pm
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Thank you for your reply.

Perhaps I am reading to much into your first paragraph but it felt like you were accusing me of having some malicious intent. That is certainly not the case. I do not know the person you ask about but in searching the internet he seems to be an interesting fellow but he is in Canada; I am not even close.  Likewise, if the ranch is the same one that comes up on Google it is in Colorado which is over 500 miles away and unknown to me. Yes, I do use a phone, and two separate computers to check your site,  I doubt that is terribly unusual in our modern world. If you check the advanced search history I have been a student here since about 2012, so I have not suddenly appeared, although we have misunderstood each other before. So there might be something in my writing style that makes me hard for you to understand. 

So it seems to be in this case, when you imply that I said of the French masters  "they just got on and rode."  I specifically said I was talking about the early American horsemen. Once again, I am not even saying it is true. Just that when I bring up the idea of educated horsemen in Early America I often hear they just got on and rode.  It certainly makes sense  in that far more non-aristocratic and less wealthy people had access to horses in America than in Europe. I am sure that many did not have a background in horsemanship so they would get on and ride with little idea what they were doing.
 
I will look into the Conquerors as I have that and read it a few years ago, although I thought of that as more effecting South America and the Spanish influence wasn't terribly strong in the North until after the Santa Fe Trail and the settling of Texas. Even then I find evidence that Americans grabbed that tough rawhide covered saddletree but I have not seen evidence of them being open minded to learning a lot from the Spanish/Mexican population.  Not meaning that as racial discrimination from me but as a statement of the history of the times. California might be an exception as the Old Vaquero tradition seems more honored but once again I am trying to look at what horsemanship was available in an earlier time frame. Not that it is really just about these specific men but perhaps it would convey my idea  if I asked what Paul Revere or George Washington knew about good horsemanship?

My questions were partly motivated by my reading your articles in Equus about the horses, especially the earlier articles about the Morgan, Saddlebred, and etc..  There is such a rich history in the breeding of horses so what about the education of the rider?  After looking at the Eclectic Horseman articles you recommended I take it that you don't think there was much horsemanship in early American history and that the movies planted a lot of fancy ideas. That's to bad, I guess I had hoped to find a history of good horsemanship to match their efforts in good breeding.   

Kuhaylan Heify
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 Posted: Fri May 22nd, 2020 01:47 am
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Mtn Hrs: Horsemanship in early colonial times varied a great deal indeed depending upon whom you were talking about. If your subject is the frontier population who were mostly recently un-indentured their horsemanship was most likely practical small farm based, using light draft horses and oxen. The horse breeds were draft crossed off of Hobbys. This was especially so in upstate New York, lower Canada, and New England and Pennsylvania. In the Southern colonies they used horses they got in trade from Native Americans- essentially of Spanish Jennet background. This was beginning to change with the influx of Thoroughbreds after the French and Indian War of 1763. It was at about this time that the foundation of the Quarter horse was being laid. Thoroughbred top crosses off of Jennet and Hobby mares. Most people on the frontier either rode or walked, or used a canoe or a flatboat. There simply was no other way to get from here to there. There were no roads to speak of only trails. Of necessity they either improved their riding or they walked. They would have known about inducing lateral bend by use of the riders legs and seat since they certainly did not want to lame their horses and be left afoot. The landed gentry types were most all quite adept riders. They had the time and motivation to refine their horsemanship and the wherewithal to afford superior stock. Also the economically less well off folk were surprisingly literate for that time and place.They had to be literate so they could read their scriptures- hence the term ,' Sunday School.' So they would have been able to read and understand any pamphlets they came across advocating advanced horsemanship.
Washington, Jefferson and other luminaries certainly would have known about Gueriniere, as did Lafayette Kosciusko and a plethora of other foreign officers who came to fight in the Revolution. From 1800 onwards very advanced horsemanship was taught at West Point. This would have been a source of considerable influence since most graduates of the Academy did not stay in the army, but they took their knowledge with them as they blended in with the growing civilian population. West Point was really an engineering school and its graduates were in enormous demand in a nation hustling to build canals, railroads, harbors and dams.
The sidestep or lateral bend of the horse stepping under his navel with his inside leg was really well described by the Duke of Newcastle- Bill Cavendish in the mid 1600s. Cromwells Cavalry COPIED Newcastle and the Royalists. Cavenedish went to the trouble of illustrating just where the horse was to track his hooves in lateral work in his books so that the bend would become a tool for the rider to use to straighten his horse. Because Cromwells COMMONERS( regular joe lunchbox types)became better at their horsemanship they won the English Civil War. I could go on but you get the idea. Early american settler types were at least competant horsemen and some of them might have been very good indeed. They would have eagerly embraced and read up on and studied horsemanship philosophies that improved their horses soundness and longevity. They would most likely have differed in tack and equipment from the Vaqueros. But Spanish techniques were by no means unknown. There were more than 70 backwood Spanish trading posts in Northern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Most of the over Appalachian trade with backwoods spanish posts was conducted by english descended ,'cowboys,' riding horses of spanish descent with some early Hobby and a bit of Thoroughbred mixed in.
best wishes
Bruce Peek

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri May 22nd, 2020 03:14 am
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Dear Mtn Horse: No, there was no attempt to accuse you of anything. But I have lately had to be somewhat on the alert -- that's why I was checking I.P.'s, and if you'll look again you'll see "Riverdale Ranch" does post from Utah, same as yourself, and in the same sub-zone according to the I.P. listing. The other "Riverdale Ranches" which you cite are elsewhere -- there must be numerous farms by that name. We have had to be on the alert because of some harassing and inappropriate EMails from people who appeared to be trying to hide their identity, multiply their identity under different names, or utilize friends to get around having been blocked for inappropriate content. I think that during this pandemic and mandated stay-at-home, that some people just can't find enough to do.

