WSECS is always a welcoming conference, but being able to present with another equine historian this year was a joy. I presented on various re-imaginings of the baroque “tiger” horse, and Janice presented on the development of a divide in medical knowledge between riders and Albeytar in Castile. We had a small but astute audience, and a lively conversation after our papers that ranged seven centuries and four continents. Between the two of us, we could answer most questions, but it was especially wonderful to be able to suggest other equine history specialists. For this question, Kathryn Renton, for that one, Hylke Hettema, and for this read Sandra Swart’s latest. We are no longer silos!
“Before we start, I’d like to say a few things about our third presenter, who unfortunately could not be here today. I spoke with Dani about her project last year, when it was a mere glimmer of an idea. What I found exciting, and why I invited Dani to be a part of this panel, was that she is working on the transmission of equestrian culture between Italy and Germany (or rather, Italian and German) directly, rather than via France. French horsemanship has dominated our field. Much of medieval and early modern equestrian culture in Europe was centered on France. So much so that, even though modern Olympic dressage is very much based on the 19th c German model, the language remains French. We still speak of piaffe and passage, levade and capriole. Cavendish opened his 1667 treatise with a geaneology of horsemasters, and in it quips that “the French think, That all the Horse-manship in the World is in France.” Within equine history, it is all too easy to replicate this focus. However, while French riders, and French writers- Cavendish himself wrote his treatise originally in French- may have claimed primacy, they were not the only agents. Today we will try to tell some different stories.
Given the theme for this weekend, I will be covering a rather long period of time, from the Baroque to the modern. I will begin with the baroque “tiger horses,” and then show three ways in which they have been reimagined, and recreated. In modern parlance, baroque breeds are those that are heavier than the typical warmblood, but without being draft-like. The Iberian breeds and the Friesian are easily recognized as “baroque,” despite the former predating that period and the later being comparatively young in its current form. The Knabstrupper has a “baroque” registration category, despite having a well-documented 1812 foundation date. Tack and riding styles likewise have forms described as “baroque,” despite often being only tangentially related to that time period. They are based, not on the history of a single moment in time, but rather on the layers of memory that have accrued upon that moment. Each layer adds strength to the memory, even as it obscures the lives and events being recalled.”
We kicked off the new quarter with a hike up Mt. Rubidoux. Every time I’m there, I wonder at the placement of this plaque:
The 10th Olympics were held in L.A. The story behind Shunzo Kido’s mercy has been attributed to an “endurance race” and a “steeplechase,” neither of which is quite right. He was an eventer, which does require a great deal of endurance (much more than modern eventing), and galloping over fences. Most accounts agree that he was on the verge of winning, but pulled up and dismounted because he felt his horse go off. Along with this 1934 plaque, a commemorative saddle was presented to Japan in 1964. Several accounts from the 60’s suggest he pulled up after being disqualified for refusals; however, this was likely in show jumping. In the interwar Olympics, many riders did double duty. In some cases, so did the horses, however he appears he had two mounts. The younger, reported as a 9-year-old French mare, was likely his show jumping mount. The eventing course went through downtown L.A. to Santa Monica (really!), not Riverside, but in a park named for Frank Miller, the placement isn’t so strange after all.
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.
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.
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 the 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 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;…
…only to make up a Book, though they wanted Horse-manship.”
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”
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.
As some of you know, I am researching horsebread. A friend sent me this fantastic article by William Rubel last year, and off down the rabbit hole I went. Because there are a few questions (or theories) I have that the textual sources can’t answer– like, say, the actual caloric density of late medieval bran-rye-fava horsebread– I get to destroy the kitchen and reconstitute some history.
For today’s experiment, I had but one question: can legumes hold a loaf together?
You see, Rubel suggest that a strike of beans is equal to two bushels. This seems entirely reasonable, considering the range of measurements a strike was used for, from two pecks to four bushels. I, however, am accustomed to a strike being one level bushel (a strike was also the name of the tool used to level bushels).
For Rubel’s purposes, it doesn’t make a large difference. However, since many of my questions revolve around nutritional content (specifically calories, crude protein, and certain mineral ratios), that is a critical difference. And, looking at the recipes, I thought it unusual that Gervase Markham’s (1607) first two recipes called for more than twice as much, by volume, of beans than of grain, while his third called for three times more grain than beans (if the measurement of a strike as two bushels were used). If you consider a strike to be a single bushel, it is a much less drastic change (being then 4:3 to 3:1, rather than 8:3 to 3:1).
