Dismounting Bending Lessons - Teaching the Horse to yield to the pressure of the Bit, to follow the indication of the reins, and to rein in - Mounted Bending Lessons, reining the Horses in - How to proceed with Horses that rein in too much - The "Appui," or necessary degree of bearing on the hand explained - To teach a Horse to obey the Pressure of the Leg - Circling on the Forehand - Use of the Inward Leg.
The horses (being bitted, the curb chains rather loose) are formed in the riding school as in Fig. 1, Plate 15; the whole dismount by word of command, and begin the first Bending Lesson with the Bit. The object of these Bending Lessons on foot is to teach the horse obedience to the hand, to teach him that when you feel the right rein he must bring his head to the right, when you feel the left rein he must bring his head to the left, and when you feel both reins he must "rein in," arch his neck, and bring his nose home.
The balance of the horse's body and his lightness in hand depend on the proper carriage of the head and neck, and to these two points we therefore first direct our attention. They should always precede and prepare the horse by their attitude for every movement about to be executed, and the rider has no power over the animal until he has rendered both these points susceptible of every impulse communicated by him. It stands to reason that if they do not lead in all turns and changes of hand, &c., &c., if in circling they are not bent to the circle, if in reining back the head is not brought home, if their carriage is not always in keeping with the different paces, the horse may execute the movements required of him or not, as he pleases.
A young horse generally attempts to resist the bit, either by bending his neck to one side or other, setting his jaw against it, carrying his nose high up, or low down. We render him manageable by bending him to the right and left, and by "reining him in:" against this last bend the horse generally defends himself most successfully, by setting his under jaw, or closing it firmly on the bit, and as nothing can be done with him until he has been taught to yield to the hand, we must begin our work with the dismounted Bending Lessons, and we shall find that, in a short time, horses that required the whole strength of a man's arm to make them obey the action of the bit on the bars, will bend to the slightest feeling of the reins; for, finding that they cannot resist the power of the bit, used in the manner hereafter shewn, their instinct will teach them to obey, and habit accustom them to yield to the impulse received from the rider.
As a general rule, in all the ensuing Bending Lessons, when a horse champs the bit, it is a sign that he no longer resists the action of the hand; then make much of him, and allow him to resume his natural position. It is of the utmost importance that the horse never be allowed to take the initiative. "Always oppose the raising of the horse's head, - always lower your hands and bring it down." If he moves off his ground, whether back or to one side, bring him up again by tapping him on the chest with the whip, place him straight, and resume your Lesson.
See that the bit is properly placed in the horse's mouth, and the curb chain so that you can pass your finger under it; place yourself on the near side in front of the horse's shoulder, facing inwards, the feet a little apart to give you more power.
Take the off bit rein in the full of the right hand, close up, with the ring of the bit between the forefinger and thumb; the near rein in the same way with the left hand, thumb nails towards each other, and little fingers outwards; bring the right hand towards the body, extending the left one from you at the same time, so as to turn the bit in the horse's mouth. (Vide Plate 3.) The strength employed must be gradual, and proportioned to the resistance met with, taking care at first not to bring the horse's nose too much in, or too close to his chest, which would make the bend very difficult; if the horse reins back, continue the pressure until he, finding it impossible to escape from the restraint imposed upon him by the bit, held thus crossways in his mouth, stands still and yields to it.
When the bend is complete, the horse will hold his head there without any restraint, and champ the bit (vide Plate 4); then make much of him, and allow him to resume gently his natural position, but not to throw his head round hurriedly.
Practise this in the same manner to the left.
Then take the off snaffle rein in
the right hand over the horse's withers, the near rein with the left
hand at a few inches from the ring (vide
Plate 4a). Draw
the right hand down the horse's shoulder, shortening the right rein
till the horse follows it and bends to the right, then pass the near
rein into the grasp of the right hand, pat the horse with the left:
resume the near rein to bring, the horse's head to the front again.
Do this in the same way with the bit reins to both sides
vide Plate 6).
Pass the snaffle reins forward under the bit head stall, hold them with the left hand in front of the horse's nose to prevent his reining back. Take the bit reins in the right hand and draw them towards the horse's chest. If he tries to move back off his ground, oppose him with the left hand, but if he bring his nose in and arches his neck, yield with both hands and make much of him. (See Plate 5, Fig. 1.) Practise this also on both sides, holding a single rein in each hand, as shewn at fig. 2. Do not forget to oppose the raising of the horse's head, by lowering your hands, and bringing it down, as before mentioned.
