On the Art of Horsemanship


Xenophon, creator; Scripta Minora; Marchant, E. C. (Edgar Cardew), 1864-1960, editor, translator; Bowersock, G. W, (Glen Warren), 1936-, editor, translator

And those who watch the horse when he is like that call him well-bred, a willing worker, worth riding, mettlesome, magnificent, and declare his appearance to be at once pleasing and fiery.

And here we conclude these explanations addressed to those who want this sort of thing.

But in case anyone wants to own a horse suitable for parade, with a high and showy action, such qualities are by no means to be found in every horse: but it is essential that he should have plenty of spirit and a strong body.

Many suppose that an animal that has supple legs will also be capable of rearing his body. That, however, is not the case: rather it is the horse with supple, short, strong loins that will be able to extend his hind-legs well under the forelegs. By loins we do not mean the parts about the tail, but those between the flanks and haunches about the belly.

Now, if when he is planting his hind-legs under him you pull him up with the bit, he bends the hind-legs on the hocks and raises the fore-part of his body, so that anyone facing him can see the belly and the sheath. When he does that you must give him the bit that he may appear to the onlookers to be doing willingly the finest things that a horse can do.

Some, however, teach these accomplishments by striking him under the hocks with a rod, others by telling a man to run alongside and hit him with a stick under the gaskins.

We, however, consider that the lesson is most satisfactory if, as we have repeatedly said, the rider invariably allows him relaxation when he has done something according to his wishes.

For what a horse does under constraint, as Simon says, he does without understanding, and with no more grace than a dancer would show if he was whipped and goaded. Under such treatment horse and man alike will do much more that is ugly than graceful. No, a horse must make the most graceful and brilliant appearance in all respects of his own will with the help of aids.

Further, if you gallop him during a ride until he sweats freely, and as soon as he prances in fine style, quickly dismount and unbridle him, you may be sure that he will come willingly to the prance.

This is the attitude in which artists represent the horses on which gods and heroes ride, and men who manage such horses gracefully have a magnificent appearance.

Indeed a prancing horse is a thing so graceful, terrible and astonishing that it rivets the gaze of all beholders, young and old alike. At all events no one leaves him or is tired of gazing at him so long as he shows off his brilliance.

Should the owner of such a horse happen to be a colonel or a general, he must not make it his object to be the one brilliant figure,[*](Xen. Cavalry 1.22) but must attach much more importance to making the whole troop behind him worth looking at.

Now if a horse is leading in the manner which wins most praise for such horses, prancing high and with his body closely gathered, so that he moves forward with very short steps, the rest of the horses must obviously follow also at a walking pace. Now what can there be really brilliant in such a sight?

But if you rouse your horse and lead neither too fast nor too slow, but at the pace at which the most spirited horses look most fiery and stately—if you lead your men in that way, there will be such a continual stamping, such a continual neighing and snorting of the horses going on behind you, that not only you yourself but all the troop behind you will be worth watching.

If a man buys his horses well, trains them so that they can stand work, and uses them properly in the training for war, in the exhibition rides and on the battle-fields, what is there then to hinder him from making horses more valuable than they are when he takes them over, and why should he not be the owner of famous horses, and also become famous himself for his horsemanship, provided no divine power prevents?