Thursday, 25 December 2008

The Great 'Forward Seat' Fraud

I have been threatening this Forward Seat expose for a long time, but the more I read the more irrelevant it seems. Hiding the accomplishments of African Americans and giving the credit to white Americans and Europeans, is no big deal in a few hundred years of oppression. But I've done the work, so I may as well stuff it up here to be ignored.

Dorian Williams is in the thick of it again, because the publishers of the 50's 60's and 70's knew that a TV Face meant sales. Dorian Williams slapped together a few anthologies for the easy money. If you look at this blog you will see a few familiar names coming up endlessly, well the same with Dorian Williams. Captain W. E. Lyon is his preferred expert on the Forward Seat, quoted here from his 1952 book, "Balance and the Horse"

"We now come to the much discussed "forward" seat which was invented by Captain Caprilli, an Italian officer, in or about 1904, and which thereafter was taught in the Italian Army and copied later by others on the Continent."

Nice, simple and positive. No room for doubt. No wonder he quotes him. Here is the self same Captain W. E. Lyon writing in The Horseman's Year in 1948.

"Steve Donoghue, who started riding in 1905 with short stirrups, says in his memoirs: "It is said that I was one of the first to copy the Tod Sloan crouch. It is not so; the Forward Seat in the saddle always came absolutely natural to me, and was always part and parcel of my riding. But I certainly always admired Sloan's riding; in fact I consider he was a genius on horseback." The italics are my own and speak for themselves.

Oddly enough it was at this identical time that Captain Caprilli initiated the principle of the Forward Seat, and all honour to him, but we know that instantaneous photography was in a pretty advanced stage by then, so is it not possible that a picture of Tod Sloan was imprinted on his subconscious mind when he "invented" the Forward Seat?

Then what are we to think about Tod Sloan, who was always boasting that his particular "Monkey-up-a-stick" seat - as it was called in those days - was entirely his own idea? When Sloan was riding in America, Huggins was training there, and it was then that the trainer cashed in on the secret of the crouching seat suggested to him by the way his little nigger boy rode.

Might not such a revolutionary and successful style of riding have been in Tod Sloan's mind when he "invented" the Forward Seat?

I feel sorry for that little "coloured gentleman", because nobody has ever given him any credit for inventing the Forward seat - but perhaps after all he was not the first in the field - maybe he saw a frightened little monkey sitting astride a branch in a high wind - a picture which may have imprinted itself on his subconscious mind!

Alas! We shall never know
.

So Federico Caprilli starts looking pretty unlikely as the inventor of the Forward Seat. In 1952 Captain W.E.Lyon seems really positive, yet here's all this stuff from only 4 years earlier which clearly predates the Caprilli 1904 "invention". What is extraordinary is that both sets of "facts" are written by the same man, Captain W.E. Lyon, an "officer and a gentleman" and as far as we can tell, an outright liar.

The quotes may have been originally published in 1952 and 1948, but I found them in anthologies edited by Dorian Williams. The first, 1952 quote is in the "Vanguard Book of Ponies and Riding" published in 1966, the 1948 quote appears in The Horseman's Companion, published in 1967. I can find no record of either Captain Lyon or Dorian Williams admitting they had published lies or correcting the error.

A knowledgeable few, know that the original Jockey described in England as riding like a monkey up a stick wasn't Tod Sloan, but Willie Simms. Simms, like Sloan was a brilliant American Jockey, winner of the Belmont and leading American jockey in 1893 and 1894. He won the Kentucky Derby in 1896 and 1898, the year he won the Preakness. He was the first American Jockey to win on an English course, and is described here in The Graphic, of May 11 1895.

Of greater interest than the horses has been the American rider Simms. He rides very forward on the saddle, with shortened stirrup leathers that force his knees high up, and as he leans so much forward that his hands are within a few inches of the bit, he presents a living image of the monkey on a stick, the resemblance being heightened by his negroid cast of countenance.

Willie Simms was one of that large band of brilliant African American jockeys, and one of only two to make it into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs. Captain W.E.Lyon has simply removed Willie Simms from English Equestrian history, presumably because he was black.

Life would be easy if we could just assume that the great Willie Simms is Captain W.E. Lyon's "little Nigger boy". But the story is deeper and murkier than that. It is clear that Willie Simms brought the forward seat to England. It is clear that Captain Lyon knew this and chose to hide it. Whether Dorian Willams knew about Willie Simms is debatable, it is clear he knew that Lyons was lying about the Forward Seat and was happy to republish his lies.

Huggins is the next character to join this merry little tale of deceit. Here again is Lyon's description of Huggins.

Then what are we to think about Tod Sloan, who was always boasting that his particular "Monkey-up-a-stick" seat - as it was called in those days - was entirely his own idea? When Sloan was riding in America, Huggins was training there, and it was then that the trainer cashed in on the secret of the crouching seat suggested to him by the way his little nigger boy rode.

And now an article in the New York Times.

It was with horses trained by Huggins that Tod Sloan won his early success in England, and Sloan's present international fame is due more to Huggins than to any other man connected with racing.

So, according to the New York Times of 1901 they didn't just work in the same industry, they were close working partners, and the fact was well known to all. Captain W.E. Lyon got his information from The Hon. George Lambton, an English trainer who coincidentally is also a contributor to Dorian Williams 1967 Anthology, the Horseman's Companion. Among other articles, Lambton contributes one on Tod Sloan.

John Huggins was a successful Texan horse trainer, and this story, written by W.E.Lyon was given to him by Lambton.

In the more primitive parts of America, "up country" there were many rough and ready race meetings, but the horses, though rough, were not often ready, and the same applied to the jockeys; that does not mean however that there were not a few useful horses about. Huggins, appreciating the situation, used to pick out one of his horses that had a bit of form, and send it round the country meetings. Anything that beat his horse he would buy, bring it home and win races with it - so improved was it by his good systematic training After a time in these 'up country' meetings, owners took to putting up black boys on their horses, probably because they were cheaper than the white boys. Huggins discovered to his cost that those horses which had been ridden by black boys and won 'up country' did not appear to make the same improvement as those he had bought in the old days.

This puzzled Huggins very much until one day, after he had bought a horse, the little black boy who had ridden him in his races asked Huggins to buy him as well so he could look after him. This Huggins did, but in his first race his new purchase was defeated easily by the horse that had beaten him 'up country' and the reason remained a mystery.

The darkie politely suggested that he should ride the horse in the next race, which he did, and won with some ease. This was no fluke, for almost anything he rode afterwards came past the post first.


Then at last the penny dropped, and this was the solution that came tumbling out od the slot. American jockeys in those early days were taught to ride in the approved fashion, with even longer stirrups and straighter backs than the English jockeys. The black boys, on the other hand were never taught to ride at all nor were they allowed the luxury of saddles; so that with- at the most- a rug to sit on, they used to tuck their knees up and by means of crouching and hanging onto the horse's mane, managed to stay on.

Huggins, shrewd observer that he was, saw that they 'had something there'. So this position, through the instrumentation of Huggins became the craze.


So a bunch of untrained, underpaid, African Americans are thrashing the best that white America can do, and Captain W.E.Lyons, gives Huggins, that "shrewd observer" the credit. And knowing the whole Forward Seat" revealed history is total lies, Dorian Williams continues to publish those same lies.

For further reading see this link

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Ubuntu Horsemanship. Open Horse

I started describing the disgusting way the British Equestrian Establishment buried the African American invention of the "Forward Seat". This became Ex Africa semper aliquid novi, the theory of an African origin for Natural Horsemanship discovered when I pulled back the racist curtain obscuring Dorian Williams's view of horsemanship.
Combined with a brief digression on Ubuntu, the name of a software system and an African philosophy, I have the weird feeling I have a workable and near universal style of horsemanship that will work in the 21st Century.

Two paragraphs written by Dorian Willams in 1964, are critical to this philosophy.

"The reaction of the horse to the tempo and personality of the rider was very vividly demonstrated to me some years ago in Johannesburg. I was going to the races one day, and as I drove through the city I saw to my amazement some of the horses that were going to run in the races being ridden through the streets- through all the busy, noisy traffic- by their grooms, who were native boys. The horses were thoroughbreds, bred on exactly the same lines as our own racehorses, and yet whereas our horses would have been all over the place, demanding the most skilled handling, these were just jogging disinterestedly along on a loose rein! Now those African boys are very lazy and lethargic by temperament. It would never occur to them to hurry or to get excited, and they just drift along, their complete lack of understanding communicating itself to their horses."