I was also convinced that legumes couldn’t bake into a loaf without more grain flour.
First, my local market does not carry horsebeans. How dare they, right? I guess dried fava beans aren’t really a staple of the modern southern California diet. They did, of course, have dried split green peas, which were also commonly used in horsebread. So I got out my trusty Ninja (I love this thing, it lets me abuse it so much), and set out to grind my peas.
Grinding peas sounds like death. Seriously. It is awful. Alyse hid behind two doors. I recommend earplugs. About two 20-second bursts seemed to do the trick. Set a timer, it seems like So. Much. Longer. Ok, so I’m a little sound-sensitive, but still. Loud. I found that not filling the Ninja so full was helpful.
I don’t actually own a bolter, but this steamer tray was very effective. I have a nice bowl that fits it exactly, which cut down on the mess. Though…if you do try this for some insane reason, be prepared to breath pea dust. A face mask might be a good idea.
I separated the flour from the chunky bits (I’m sure there’s a name for them), and reground the bits. I did this a few times, and set aside the last of the bits that wouldn’t fill the blender enough. I’ll probably make soup later.
Next, I added pea flour, all purpose flour, and bran together in my makeshift bolter (Markham’s recipes call for the flours to be sifted together). Now, I did track down some mills that will custom grind heirloom grains for flour, but at this stage that would just be overkill. After all, I was concerned with whether or not pea flour could hold a loaf. I did mix some bran into my AP flour to better approximate flours used for horsebread.
Then a splash of beer (I don’t have ale barm handy) and hot water (160º, electric kettle ftw).
Markham specifies the use of hot water to “take the savour from the beans.” Both split peas and fava beans have an intense, sour, sulfurous smell. This would be very unappealing to the horse. The unspecified sideeffect is how much water the ground beans would take up. They absorb moisture very slowly, and hot water hastens this and increase the total intake. A tiny splash. It was too wet. I sprinkled on a bit more of each flour in proportion, until it wasn’t so sticky, and finally was able to form a mini-loaf.
It really doesn’t look appetizing, does it? Good thing it’s not for me.
Medieval ovens were shockingly hot, and presumably didn’t get cooler in the early modern period. I have found no hints as to what time of day horsebread was baked (ok, morning, but for bakeries anywhen that leaves a large window), or what part of the oven was used. I played it safe and used a standard 350º, starting at five minutes, then another five, then a few more…maybe it was done?
Well, it seems to have held up. I’ll see what it’s like in two or three days when it’s correctly stale, but apparently at least peas can form a loaf. Very well actually, since it didn’t need a loafpan. Of course, that makes sense, as they wouldn’t have used loafpans.
On to the second loaf! I made this one larger, more loaf like.
Looks like it needs more liquid, right? Nope. Just a whole lot of kneading. The pea flour turns to glue at the barest hint of moisture, but it doesn’t absorb much.
Left is raw, right is baked. Hardly looks different after baking. Forgot to incise the H. Oops. Thats a fine.
I sprinkled the top with bran (tradition, y’know) and rolled it in plastic like rolling sushi (because ew it was sticky). This one baked for 15 minutes, and then I turned the oven off but left it in while the oven cooled. And stuck the small loaf back in, too. They seem to get very hard…like brick…on the outside quickly, but seem squishy inside if you flex the crust.
I believe Rubel chose the two bushel measure in order to line Markham’s recipes up with John Halfpenny‘s (1696), who he also discusses. Halfpenny appears to have based his recipes on Markham’s. Thomas de Grey (1639) clearly favors a large amount of grain compared to legumes, but he references the fact that more legumes had previously been traditional. While I’m still not convinced about Markham’s measurements, this does show that a dough made primarily from pea flour will indeed hold together.
Three days later, the loaf had not staled, but rather fermented. So, if high-peaflour doughs were used, a longer, lower temperature cooking time would be needed. The test for pony approval would have to wait.
The leftovers from the grind and from the dough made an excellent porridge. Some day I’ll re-run this experiment and try to make porridge from the baked loaf. Not anytime soon. Somehow I don’t think that level of kitchen destruction will be tolerated a second time soon.
