At the symposium I attended in Tucson, earlier this year, Charles de Kunffy opened by playing this video for the audience. As it ran, he made points about how all of this was done without any gimmicks, no fancy tack, glittery clothing – none of the modern trappings. And yet here were obedient, calm and balanced horses. Later in the morning, Dr. Gerd Heuschmann referred back to the video and pointed out that if these horses were not strong and connected through their backs, they would have been snapping their legs in many of these situations. See for yourself.
It’s not that I’m advocating for doing some of the seemingly crazy things they’re doing – but that was necessary for survival in the battlefield. What impresses me the most, aside from the obvious trust between the horse and rider pairings, is the absolute respect the riders show their horses’ mouths. Notice that in the most extreme cases, some even reach down and grab around their horses’ necks to keep from hanging on their mouths. Modern day Combined Training riders, take note! And this is far rougher terrain than your sport now subjects you to!
Another, shorter, vintage military video I stumbled across shows some jumping exercises. These guys would not win any equitation classes, but they know how to get out of their horses’ way. Also notice that they aren’t “telling” their horses when to jump – a modern-day eventing trend that truly puzzles me. These horses know their jobs, and the riders know how to let them do it.
Centuries have gone into the development of riding and training methods, and the best still follow the same precepts: position counts, get out of your horse’s way, and it takes time to develop real skill in both horse and rider.
Lest you think my focus is only on the “good old days”, I will leave you with this amazing, modern display of horsemanship. Enjoy!
Be good to your horses!