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Mares Talez

Status:  Offline
Posted: Tue Jul 19th, 2022 11:48 am
Could Alexander the Great have been taught the philosophy of the art of horsemanship (such as the horsemanship that we speak of here on this forum. As taught by Ray, Tom, Bill ie. classical horsemaship) of Xenophon? After all Aristotle was hired to be tutor to Alexander and surely Aristole was aware of the teachings of Xenophon.
So my main question is....
Could Alexander actually have used the methods of horsemanship known to the Persians, (that has been passed down to the Moors,then to the Spanish, then on to the Vaqueros of N. America and on to us) to tame Bucephalus enough to be able to ride him in front of his father? When I read accounts of what Alexander did that day, it seems to be dumbed down for the layman to that "the horse was afraid of its shadow and Alexander turned him away so he could not see it", when in reality Alexander might have used some of the groundwork that we use today to help our horses to become rideable.
Super Moderator

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3335
Status:  Offline
Posted: Wed Jul 20th, 2022 12:13 am
Dear Mares Talez: The realities of what Xenophon said and did are set forth in some detail in my "Conquerors: The Roots of New World Horsemanship."

In short: Like many Greeks of the time, Xenophon was a good observer. However, the ancient Greeks were not very good riders; a quick and dirty way to know this is that they wore skirts, not trousers. Cultures in which men wear skirts/kilts/short tunics are universally, in the archaeological record, charioteers; cultures in which men (and usually also the women) wear trousers are riders.

Xenophon and a troop of Greek men were hired by the Satrap or under-King of a part of southern Turkey, to assist him in his bid to overthrow the Persian king-of-kings. There was a huge battle near what is now Baghdad, and the Satrap and the Greeks were trounced by the king's men. The Satrap's Iranian troops all fled, and the Greeks were surrounded. They closed formation and fought their way out. Then for the next several years they continued to fight their way northward, until they reached the Black Sea port of Odessa and were able to take ship home.

During this time Xenophon and his men were repeatedly attacked, and thus had ample opportunity to observe Persian tack and tactics, armor and weapons. Xenophon was even able to observe some Persian training procedures, which he only partly understood. These were such as would be needed for a hot game of polo, which mimics the type of cavalry riding involved when the cavalry consists of mounted archers: galloping, sharp accellerations and stops, and sufficient collection to enable rollbacks. We know from other sources (artwork) that the Persians also knew all about high collection and that their horses would perform passage.

"Conquerors" details the important history of the bosal, chief instrument throughout history for twirling the head -- which as we teach in this school, is a main key to collection; the Persians invented the 'hakma'=xaquima=jaquima=hackamore. Scholarly translations of Xenophon's writings generally MIS- translate the Greek rendition of the Persian word for the bosal ('hakma') as either "noseband" or "muzzle". This is because as a general rule, scholars of the Greek language have not been horsemen, so they're in over their head there, in other words they're just guessing; and when that's the case, it's hard not to make egregious or silly errors.

When Xenophon got home, he wrote several books; as he said, for the edification of his sons and their friends. These are the Anabasis and the Peri Hippicus, and also a treatise on dog breeding and hunting with dogs. In these he contributes very few technical details that are of his own invention; rather, he is REPORTING what he saw while in Persia, which was the greatest equestrian nation in the world through most of antiquity. We can, however, quote Xenophon himself on some points -- mostly philosophical -- having to do with the more humane treatment of animals; for example, "no riding performance can be beautiful if it is compelled."

It seems from your query that you've crushed together or conflated certain things that need to be separated....most people not schooled in paleontology or archaeology have a tendency to crush time together, for example (i.e. the Fred Flintstone fallacies). But some things came earlier, while others came much later. People had to have time to learn. So the Persians were very insightful and skilled horsemen from an early date, but it took not only the Greeks but all the cultures of western Europe centuries, yea millennia, to catch up. The Chinese, being closer to Iran and connected to it by the Silk Road, got along faster than the Europeans, and also at times were able to import (or capture) Persian military instructors. Plus, the long-lasting and important Han dynasty was Mongolian and equestrian in origin -- remember the trousers vs. skirts rule -- not something that can be said for any western European culture except the Hungarians and to a degree, the Iberians.

