Reining back; getting the Horse
in hand with the use of the Spur;
and perfecting them at their Trotting and Bending Lessons.
BEGIN by circling them on the forehand and haunches, then "Rein in your Horses," and "Spur."
"The use of the Spur: -"
The Spur has till now only been used to inflict punishment when a horse refused to obey the pressure of the leg, or to oblige him to go up to an object he was shy o£ It was not considered as an "Aid," but only a means of punishment. It is, on the contrary, the most powerful agent we have, without which it would be impossible to break in a horse perfectly. Those horses that are hot tempered, vicious, or of great metal, whose temper disposes them to break from the restraint of the bit, in spite of the strongest arm, can only be reduced to obedience by the gradual and judicious use of the spur. With the spur, of course combined with the assistance of a good hand, you can perfect the education of the most intractable, and infuse spirit into the most sluggish animals. At the same time, it requires great prudence, and a thorough knowledge of the horse, to use the spur so as to obtain the proper results.
The object is to unite the horse's powers at their centre of gravity, that is, between the forehand and haunches; and it is, by the combined use of hand and leg, that we attain this.
We have already the power of keeping the horse on the straight line, which is indispensable to bring the use of the spur into play; for had we not this power, on the first application of the spur, the horse, instead of raising his forehand, and bringing his haunches under him, thus concentrating his strength, would turn his haunches in or out, and avoid the necessity of bringing them under him.
But what is of still greater importance is, that judgment and knowledge of the horse's temper, which will at all times prevent our communicating an impulse to the horse with the spur, stronger than what we can easily control with the hand.
Suppose your horse at a walk bearing the weight of five lbs. on your bridle hand; when you close your legs to him you will feel the effect of the impulse communicated, in the additional weight thrown on your hand, and this weight augments in proportion to the impulse given.
On feeling this additional weight on the bridle hand, do not give way to it, but keep the bit hand low and steady, and feel the right snaffle rein; the horse, finding the bit an insurmountable obstacle, will by degrees learn, instead of throwing his weight forward when the impulse is given by the leg, to throw it back, and bring his haunches under him; but should you, instead of closing the leg gently to him the first time, put both spurs into his sides, the horse would throw so much weight forward from the great impulse received, that he would probably pull the reins out of your hand; your object would thus be defeated in the beginning; and the horse, having burst from your control on the first application of the spur, by throwing his weight forward, would ever after try to do the same.
The spur must, therefore, be applied with caution and delicacy.
The rider by closing his legs to the horse brings the rowells quite close to his side, so that on the word, "Spur" (given in a quiet voice), he merely touches his horse's sides, retaining at the same time a steady feeling of the bit reins, so as to present an opposition equal to the impulse communicated by the spur.
Then make much of the horses and quiet them, taking care to square them, should they have stepped to either side with their hind legs.
When the spur is applied on the move, halt them to quiet them.
You increase by degrees the use of the spur, until the horse will stand its application without throwing any weight on the hand, without increasing his pace, or without moving, if applied when standing still.
If the horse kicks at the spur, it is a sign that his weight is too much forward; if he rises or capers, his weight is too much on the haunches. The rider's mind must, therefore, be directed to keeping the weight between the two, and when it is there, his horse is properly balanced.
This lesson, if well carried out, has a moral effect on the horse, which accelerates its results.
If the impulse given by the leg or spur, is always controlled by the hand, the pain the animal suffers is at all times in proportion to the resistance he offers; his instinct will soon teach him, that he can diminish this, and even avoid it, by yielding at once to what is required of him; and he will soon submit.
Much mischief results from the use of sharp spurs in breaking in horses. They prick, tickle, and teach the horse to kick, lean to the leg, and whisk the tail: if applied with force, the horse shrinks from them, instead of springing forward to the hand. I therefore recommend the use of blunt spurs for breaking in young horses, or to muffle the points of the sharp spurs till such time as the horse has learnt to take the spur, and obey its application with the same obedience as any other aid.