The Instructor now orders the men to mount, and then to bend the horses heads to the right and left.
To the Right, by passing the second finger of the right hand through the bit and bridoon reins well down; so as to have the reins short on the off side. Then draw them quietly towards yon till you get the horse's head completely round to the right, in the same position as in the bend dismounted. When the horse champs the bit, make much of him, and allow him to resume his natural position.
When bending the horse's head to the left, pass the right hand over the left one, and, placing the forefinger through the near reins, proceed as before directed.
The men must not play with the reins, or saw them about in the horse's mouth; they should draw them quietly to the side to which they wish to bend the horse's head, maintaining a feeling always on the outward rein.
The Instructor should explain that the object of bending a horse's head to right or left, is not, as erroneously stated in. the old school, to supple his joints - a horse in freedom can lay hold of his tail with his teeth - the object is to accustom the horse to turn his head to that side on which the rein is felt, and thus to induce the horse to follow the indication of the rider's hand, as the body will naturally follow where the head leads.
The horse must never be allowed to take the initiative in any thing; when his head is bent to the right or left, he must never be allowed to throw his head to the front of his own accord, but it must be brought quietly back again. by the riders hand.
At the word, "Rein in your Horses," turn the little finger of the bridle hand towards the horse's head, lowering the hand as much as you can, and keep it there; with the right (nails down) take hold of the bit reins close within the grasp of the left hand, and shorten them by degrees, drawing them through the left, which closes on the reins each time they are shortened, to allow of 1teright hand taking a fresh hold; go on till you get the horse's nose down to No. 1O, and there hold him steady.
When the horse resists much, and holds his nose up (vide plate 6), keep the reins steady; do not shorten nor yet 1engthen them; the legs closed to prevent the horse from running back; he will remain, perhaps, a minute, or more, with his nose up, and his set against the bit, but will then yield, bring his nose in, and champ the bit; make much of him with the right hand, loosen the reins, and, after a second or two, "rein him in" again.
The horse will thus learn to rein in, and bring his head home, whenever you feel the bit reins, and this practice gives him confidence; for most young horses are afraid of the bit, and, if frightened at first by any sudden jerk of the reins, will never after go kindly "up to the hand," or let you have that degree of bearing (called appui) which is requisite, not only to the rider, as it forewarns him of what the horse is going to do, and whether he requires more collecting (which he does if the bearing on the hand is too heavy), or more freedom (which is requisite if the horse rises too much in his action), but is also necessary to induce the horse to work boldly and well.*
I have often heard a man praise his horse's mouth, and, on trial, have found that the horse was behind the hand, that is, would not face the bit, which is generally a sign of bad riding in the owner. A horse not up to the bit, is unfit for cavalry duty; his paces at a walk and a trot can never be equa1 and steady, nor his stride even at a canter or gallop, and, therefore, particularly unfit to lead a troop or squadron in the field; and in warfare totally useless in a melée or single combat, as the horse could turn to either side, or stop and go about, before his rider could prevent him. This results from the horse not obeying the pressure of the leg. He may be behind the bit as much as he pleases, as long as he goes forward to the hand at all times when the riders legs are pressed to his sides: for instance, if, when you pull up and the horse steps back; or when you are reining back, and apply both legs to stop or move forward again, the horse still continuos to run back, then is he "behind the hand," and this must be prevented from the outset. When bending the horse, when reining in, when circling on the forehand, when halting from the move, at all times and invariably, should the horse step back, make him at once move up to his original position. Reining back must never be practised till the horse obeys the leg, else he is sure to get into this bad habit, of which it requires both skill and perseverance to break him, and obliges the breaker to go back in his work and begin again from the beginning. Obedience to hand and leg is the foundation on which you build a horse's education; if he obeys the one and not the other, or if he does not ALWAYS OBEY BOTH, you cannot make him perfect in any one performance.
*Some horses are so shaped by nature that they overdo the "reining in," and rest the lower jaw against the chest; to counteract this direct your attention to raising his head by the use of the snaffle, as much as possible; whilst with the leg always drive him forward to the hand: this will soon make him carry his head better.
