Thursday, July 13, 2017

Four-beat Follow-up, Part II: Muybridge Myths

Read Part I

Way back in 1878 Eadweard Muybridge disproved the idea that that a horse gallops with its front and hind legs in pairs, stretched out.


Or so the story goes. That is the version most tossed around barns, and occasionally makes it into academic circles. In 2012, one of Muybridge's series was the subject of a Google Doodle, and he briefly re-entered the spotlight. Since then, the version that has become common is that he sought to prove that there was a moment of suspension in the gallop. Stanford University calls this their "first research project," because Muybridge used one of Leland Stanford's racehorses as his model, allegedly to assist Stanford in winning a bet on the topic.

    But, wait, let's talk about this "racehorse" term that gets bandied about. Muybridge's first "horse in motion" photos were, indeed, of one of Stanford's "racehorses."

"In 1876, the experimental photographer Eadweard Muybridge captured on film Leland Stanford's prized horse, Abe Edgington, at full gallop in an attempt to prove Stanford's theory of "unsupported transit", the idea that all four hooves of a horse at speed leave the ground. The plate itself was fuzzy and unsuitable for publication, so it was left to a little-known painter of horses to strengthen the image. Thomas Kirby Van Zandt reproduced the image twice, first as drawing of "crayon and ink wash" dated September 16, 1876, and again as the finished canvas, Abe Edgington (Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University), dated February 1877 (1)." Cooley Gallery, emphasis mine.
Stanford University's account of the "first research project" concurs that this test was conducted at a gallop, and provides this picture:


There's one problem. The photo series above, "Sallie Gardner," was taken in 1878. The original photo series, from 1876, was of Abe Edgington, a MorganAbe Edgington did race, but in harness at a trot. Whether or not Stanford had made a bet about the results, the first trial was at a trot, and he used the results to adjust the training of his harness horses.


   While there was some discussion as to whether or not all four feet left left the ground in the gallop, it was generally accepted that they did; the question was when. 

Note: what they call canter, we would consider a collected canter or park canter.
Every Horse Owner's Cyclopedia, 1871, pg 89
Courtesy of the NSLM

  Pantologia: A New Cabinet Cyclopaedia, 1819, pg 133

But, that question was not Muybridge & Stanford's original inquest. Stanford, being more owner than rider, may not have been aware of the consensus. Or, just as likely, he was, and that is why his first efforts focused on the trot. He was aware of Prof. Marey's work, but commented on his depiction of the walk, not the idea of suspension in the gallop.*  It was photos of the trot suspension that were submitted to newspapers as proof, and even by 1881, after Sallie Gardner was photographed at the gallop, the trot continued to receive the greatest amount of column space. Finally, Muybridge's own Animals in Motion, finished in 1885, made much of the trot suspension, and little of that in the gallop.


No such dispute was mentioned for the gallop. To the contrary, some surprise was expressed at maintaining a slow enough canter (what we might call a lope, though far more upheaded) to remove the moment of suspension.


Part III will (finally?) get to the break and how it undermines the idea that artistic depictions pre-Muybridge may not be as unrealistic as is commonly supposed.

*See the 1881 article.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

CFP: Distributive Preservation and Heritage Livestock

I'm putting together a panel for NCPH 2018 (Vegas), and our third panelist may not be able to attend. The panel is on livestock as living artifacts, in particular ongoing colonialist dynamics in "saving" heritage breeds by importing them. The Caspian is a good example of this. It is, in effect, a form of distributive preservation, with all of the benefits and moral and legal quandaries that practice raises; however, being living creatures, there is the added complication that many imported populations remain isolated and fail to thrive (as in the Cleveland Bay). If anyone might be interested in joining our panel, please let me know by July 13.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Poor neglected blog

That was quite a hiatus. I'm at the National Sporting Library now (and wow is it amazing!), and then I should have most of a month to put my notes in order before teaching again. So, stay tuned?


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Into the Woods

Been in the woods for four days, because sometimes it's good to actually take a vacation.
(we'll ignore the grading spreadsheet on the drive 'n' all that.)


Back to the woods! With no grading left (?!)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cavendish, Part III: An Interlude in the Trenches

Start at Part I: In which Cavendish is snarky

If the last two parts of this series didn't get across how much Cavendish disparaged Blundeville, and by extension Grisone, maybe this one will. At WSECS this past weekend I mentioned that his "extended weighing of the relative demerits of Blundeville was the strawman that Cavendish used to support his claim of having a new, more sensible, natural, and effective method for training horses." He was likely able to do this, safely, because Blundeville had been wildly popular, with reprints every few years, but had ceased being republished some fifty years prior to Cavendish's first publication (his French edition of this work).