"I once had a horse that had in fact been a confirmed runaway and was so highly strung that even out exercising it would become so excited that I could hardly manage it. Fortunately I had a girl working for me who, though she had never been taught properly to ride, and had no experience at all before coming to me, yet was blessed with a wonderfully calm and sympathetic temperament. As a result she could ride the horse without any difficulty at all. With her, that horse never became excited, even when hunting fit and getting more than 16 lbs of oats each day. Thanks to her nature and temperament she was able to catch with little difficulty horses and ponies that were a real problem to the others."


Dorian Willams, the author of these paragraphs, was an experienced horseman from a "horsey" family. He was a British Horse Society Hall of Fame, Laureate, and the BBC's first and greatest Equestrian TV commentator. A good eye and an understanding of horsemanship were the minimum qualifications for his job, yet he dismisses the skills of these Africans in the crudest racist terms. He accepts without explanation, that a girl, who he admits he hadn't trained properly, and who had no "horsey" background, was better than him. Not that he tells us who she is, she's only a servant. Yet with 20/20 hindsight from the 21st Century what do we see.

African stable lads*, effortlessly outclassing anything Newmarket could produce in terms of horsemanship. An untrained and inexperienced girl who could out perform the best in Dorian Williams own yard. Today we would say, "Natural Horsemanship", but that leaves the question of where it came from. What factors do the African horsemen, and that brilliant girl at the Williams yard, share? They haven't been properly taught.

It is difficult to make a training program out of that, but you watch, I will do it. Just to complicate issues and add to the fun I will throw in the concept of Open Horse into the bargain.
Open Horse is the horseman's version of the Computer enthusiast's Open Source. Ideas are open for all to see and for all to build upon. You can add what you like to it, but anything you build on an Open Horse platform, becomes Open Horse in its own right, and anyone can use it.

I know where I am going, so I am sticking this on Blogger as a starting point. Add comments if you want. The concept is there. It just hammered me between the eyes as I walked down the road. Listening to the Pogues and The Old Main Drag, everything is coming together in my brain but here, if you are interested, is the heart of the system.

The Africans and the Girl learned from their horses, not people. They were servants, they didn't have power, or authority, or class, or status. So they used what they had, their brains, their eyes, their ears, and their sympathy with others at the bottom of the food chain. Ubuntu carries some of these ideas, a feeling of fitting into a society, and being respected for who you are, where you are. They let themselves fit in with the horses. In Africa, and in Williams's yard, horses would have been considered more important than the African lads* or an English working girl.

It is a prey thing, us together against the world. Rulers don't get it. They use it, they don't live it.


I've seen it work and I've missed it, I've missed it endlessly but I am beginning to see it wherever I look.

This is a work in progress and steals half the concepts that are inherent in the next piece, so you will just have to live with the repetition. Tough. The following pieces stand on their own feet, but were written before I wrote this, so they may change with time. But change defines time.

* My use of the word "lads" has specific English connotations and describes any menial employee of a racing stable of any age or sex. When Dorian Williams uses the word "boy" I presume he is intending the colonial meaning, a male servant of any age.

Ex Africa semper aliquid novi.

Ex Africa semper aliquid novi. This is a first, I have never used Latin when writing about horses; when writing about rats I became convinced I could write a paragraph where I used the same word nine times in a row. Rattus rattus rattus is Latin name for the Black rat, the bearer of the plague and the fifth most endangered mammal in Britain, (and for some reason, there doesn't seem to be any funding for protecting it). Anyway, if you end a sentence with Rattus rattus rattus and start the next with Rattus rattus rattus, it should be possible to insert a clause starting Rattus rattus rattus and get all nine lined up in a row with only punctuation in the way. By any standards a truly pointless activity, but it gives a clue to the sort of brain which, while trawling for odd information on the origin of the Forward Seat, discovered a plausibly African origin for Natural Horsemanship.


So the quote, Ex Africa semper aliquid novi, attributed to almost everyone Roman, and even to Aristotle, but not, due to the fact that it is in Latin, to Oscar Wilde or Sir Winston Churchill, to whom most quotes are attributed, means "Out of Africa, always something new". To some this was apparently a sneer, since nothing coming out of Africa is reliable. Regrettably true as the whole human race came out of Africa, but we will ignore such snobbery and cynicism and look at the evidence.


I was reading a 1966 Dorian Williams children's pony anthology, the Vanguard Book of Ponies and Riding, sad, I know, but a mine of information, looked at with 21st century 20/20 hindsight. Dorian Willams, for my younger readers, is a British Horse Society Hall Of Fame Laureate, the original BBC equestrian commentator, son of the founders of British Dressage and the Pony Club, in other words, a man who knows one end of a horse from the other etc. I came across this stunning passage titled the Psychology of the Horse, a short piece written by Dorian Williams and originally published in 1964 as "Learning to Ride".


"The reaction of the horse to the tempo and personality of the rider was very vividly demonstrated to me some years ago in Johannesburg. I was going to the races one day, and as I drove through the city I saw to my amazement some of the horses that were going to run in the races being ridden through the streets- through all the busy, noisy traffic- by their grooms, who were native boys. The horses were thoroughbreds, bred on exactly the same lines as our own racehorses, and yet whereas our horses would have been all over the place, demanding the most skilled handling, these were just jogging disinterestedly along on a loose rein! Now those African boys are very lazy and lethargic by temperament. It would never occur to them to hurry or to get excited, and they just drift along, their complete lack of understanding communicating itself to their horses."


The tragedy of racism isn't just the offence caused by Williams' descriptions of Africans. It is the way prejudice blinded him to the world around him. He wrote this in 1964, and he wasn't unusually prejudiced for his age, but Dorian Willams, as a sports commentator, must have noticed the incredible performances of Wilma Rudolph in the 1960 Rome Olympics. As the first American woman to win three Golds, as the first Polio victim to do so, as an incredible sprinter winning the 100m, the 200m and 400m relay, he would probably have noticed her, even if the fact that she was black hadn't registered. Lazy and lethargic by temperament, I don't think so.


Dorian Williams is able to observe, and describe for us, brilliant horsemanship, but is too blinded by prejudice to know what he has seen. Thousands of children read, and trusted, his books on horsemanship, and could have learned Natural Horsemanship from these masters over 40 years ago. These African stable lads, by his own admission, outclass everyone at Newmarket. He says "whereas our horses would have been all over the place, demanding the most skilled handling, these were just jogging disinterestedly along on a loose rein!" But rather than look for skill, or ability, he chooses to denigrate the Africans.

He's not much better about women who lack a suitably "horsey" background. In the next paragraph he states,


"I once had a horse that had in fact been a confirmed runaway and was so highly strung that even out exercising it would become so excited that I could hardly manage it. Fortunately I had a girl working for me who, though she had never been taught properly to ride, and had no experience at all before coming to me, yet was blessed with a wonderfully calm and sympathetic temperament. As a result she could ride the horse without any difficulty at all. With her, that horse never became excited, even when hunting fit and getting more than 16 lbs of oats each day. Thanks to her nature and temperament she was able to catch with little difficulty horses and ponies that were a real problem to the others."


This girl had come to him with no experience at all, he admits he never taught her properly and she can do things with horses he can't do. And he can't see what she has, what those African Horsemen have, and interestingly what my other computer has.

Ubuntu.

It is a Zulu word, it is the name of a version of Linux software, but above all, it is an intensely African concept. I have taken a definition of Ubuntu from an article on marketing in Africa. If western trained marketing experts feel it is important to understand the concept of ubuntu, this must be a pervasive, important and effective philosophy. It is more than a philosophy, it is a behaviour pattern, but one that horses would find sympathetic. It is not the mad selfish grab of Western Capitalism, it isn't top down Communism, it is people as a community, a group where all have an identity in that group, understanding and accepting that status. It is what Natural Horsemanship teaches us to see in our horses, but in Africa it is a philosophy to be lived. Here is the marketing man's take on ubuntu.

The power of the community and Word of Mouth:

Visitors to Lagos, Kigali, Addis Ababa or most other African cities will have noticed the sheer impossibility of finding your own way around. Maps of these cities are generally not available or way out of date, but they would not be of much help anyway as streets and locations are not generally marked. Shopping in Africa is also worlds away from the West – most shopping takes place in open markets seething with crowds of people going about their business with enthusiasm and passion. Few items are priced and the actual act of buying involves a spirited debate with the store owner about the virtues of the product in question and the price to be paid for it. In a city such as London, the traveller arrives and can buy a comprehensive map from an automated machine at the airport. A trip to the shops is a quick, convenient low maintenance affair. But the real difference between these two types of city is one of social interaction. Western civilisation is designed to reduce face to face interaction with others to an absolute minimum – in London it is possible, even commonplace, to commute across the city on public transport, buy a load of groceries and get a take away meal on the way home without ever speaking to another human being.