A year later, my local grocery seems to have heard me, and now carries favabeans. Sadly, only canned.
Way back in 1878 Eadweard Muybridge disproved the idea that that a horse gallops with its front and hind legs in pairs, stretched out. Or so the story goes. That is the version most tossed around barns, and occasionally makes it into academic circles. In 2012, one of Muybridge’s series was the subject of a Google Doodle, and he briefly re-entered the spotlight. Since then, the version that has become common is that he sought to prove that there was a moment of suspension in the gallop. Stanford University calls this their “first research project,” because Muybridge used Leland Stanford’s racehorses as his models, allegedly to assist Stanford in winning a bet on the topic.
But, wait, let’s talk about this “racehorse” term that gets bandied about. Muybridge’s first “horse in motion” photos were, indeed, of one of Stanford’s “racehorses.”
“In 1876, the experimental photographer Eadweard Muybridge captured on film Leland Stanford’s prized horse, Abe Edgington, at full gallop in an attempt to prove Stanford’s theory of “unsupported transit”, the idea that all four hooves of a horse at speed leave the ground. The plate itself was fuzzy and unsuitable for publication, so it was left to a little-known painter of horses to strengthen the image. Thomas Kirby Van Zandt reproduced the image twice, first as drawing of “crayon and ink wash” dated September 16, 1876, and again as the finished canvas, Abe Edgington (Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University), dated February 1877 (1).” Cooley Gallery, emphasis mine.
Stanford University’s account of the “first research project” concurs that this test was conducted at a gallop, and provides this picture:
There’s one problem. The photo series above, “Sallie Gardner,” was taken in 1878. The original photo series, from 1876, was of Abe Edgington, a Morgan. Abe Edgington did race, but in harness at a trot. Whether or not Stanford had made a bet about the results, the first trial was at a trot, and he used the results to adjust the training of his harness horses.
Now that’s what I call a road horse! While there was some discussion as to whether or not all four feet left left the ground in the gallop, it was generally accepted that they did; the question was when.
Note: what they call canter, we would consider a collected canter or park canter. Every Horse Owner’s Cyclopedia, 1871, pg 89 Courtesy of the NSLM
But, that question of timing was not Muybridge & Stanford’s original inquest. Stanford, being more owner than rider, may not have been aware of the consensus. Or, just as likely, he was, and that is why his first efforts focused on the trot. He was aware of Prof. Marey‘s work, but commented on his depiction of the walk, not the idea of suspension in the gallop.* It was photos of the trot suspension that were submitted to newspapers as proof, and even by 1881, after Sallie Gardner was photographed at the gallop, the trot continued to receive the greatest amount of column space. Finally, Muybridge’s own Animals in Motion, finished in 1885, made much of the trot suspension, and little of that in the gallop.
No such dispute was mentioned for the gallop. To the contrary, some surprise was expressed at maintaining a slow enough canter (what we might call a lope, though far more upheaded) to remove the moment of suspension.
*See the 1881 article.
This in an update on a prior series from Oct. ’16 on four beat gaits.
This in an update on a prior series from Oct. ’16 on four beat gaits.
A while back I wrote a bit on four beat canters & lopes. In a footnote at the bottom, I mentioned the four-beat gallop as well as a non-standard gait that is sometimes four beat: the break. We’ll take a quick tour of our understanding of this “gait,” seen most often out of the starting gate, but first lets look at the related gallop. Prior to Muybridge’s 1870’s photographic study of equine locomotion, running horses were depicted stretch out, both hinds together behind the horse and both fore together in front of the horse, like this:
And that was that. Right? Well…not quite. In the last decade or so, we’ve revisited this idea with new film technology. We need to add a few caveats. The frames above are of a mare galloping at the Palo Alto racetrack in California in 1878. The gallop exhibited by this mare is the most common way of going for horses in that gait, with the footfalls being hind, hind-opposite fore, fore, followed by a moment of suspension with all four legs curled in towards the center of the body. It is not, however, the only footfall pattern for the gallop, and the gallop is certainly not all we see from modern racehorses. The break is likely the root of the splay legged depictions of the gallop. Earlier versions include:
This is something that was “disproven” by Muybridge, but it turns out actually happens. The gap between the hind pair and the front pair becomes much more pronounced, and the hinds occasionally push off together (though often still landing a half beat apart).