Good Job Renaissance Italians Revived the Horsemanship of Xenophon and Not This Guy

I was googling around for details of a Greek cavalry commander called Eumenes, who’s credited with introducing the use of pillars in training horses when I found this. As Xenophon put it, would you whip a dancer? Eumenes would.

During this siege, as he [Eumenes] perceived … that the horses would lose condition if they never used their limbs …. he caused their necks to be hoisted by pulleys fastened to the roofs of their stable, until their forefeet barely touched the ground. In this uneasy position they were excited by their grooms with blows and shouts until the struggle produced the effects of a hard ride, as they sprung about and stood almost erect on their hind legs until sweat poured off them, so that this exercise proved no bad training either for strength or speed.

From Plutarch’s Lives, sourced here.

Published by Susanna Forrest

Writer Amazons of Paris, The Age of the Horse and If Wishes Were Horses.

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  1. He wasn’t the only one as I recall medieval illustrations of baroque horses tied to the pillars and courtly lads holding cats tied on a pole under the horse’s bellies so the cat scratching and yowling would make them hop about on the spot. I don’t remember the name of the book, as I tend to agree with author Terry Pratchett that humans are capable of coming up with stuff that would make even the Devil want to drink himself into a stupor…

  2. surprised the “charro” riders that teach their horses to “dance” using many cruel methods, havent picked up on this yet, hopefully !

  3. Actually tying the horse’s head up so high the horse can barely stand and whipping them into a frenzy is very much part of the charro treatment of horses, as is whipping them on the belly/groin. Ancient traditions of abuse are bad enough but what is truly sickening is that the ineffectiveness of rolkur and LDR has brought that abuse into FEI competitive dressage. Any time you see (especially a young) a horse executing a croup high spraddle legged hop about on the spot that judges euphemistically term ‘tense steps’ travesty of the piaffe you are seeing a horse that has been forced to ‘dance’ by being immobilized and whipped on its tender parts.
    Unfortunately both observations are based on my first hand experience and have lead me to the sad conclusion that charros are more likely to be willing to discuss and experiment with alternative methods of schooling than dressage pros.

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