Such a disconnect from the rest of humanity is anathema to African culture. Day to day life in African countries is an exceptionally social experience – everything from meals to shopping to working and commuting is characterised by ongoing conversation and interaction that is very exhausting for the Western traveller. Street signs and maps are unnecessary – everyone knows where things are and if they don’t they can just ask, so where’s the problem?


When you grow up in townships or rural areas, as is the case in other African countries you are taught the values of the community, which are highly respected and treasured. This point is embodied in the concept of Ubuntu. South African manager Reuel Khoza describes Ubuntu as the philosophy of “I am because you are, you are because we are.” It is a concept, he says, “which brings to the forefront images of supportiveness, cooperation, and solidarity, that is, communalism”. (World Business Academy 1997)


How unlike the home life of our own dear queen.

I don't know how the lady working for Dorian Williams acquired her skills, certainly not from the accepted "horsemen" of the day. Dorian Willams, for whom she was working, had never taught her properly to ride. Were the Africans taught, maybe one of them was a natural "natural horseman" and taught the others, but I suspect it was the concept of Ubuntu which made it easy for them to relate to horses, and to work with them, rather than impose the domination that Dorian Williams and traditional horsemanship expects. We have a brief glimpse of a skill, yet I can find no other records of this incredible skill. Like the nameless girl in his stable who outclassed the professionals, they come from the wrong class and the wrong race to be horsemen, or for their abilities to be recorded and respected.


I will be looking further at the concepts of Ubuntu and successful horsemanship and for those who feel I am as snobbish and racist as Dorian Williams with my assertion that it wasn't an African stable lad who came up with the idea, wait for the next section of this blog where I show how much of our accepted Western Horsemanship is stolen from African horsemanship and the concept of Ubuntu.

Dorian Williams was himself involved in burying the true history of the Forward Seat but that is the next story.

Let us just remember these two passages:

"I once had a horse that had in fact been a confirmed runaway and was so highly strung that even out exercising it would become so excited that I could hardly manage it. Fortunately I had a girl working for me who, though she had never been taught properly to ride, and had no experience at all before coming to me, yet was blessed with a wonderfully calm and sympathetic temperament. As a result she could ride the horse without any difficulty at all. With her, that horse never became excited, even when hunting fit and getting more than 16 lbs of oats each day. Thanks to her nature and temperament she was able to catch with little difficulty horses and ponies that were a real problem to the others."

I was going to the races one day, and as I drove through the city I saw to my amazement some of the horses that were going to run in the races being ridden through the streets- through all the busy, noisy traffic- by their grooms, who were native boys. The horses were thoroughbreds, bred on exactly the same lines as our own racehorses, and yet whereas our horses would have been all over the place, demanding the most skilled handling, these were just jogging disinterestedly along on a loose rein!


Incredible skill, it deserves to acknowledged at last.




Monday, 22 December 2008

The Future of the Saddlechariot.

To anyone interested in the saddlechariot and its future, which is looking good.

For me this is a sad moment as I bow out of the Saddlechariot project. I am doing it to keep the Saddlechariot project viable for all my customers and suppliers, and all those who have believed in the idea of a safe horse drawn vehicle.

As of the New Year,2009, I have no financial connection with, or control over, Saddlechariots. My wife and children retain a financial interest but no control. In part I have done this as I have heard frequent claims that the reason people won't look at the Saddlechariot is because I am arrogant........ I am. But I have built a safe horsedrawn vehicle. Since I am no longer part of the Saddlechariot project, my arrogance is no longer relevant.

The company is financially viable, and will be run by my nephew, Charles Mulholland, who has helped me over the past few years with development and construction issues. He has had no part in any statements I may have made about the saddlechariot, I will leave him to make his own. Charles also has no responsibility for any financial decisions, or any other decisions made before January 2009.

I am making it absolutely clear that Charles has no involvement in the past. If anyone thinks that he or the company, when no longer under my control or ownership, are legitimate targets for those who dislike me, I would make it clear that to attack someone for the actions of another is both illegal and immoral. I hope those who have attacked me and the saddlechariot in the past, and refused to look at my work, will not continue their vendetta against the innocent.

On a lighter note I would like to thank all my 100 plus customers, and to point out that although I am now well on the wrong side of the credit crunch, I freely acknowledge I owe them a massive debt and will continue to support and help them in any way I can.

As always, anyone is welcome to see the Saddlechariot. In eight years I never refused the chance to demonstrate the Saddlechariot, (except once, the individual concerned chose to attack me through my children, before claiming to be prepared to give the saddlechariot an honest assessment. Not surprisingly I had no enthusiasm for any contact with someone so morally reprehensible.)

I will continue to work in the horse world, and am happy to demonstrate my rather eccentric skills with horses and saddlechariots. I will also continue with my work to bring ponies back into useful life, especially in inner cities. This may well involve Saddlechariots until someone invents a better safer system. I will also continue to develop the wheelchair friendly version of the Saddlechariot. As this is a bolt on goody to the existing saddlechariot, ie an aftermarket conversion, I can do this independently of the saddlechariot company, or with them if they like my ideas.

I will not stop being me, a bloody minded individual who believes he can make things better and who enjoys writing about and mucking around with ponies. If you have a market for over the top writing, I might be your man. If you want to see what ponies can do, ditto.

If you want to contact me, I remain simon@saddlechariot.com and simon@naturaldriving.co.uk and 07928 785220. All my blogs and websites are remaining with me, though they will have links to the company for those who wish to buy a Saddlechariot. I am retaining the websites because I wrote them, and I meant (almost) every word I said. Occasionally I wasn't offensive enough. Charles and the future of Saddlechariots are not responsible for what I said. I am, and I will keep my websites up there in cyberspace so nobody can claim I am hiding anything.

It only remains to thank all those who helped me over the eight years the saddlechariot has been going, my suppliers, my customers, my friends and family. Despite everything, I still think the Saddlechariot is worth it. Without my abrasive character, it can go anywhere, and I wish it the very best of luck. I will of course do anything in my power to make the Saddlechariot succeed. Why wouldn't I?

Simon

Love the Pony, Hate the People.

At a cocktail party you always hear snippets of conversations, just enough to interest, never enough to know exactly what is being said. Your road is mentioned, and new arrivals moving in........ Arabs, luckily your hosts have the good sense to have red wine coloured carpets. Gypsies, now the vol au vent has hit the carpet and that does show, Welsh, that sounds a bit better, at least Anne Robinson won't move in, bloody Irish, whatever next. Moroccans, Native Americans.............. you can relax. It's OK they're only talking about horses, so that's OK isn't it?


Arabs are noble, courageous and well mannered, intensely loyal, totally trustworthy. Gypsies, honest as the day is long, strong but gentle, kind, not as pretty as the Welsh, not as fiery, and the Irish, pure class, gentlemen every one of them. Morocco, the Barbary Coast, home of the Barb, fiery and strong, dependable and brave, and Apaloosas dignified but free spirits like their owners. You can't go wrong praising the ponies, just try praising the people at the same cocktail party.


Arabs, Gypsies, Welsh, Irish, Moroccan and Native American. We love the ponies, how do we treat the people? The Bedouin whose love for their ponies is legendrary (and fills the sales blurb on Arab Horse sites), and whose oral traditions of breeding records are totally trusted on those same sites, how are they doing these days. Their way of life is being destroyed, their claims to their own land, based on the same testimony which makes their horses pedigrees watertight, is ignored. They are displaced, betrayed, ignored and if we carry on they will disappear.


We don't have many Bedouin in England, so we don't hound nomadic Bedouins out of existence, we have Gypsies to hound out instead. And guess what, Gypsies, "coming from a culture that, traditionally, has not kept written records, the best bloodlines were all kept and recorded only in memory." Now where have I heard that theory before. Like Arabs, everything you can say about Gypsy ponies, you wouldn't say about the people, which justifies destroying their way of life. The Welsh, well we don't really mind them that much any more, they can keep Wales, we've taken the coal now. The Irish, well everyone loves the Irish, we thought they were so great, we gave millions of them as a present to the USA. Shame so many got lost on the way, but if they will choose to ship out on cheap coffin ships, what do they expect.


In fact we like the Irish and respect their horsemanship so much, we made it illegal. Here from the Statutes of Kilkenny 1367, “Whereas at the conquest of the land of Ireland, and for a long time after, the English of the said land used the English language, mode of riding and apparel, and were governed and ruled, both they and their subjects called Betaghes, according to the English law, in which time God and holy Church, and their franchises according to their condition were maintained and themselves lived in due subjection; but now many English of the said land, forsaking the English language, manners, mode of riding, laws and usages, live and govern themselves according to the manners, fashion, and language of the Irish enemies;”


Well at least we haven't tried to make the riding style of the Bedouin, or the Gypsy illegal.......... or have we. Gypsy fairs that don't have written records are removed from the calendar despite "coming from a culture that, traditionally, has not kept written records, the best bloodlines were all kept and recorded only in memory."