On the word of command, "Circle your horse to the right of the forehand." ( Vide Plate 8.)
The horse's head remains straight to the front, apply the left leg behind the girth, very quietly, and without touching the horse's side with the spur; press against him, till he takes a step to the right with his hind legs, take the leg from him, make much of him; then repeat the same, and get another step from him, and so on till he has turned about; always pausing at the half-turn.
In this Lesson the horse should not rein back, but his fore legs remain steady, and his hind quarters circle round his fore.
At first the men should be directed to assist themselves when circling to the right of the forehand, by feeling the left rein, and by touching the horse lightly with the whip on the side, and close to where the leg is applied, but very, very gently.
"Circle to the left on the forehand," vice versa.
It must be an invariable rule never to hurry a horse in his bending lessons.
By degrees, as the horses improve in this Lesson, and step freely "from" the pressure of the leg, on the word "Circle your horses to the right on the forehand," let the men pass the right hand down with the middle finger between the off reins, and bend the horse's head a little to the right, so that the horse may see his hind quarters coming round, vide Plate 9; apply the left leg as usual; should the horse not answer the pressure, use the reins on the same side with the leg, and resume the opposite rein the moment the horse yields.
All this must be done gradually, for if you bend the horses head round as far as it can go, and attempt thus to circle him the first time, he will resist, finding it too difficult; but if done by degrees he will soon come to it.*
The leg opposite the one which presses the "hind quarters" to circle round the "fore," must be kept close to the horse, to assist in keeping him in his place, by communicating a forward impulse, whilst the other leg communicates the impulse which makes the horse step from right to left or left to right; and in order that the pressure of the one, shall not counteract the effect of the other, the leg applied to make the horse step to either hand should be applied behind the girth, whereas, the leg used to keep him up to the hand must be applied in front of the girth.
Both legs should be close to the horse at all times, the pressure on either side being increased as occasion requires. The outward leg must always assist the inward, and vice versa; only never apply it opposite the outward, except you wish to press the horse forward equally with both legs, or when you are working on a straight line.
In passaging, particularly at a trot and a gallop, the inward spur is often used, with good effect, in front of the girth, particularly when a horse will not give his head to the side he is passaging to, or will not keep up to his work.
At first, dismounted men are useful with the unsteady horses, by taking hold of the snaffle rein on the opposite side to that which the horse is to step to, and thus assisting the rider; but all extraneous assistance should be as much as possible avoided.
The Instructor now gives the word, "Left files about," "Right files by your right, Walk, March," when abreast of the left files, they move on with them. Trot out round the school once or twice to both hands; then form double ride down the centre. Caution the men not to use the bits much the first few days, but the snaffle, and bring the horses to face the bit by degrees.
The double ride being formed, "Leading Files Circle" at the end of the school; trot them at a collected pace, giving the word ``Walk;" then leading files change; and again "Trot," and every now and then bringing them to a walk, halt them, and make the men bend their horses to the hand they are working to.
Explain to the men that the horse's head and neck must always be bent the way he is going, and that they must always precede, and prepare the animal by their attitude, for all turns, circles, &c., &c., about to be executed; and whenever they feel the bit reins, and the horse does not yield to them, let them keep the bridle hand steady, and touch the snaffle rein to take the horse off the bit.
Now order a few turns and circles at a walk; then take the leading files on the circle; "Trot" for a few minutes, change hands, and coming to a walk again, "Go Large," "Right and Left Turn," "Halt."
Go through the Bending Lessons on foot and mounted, as laid down at the beginning of the Lesson; then file home.
During the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Lessons, the horses should be brought out for a quarter of an hour in the afternoon merely bridled, and the men go through the Dismounted Bending Lessons with them.
*The near fore leg is the pivot on which the horse circles to the right on the forehand. The off fore is the one he circles on to the left on the forehand.
lesson appears longer than it really is, from the many necessary
explanations given; but it is really got through in practice in about
three-quarters of an hour, and no lesson with young horses should
exceed that, if possible.
In the double ride, the turns towards each other from the sides of the school should not be made, for the young horses are apt to shy. It will be time enough to practise them at it when well in hand; meanwhile bring them down the centre and Right and Left Turn outwards.