Cavendish, Part II: In which Cavendish throws shade

(Read Part I: In which Cavendish is snarky)

Oh, look, more Cavendish! 

a Good Horse-man may be Thrown Down sooner than Ill ones; because Good Horse-men little think of Sitting… their Thoughts being all how to make their Horses go Well… whereas an Ill Horse-man thinks of nothing but Sitting, for Fear he should be Thrown, and never thinks how to make his Horse go Well; for he Knows not how to Do it…

    Well…he’s not wrong. Nine times of ten I find myself riding poorly it’s because I’ve become concerned about falling off. Though, I might add, there is also something to the choice in what horses we ride, though I believe Cavendish is here referring only to already broke manege horses.

…But Holds by the Main, and the Pomel, and his Head at the Horses Head, ready to Beat out his Teeth, and his Leggs holding by the Flank; and is so Deformed on Horse Back, as if he were a Strange African Monster; and the Horse so Disordered, that to see him Sit in that Manner, is the most Nauseous Sight that can be, and the most Displeasing to the Beholders; and were much Better for the Spectators to see him Fall, and for his Reputation, so he received no Hurt by the Fall.

 I wouldn’t want to be his beginner student.

     Of Grisone and Blundville, Cavendish says:

They Teach to Ride one Horse two or three Hours at a time, when one may well Ride half a Dozen at least in an Hour, and give them sufficiently Enough.

     And this, of course, is an argument very much alive today. It is, at least publicly, considered to be a mark of great skill to be able to complete a “colt-breaking” challenge, and be able to canter or lope an untouched horse by the end of the weekend. There are still ‘cowboys’ that get paid by the head to travel to ranches and start a number of horses by just getting on and staying there until the horse tires. And yet, even within these, they say less is more. Both the public clinicians and the hired hands tend to say many small lessons work better than one long one. I am inclined to agree, as even my older horses rarely benefitted from more than about half an hours training, if one defines training as teaching or refining new information. The rest, if they got more, was conditioning. The younger or more inexperienced the horse, the shorter the effective “training” section. Of course, that said, I am fond of getting youngsters out more than once a day, given you have the time and staff. I’d far rather do two or three short works than one long one. They tend to learn faster, with less stress (and thus they stay safer as well), and retain their lessons better.
 

     He saves his most pointed criticism of Blundville-from-Grisone for last:

 

For a Resty Horse they Raise a whole Town with Staves to Beat him, with many Curious Inventions, with Squirts, Fire, Whelps, Hedg-hoggs, Nailes, and I know not What.

Yes, hedgehogs. Or, lacking a hedgehog, a cat on a stick. Yes, really.

 

     From Blundeville:

Also the shirle crye of a hedgehog beyng strayt teyed by the foote under the horses tayle, is a remedye of like force, which was proved by Master Vincentio Respino, a Napolitan, who corrected by this meanes an olde restive horse of the kinges in suche sort as he had muche a do afterward to kepe him from the contrarye vice of runninge awaye.

y’don’t say.  Imagine that. More from Blundeville:

Let a footeman stande behinde you with a shrewed cat teyed at the one ende of a long pole with her belly upward, so as she may have her mouth and clawes at libertye. And when your horse doth stay or go backward, let him thrust the Catte betwixt his thyes so as she may scratch and bite him, somtime by the thighes, somtime by the rompe, and often times by the stones.

by the stones.

     It is the single strangest training recommendation I have even read. Cavendish rants on about other ridiculous techniques, and then insults their understanding of terms. He also scoffs at their use of “the Chambetta, which signifies nothing.”

     Yes, chambetta does seem to be jambette. Which, yes, is not a particularly useful manuever in any sense of the word (to be fair, Blundeville does suggest it is best to look flashy when riding before one’s King). To be more specific, Blundeville describes the jambette in turns in his chapter on the chambette. Like this:

It’s fancy, it takes time to train, it impresses the crowd. But…ok, I’m with Cavendish again. It doesn’t translate to the development of the horse as a whole.

Thus ends Part II

Special thanks to Lelian Maldonado for helping me dig in to the possible etymology of chambetta in the course of confirming that it did refer to a form of jambette.

Next: Part III: An Interlude in the Trenches
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Cavendish, Part I: In which Cavendish is snarky

     I’d been debating livetweeting my reread of Cavendish’s snarky training treatise. I did this instead. This series was begun in January, but never finished. I have revisited it here and updated my commentary.

On Cavendish’s “New Method” 

Part I: In which Cavendish is snarky, and disparages all riders he has not trained.
 

Cavendish opens with a “genealogy” of equestrian art, and this comment:

“And though the French think, That all the Horse-manship in the World is in France.”  

         I laughed unreasonably. To be fair, for a hand of centuries prior to Cavendish, much of Europe was stealing France’s equestrian vocabulary.