We can't separate People from Ponies.


Modern horsemanship tells us there are no bad horses, just bad trainers, and that like begets like. An honest trainer produces honest horses, a kind trainer, kind horses, confident trainer, confident horses, and I agree.


The same is true for breeds. Breeders were trainers, when horses stayed within walking distance of the fields where they were born. The animals took on the personalities of their owners as they fitted in to their way of life. But it was more than that, they shared a life, man and horse co existing in a tough environment, adapting to each others strengths and weaknesses, learning and developing together. Man and horse took on each other's character traits blending into one unit, uniquely fitted for the way of life. Arabs and Arabs developed together, Gypsies and Gypsies, Irish and Irish.


Here is William Youatt writing in 1888 about the Arab. "The colt is never allowed to fall on the ground at the period of birth, but is caught in the arms of those who stand by, and washed and caressed as though it was an infant. The mare and her foal inhabit the same tent with the Bedouin and his children. The neck of the mare is often the pillow of the rider, and more frequently, of the children, who are rolling about upon her and the foal. No accident ever occurs, and the animal acquires that friendship and love for man which occasional ill-treatment will not cause her a moment to forget.

At the end of a month the foal is weaned, and is fed on camel's milk for one hundred days. At the expiration of that period, a little wheat is allowed; and by degrees that quantity is increased, the milk continuing to be the principal food. This mode of feeding continues another hundred days, when the foal is permitted to graze in the neighbourhood of the tent. Barley is also given; and to this some camel's milk is added in the evening, if the Arab can afford it. By these means the Arab horse becomes as decidedly characterised for his docility and good temper, as for his speed and courage. The kindness with which he is treated from the time of his being foaled, gives him an affection for his master, a wish to please, a pride in exerting every energy in obedience to his commands, and, consequently, an apparent sagacity which is seldom found in other breeds. In that delightful book, Bishop Heber's 'Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces of India,' the following interesting character is given of him: --

'My morning rides are very pleasent. My horse is a nice, quiet, good-tempered little Arab, who is so fearless, that he goes without starting close to an elephant, and so gentle and docile that he eats bread out of my hand, and has almost as much attachment and coaxing ways as a dog. This seems the general character of the Arab horses, to judge from what I have seen in this country. It is not the fiery dashing animal I had supposed, but with more rationality about him, and more apparent confidence in his rider than the majority of English horses.'


If we love the ponies, how can we mistreat them, if we love the ponies, how can we mistreat those who made them what they are.


If you love the ponies, how can you hate the people?


Friday, 19 December 2008

All I want for Christmas is a whip!

"Daddy, can I have a ******* for Christmas." Fill in the blanks from stick insect to giraffe, but for most people it will be the tried and tested mouse, gerbil, hamster, guinea pig, ferret, rabbit (because the ferret needs a toy)....... you get the drift. Endlessly repeated conversations, ghastly magazines featuring excessively fluffy examples of the species which, being magazines, don't feature the smell. You get all the promises to tidy rooms, do homework, get up at five in the morning, lick road clean with tongue.

So you crack and you get the pet, and the equipment, and just how much equipment a small rodent that you would have to pay HireaKiller a complete fortune to eradicate, apparently costs to keep alive, is frightening. You survey this mound of overpriced junk, and the sheer range of equipment is mind boggling, but you can reasonably predict what won't be there. Bondage equipment, whips and other torture related paraphernalia. This is necessary equipment for a pet. Who buys a pet for their sweet little child, and then gives that child a whip with which to hit said pet?

Horsey People, of course.
Why?

Because in today's "horsey set" to do horsemanship without a whip, bit, spurs and the full range of bondage accoutrements is so irredeemably lower class. It wasn't always thus. Here is classic description of a small boy and a pony in 1839.

"Half a dozen laden waggons" says Sir George Head "are dragged along the railroad to the particular drop then at work, by a stout cob, which is then ridden carelessly back again, barebacked by a small boy, at a shambling trot; notwithstanding that the interstices between the planks below admit, here and there, full two inches of daylight. However the pony proceeeds, clattering on unconcernedly, otherwise than by holding his snout close to the floor, the better and more cautiously to observe where to place his feet at every step.
.............The beast when I witnessed his performance, had only a halter on his head, without winkers, or any harness except collar and light rope traces. As soon as the boy had fastened the lock of the trace to the foremost waggon, the pony invariably turned round his head, as if to enquire whether all was ready,and then, exactly at the proper moment, commenced his march, the load, meanwhile, rumbling after him: arrived at the drop, the carriages being detached, he here stood jammed close to the wall; shewing perfect cognizance as the carriages passed him, of the degree of attention due to the various noises and manoevres going forward, and not only being aware when it was proper to step out of the way, but how long precisely it was safe to stand still."


Look what is being described. This is skill and courage and true horsemanship. A small boy working a cob is shifting fifteen tons of coal on each trip, in the Drops, huge buildings on stilts over the Middlesborough mudflats to load coal on keels at all states of the tide. The coal industry is notoriously dangerous, from 1873 to 1953 there were only 4 years when hauling coal didn't kill over 100 people in the UK. Some years it killed 300 and never less than 88. The boy and cob are working as a team, trusting each other for their survival.

In an era when cruelty was normal and bear baiting had only just been banned, this kid is working without a whip, without a bit and without reins, yet the perfect working bond is clear to an observer. One hundred and eighty years later, the Pony Club still make it compulsory for any child advancing past the D Test, suggested for 10 year olds, to show they can "Hold the reins correctly and carry a whip in either hand."

Why? We are talking about a small child with a pet. What is it about the horse that justifies this insane attitude. Children can control ponies without hitting them. You have just read the evidence. Children can control ponies in areas where the pony's obedience is vital to safety. Sir George Head says "how long precisely it was safe to stand still." If either party got it wrong 15 tons plus rolled into them. A working class kid surrounded by danger, can work without whips and bits and spurs, but the Pony Club in 2007 hasn't learned how to communicate with an animal without hitting it.

Surely they have read Black Beauty, written 40 years after the description of this kid. Merrylegs, Black Beauty's small pony friend, is interesting on the subject of whips.

"The other children had ridden me about for nearly two hours, and then the boys thought it was their turn, and so it was, and I was quite agreeable. They rode me by turns, and I galloped them about, up and down the fields and all about the orchard, for a good hour. They had each cut a great hazel stick for a riding- whip, and laid it on a little too hard; but I took it in good part, till at last I thought we had had enough, so I stopped two or three times by way of a hint. Boys, you see, think a horse or pony is like a steam- engine or a thrashing-machine, and can go on as long and as fast as they please; they never think that a pony can get tired, or have any feelings; so as the one who was whipping me could not understand I just rose up on my hind legs and let him slip off behind—that was all. He mounted me again, and I did the same. Then the other boy got up, and as soon as he began to use his stick I laid him on the grass, and so on, till they were able to understand—that was all. They are not bad boys; they don’t wish to be cruel. I like them very well; but you see I had to give them a lesson. When they brought me to James and told him I think he was very angry to see such big sticks. He said they were only fit for drovers or gypsies, and not for young gentlemen.”


Only fit for drovers and Gypsies, not for young gentlemen.


Sir George Head was describing a small boy driving an animal for a living in the coal mining industry. Of the three descriptions open, he might have been a Gypsy, you could call him a drover, but I don't think anyone would call him a young gentlemen. He didn't use a whip, yet for the Pony Club's young gentlemen it is compulsory.

The Pony Club only insist that 10 years olds should carry a whip. They aren't specifically required to use it, but that gentle approach doesn't last for long. By the time they do the A test, they'd better be competent, and enthusiastic with a whip. Here is the opening three lines of the instruction for the Pony Cub's top test.

HINTS FOR TAKING THE TEST * Dress tidily and cleanly, wear gloves and carry a stick or whip. * Arrive at the Test centre in plenty of time to walk the Cross Country and Show Jumping Courses.

Now here are the sample questions for the Pony Club top level test and the Pony Club's suggested answer.

Avoid the ‘pat' or ‘book' answer. Don't try to display all your knowledge. Instead, think seriously about the horse and then in the simplest terms possible, explain what faults there are and how you would go about overcoming them. For example:

* Q. What do you think about the way the horse is going?
o A. He is on his forehand and lazy.

* Q. How would you go about improving him?
o A. The real problem is laziness; he doesn't respond to my leg aids.
o This is the first thing I would correct. I would re-inforce my leg aids with my stick until he became obedient. When he learns to go with more energy , I can expect more activity from his hindlegs and hind-quarters; he should then become a more balanced ride. It should then be possible to work to improve him.

* The ‘pat' reply might have been:
o A. He needs more schooling. I would do a lot of turns, circles and transitions. Riding over undulating country might help.