"they Dig out Rings, and Entrench themselves (which is a Horrible Folly); but I desire no more for Stopping than a Plain place, with∣out Hills, or any such Toyes; and will Dress any Horse perfectly there, by the New Method of my French Book: which I Refer you to"

Here Cavendish refers to Blundeville's use of trenches dug in to the ground to keep the horse straight, and his use of deep footing to tire a horse in to submission. While the use of deep footing and hills is something I will gladly do (especially to isolate muscle groups, or encourage a gaited horse to change gears), it ought to be part of an overall conditioning regime– not basic training. In addition to using these methods in starting horses (which given a lack of facilities can be understandable), Blundeville's 'sixth correction' for a horse who does poorly turning in a particular direction is:

"GO into some soft ground newly plowed with depe forrowes, and there first pace him faire and softlye to and fro, the length of a maneging course, then folow on with a good roūd trot..."

So far, so good. Shows concern for working the horse up to it, getting them used to their surroundings, and starting slow helps prevent tendon damage that deep footing can risk. But then:

"and when he will not tourne on that hande that you woulde haue him, all to rate hym with a terrible voyce, and beat him with a Cogel upon the heade, betwixt the eares"

Cavendish is not silent on the second half, either:

"He would have Us to Strike a Horse with a Cudgel, or a Rod, between the Ears, and upon the Head; which is Abominable, though he thinks it a Rare Secret."

Yeah, Abominable is a pretty good word here.

Thus ends Part III, because next Cavendish gets in to Blundeville on breeding and there is far too much to unpack. That deserves its own entry.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Cavendish, Part II: In which Cavendish throws shade

(Read Part I: In which Cavendish is snarky)

" a Good Horse-man may be Thrown Down sooner than Ill ones; because Good Horse-men little think of Sitting... their Thoughts being all how to make their Horses go Well... whereas an Ill Horse-man thinks of nothing but Sitting, for Fear he should be Thrown, and never thinks how to make his Horse go Well; for he Knows not how to Do it..."
    Well...he's not wrong. Nine times of ten I find myself riding poorly it's because I've become concerned about falling off. Though, I might add, there is also something to the choice in what horses we ride, though I believe Cavendish is here referring only to already broke mannage horses.
"...But Holds by the Main, and the Pomel, and his Head at the Horses Head, ready to Beat out his Teeth, and his Leggs holding by the Flank; and is so Deformed on Horse Back, as if he were a Strange African Monster; and the Horse so Disordered, that to see him Sit in that Manner, is the most Nauseous Sight that can be, and the most Displeasing to the Beholders; and were much Better for the Spectators to see him Fall, and for his Reputation, so he received no Hurt by the Fall."

Of Grisone and Blundville, Cavendish says:

"They Teach to Ride one Horse two or three Hours at a time, when one may well Ride half a Dozen at least in an Hour, and give them sufficiently Enough."

And this, of course, is an argument very much alive today. It is, at least publicly, considered to be a mark of great skill to be able to complete a "colt-breaking" challenge, and be able to canter or lope an untouched horse by the end of the weekend. There are still 'cowboys' that get paid by the head to travel to ranches and start a number of horses by just getting on and staying there until the horse tires. And yet, even within these, they say less is more. Both the public clinicians and the hired hands tend to say many small lessons work better than one long one. I am inclined to agree, as even my older horses rarely benefitted from more than about half an hours training, if one defines training as teaching or refining new information. The rest, if they got more, was conditioning. The younger or more inexperienced the horse, the shorter the effective "training" section. Of course, that said, I am fond of getting youngsters out more than once a day, given you have the time and staff. I'd far rather do two or three short works than one long one. They tend to learn faster, with less stress (and thus they stay safer as well), and retain their lessons better.



And further:
"For a Resty Horse they Raise a whole Town with Staves to Beat him, with many Curious Inventions, with Squirts, Fire, Whelps, Hedg-hoggs, Nailes, and I know not What."
Yes, hedgehogs. Or, lacking a hedgehog, a cat on a stick. Yes, really.
     From Blundeville:
"Also the shirle crye of a hedgehog beyng strayt teyed by the foote vnder the horses tayle, is a remedye of like force, which was proued by Master Vincentio Respino, a Napolitan, who corrected by this meanes an olde restiue horse of the kinges in suche sort as he had muche a do afterward to kepe him from the contrarye vice of runninge awaye."
y'don't say. Imagine that. 

"LEt a footeman stande behinde you with a shrewed cat teyed at the one ende of a long pole with her belly vpward, so as she may haue her mouth and clawes at libertye. And when your horse doth stay or go backward, let him thrust the Catte betwixt his thyes so as she may scratch and bite him, somtime by the thighes, somtime by the rompe, and often times by the stones."
by the stones.
It is the single strangest training recommendation I have even read. Cavendish rants on about other ridiculous techniques, and then insults their understanding of terms. He also scoffs at their use of "the Chambetta, which signifies nothing."

Yes, chambetta does seem to be jambette. Which, yes, is not a particularly useful manuever in any sense of the word (to be fair, Blundeville does suggest it is best to look flashy when riding before one's King). To be more specific, Blundeville describes the jambette in turns in his chapter on the chambette. Like this:


It's fancy, it takes time to train, it impresses the crowd. But...ok, I'm with Cavendish again. It doesn't translate to the development of the horse as a whole.