Many accidents will thus be avoided in the ranks, for when now the spur touches a horse by accident or design he kicks; but if taught to take the spur systematically, the animal merely goes up to the hand if both spurs are employed, and when touched by one spur only quickly steps aside.
You now go on with the Trotting Lesson in the double ride; and, after a few turns, circles, &c., &c., come to a walk; halt the rides on the turn facing each other, and begin the
All young horses experience more or less pain and difficulty in reining back, nor will they step straight to the rear, but throw their haunches to one side or other, and gather their hind quarters under them. When they do step to the rear they fall back upon the hind leg suddenly and get frightened and excited. It would then be dangerous to repeat the experiment.
The man's weight upon the back occasions pain when the horse does not step true and fair to the rear; and the horse's temper is roused to resist hand and leg.
To obviate this, dismount and prepare the horse to understand what you want, thus -
Place the horse against the side of the school, take the bit reins in one hand, with the other hold the whip parallel to the horse on the inside.
Then rein him in, hold his head low, which has the effect of preventing the horse from gathering his haunches under him; make him then step gently back by pressing the bit towards his chest, a few steps at a time, keeping him straight and close to the boards, and repeat this to both hands. The horse steps back with comparative ease without weight on his back; and when you mount, the animal is prepared to understand what you require of him.
The great use of reining back has never been properly understood, and consequently not properly practised.
It should not be brought into play until the horse is well bent in the neck and ribs, and obeys the pressure of the leg. During the reining back, the horse must be well in hand, and well balanced; he can then make an equal use of all four legs, and raise them equally from the ground. Before reining back, see that your horse is square to the front, his head home, and light in hand; then apply both legs (retaining a steady feeling of both reins), to make the horse lift one of his hind legs; it is at this moment (vide Plate 11) that a double feeling of both reins will oblige him to recover his balance bv stepping backwards, and thus produce this first motion in reining back; place him straight to the front by bringing his haunches to the right or left, as may be required; then give him his head, and make much of him.
It will be sufficient to practise a horse at reining back for eight days to make him do it with the greatest ease.
At first a few steps backwards is all that should be required of the horse, increasing by degrees; if he brings his hind legs too much under him, ease the hand, and apply both legs to make him regain his balance forward; and, for this reason, always use the leg first, and then feel the reins, because, if you feel the reins first, the horse throws his weight back, and it stands to reason that the more weight he throws on his hind legs, the less able is he to lift them, which is a necessary preliminary to stepping back: therefore, be particularly attentive in preserving the horse's balance, and, if he sticks his nose out, and hugs his tail, with his weight thrown entirely on the haunches, (vide Plate 12,) never attempt to rein him back, until, by applying both legs or spurs, you make him stand up again, and recover his balance; then proceed as before directed.
The horse must never be allowed to hurry or run back out of hand, nor to diverge from the straight line.
The rides must be frequently halted on the turn during the Walking, Trotting, and Bending Lessons,* to practise the Reining Back; each man being told to act independent of his dressing, until all the horses rein back well.
Your attention must now be directed to making the men keep their horses well up to the bit, and putting them together with the use of hand and leg; to see that in all turns, circles, &c., &c., the men bend their horses' heads and necks in the new direction before leaving the boards. Endeavour to make them perfect in their bending and trotting lessons; practise the going "about on the haunches" by frequently halting the rides when at the boards, and giving the word, "On the Haunches About," "March."
You then form up and finish with the same bending lessons you began with, namely, "Circling on the forehand," " on the haunches," "Reining in," and "Applying the Spur."
* The horses having learnt to follow the indication of the rein, and obey the pressure of the leg, bring them to the shoulder in, at first a few steps only being required of them; in the turns see that the men do not hurry them, and that the shoulders are always led off in time with the outward rein. After two or three lessons at the shoulder in, proceed to the half passage, and again to the passage; taking care that the horses' heads and shoulders lead, and that the men lean to the side the horse is passaging to. The inward leg must be freely applied in the half-passage and passage, to keep the horse up to the hand; and when any of the horses rein back, halt the ride, and make them dress up.