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