Image: Detail from “Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma,” 1603, by Peter Paul Rubens: © 2020 Kip Mistral
[I was asked to contribute a guest post over at StreamHorseTV, which is just about to have a re-launch by new owners Tom and JoAnne Pierce. I wish them great success with their upcoming new platform! I chose to do a rare autobiographical piece so have a laugh on me ]
What an odd title for an article…how could I possibly know you by the horse you ride?
First, let’s contemplate the horse and rider presented to us. From a practical perspective, I might know something about you if the horse you have chosen—or seems to have chosen you—has or doesn’t have the conformation, athletic ability, temperament, and level of training that are compatible and well-matched with your level of experience and expectations. I might know something about you if you must have a horse of a certain color or gender. I might know something about you if you vastly prefer one riding discipline over another.
To read more please go to: https://streamhorse.tv/blog/f/i-know-you-by-the-horse-you-ride-in-search-of-the-golden-bridle
I was taught this riding-a-square exercise on my young horse at the walk 30 years ago by the assistant instructor of Roy Yates, student of Charles O. Williamson, author of the classic book “Breaking and Training the Stock Horse (and Teaching Basic Principles of Dressage)”. For more information about this lineage please see https://www.kipmistral.com/charles-owen-williamson-on-collection-from-range-bred-broncs-to-high-school-dressage/
In these days I had no idea that the exercise was connected to the French classical masters and ultimately to the work of François Robichon de La Guérinière. Nevertheless I was impressed at the time and have been impressed since that horses seem to immediately enjoy this exercise that is quiet at the walk, and gives them a chance to refine their focus to the aids, learning to smoothly turn the shoulders and cross over to the inside, and become more precise in their movements. It is…
(Camins, Laura. “The Art of Equitation.” Glorious Horsemen: Equestrian Art in Europe, 1500 to 1800. Exhibition catalog published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA, 1981. P. 44-45. Excerpt published with the permission of the Springfield Museums.) [Images added here did not accompany the original text. Feature image of La Guérinière by Louis Toque, circa 1750.]
With the accession of Louis XV to the French throne in 1715, François Robichon de La Guérinière was named Ecuyer Ordinaire by royal appointment, and founded a new academy for riding in Paris near the Palais de Luxembourg. In 1730, under the patronage of Charles de Lorraine, Comte d’Armagnac and Grand Ecuyer du Roi, La Guérinière moved his entire operation to the old Manège Royal of the Tuileries. The school in Paris thus coexisted with the Grand Ecurie du Roi at Versailles, directed by Louis Cazeau de Nestier from 1734. It was La Guérinière, however, who was the greatest innovator of the eighteenth century. Although [The Duke of] Newcastle’s teachings at first were generously received upon his return to England, as representing a new perfection of riding technique, they did not really develop in France. La Guérinière is thus the true heir to [Solomon] La Broue and [Antoine de] Pluvinel. His work represents the ultimate refinement of a technique.
(© Kip Mistral 2007. Photo credits unknown.)
[NOTE from KM: Sometimes when I interview subjects, they can be more direct than the publication’s audience at the time might be ready for, so in the past I have erred on the side of caution and eliminated certain content from the final article. However, those honest remarks are the parts I like the best. I asked the charming and gracious Walter Zettl if he wanted to censor any part of our interviews and he said, “No, I’m old…they can think what they want.” So in that spirit, I publish here for your enjoyment the uncut transcription of my recorded interviews, over a weekend clinic here in Tucson years ago. I leave undisturbed the syntax of his speech.]
(Excerpt from Un Cheval de Phidias, by Victor Cherbuliez, Michel Lévy Frères, Libraires Editeurs, Paris, 1864. Translated by A. Forbes Sievering, 1905.)
“Look at this horseman wearing his Arcadian pilos, draped in his closely-folded mantle, the fringe overhanging his leg. See how their poses, their attitudes go together; how the head of the rider leaning forward and gently bowed over his breast responds to the undulating movement of the horse’s crest; and how all these lines compose that delicious melody of forms, which modern sculpture has not been able to reproduce. And then observe that this unison of lines and movements is only the emblem of the concert of souls and thoughts. In both man and horse the same ease, the same surrender–no effort–a vigour self-assured, and revelling in free play. Incontestably the rider commands, but it is hardly noticeable–he acts upon the horse by imperceptible aids, united to it, like the human bust to the quadruped in the Centaur: the education which the horseman has received is transmitted to the horse. Both have the same family likeness, the same grace, the same strength, the same gentleness, the same pride–exhaling the dignity of a free heart mastered only by reason. Riders and horsemen have all been educated between the soft Attic sky, amid the olives of the Academy and the laurels of Cephisius, within sight of sacred Hymettus, in the lifetime of Pericles, Aspasia, and Socrates. Riders and horses all received in heritage that beauty of the soul which Athenian education cultivated. Riders and horses have all learned that music which produces, in the language of Plato, the harmony of souls and the immutable order of the Universe.”
NOTE: Phidias is generally acknowledged to have been the greatest ancient Greek sculptor and instigator of the classical style of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. He is thought to have directed and supervised the construction of the Parthenon including its sculptural decoration.