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.”
“This lack of principles indicates that the students are not at all able to distinguish between faults and perfection. Their only resource is imitation, and, unfortunately, it is definitely much easier to turn to false practice than to achieve what is correct.
Some, who want to imitate those who seek to bring forth all the brilliance present in a horse, fall into the habit of continuously moving their hands and legs, which detracts from the rider’s grace, causes the horse to assume a false posture, creates a false contact with the mouth, and makes the horse unsteady on his legs.
Others make a point of seeking the precision and accuracy they observe in those who have the awareness necessary to choose the horse who naturally has an excellent mouth, solid haunches, and supple and controlled strength, qualities found in very few horses. Thus it is that those who imitate this accuracy, which is so highly sought after, break a bold horse’s courage and destroy his natural kindness.
Still others, swept along by the supposed good taste of the public, whose decisions are not always from the oracles and against whom timid truth dares not revolt, find that after a lengthy and diligent pursuit, their only attainment is the flattering and chimeric satisfaction of thinking themselves more expert than the others.”
Extracted from “Ecole de Cavalerie” by François Robichon de La Guérinière. Xenophon Press © 1992, page 1, by permission of the publisher.