“This Noble Art was first begun and Invented in Italy, and all the French and other Nations went thither to learn; the seate of Horse-manship being at Naples: The first that ever Writ of it was Frederick Grison.”

         Duarte predates Grisone by a century and change, but Duarte was not in the “genealogy” of trainers Cavendish described. Duarte was virtually unknown (possibly due to only being available in an incomplete manuscript, cut short by his death). Because Duarte’s manuscript spent some time in Naples, it is entirely plausible that Duarte’s thoughts or even writing does belong in this family tree. For more on the life of this manuscript, I recommend this translation of Duarte.    

         More curiously, Cavendish makes no mention on Xenophon, which was available at least in Italy by Grisone’s time. Unsurprisingly, Kikkuli is left out as well, along with innumerable other folks who undoubtedly wrote about horsemanship through the ages and remain as lost to us as they were to Cavendish. As to development of the French school itself, Cavendish remarks:

 “As for Pluvinel, no doubt but he was a Good Horse-man; but his Invention of the Three Pillars, of which his Book Pretends to be an absolute Method, is no more than an absolute Routine; and hath spoyl’d more Horses, than ever any Thing did; for Horses are not Made to the Hand and the Heel at all with them; nor will they go from the usual place where they are Ridden, nor well there neither.”

         I’ll drink to that.

And then about the Italian school (by which he mostly means Grisone, despite his hat-tip at the beginning, and it seems also includes Blundeville’s English gloss of Grisone):

“I must tell you that the Italian Writers are Tedious, and write more of Marks, Colours, Temperatures, Elements, Moon, Stars, Winds, and Bleedings, than of the Art of Rideing;…

         He’s not wrong.

 …only to make up a Book, though they wanted Horse-manship.”

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     He doesn’t stop there. The introduction turns into quite the rant. Next he turns his attention to riders outside the burgeoning academies:

“Many say, that all things in the Mannage is nothing but Tricks, and Dancing, and Gamballs, and of no Use”

         Some things haven’t changed. Cavendish’s answer, being in effect that these are the foundation skills for all pursuits, will also sound familiar to modern horsefolks.

“But, What makes these Men speak against it?…the Main Reason is this; They find they cannot Ride well”
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He goes on to explain that this is because the manage horse cannot be ridden by “inspiration,” but only though the long work of training rider as well as horse. And on, and on, and just a bit more. He takes aim again at riders who think the manage to be useless tricks:

“They cannot do it, and therefore it is Naught: A very good and sensless Reason! He that will take Pains for Nothing, shall never do any thing Well; for Arts, Sciences, and good Qualities, come not by Instinct, but are got by great Labour, Study, and Practice.”

       It seems he had some feelings on the subject. After what seems like eons, he returns to the horse!

“I would have every Horse (that wears a Bitt) Gelding, or Nagg, wrought in the Mannage, to be firm on the Hand, both for Readiness, and Safety.”

    I do quite agree with him regarding the foundational nature of what we now call dressage, having turned out even some nice western and saddleseat horses from a dressage start. To clarify, however, by “bitt” he means curb. He continues:

“But, sayes a Gallant, when I should have Use of him in the Field, then he will be playing Tricks: That Gallant is Deceived; for, the Helps to make Horses go in Ayres, and to make them go upon the Ground, are Several; and Good Horse-men have much ado to make them go in Ayres, with their best Helps; so that, if you let them alone, they will not trouble you; besides, two or three dayes March will make them, that they will not go in Ayres, if you would have them; and they are much the Readier to go on the Ground.”

        This neatly undermines the received wisdom that dressage (and it’s predecessor the manage) was merely off season practice of military maneuvers. They are related traditions, but a simple glance at a calendar shows a marked disparity.

“There can be no Horse else Safe and Useful; nor can any Horse go well in a Snaffle, except he be formerly Ridd with a Bitt.”
        On this I will part ways with his Grace. Though I do tend to finish my horses in some sort of shanked bit, it is not always beneficial and certainly not always needed. I did once start a horse in a neck rope and a halter, alternatingly, because he’d had a terrible ear infection. He wasn’t the most “useful,” but a curb certainly wouldn’t have helped him.

       To be fair, Cavendish advocates the use of a riding cavesson for starting horses. I’m honestly a fan of this myself (though I’ll just clip reins to a regular noseband or a well fitted halter), but despite the various traditions that go from bit-less to curb (like, say, bosal to spade), I don’t think a curb should ever be the first bit a horse carries.

Cavendish concludes his argument:

“Thus it is Proved, That there is nothing of more Use than A Horse of Mannage; nor any thing of more State, Manliness, or Pleasure, than Rideing.”

        I’ve been called manly before, but oddly not for riding.