I just finished reading a wonderful book: Mount and Man written in 1925. The author, Lt Col McTaggart, was a retired cavalry officer who clearly understood and loved horses. It’s a fascinating look into the state of riding in the United Kingdom in that era. The forward seat was still new and controversial, although apparently already well adopted on ‘The Continent’. The idea of women riding astride was also still unpopular in that era. But aside from the fascinating look into a bygone age, the book presents a highly sympathetic view of our friend the horse. Such was my joy in reading this book that I would like to occasionally present some of my favorite passages.
Right from the introduction, his respect and affection for the horse is clear. So, what better place to start?
“The best results are obtained by sympathetic treatment, where both horse and rider understand one another. It has been said that a man will do anything he is asked if he is asked in the right way. I believe that to be true, and as with men, so with horses. I also believe that a horse will do anything he is asked if he only understands what the question is.
It is also sometimes said that the horse is a stupid animal, but the more we study him the more we realise that, far from being stupid, he has some capabilities even greater than man himself.”
After a brief personal account, illustrating an experience where his horse remembered a route many years after being at a village during war, he continues …
“Consequently, in training and riding horses, we should always bear in mind the attributes they do possess, and work on those.
It has been said, “Blessed is he that knoweth his own limitations, ” and I would add to that, “Blessed is the trainer that knoweth the horse’s limitations,” for once we realise what a horse can understand, we are well on the way to sympathetic treatment and effective training.”
I will, in later posts, share more enlightening and even amusing quotes from this lovely book. But, for now, I will leave you with these final words from the introduction – words that should be over the door of every stable:
“‘Blame yourself before you blame your horse’ is the motto for the horseman.”
Be good to your horses!