So the unsatisfactory "pat" reply suggests suppling exercise and a bit of variety, but this is the Pony Club. You'ld better beat enthusiasm into the animal if you want to pass..

This is Copyright 2008 taken from the Pony Club website

What would Anna Sewell, the author of Black Beauty, say, what would Black Beauty and Merrylegs say? Probably not a lot, they would have learned from the whip to do what is required without question.

But you are an intelligent human being. Just ask yourself, when you buy a whip for a horse mad youngster, would you let them use this on any other pet. And if you wouldn't, as a Christmas present to all the other horses and ponies out there, just ask what the ponies and horses have done to deserve all these whips?

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Horses NEED Scientists.

The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins marvellous work, shows why horses need scientists. The Selfish Gene says nothing about horses and everything about animal behaviour and therefore, since we are animals, our behaviour.

(If you aren't an animal, and some Supreme Being specifically created you to be different from animals and to Lord it over them, I wonder why He used so many animal spare parts, ie 96% Chimpanzee DNA. Is He too lazy or just not omnipotent enough.)

As Dawkins endlessly points out, we are not helpless puppets of our genetic make up, any more than horses are. But unless we understand the relationship between our behaviour and our survival, we cannot understand our behaviour, or our horses.
Identifying the limiting factors in behaviour, increases our freedom. If I assume I can do anything I like, and jump from the top of a cliff, my subsequent choices, unless I am a bird, are limited to zero. A bird can jump off cliffs, I can't.

Am I imprisoned by my genes as I stand at the top of the Eiffel Tower. I have a choice that is not open to birds other than Ostriches and Kiwis. I can commit suicide. (Do flightless birds acquire a fear of heights? An easy test of the popularity of my writing will be the number of research scientists shoving large flightless birds towards the edge of high buildings while monitoring their stress levels.)

Death is always an alternative, failure to breed, in survival terms, (as understood by geneticists), is more lethal. A male spider is eaten by his mate, but he is eaten while copulating, a survival mechanism. Being eaten as part of courtship is not a survival mechanism. Endless behaviour patterns affect survival in less dramatic ways, and with less obvious outcomes.

Survival is a statistical science and statistics range from near certainty, me jumping off the Eiffel Tower, to my ancestor deciding whether to continue stalking a particular horse. He has invested 2 hours time and energy already, and if he stops, that will be a total waste, but there might be an easier, lame animal back at the water hole. In survival terms the individual making the better decision, more often will probably have more progeny, (ie eventually, me,) and so on. If the behaviour pattern to cut your losses, is genetically linked, it will outperform its rivals, if cutting your losses proves to be the correct strategy. And the definition of correct is that animals with that behaviour pattern will survive and pass on this tendency to cut their losses.

When I, the distant progeny of the "cut your losses" hunter, work with a pony which is being awkward, my inherited instinct is saying, "forget it, there is an easier animal just down the road", but this ignores the factor of the environment, the world in which we live and operate. I am being paid to work with this pony. My customer won't pay if I stroll off to work with an easier animal, so my present day survival assessment overrides the inherited tendency to cut my losses, because I know that I am being paid by the hour.

An alternative scenario where the pony takes one look at me and attacks, I will cut my losses like a shot. I may be being paid but I am not being paid that well. The final scenario includes the Robert Redford effect. Robert Redford certainly had a major effect on Natural Horsemanship, with his role in the Horse Whisperer. If you look good in tight jeans, cowboy hat and boots, can walk into a pen with a dangerous horse and get out alive; your chances of ending up in bed with the co-star are considerably enhanced. And this is definitely a survival behaviour as understood by geneticists. They just don't get the chance to try it out as often as they would like.

I hoped the Selfish Gene would explain the horse, instead it explains my motivations, and the motivations of all horse people. To understand how we affect the horse, we must understand our motivations, how they make us behave, how our behaviour affects and is perceived by the horse, and what survival programs the horse is running which dictate how it responds................. It is tempting to give up, but look at football. The classic description of footballer kicking a ball as perceived by a scientist.

"The drag force, FD, on a ball increases with the square of the velocity, v, assuming that the density, r, of the ball and its cross-sectional area, A, remain unchanged: FD = CDrAv2/2. It appears, however, that the "drag coefficient", CD, also depends on the velocity of the ball. For example, if we plot the drag coefficient against Reynold's number - a non-dimensional parameter equal to rv D /µ, where D is the diameter of the ball and µ is the kinematic viscosity of the air - we find that the drag coefficient drops suddenly when the airflow at the surface of the ball changes from being smooth and laminar to being turbulent.”

How many footballers understand that paragraph? Do you? I stuck it in and I think I have some vague inkling of what it is about. But a scientist can understand it, and explain, in the simple, ball, boot, football pitch world, how it works, either to each player, or more likely to a coach who persuades the players to practice kicking the ball with sideways action to impart spin.

Horsemanship needs Scientists. There are footballers who can perform magic with a ball, without understanding the process, there are people who can perform similar magic with horses, persuading them to perform, perfectly, effortlessly and beautifully. There are people who can do the same with people, charm, empathy, charisma all describe an ability to persuade other people to agree.

For these gifted individuals, Science is actively bad. The heroic horsetrainer doesn't want some fat unfit slob walking in and instantly taming the horse. Bang go his chances with the heroine. But the fat unfit slob would buy into a system that taught him to tame the horse and get the heroine in bed. Rivalry, the very heart of the Selfish Gene. Nobody endowed with a natural benefit wants to see it handed around to everyone. There goes your survival advantage.

There are two parties in every relationship. In this case, horse and man. For the sake of the horse, its time to share around a little knowledge, and that is why we need the scientists. Horse behaviour, horse ethology, is a Scientific desert. The horse is just a transport system. So is the car, yet Google "car scientist" and geeks are all over the place, Google "Horse scientist" and real science, is frighteningly thin on the ground. Peer reviewed academic journals featuring horsemanship, or any element of horsemanship are almost invisible.

The horse deserves better. Horse veterinary medicine is totally scientific as befits an offshoot of the Agricultural Industry but the whole behavioural field is actively ignored. The reasons derive from two very different power structures. Agriculture is massive, still employing nearly half the worlds population. Any policies on animal welfare have massive and unpredictable consequences to the global economy. Horses are just another farm animal so welfare issues are political dynamite.

Horses are also the longest serving status symbol, reinforcing attitudes to class, war and political dominance. "Equestrian activities" virtually define the ruling classes. Look at political iconography, from Alexander onwards, no military leader can afford to be seen without a massive power symbol between his legs. The riders are armed, booted and spurred, carrying whips and holding reins attached to implements of torture in the horses mouth. Look at the facial expressions of the horses.

Suggesting a policy of loving kindness to the horse contradicts thousands of years of history, policy and the power structure of todays ruling class. Scientists haven't looked at horse welfare because the easiest way to control science is to control funding. How many of those on the Universtity Funding Comittes are, or have a close family member, involved in elitist horsemanship. Is it really worth blowing the University Science Budget just for the Horse. Look at the problems Creationists cause, we can't afford new enemies.

I started saying Horses needed Science and I have explained why they won't get it.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Horse Nonsense.

I read the British Horse Society Complete Manual of Stable Management (2000) because a depressing number of people are told that this is the way to deal with horses and pass BHS exams.
On page 17 they give this information
"A well known saying is that "Blood carries weight". Thoroughbred and Arab horses have much denser bone structure than a horse of common breeding, ie of carthorse blood. Horses with this denser bone are capable of carrying more weight, relative to their size, than the commoner breeds."


The well known saying "Blood carries weight" isn't actually that well known. Try Googling it and it crops up three times,

Yes, so many people think if a horse has lots of bone, it can carry more weight but, as the old saying goes; "blood carries weight", TBs and Arabs have much denser bone and can carry relatively more weight, for the size of the animal.

Don't forget the old saying "Blood carries weight". Blood horses have denser bone than draught breeds and their crosses, so a 15.2hh Arab can carry far more weight than a 15.2hh Irish Draught.

The third time it appears is on my website asking just how well known this is. The other more pertinent question is whether it is just complete nonsense. It does crop up in a fascinating article entitled The bloody shouldered Arabian and early modern English culture. This states It had been known since the mid-seventeenth century that the bone density of the Eastern breeds known as "blood horses" was much greater than that of the heavier northern European breeds. The Duke of Newcastle had observed (in his French treatise of 1658, translated into English in 1743), "I have experienced this difference between the bone of the leg of a Barbary horse and one from Flanders, viz. that the cavity of the bone in one shall hardly admit of a straw, whilst you may thrust your finger into that of the other."
Since this cavity in the bone to which Newcastle refers, is the location of the bone marrow, the source of blood, it would appear that "blood" horses were LESS capable of producing blood than their common relatives.
There is no other backing for this ludicrous theory so why is it appearing in the BHS Manual, and being quoted by people trying to make decisions about the right type of horse or pony to buy.

