How to strike off a Horse to both Hands at a Canter - How to change when False or Disunited
WALK, TROT, AND CANTER.
The Walk. Monsieur Baucher does not begin the trot till he has perfected the horse at the walk`; but I found it answered better in practice to go on with the trotting at the same time; however, get a thing well done at a walk before you try it at a trot.
Before moving forward, the horse should be light in hand, the head brought home (and not with the nose stuck out), the neck arched, and he should stand evenly on both hind legs.
Close the legs and communicate a sufficient impulse to carry him forward; but do not ease the hand at the same time, as laid down in the old system, because if you do, the head and neck may relapse into a position which will defy the control of the hand.
The rider should always have a light feeling of both reins, and when the horse bores on the bit, keep the hand steady, use both legs, which, by bringing his haunches under him, will oblige the horse to take his weight off the hand.
A horse trots when he raises the "off fore and near hind leg" or "near fore and off hind" from the ground at the same time. Those paces at which the horse is most easily balanced must precede those in which it is more difficult to retain him in "equilibrium;" therefore, after "the Walk," begin with a steady collected " Trot."
It is necessary, in order to make the horse handy, to exercise him at "Trotting out;" but it is not enough that he should trot fast; the quickness of the pace should not detract from his lightness in hand, or the ease with which he should be capable of answering all indications of the hand and leg.
The hand must be constantly at work to retain the head and neck in their proper position, without counteracting the forward impulse communicated by the leg; thus the horse will acquire regularity of pace, increased speed,* and that safety which is natural to a horse well balanced and light in hand.
When a horse breaks from the trot into a canter, and you wish to make him trot again, use hand and leg on the side he is striding, feeling both reins at the same time to check his pace - for instance, if the horse is leading with the right leg, use the right rein and right leg, this forces the horse into a trot, for he cannot canter on the right leg and gain ground sideways to the left without crossing his legs, and the effect of the right rein and leg is to place the horse across the line he is travelling on, thus
*I speak here of increased speed combined with obedience to hand and leg, not the speed obtained for trotting matches, which is done by making the horse throw his weight forward and bore on the hand.
Is a repetition of bounds, during which the forehand rises first, and higher than the hind quarters.
The horse being properly placed, light in hand and well balanced, throw his weight from the forehand to the haunches, (by increasing the pressure of the legs and restraining him with the reins,) and, according to the hand you wish to strike off to, throw the weight of the horse to the opposite side; that is, if he is to lead off with the off fore, followed by off hind (or canter to the right), throw the weight to his near side, principally upon the near hind leg, and thus almost fix it to the ground. This is done by feeling both reins equally to the left, and closing the right leg; the horse's head remains placed to the right, and the left leg merely prevents him from throwing out his haunches. The horse's off legs are thus at liberty, and the forward impulse obliges him to use them; at least he could not do otherwise without difficulty.
A horse may canter false, disunited with the fore, or disunited with the hind legs. (Cantering to the right):
First; - If the horse leads with the near fore followed by near hind, he is cantering false.
Second; - He is "disunited with the fore," if leading with the near fore leg.
Third; - And "disunited with the hind legs," when the off hind leg remains further back than the near one.
In the first instance, the horse can only have succeeded in striking off to the left by first throwing his weight on to the off legs; to rectify this, feel both reins to the left,* horse's head remains bent to the right, close firmly the left leg, to bring his haunches in again, then endeavour to place the horse as before.
In the second instance, close both legs to bring the haunches under, and enable you the more easily to raise his forehand; feel both reins to the left (horse's head as before bent to the right); to weight the leg that is leading, and thus induce the horse to throw forward the off fore.
In the third instance, close firmly the left leg to him, keeping a steady hold of his head; this, by bending his hind quarters to the side on which the fore are leading, will impede the action of the near hind so much, as to oblige the horse to change. The right leg is kept close, to assist in re-establishing the horse's balance.
In these instances, take a good hold of your horse's head, though without allowing him to bore on your hand; otherwise the leg only communicates a forward impulse, and thus the effect on the hind quarters is lost.
Always place your horse before you strike him off.
Teach him to strike off to the right, on the circle first, then on the straight line.
Then to the left. And after that,
Try him at changing leg.
If a horse is so far broken in, so far under control of hand and leg, as to be unable to do anything unless you wish it, all his capabilities are at your disposal; you can throw the weight on each limb in succession, and change leg at every stride.
The great secret is therefore this; "take the weight off the legs you wish the horse to lead with." This is the only one of the many different ways laid down which is founded on principle and common sense. Try it yourself, go down on all fours, throw your weight on the left hand and leg, then try to move forward, and see whether it be not absolutely necessary to do so with the right hand and leg
I have here described how to work a horse to the right: the means employed to the left are the same, though of course reversed.**
* When I speak of feeling both reins to the left (the horse's head bent to the right), it is not to turn the horse to the left but to bring his weight to the near side.
**This is the system I always pursued with my own horses, and the one I recommend; though as far as the aids for cantering went (with the men), I adhered to those laid down in H. M. Regulations.