How were war horses trained?

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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Chiron » 16 Nov 2012 16:40

Translation by Antonio Franco Preto
( :!: I bought this book before I knew about Chivalry bookshelf ripping authors off, and would love to see a fair reprint)
First - use one saddle with cantles that help you to stay firm (either supporting your lower back or enabling you to grasp one of them with one hand). And you should believe me when I say that it is preferable to use a bravante saddle even though it is not a great advantage; and of course, you must know how to keep yourself stead with the help of the cantle.


He also says that one should rely on the stirrups, and if the stirrups are not fixed to the horses body "they follow the movements of the of the riders body and it is worse to be firm in them than the contrary".
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 04 Jan 2013 19:37

From the 1904 french cavalry manual:
Article IV. DRESSAGE ET MISE EN CONDITION DU CHEVAL wrote:Le cheval est l'arme principale du cavalier.
Le cheval dressé pour la guerre doit être franc, droit, souple, calme, coulant et adroit.

The horse is the trooper's main weapon.
The horse trained for war should be forthright, straight, handy, calm, forward, and reliable.

Straight, calm, and forward are still to be found in any modern equestrian discipline.
A reliable horse, who can cross any country at any gait without hesitation or missteps, is mostly found these days in cross-country (the discipline known here as "military"), hunters who actually ride to hounds, and ... accompanying the crazier sort of leisure rider.
Handy means much more than the olympic disciplines' notion of "supple"; the manual says that the horse should easily accelerate, brake, and change gaits and directions, which I take to mean that the horse meets the polo/western criteria of handiness: that they can do all of these things well enough to maneuver alongside a cow or other horse that is doing its best to be elsewhere ... or vice-versa.
A forthright horse isn't afraid of anything, certainly not herd-bound, attacks obstacles directly and instantly obeys the trooper's aids. Forthrightness is where war horse training departs most obviously from modern training. This isn't to say that most modern trainers don't appreciate forthrightness, just that no popular discipline (public order mounts, etc., among the exceptions) puts enough emphasis on this attribute to bother specifically training it.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby peterdk » 15 Jan 2013 19:23

thought you might like a few pictures of what could be considered as crowd control.
Image
a few others
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Image
the breed is from menorca and they are trained to rear and then walk/punch through crowds back in the day before turists, people got hurt quite often, as it is the crowds job to stop the horse, fun game for young men after a few liters of red wine.
i am considering adding one to my farm, as they are really calm and nice to handle :)

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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby peterdk » 15 Jan 2013 20:02

just to say how far we have evolved in the saddel department, traditionel saddel for these horses.
Image
these saddels are VERY tight, you really dont come out of it unless you want to :) i used one for jousting for awhile.

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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Chiron » 16 Jan 2013 06:47

That is cool!
Do you have anything I could reference.

Apropos running into people with horses, Dom Duarte just drops in that if you want to charge a crowd of people to apply spurs before collision in order to get an end spurt and keep him from turning away.

Ooh, nice saddle, I use a custom made California western with high cantle and bucking rolls, once you get in you tend not to leave unless you want to.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby peterdk » 16 Jan 2013 12:16

Chiron wrote:That is cool!
Do you have anything I could reference.


Chiron

just do a google search of menorca horses, and tap into the pictures. the reason i got pointed towards this, is a friend of mine, his brother has a studfarm there with the black color version, hopefully me and the family will be going there this summer to look for another horse for me, so more pictures of that in some months :)

the saddle is a ludomar saddle model menorquina, it is a varient of a portugese working saddle, if you need saddles like this from over here, PM me as we usually get some nice discounts.

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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 16 Jan 2013 19:45

Over in another hijacked thread, we've been discussing requirements for tourney horses:
Jonathan Waller wrote:Attain a explosive acceleration along rapid and controlled deceleration is what they have been wanting for the joust, similarly for the mounted melee along with rapid changes of direction.
For these rapid changes of direction, Pluvinel's square voltes are worth a look, especially if one wishes to work from sources fairly close to period. The distinction of a square volte from what we now call a volte is that instead of making a round figure, constantly curving, one makes a figure where all of its curvature is concentrated in the corners, and so one alternates straight lines with rapid changes of direction.