The first page of chapter one has another well known quotation, "no foot, no horse". This gets 8,190 hits on google, so at least it is a genuinely well known phrase. This chaper is on conformation and states
"Front feet and hind feet should be matching pairs. Any difference obvious in outline, angle of foot to the ground, or size of frog, should be viewed with suspicion. The only exception is the horse whose foot has been worn down through losing a shoe."
Is the BHS really suggesting it is reasonable when a horse has lost a shoe to do enough exercise to wear the foot down. Or is it possible that the senior members of the BHS don't bother to read what is put out in their name because it is only for grooms and amateurs.


Saturday, 29 November 2008

First equestrian magazine demonstration

Global saddlechariots. Fun for ponies, fun for people ................ and SAFE

It's fun, it's easy, it goes anywhere, it fits any animal, it fits any person. What more do you want?
OK Safety,...............well you have to accept that equestrian activities are dangerous. You attach a vehicle to a horse or a pony and its difficult enough to get off, let alone get the vehicle off the pony.
Except this is a saddlechariot, and it is easy. The red rope in the drivers hand allows the driver to step off, and release the pony from the vehicle..............instantly. See the video, click this link.

. I have just returned from the Saddlechariots first ever Equestrian Magazine Demo. Endless thanks to John Mikisch of Cavallo magazine, the leading German Horse Magazine. Pure magic, after 8 years building horse drawn vehicles to actually demonstrate to an Equestrian Magazine, and their team of experts (names to follow when I have the spelling right) just what a Saddlechariot can do. I must thank Gunnar Schillig who I originally met via the Web from Papua New Guinea, then Tasmania USA or whatever so it seemed perfectly natural to finally meet in the flesh in Warmbrunn and carry on as if we had worked together for years

I stayed with Robert and Ulle at a charming riding stables in Warmbrunn, just outside Stuttgart and they let me and Gunnar play with their ponies. I decided to use Tony, an 8 year old 9hh Shetland as he pretended he was going to be really co-operative, and he was, up to a point. He had never been driven, but in a couple of hours gentle training he was giving the impression of a well behaved driving pony.

Charlotte was about 15.2, six year old, a very pretty piebald who had apparently had been trained to drive at three but hadn't been driven for the last three years. The photoshoot was on Friday and I showed her the Saddlechariot on Thursday evening and she seemed pretty cool so I thought I would leave it at that and just drive her the next morning.

It should be clear that this is an insane set up. Neither animal can be considered trained, because they aren't, so I start by fitting Charlotte into harness and Saddlechariot with everyone watching, asking questions, taking photos, gossiping and whatever. I thought long reining Charlotte might be an idea, so I tried with a rope halter which she just ignored. So I put on a snaffle, and drove her into the yard. She headed straight for her own bit of the yard. We then did a big erratic circle round the yard with no semblance of control and I pointed her towards the open road. She was naturally worried because she had an idiot driving, we had no form of communication through the bit and she was getting progressively more difficult to handle. Skittering round on concrete she almost lost her footing so I let her get her balance back but I could see there was no way that the next corner was going to work......................

So I stepped off and pulled the ripcord. Charlotte relaxed the minute she wasn't in the vehicle, though my loud YEEEEHAH upset her a trifle. I was shouting because I was safe, she was safe and all the spectators were safe. This was a demonstration, not to show how to do things right, but that when things went pear shaped, I had a solution.

The closest analogy is an inventor who has invented a double parachute. I can start the aeroplane, I can take off in the aeroplane but I haven't learned how to fly or land the aeroplane. What I have instead is a parachute that will get me and the aeroplane down onto the ground safely, not flying, but down on the ground.


That is what the Saddlechariot does. It lets you make mistakes with a simple, safe, exit strategy.

Charlotte was unharmed, and relaxed when I put her back between the shafts, but no way was I going to drive her again without getting her used to the bridle and me, and long reining and all the bits that go with training to drive. This was a demonstration of just how stupid you could be while keeping everyone safe.

So we tried Tony. Tony has attitude sticking out in all directions. We took him into the sand school and attached a spring tine harrow to the saddlechariot so he could work that through the sand. No problems, but I could feel the "I want to get going" message loud an clear. So we took him over a narrow bridge with the Saddlechariot detached, to a nice wide expanse of unfenced grassland, maybe 5 hectares, seriously wet underfoot, and put the saddlechariot on and started being silly.

Rather than let him learn gently about the vehicle following him, and learning to steer and stop in a bitless bridle, I shook the reins and turned him loose. So he grazed. More mad flapping of the reins and he said, "If that's what you want, I'm going," and off we set at a very bouncy trot, with absolutely no speed control and not much control of direction. I did persuade him that heading for the hills was out, so he spun round to head for home. The pace increased, and he got bouncier and stroppier till it was quite clear I had no control at all.............

So I stepped off and pulled the ripcord. As his mistress was waiting at the bridge to catch him, I let him go. Went over took him back, harnessed up and tried again. This time he lost his temper much earlier and I stepped off, keeping the reins and stopped him the other side of the bridge.

Stupid yes, but Tony was unharmed and unfrightened. I know, because we put him back in the Saddlechariot for another hour of close up photos. Tony was unhurt, I was unhurt, the spectators were unhurt.........because I have built in a safety system that works. That lets you make mistakes. I just made the biggest and most obvious mistakes I could to prove a point, and I am eternally grateful to Cavallo magazine for giving me the chance to show what you can do with a saddlechariot...........even if you are stupid.

If you use common sense, you can do vastly better. So on Tuesday I trained Boy for Guido and Annie, but Boy had been driving for a year and Guido takes things sensibly, so on Wednesday Guido went for a two hour drive with Boy and the saddlechariot in the forest, knowing that if problems did crop up, he only had to step off and pull the ripcord. It isn't much to learn.

Here is me introducing Boy and Guido to the Saddlechariot. see video at the bottom of the page


Training with a saddlechariot is radically different and much simpler because it is safer. I did a really stupid demonstration to prove a point exactly like car manufacturers who drive their shiny vehicles into concrete blocks. To show it is safe you have to do something stupid. But I do the stupid things, so my customers don't have to. If they are sensible and careful, they will never need the ripcord. But if they do, it is there. So you don't have to decide that whatever happens , you can drive your green animal out of trouble. You just have to decide that whatever happens, you can step off and pull the ripcord. And I have done it in front of the biggest German Equestrian Magazine, Cavallo and their experts, so if anyone has any doubts, they can check with John Mikisch of Cavallo.













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Saturday, 15 November 2008

Training

Training.

From Kikulli in 1400BC to today the shelves groan with advice on training horses, but the vast majority have been written for the military officer and gentleman's leisure market. Xenophon, writing in 350BC, was a cavalry officer and gentleman, friend of Socrates and Plato, and his writings reflect his background. Kikulli wrote a rather pedantic training manual obsessed with routine and standardisation, the hallmark of military equestrian texts.

There has always been a second type of horsemanship, hardly featuring on the book shelves, yet historically used on well over 90% of the world's horses. Working class, utility, horsemanship. The 1911 Encyclopaedia Brittannica neatly defines the differences as applied to driving.


Driving (from "to drive" i.e. generally to propel, force along or in, a word common in various forms to the Teutonic languages), a word used in a restricted sense for the art of controlling and directing draught animals from a coach or other conveyance or moveable machine to which they are harnessed for the purposes of traction. This has been an occupation practised since domesticated animals were first put to this use. In various parts of the world a number of different animals have been, and still are, so employed; of these the horse, ox, mule and ass are the most common, though their place is taken by the reindeer in northern latitudes, and by the Eskimo dog in Arctic and Antarctic regions. The driving of each of these requires special skill, only to be acquired by practice combined with knowledge of the characteristics peculiar to the several animals employed. The most accomplished driver of spirited horses would probably be in difficulties if called upon to drive sixteen or twenty dogs in an arctic sledge, or a team of oxen or mules drawing the guns of a mountain battery; and the adept in either of these branches of the art might provoke the compassion of a farmer from Lincolnshire or Texas by his attempts to manage a pair of Clydesdale horses in the plough or the reaping machine.
Under all these different conditions driving is a work of utility, of economic value to civilised society. But from very early times driving, especially of horses, has also been regarded as a sport or pastime. This probably arose in the first instance from its association with battle.

The article continues with the start of "Carriage driving". "by the beginning of the 19th Century the improvement in carriage building and road construction alike had greatly diminished the discomfort of travel; and interest in driving for its own sake grew so rapidly that in 1807 the first association of amateur coachmen was formed. This was the Bensington Driving Club, the forerunner of many aristocratic clubs for gentlemen interested in driving as a pastime."