And of course, we North Americans derive our horsemanship from several places in western Europe. Buckaroo horsemanship ultimately goes back to the conquest of Mexico, and its first inheritance was the skill repertory required for mounted bullfighting -- this being derivative of, and similar to, the polo/mounted archery skills of the ancient Persians, which were brought to Iberia by north Africans and Arabs who had taken up Islam. The first country conquered by the armies of Mohammed was Persia, and the reason they were targeted was specifically to obtain horses and instruction.

So the hackma went west across the top of Africa and arrived in Iberia as the xaquima in the year 711 a.d. Almost eight centuries later, in the year 1493, it and the whole kit and caboodle of training and fighting technique and equipment that went with it came across the Atlantic with Columbus' second voyage, and became planted here first in the Caribbean and then in Mexico and Central America. After the passage of yet another several centuries and an incubation in Mexico, it began coming north across the Rio Grande, into New Mexico and the Great Plains and finally into California. This is the old bosal-spade bit school which never heard of a snaffle bit except to take a horse down to water.

During the 19th century, the teachings and insights of Francois Baucher became well known in America, and there occurred a fusion of the old Iberian/buckaroo school with Baucher's way of doing things, and that is the school we ourselves practice. So for example we do use snaffle bits and sometimes the double bridle. So now you get Buck Brannaman teaching how to bring a horse along properly in the bosal, but he can't help but know what he knows about twirling the head ("rolling the jaw under the neck") and how a horse raises the base of the neck -- these are the essential contributions of Baucher. And we love work on the platform, and to teach our horses to bow and fetch and roll a ball with their nose, all of which are more or less Baucheriste and connected with the European Circus and High School riding.

In addition, no one in this era leaves out the teachings of Caprilli, which came along about 75 years after Baucher; it is rare to find someone who does not incorporate ground poles or cavalletti into their schooling routines.

And of course, we are also heir to what Baucher was directly heir to: i.e., the European schools of haute ecole beginning in the mid-16th century, i.e. Fiaschi, Pluvinel, Cavendish, Reis d'Eisenberg, Gueriniere and others. Baucher is in many ways the bridge between these old masters and modern enlightened riding which begins with Beaudant, Faverot de Kerbrecht, DeBussigny, and DeCarpentry.

So there's quite a bit to this history. Write back again after you've delved into some of these works -- almost all of them are available for reasonable money as facsimile reprints/translations. Cheers, and thanks for your interest in this fascinating area of history. -- Dr. Deb

Mares Talez

Status:  Offline
Posted: Thu Jul 21st, 2022 02:46 pm
Dr. Deb,
Thank you so much for your long and educational reply.
I am afraid I'm guilty of a quote from your book The Conquerors that says "Many readers of Xenophons work commit anachronistic errors, either picturing ancient horsemanship as an extention of whatever horsemanship they are most familiar with, or assuming that Xenophons treatise represents a summary of pre-existing Greek tradition."
I have a bit of knowledge concerning the work of Baucher having been groom to Authur Konyot (Hungarian) for 2 years in the 60s until he went back to Florida. When I say groom I mean a young girl who would get the horse ready for Pops to work and then be able to sit in the bleachers and watch while he started or prepared each of the horses for his weekend performances. (Blessed, I know.) I did not apply for the job. Pops had observed me while I walked down the barn aisle and, like a dumb kid, stuck my arm through the bars of a stall to pet one of his Lippizans. The horse came up to me and offered his neck to be stroked and Pops offered me the job of groom on the spot.
Little had I known that the horse I had reached for was a known biter. I had been accepted for a job I didn't know existed,.... by a horse! A life changing event that happened by accident.
Thank you for letting me indulge a bit in fond memories. Only my closest friends know that story.
I later met Ray Hunt and continued my horsemanship, with a a bit of experimenting in other disciplines along the way.

So getting back to Alexander, I guess I wanted to believe there was more to his being able to ride Bucephalus than "turning the horse away from his shadow" which every time I read, I wanted to dismiss as too simplistic.
I guess we will never know for sure what took place that day that Alexander earned the respect of his father. Thank you again for your reply. You brought to light a lot I had missed referring to sequence of events.

I have used your book the Conquerors as a reference book and have recommended it to many over the years.

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