There's nothing particularly special about a square (other than it tends to line up nicely with walls for reference), one could imagine riding hexagons, etc. until getting back to the circular volte, or riding triangles, until ending at the passade. (a two-sided polygon, with a 180 degree corner at each end)

Chiron brought up rollbacks (with likely Fechtbüch references) as a good means of closing 180 degree corners, and in connection with this I'd like to mention Monte Foreman's "Horse-Training Science". Foreman is a bit more recent, but he's a link between old-school cavalry and modern sport science:
Foreman wrote:When I was a lieutenant in the army and assistant director of the Visual Aids Department of the Horse Cavalry School, Fort Riley, Kansas, I learned how effective motion pictures could be in research and training. Complicated movements that were too fast for the eye to analyze could be replayed in slow motion and studied. These were facts on film, not opinions.

He dedicates several chapters of the 20 chapters of his book to turning a horse rapidly in the opposite direction, depending upon which way one turns relative to current movement and which way one plans to go after the reverse.
There's very little excuse for not learning to perform western/polo-style rollbacks*, for as Foreman notes:
Foreman wrote:As of this writing, more than 75,000 students, each in less than twelve hours of instruction, have gained the ability to get and change leads at all speeds, perform 180-degree rolls, and make at least fair stops, with the confidence that with practice they can go on to make good ones.

Interestingly, Foreman points out that although the stop occurs in his text before the rollbacks, in clinic situations he always taught the rollbacks first, because they made the stops easy. This makes sense, because no horse wants to work hard to stop for no good reason -- but if he suspects he may need to suddenly run in the opposite direction, he'll be happy to stop sooner rather than later, to save himself the extra distance on the return trip.

[Edit: footnote]

* I learned them from, of all people, an english jumping instructor, and the story is somewhat edifying: she had noticed that when we turned out my horse, he enjoyed doing rollbacks along the fence (passades) for his own amusement, and she (having ridden with Jimmy Williams, who was a horseman: he not only produced both english and western champions in California but was also known for occasionally just messing around with the horses, e.g. playing football in the barn aisles with them) resolved that I should learn to ride them. The moral is that one should watch horses when they're playing, especially play-fighting with each other, and ask oneself: could I ride that move? do I know how to cue for it?
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 27 Jun 2013 22:13

As best I can tell from the images and machine translation, this (russian, C14 focus) text on the training of military horse touches on many of the topics discussed in this thread.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Monzambano » 28 Jun 2013 04:58

There is a major difference between pre-Napoleonic "war horses" and Napoleonic-and-onward "war horses". Along with all things aristocratic, the French Revolution did away with the refined riding schools in the spirit of Pluvinel, along with the small, short-backed, square-built horses on which this riding style was based. Napoleonic warfare brought a departure from the small, expensively trained professional armies - too valuable to waste in actual shooting - to the cannon-fodder mass levies of the patriotic nation-state. Valmi was the first clash between the two philosophies, and it took a string of stinging defeats before Napoleon's adversaries adapted, which they eventually and successfully did.
For these armies' cavalry, the only remaining available mass mount was not the short-backed aristocratic war-horse but the long-backed, larger carriage and peasant horses. Training ideals may hark back to the old schools, but there was no way these could be implemented in cavalry mount training for the troopers; if at all, the ideals were confined to the training of officers' mounts and officers.
Modern dressage is derived from baroque military training, and there is currently a raging controversy in the dressage world which simply stems from the fact that modern long-backed horses cannot perform the movements which come naturally to short-backed horses without massive "intervention" - in other words, cruel training methods.
Only few breeds remain that are true to the pre-Napoleonic standard, most of them Iberian - the Lipizzaner being the most obvious one, but also other Iberian breeds such as the Menorquin and the Spanish Mustang. Sadly, even in traditional breeds like Andalusians, the mania for breeding in larger stock is ruining a perfectly adapted horse.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 29 Jun 2013 18:40