So while "Under all these different conditions driving is a work of utility, of economic value to civilised society." the bookshelves are full of instructions for those wishing to join "aristocratic clubs for gentlemen interested in driving as a pastime."

Why? Are working class skills worthless. If why preserve every vestige of upper class horsemanship and tradition, where have all the working class skills gone?

Working class horsemanship has left few records because working class horsemen were paid to do a job, and not paid enough to pay afford literary self glorification, but a few examples are preserved. "Half a dozen laden waggons" says Sir George Head "are dragged along the railroad to the particular drop then at work, by a stout cob, which is then ridden carelessly back again, barebacked by a small boy, at a shambling trot; notwithstanding that the interstices between the planks below admit, here and there, full two inches of daylight. However the pony proceeeds, clattering on unconcernedly, otherwise than by holding his snout close to the floor, the better and more cautiously to observe where to place his feet at every step.
.............The beast when I witnessed his performance, had only a halter on his head, without winkers, or any harness except collar and light rope traces. As soon as the boy had fastened the lock of the trace to the foremost waggon, the pony invariably turned round his head, as if to enquire whether all was ready,and then, exactly at the proper moment, commenced his march, the load, meanwhile, rumbling after him: arrived at the drop, the carriages being detached, he here stood jammed close to the wall; shewing perfect cognizance as the carriages passed him, of the degree of attention due to the various noises and manoevres going forward, and not only being aware when it was proper to step out of the way, but how long precisely it was safe to stand still."
This was at the Drops at Middlesborough, huge elvated buildings extending over the mud into the Tees where coal from the Stockton and Darlington line could be loaded on ships before the docks were built. So a boy is handling one horse pulling half a dozen waggons, each carrying two and a half tons, in light coming up from the gaps in the floor boards, doing precision work in a cramped and unbelievably noisy environment, with just a halter and the permanent threat of maiming or death.
This is horsemanship at an incredible level to us today, yet in 1839, when T.H. Hair's Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham was written, such natural horsemanship was obviously commonplace, but only among common people. Hair notes that the boy is only using a halter, no bit, no blinkers, no whip and relying on subtle communication cues and perfect trust between the pony and the boy. Yet only a few years later Anne Sewell would write Black Beauty in an attempt to wean the upper classes from their enthusaiam for bits, whips, bearing reins, blinkers, cruppers and the other devices the upper classes needed to drive an animal in fresh air and safe surroundings, while some underpaid boy could produce brilliant horsemanship in the dark and dust and noise and danger without all that nonsense.

I am reading Stephen Caunce's "Amongst Farm Horses" which has a lovely photograph of an arable field with a man sowing by hand, followed by a pair of horses with harrows and following them, a tractor with a roller. The pair with the harrow are working as a team with nobody at the reins. How do you define that sort of horsemanship? They aren't on the bit, they aren't collected, they are helping out a mate and doing a job as neatly and easily as they can.


The skills of working with horses bear no relationship to dressage and are about working together to achieve an aim. The horse is valued as part of the team and understands the process because it is involved. Nobody tries to control each foot fall of a working horse, working men accept the horse's intelligence and allow them to use it. Tieing cats to poles and sticking them between the horses legs may produce the sort of control that works in "dressage". It has never produced the teamwork that works on the job.

We have to get away from the concepts of training based on a leisured elite demonstrating status. If your actions are designed to enhance your status, (on top of a prancing horse) your mindset willbe above such concepts as teamwork and communication.


This is a work in progress, I lost half of it last night to a powercut, and anything above this text is intended to be part of the finished item, stuff below is dumped there as I am writing, and occasionally mined to see if I have chucked out any good stuff.
Comments are welcome.

always have been three very distinct uses for horses. Military, (officers for the use of), Military (other ranks and baggage) and Working Co


I am going to stick with the analogy of children, and their education, because it is easy, and emotive, and makes shocking reading.

The title is a tribute to Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy fame, and is an attempt to find the answer to Life the Universe and Everything, as applied to ponies. In my book horses are just big ponies, and I tend to lump in donkeys, mules, onagers, zebras and other equids in the same term. Also I want to get away fr

Thursday, 13 November 2008

42 Ponies

The answer to Life, the Universe and Equestrian

Chuck appeared on the Feel4TheHorse Forum with the dramatic claim that only he had actually gone back to first principles when looking at horse training, and I scoffed. Then I started wondering, has he actually got a point? Do we assume so much about horses before we start, that we have no way of getting the right answers?

Being me, there was no way I was going to go and read Chuck's stuff. Partly out of an arrogant belief that I am right, but also from a belief that two different approaches may be beneficial, which means that 100 approaches would be even better, and a million......better still. So stop reading, get all your lunatic conspiracy theories, weirdo beer driven revelations and sudden attacks of insight caused by the ground leaping up and attacking you, shuffle them up and create your own grand unified theory.

This is written in 2008, and is the product of 4 years exposure to the natural horse philosophy, a lifetime as part (by birth, not ability) of the equestrian establishment and eight years of fighting the same British Equestrian establishment who refuse to look at my Saddlechariot.


So if you are facing the threat of revolution, the easy solution is to go round being nice to people. Kicking them only encourages revolution. I have been treated with contempt by the British Equestrian Establishment which is why I have started to look really seriously at horsemanship from the bottom up, and start asking exactly "why do we do, what we do?"

"Because that's the way Great grand Papa did it", is a pretty good answer, so "carry on chaps!" If that satisfies you, I would stop reading at this stage. For the rest of you, lets start kicking holes in assumptions rather than carrying on kicking horses.

It is 2008, beating children is pretty much out of fashion. My school (Eton) noticeboards were a bamboo lattice under which you could stick carefully folded notes. The bamboo lattice was created from canes to remind you that if you ignored the note you would be beaten. Beating had been pretty much given up when I got there, but the message was still clear, that beating was communication.

Modern parenting includes talking to children, listening to them, and very occasionally listening to them as if they actually might say something worth listening to. Yet comparatively modern parents go out to their horses, tie their mouth shut round a lump of metal with control lines attached, strap metal spikes to their boots so they don't have to kick as hard and carry a whip for any portions of the horse's anatomy the metalwork can't reach. The full version of this rant is on my Saddlechariot site but, although it is true, and relevant, according to Chuck, I'm starting in the middle.

Chuck suggests that you need to start with the horse in the womb, or more importantly with the mother before she even conceives. He is right, but this only works as a future policy, it provides no solutions to today's horse owners. We would all love to be able to buy horses from breeders who had trained the parents with kindness, and built an understanding relationship based on trustv with the foal. But as owners, we had better be saints, as no such breeder would sell to most modern horse owners.

Unless we start working with today's imperfect horses, and equally imperfect owners, we will never progress to a better world for horses. But what improvements do we need? Chuck is dead right, we must go back to first principles, and look at the basic assumptions we make.


We cannot separate horse training from horse keeping so we have to look at what we expect of the animals in our control. Equally we have to accept that this is 2008. Every time people want to return to a better, Golden Age, I ask, what date and what class. I am all for preserving the beauties of our countryside in their natural state, which is why I am campaigning to fill in the English Channel and return it to its natural marshy state. Covering Scotland with Glaciers wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Any date is an arbitrary choice, but the choice of class is simple, the higher the better, assuming you wanted something remotely resembling comfort. Though as a horse, you would probably be better off belonging to an artisan making a reasonable living, than an Upper Class household who strapped their horses into unnatural positions to emphasise their importance.

For horse keeping , the ideal has got to be as a natural wild herd, but since this will involve removing the human population of the British Isles to return them to their state of nature with wild horses, I don't see it happening. One of the Rothschilds apparently wrote a gardening book with the lovely advice that "every garden needs a few acres of wild woodland". Dead right, but it does rather limit the readership to those who habitually dine on Russian yachts.

We can impose minimum acreages, and simply exclude the poor, but will this improve horse husbandry. A typical British field is poisonous to a typical native pony. Too rich, too limited in plant variety and consequently, without careful management, fatal. We can't just turn them loose, because we have changed the very soil they will walk on.

We must manage our horses because we have changed the land and we have changed them. The "natural" option isn't open any more, (a few remote bits of the UK can support feral populations of native ponies, but they are culled as necessary) we must look at how we are going to manage our animals.

Before we look at managing, look at how we look at our horses. The Equestrian Establishment is unbelievably judgemental and at the top of the tree are the Judges. They judge on colour, size and conformation. They judge every movement, the angle of the head to the ground and at any sign of deviation, they exclude.

Lameness, wrong colour, wrong size, wrong shape, wrong parents or worst of all, not knowing who their parents are, exclude. And those that are left are judged and graded on minutiae. You try doing that to my Henry and I will tell you where you can stick your rule book, and I will kick it firmly into place.