As to George Washington: Bruce Peek ("Kuhaylanhaifi") has answered very well. I attach a famous painting of George Washington which, surely, you must have seen sometime or other -- the first time I saw this painting was in the first grade, for our teacher had hung it in our classroom. Again, the image conveys more than words can -- the excellent seat, the noble bearing, the calm collected horse, the fine technique with the reins -- along with the leopard-skin shabraq which is meant to hint at Oriental ancestry of the horse (which had almost none, in fact, but at the time the painting was made it was believed that Washington's horse was part-Arabian). Of course Faed's painting is a retrospective, but based on reliable testimony.

Bruce's reply is essentially a description of "trickle down effect" in the teaching of horsemanship. In earlier times, most boys learned to ride from older male relatives, and people no matter how rustic generally looked up to highly educated and skillful riders. George Washington's horsemanship was widely admired, not only by common folk, but by other military officers and better-educated people. Newcastle's work, as well as those of Gueriniere and Reis d'Eisenberg were well known to Washington and to other educated Americans, especially those of British or French heritage. Later eras saw the publication of numerous derivative works intended for use by the British, French, and American cavalries; your book by Nolan is one of these highly pedantic and difficult to use books. Indeed, if you wanted to find a hotbed of "lack of horsemanship", you could hardly do better than the U.S. Cavalry after the end of the Civil War. I review this in EQUUS issue no. 473, "America's Major Horse Breeds Emerge". Also relevant would be the absolutely outstanding horsemanship of a West Point graduate who helped Lincoln win the Civil War and then later became President, one Hiram (Ulysses S.) Grant; go back and re-read EQUUS issues 475 and 477.

Spanish conquistadores and the Tejanos and Californios who followed them came from a somewhat different, and older, set of traditions which stemmed from the bullfight but also from the Spanish line of kings, especially Carlo Cinco. I will not bother posting images of Charles V here as "Conquerors" presents several, all of which show excellent technique and a high level of knowledge and accomplishment. Spanish commanders and soldiers looked up to their king and valued the tradition of "the two seats", which if you will read more closely, you will find that I also explain in detail in "Conquerors".

Into this mix we must not forget to acknowledge the savants -- people who appear to have come into this life with remarkable abilities, insights, and empathy toward horses. You asked about this in your first query and I did not answer concerning those, but let me make up for that now. Three in particular have been of great importance to American horsemanship: the first was John S. Rarey, the second was Tom Bass, and the third was Tom Dorrance. You may read the complete compiled writings of Rarey along with my commentary by going over to the "Membership" section and ordering the appropriate "Inner Horseman" back-issue disk. Tom Bass, born as the son of a white Missouri plantation owner who raped his African-American mother, had remarkable abilities with equines (both mules and horses) even as a young child -- as the biographies ("Tom Bass: Black Horseman" and "Whisper on the Wind") by Bill Downey bring out very clearly. The third savant was Tom Dorrance, who again by all accounts including that of his brother, had remarkable abilities with animals even as a toddler.

Savants have had a subtle, yet very pervasive effect in raising the level of horsemanship, especially among Anglo-Americans. Savants do not get their abilities by reading books; they bring otherworldly or 'serendipitous' wisdom with them. Tom Dorrance did not learn horsemanship by reading Beerey, although he very honestly reports (as did his brother) that they rejoiced when they read Beerey, as what was taught in Beerey's training books seemed to them to align very well with what they were already doing. Again, a more careful reading on your part would have brought this out. And also this: Beerey is himself no savant, but learned (not by direct transmission, but by copying) the work of Rarey. This is also true of Magner, another 19th-century teacher.

In my first reply to you, I mentioned that you might need to upgrade your approach to being an "amateur" historian. This post has brought out that you need to read more closely, because I hear you making numerous statements and generalizations not supported either by my research and writing, nor by any other historian's. An "amateur" is not one who just skims over a few things and calls it good. The word "amateur" indicates one who performs work or study not for remuneration but for the sheer love of it. And that love ought to lead you to ask everything of anything you read, in other words, to read in detail, until you have acquired the necessary broad background that can call on many instances and examples, and can compare the approaches of different historians who have researched the subject. Close, careful reading performed under the guidance of a good teacher is meant to teach the student how to discriminate quality research from writings and opinions based on rumor, polluted by bias, or twisted by the author having some sort of agenda.

I encourage you to keep on with your reading and to write in here again when you have further questions or a desire to discuss what you've dug up. -- Dr. Deb



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