There was certainly a large break due to the revolution, but even before the first 1er vendémiaire, military equitation was apparently (like "military intelligence"?) somewhat limited:
Looking at Montfaucon de Rogles (who taught in an elite light cavalry school, and published in 1778), one sees that the french school before the revolution was already rushed for military equitation. He lists that troopers needed to be able to go forward, turn left and right, back up, and their crowning achievement was sidepassing to dress their lines. He hopes officers know a bit more about riding, enough that they would be able to instruct their troopers sufficiently to be able to exercise their own horses, but this is stated as an ideal in the conditional tense. In any case, the more advanced exercises are superfluous; not only don't they expect a cavalry unit to be doing much individual duelling, but they also don't expect a military unit to have (much less be able to retain on campaign) the horsepower suitable for such activities.
(in our informal census of equestrian statues, it appears that even after the revolution the sort of officer who got their own statue —and presumably bought their own horses— preferred the shorter close-coupled models)
Monzambano wrote:... there is currently a raging controversy [stemming] from the fact that modern long-backed horses cannot perform the movements which come naturally to short-backed horses without massive "intervention" ...
Well, "cannot" is a bit categorical (cf Ahlerich), but my most cynical take on the argument given in [Daum1818] that it would be cheaper to let easterners train light cavalry horses is that if the gentlemen of the Hessen-Kassel remount station attempted to "intervene" with the light horses in the same manner they treated the heavies, it would not be surprising that they now and then had time to contemplate the economics of horse training while brushing the manège sand off their uniforms.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Monzambano » 30 Jun 2013 15:02

Dave Long wrote:There was certainly a large break due to the revolution, but even before the first 1er vendémiaire, military equitation was apparently (like "military intelligence"?) somewhat limited...


Thanks for this - I should probably say that the French Revolution and the exigencies, turmoil and national reorganisation of the Napoleonic Wars changed the dynamics of higher equestrian education. Before, refined equestrian education resided in the "civilian" courts of the aristocracy, and its practitioners brought these arts into the military simply by the fact that they officered the troops. Afterwards, military trainers (for the officers) became the main repositories of training wisdom.

Dave Long wrote:
Monzambano wrote:... there is currently a raging controversy [stemming] from the fact that modern long-backed horses cannot perform the movements which come naturally to short-backed horses without massive "intervention" ...
Well, "cannot" is a bit categorical...


I was here principally referring to the "Rollkur"/hyperflection/"low, deep and round" controversy in Germany - I'm not into modern dressage at all, so my statements come from conversations with individuals who have abandoned the modern dressage line and my reading up on the subject. But I've seen these methods even at our small local stable, and even though the official Swiss line is that the method is not just cruel, but counterproductive.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 01 Jul 2013 19:01

The refined statement agrees (for what it's worth) with my current understanding of the historical changes.

As to that particular polemic in the dressage world, it's a moot point for horsy HEMA. We need to use at least one hand for a weapon, which means we would much rather have the horse responding to seat and legs and posture than to hands. We also want our footwork to dominate our opponents', which means we should (a) ride the back of the horse, not the front (activate the hind and the front will take care of itself: the head carriage that the naive dresseur attempts to get by hauling on the reins comes for free when a horse goes to its "on guard" fighting crouch) , and (b) work together with our horse: if "submission" enters into anyone's head it should be our opponent's.