If you tried applying these rules to people, you would be in court, and would deserve it for racist behaviour and for disability discrimination. If it is so wrong to do it to people, why is it right to do it to horses? We have reached a stage of civilistation where the statement that "my children are beautiful, clever or whatever", is accepted, mostly because you want to tell me about the manifold virtues of your beautiful intelligent children.

Henry is perfect, why should I respect someone whose life is spent discovering faults in other people's animals? He isn't totally sound. Lots of people aren't. Try telling the next disabled person you meet what is wrong with their action.

Next time you meet a horse judge, trot them up. Have a damn good look at their teeth and feet, check if they stand straight, you wouldn't want your animal judged by someone who was over at the knee, or herring gutted. Check their pedigree, after all breeding is everything. They might have a grandfather who wasn't a horseman, they might not even know who their grandfather was, and that can't be allowed. Make absolutely sure they aren't the wrong colour. All the breed society books emphasise how absolutely vital this is. If the judge is male, and not top class, geld him immediately. It might be worth breeding from the females, if you can find a stud judge to correct the faults in their children, because a well bred male can over ride the genetic faults of a common female.

Look at the pony, or horse in front of you and see its virtues. I have dealt with hundreds, and while I like some more than others, they all have virtues, and all have a future, if they are allowed. I can always tell the real "horsey" types, they come and tell me Henry is a lame. And yes, sometimes he is, and always has been. This series of videos was shot at a show where the chair of the local Driving Club has, ever since, broadcast the fact my pony was lame. Is that really the only thing about that pony that is relevant? Endless vets have looked at him and he has a disability. Hiding him away won't make it better. They locked the disabled away for years and it didn't cure them. Now people are accepted as people, isn't it time ponies were accepted as ponies.

"Is Henry a Shetland/Dartmoor?" Wherever you go, the same question, and what difference will my answer make. Will they like him more or less because he is a Shetland? Will I like the person who asks the question more or less? Even in Balsall Heath, near the middle of Birmingham I get the same question, but if I went round asking "Are you Somali, are you Bengali, are you Irish?" I would be in dead trouble. The children are easier, they just want to know if they can stroke him, or cuddle him, or take him home. Luckily they can't understand him, because he would say yes.

Take a pony into a City Centre and you realise the extent to which ponies and horses cross every boundrary. Young and old, of every colour (actually there are very few skewbald and piebald people), race, creed or breed, people like ponies. There is one thing you can't do, explain the concept of the unwanted pony. Kids are screaming with joy and too many of them had never SEEN a pony when they met Henry. The idea that people could have a pony and not want it, is totally incredible.

To work with our horses and ponies we are going to have to go right back to the beginning and learn how we look at our animals, and think how we should look at them. But we will also have to learn how we look at people looking at animals. Is incredibly detailed critcism really the defining feature of horsemanship? Can we judge people to be "horsey" on ludicrous stereotypes. Should we start from some simple, fair and reasonable principles?

People are Homo sapiens. People have different skin colours, hair types, sizes and shapes. They are still people. They may have what we call defects, disabilities and they are still people.

Horses are Equus caballus. Before you start categorising into breeds, ask why you are doing it and what good it is going to do.

I am not denying the differences. I am taller (6'3") than lots of people. I think I am cleverer (which means I define myself in the "clever" category and you put me in the "deluded" category, thus proving the subjective nature of the categories) than most people. But I am me. And you are you. We are individuals. We may share a blood group, or an ability, or skin colour and yet see each other as the complete opposite.

This is the lesson I have learned, that we should look at the horse in front of us as just that. A horse we haven't met before. It's abilities and potential aren't written on its skin any more than its character.

A coach and a footballer meet and they know their relationship depends on their ability to communicate, to understand each other and to make allowances, to work together on their strengths and to work round or correct their weaknesses. If the coach makes his initial assessment on the footballers colour, nationality and ancestry, or vice versa, they are going nowhere fast. Give the horse a chance to show you what it is and what it can be, don't just read a label.

And the same goes with people. I keep hearing about people with a "horsey" background. Here is a section from the Telegraph obituary of Wing commander "Grumpy" Unwin,

The son of a Yorkshire miner, George Cecil Unwin was born on January 18 1913 at Bolton-on-Dearne. He was educated at the local grammar school, where he was a fine footballer (he later turned out for the RAF). Determined not to join his father in the mines, he answered an advertisement offering apprenticeships in the RAF; he joined as a boy clerk when he was 16 and trained at the air force's apprentice school at Ruislip.

After serving at Uxbridge for four years Unwin was selected for pilot training in 1935 and the following year he joined No 19, flying the bi-plane Gauntlet fighter. He served with the squadron for four years, and was one of the very few to fly in action throughout the Battle of Britain and survive unscathed. In December 1940 he was rested.

Initially, Unwin would not apply for a commission, since a senior flight sergeant earned a few more shillings than a junior officer. Once the rules were changed he relented, and was interviewed a number of times; but his background and passion for football did not impress the selection boards. A colleague tipped him off that an interest in horses would make a good impression. For his next interview he decided to tell the panel of his knowledge and love of horses. The board accordingly recommended him for a commission - he had omitted to tell them that his experience was limited to the occasional meeting with the pit ponies at his father's coal mine. He was made a pilot officer in July 1941.

Here is one of only sixty men to win the DFM and Bar, who also won the DSO and he has to pretend to "horsey" to be considered suitable to be an officer. If that sort of snobbery defines "horsey" in this country I have no desire to be part of it in any way shape or form.

Horsemanship is global, breaking every cultural, social, religious boundrary. The concept of a "horsey" backgound is morally repugnant unless we admit that we all have a horsey background, just some of us have a hunting "horsey" background and some a pit pony "horsey" background. Who is likely to have more direct experience of actual day to day working with a horse?

Ponies and people, that is all that is left, and all that matters. That is where we must start to learn how to live together.

Training.

From Kikulli in 1400BC to today the shelves groan with advice on training horses, but the vast majority have been written for the military officer and gentleman's leisure market. Xenophon, writing in 350BC, was a cavalry officer and gentleman, friend of Socrates and Plato, and his writings reflect his background. Kikulli wrote a rather pedantic training manual obsessed with routine and standardisation, the hallmark of military equestrian texts.

There has always been a second type of horsemanship, hardly featuring on the book shelves, yet historically used on well over 90% of the world's horses. Working class, utility, horsemanship. The 1911 Encyclopaedia Brittannica neatly defines the differences as applied to driving.

Driving
(from "to drive" i.e. generally to propel, force along or in, a word common in various forms to the Teutonic languages), a word used in a restricted sense for the art of controlling and directing draught animals from a coach or other conveyance or moveable machine to which they are harnessed for the purposes of traction. This has been an occupation practised since domesticated animals were first put to this use. In various parts of the world a number of different animals have been, and still are, so employed; of these the horse, ox, mule and ass are the most common, though their place is taken by the reindeer in northern latitudes, and by the Eskimo dog in Arctic and Antarctic regions. The driving of each of these requires special skill, only to be acquired by practice combined with knowledge of the characteristics peculiar to the several animals employed. The most accomplished driver of spirited horses would probably be in difficulties if called upon to drive sixteen or twenty dogs in an arctic sledge, or a team of oxen or mules drawing the guns of a mountain battery; and the adept in either of these branches of the art might provoke the compassion of a farmer from Lincolnshire or Texas by his attempts to manage a pair of Clydesdale horses in the plough or the reaping machine.
Under all these different conditions driving is a work of utility, of economic value to civilised society. But from very early times driving, especially of horses, has also been regarded as a sport or pastime. This probably arose in the first instance from its association with battle.

The article continues with the start of "Carriage driving". "by the beginning of the 19th Century the improvement in carriage building and road construction alike had greatly diminished the discomfort of travel; and interest in driving for its own sake grew so rapidly that in 1807 the first association of amateur coachmen was formed. This was the Bensington Driving Club, the forerunner of many aristocratic clubs for gentlemen interested in driving as a pastime."

So whil

This is a work in progress, I lost half of it last night to a powercut, and anything above this text is intended to be part of the finished item, stuff below is dumped there as I am writing, and occasionally mined to see if I have chucked out any good stuff.
Comments are welcome.

always have been three very distinct uses for horses. Military, (officers for the use of), Military (other ranks and baggage) and Working Co


I am going to stick with the analogy of children, and their education, because it is easy, and emotive, and makes shocking reading.

The title is a tribute to Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy fame, and is an attempt to find the answer to Life the Universe and Everything, as applied to ponies. In my book horses are just big ponies, and I tend to lump in donkeys, mules, onagers, zebras and other equids in the same term. Also I want to get away fr