Thus ends Part II


Special thanks to Lelian Maldonado for helping me dig in to the possible etymology of chambetta in the course of confirming that it did refer to a form of jambette.

Read Part III: An Interlude in the Trenches

Friday, January 27, 2017

Cavendish, Part I: In which Cavendish is snarky


I'd been debating livetweeting my reread of Cavendish's snarky training treatise. I did this instead.

On Cavendish's "New Method" 
Part I: In which Cavendish is snarky, and disparages all riders he has not trained.


"And though the French think, That all the Horse-manship in the World is in France."     
         I laughed unreasonably. To be fair, for a hand of centuries prior to Cavendish, much of Europe was stealing France's equestrian vocabulary.


       "This Noble Art was first begun and Invented in Italy, and all the French and other Nations went thither to learn; the seate of Horse-manship being at Naples: The first that ever Writ of it was Frederick Grison."    
         Duarte predates Grisone by a century and change, but Duarte was not in the "genealogy" of trainers Cavendish described. Duarte was virtually unknown (possibly due to only being available in an incomplete manuscript, cut short by his death). Because Duarte's manuscript spent some time in Naples, it is entirely plausible that Duarte's thoughts or even writing does belong in this family tree. For more on the life of this manuscript, I recommend this translation of Duarte.    
         More curiously, Cavendish makes no mention on Xenophon, which was available at least in Italy by Grisone's time.* Not at all surprisingly, Kikkuli is left out as well, along with innumerable other folks who undoubtedly wrote about horsemanship through the ages and remain as lost to us as the were to Cavendish. 

"As for Pluvinel, no doubt but he was a Good Horse-man; but his Invention of the Three Pillars, of which his Book Pretends to be an ab∣solute Method, is no more than an absolute Routine; and hath spoyl'd more Horses, than ever any Thing did; for Horses are not Made to the Hand and the Heel at all with them; nor will they go from the usual place where they are Ridden, nor well there neither."
         I'll drink to that.

"I must tell you that the Italian Writers are Tedious, and write more of Marks, Colours, Temperatures, Elements, Moon, Stars, Winds, and Bleedings, than of the Art of Rideing;...
         He's not wrong.
 only to make up a Book, though they wanted Horse-manship."



"Many say, that all things in the Mannage is nothing but Tricks, and Dancing, and Gam∣balls, and of no Use"
         Some things haven't changed. Cavendish's answer, being in effect that these are the foundation skills for all pursuits, will also sound familiar to modern horsefolks.

"But, What makes these Men speak against it?...the Main Reason is this; They find they cannot Ride well;"

      
        He goes on to explain that this is because the manage horse cannot be ridden by "inspiration," but only though the long work of training rider as well as horse. And on, and on, and just a bit more.

"They cannot do it, and therefore it is Naught: A very good and sensless Reason! He that will take Pains for Nothing, shall never do any thing Well; for Arts, Sciences, and good Qualities, come not by Instinct, but are got by great Labour, Study, and Practice."
       It seems he had some feelings on the subject.

"I would have every Horse (that wears a Bitt) Gelding, or Nagg, wrought in the Mannage, to
be firm on the Hand, both for Readiness, and Safety."
       And back to the horse! Though I do quite agree with him, having turned out even some nice western and saddleseat horses from a dressage start. To clarify, however, by "bitt" he means curb.

"But, sayes a Gallant, when I should have Use of him in the Field, then he will be playing Tricks: That Gallant is Deceived; for, the Helps to make Horses go in Ayres, and to make them go upon the Ground, are Several; and Good Horse-men have much ado to make them go in Ayres, with their best Helps; so that, if you let them alone, they will not trouble you; besides, two or three dayes March will make them, that they will not go in Ayres, if you would have them; and they are much the Readier to go on the Ground"
        This neatly undermines the received wisdom that dressage (and it's predecessor the manege) was merely off season practice of military maneuvers.

"There can be no Horse else Safe and Useful; nor can any Horse go well in a Snaffle, except he be formerly Ridd with a Bitt."
        On this I will part ways with his grace. Though I do tend to finish my horses in some sort of shanked bit, it is not always beneficial and certainly not always needed. I did once start a horse in a neck rope and a halter, alternatingly, because he'd had a terrible ear infection. He wasn't the most "useful," but a curb certainly wouldn't have helped him.
       To be fair, Cavendish advocates the use of a riding cavesson for starting horses. I'm honestly a fan of this myself (though I'll just clip reins to a regular noseband or well fitted halter), but despite the various traditions that go from bit-less to curb (like, say, bosal to spade), I don't think a curb should ever be the first bit a horse carries.

"Thus it is Proved, That there is nothing of more Use than A Horse of Mannage; nor any thing of more State, Manliness, or Pleasure, than Rideing"
        I've been called manly before, but oddly not for riding.

Here ends Part One. Read Part II: in which Cavendish throws shade.

*Edit to add: and referenced in John Astley's 1884 Art of Riding