(Competitive dressage, like western pleasure, is rather far on the "show" end of the show vs go spectrum, and hence both disciplines suffer from fads where people attempt to get the look without the sweat. Consider a more "go" oriented discipline, like working cow: a horse who wants to out-maneouver a cow, and whose rider hasn't interfered, will carry his head in the correct place to turn rapidly)

(The swiss cavalry had a unique approach to keeping their horses fit. While many cavalries used dressage to make "simple things as difficult as possible" so a small number of professional riders could keep an entire unit's remounts fit, the swiss cavalry only admitted farmers, who had to take their horses home with them. Give a farmer a horse that eats every day, and you can be sure it will be working every day!)
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Chiron » 01 Jul 2013 19:35

Dave Long wrote:(The swiss cavalry had a unique approach to keeping their horses fit. While many cavalries used dressage to make "simple things as difficult as possible" so a small number of professional riders could keep an entire unit's remounts fit, the swiss cavalry only admitted farmers, who had to take their horses home with them. Give a farmer a horse that eats every day, and you can be sure it will be working every day!)


That hasn't been working quite so well lately :lol:

Changes in dressage mentality and application already started in the renaissance and the advent of the riding schools in my eyes, although it was most certainly as all things a process which culminated in napoleonic conscript cavalry. As far as the dressage goes, the Rollkur is a non starter for horsy HEMA, but it's merely the most dramatic result of a deeper philosophical problem in the discipline, we may see a more interactive riding style as "the way" for what we're doing, but not everybody does from what I've seen.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Monzambano » 02 Jul 2013 17:07

Chiron wrote:That hasn't been working quite so well lately :lol:


The Swiss system is that remounts live a "civilian" life during the year as working farm horses, and are called up for the refresher courses in the same way as the troops are (four-wheel-drive vehicles and lorries can be similarly drafted). Since we abolished the cavalry in 1971, we only have transport units (the "train") that use horses (http://www.he.admin.ch/internet/heer/de/home/themen/truppengattungen/die_logistiktruppen/VeterinaerdienstArmeetiere.html); at the same time, horses are no longer used for work - at best, they're used for driving, or for riding, or as lawn ornaments.

We went to the Train Kolonne 13 open house in April - of the 30 horses called up, 6 had to be sent back because of obesity.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Monzambano » 02 Jul 2013 17:23

Dave Long wrote:As to that particular polemic [Rollkur] in the dressage world, it's a moot point for horsy HEMA. We need to use at least one hand for a weapon, which means we would much rather have the horse responding to seat and legs and posture than to hands. ...


Agreed, the horse needs to know what it's doing and be an active participant, and that's only possible if the horse is comfortable and free to move - so the reins will be loose or lightly tensed. The hard riding on the bit I'm seeing with TBs just won't work.

But surely, the freely responsive horse should be the governing principle for dressage as well - instead, we have a cramped head and neck, exaggerated forehand action and an uncoupled, scraping-along backhand.
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Re: How were war horses trained?

Postby Dave Long » 07 Aug 2013 16:47

Just as people who weight train to improve sport performance may confidently steer clear of the more dubious practices of bodybuilders, it's possible to profit from the valuable parts of the dressage (the tai chi/yoga/"wax on wax off" of the olympic equestrian disciplines) system while avoiding the pitfalls.

In fact, Kurt Albrecht (ehem. Leiter der SRS), in his _Dogmen der Reitkunst_ (1981), both demonstrates that high level dressage people can see value in Horsy HEMA, and suggests that the modern DQ* is mistaken in approaching the performance of the exercises as a goal in itself, rather than working through the exercises as a means to reach a higher goal:

Albrecht wrote:Daß in Epochen, in denen der Mensch in hohem Maße auf eine »wirkliche Mitarbeit« des Pferdes angewiesen war — wie dies im Kriegs- und Kampfgeschehen zur Selbstverständlichkeit gehörte —, dieses »Verschmolzensein« von Pferd und Reiter den Kampfwert bestimmte, überliefen uns alle geschichtlichen Abhandlungen.
In times when large numbers of men were reliant on a "true collaboration" with the horse —as was a matter of course in war and combat action—, all historical treatises attest that this "fusion" of horse and rider determines their capability under pressure.

* the pejorative here is intentional; neither Albrecht nor I intend to tar all practitioners of his discipline with the same brush.
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