(© Text by Don Juan Gómez-Cuétara. Detail of painting by Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez Felipe III, King of Spain 1634-35)
Like a magic crucible, wherein history and art are fused, the Spanish horse, our partner in love and grief, slave to our glory, is a horse at once fiery and docile, whose proud neigh proclaims to the world the beauty of his race, pride of men who are not prepared to abandon chivalry, dream of young men who refuse to accept a way of life which holds no place for him.
(© 2018 Kip Mistral. Illustration “Holiday Time” by Heywood Hardy [1842-1933])
I dreamed this morning, literally, that I am wandering through a busy outdoor market. It is an old country market with much tradition, animals and all kinds of rustic things for sale by generations of people who know each other. They are friendly and chatty, and I find myself talking to many women who have spent a lifetime with horses. They all have different stories about their experience and I am struck with the richness of their memories. Naturally, being a journalist I start thinking what a fabulous article it would make to bring these conversations together in one place, woven together in a sort of tapestry.
(“Horsemanship in the Riding School,” by Florence Baillie-Grohman. Country Life, Vol. XIII.-No. 336, Saturday, June 13, 1903. Pages 780-783. Engravings by Johann Elias Ridinger (2-16-1698 to 4-10-1767) from his books “The New Art of Riding” and “The New Riding School”.)
The term art would not have been applied by the horseman of the old school to that kind of riding which enables a man to stick on in some fashion or other, while his horse carries him across country after, or too often on to, the hounds; nor to certain monkey-like performances on the neck of the horse by which some modern jockeys bring their mounts first past the winning-post. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, when Johann Elias Ridinger limned the pictures here given of a riding school, the art of riding meant that knowledge which enabled both horse and rider to show themselves off to best advantage, in all the dignity and ceremony befitting the position of a courtly cavalier and a stately steed.
(Extract from “Recollections of a Page at the Court of Louis XVI: Chapter, The Pages,” by Charles-Alexandre-François-Felix, Comte de France de Hézecques, Baron de Mailly. (Author Hézecques born 7-30-1774, died August 1835.) Originally written 1804. Edited, from the French, by Charlotte M. Yonge, 1873)
[NOTE from K.M. What was life really like for a young aristocrat serving as a page to the King of France and taking early life lessons from the paramilitary organization of the Grand Stable? From 1784, from the age of 12 through the age of 18, this young Count served his King…read on for a very interesting story.]
“The imagination always recurs with delight to the happy days of youth. In the thorny paths of life, a moment of sweet satisfaction is often felt in turning the thoughts to these peaceful years of tender age when the only sorrow was to be thwarted in some little project, when privations were so short, and tears so soon forgotten.”
In 1731, François Robichon de La Guérinière was complaining in his book “School of Horsemanship”, Chapter I “Why There Are So Few Horsemen & the Qualities Necessary to Become One”. Nearly 300 years later, we are asking the same questions! Here, his initial comments:
“All arts and sciences have principles and rules governing the methods resulting in those discoveries that lead to their perfection. The Cavalry [School of Horsemanship] is the only art for which it seems there is only need of practice; however, the practice, stripped of sound principles, is nothing more than routine that only results in a forced and uncertain performance and a false brilliance that fascinates the demo-connoisseurs, who are often amazed by the horse’s kindness, rather than by the rider’s skill. This is the reason for the small number of well-trained horses and the lack of ability presently seen in the majority of those people who call themselves horsemen.”