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

Nevertheless, it is not necessary to reject a horse that is not perfect in these trials. For many break down in these not from want of ability, but from lack of experience. With teaching, use and discipline they will perform all these exercises well, provided they are otherwise sound and not faulty.

But one should beware of horses that are naturally shy. For timid horses give one no chance of using them to harm the enemy, and often throw their rider and put him in a very awkward situation.

It is necessary also to find out whether the horse has any vice towards horses or towards men, and whether he will not stand tickling: for all these things prove troublesome to the owner.

As regards objection to being bridled or mounted, and the other reactions, there is a much better way still of detecting these, namely, by trying to do over again, after the horse has finished his work, just what one did before starting on the ride. All horses that are willing after their work to do another spell thereby give sufficient proofs of a patient temper.

To sum up: the horse that is sound in his feet, gentle and fairly speedy, has the will and the strength to stand work, and, above all, is obedient, is the horse that will, as a matter of course, give least trouble and the greatest measure of safety to his rider in warfare. But those that want a lot of driving on account of their laziness, or a lot of coaxing and attention on account of their high spirit, make constant demands on the rider’s hands and rob him of confidence in moments of danger.

When a man has found a horse to his mind, bought him and taken him home, it is well to have the stable so situated with respect to the house that his master can see him very often; and it is a good plan to have the stall so contrived that it will be as difficult to steal the horse’s fodderout of the manger as the master’s victuals from the larder. He who neglects this seems to me to neglect himself; for it is plain that in danger the master entrusts his life to his horse.

But a well-secured stall is not only good for preventing theft of the fodder but also because one can see when the horse does not spill his food.[*](In healthy excitement. See J. K. Anderson, in J.H.S. 80.1-2.) And on noticing this one may be sure that either his body is overfull of blood and needs treatment or the horse is overworked and wants rest, or that laminitis[*](So J. K. Anderson, Ancient Greek Horsemanship, pp. 162, 207, not, as was once believed, colic.) or some other ailment is coming on. It is the same with horses as with men: all distempers in the early stage are more easily cured than when they have become chronic and have been wrongly treated.

Just as the food and exercise of the horse must be attended to in order that he may keep sound, so his feet must be cared for. Now damp and slippery floors ruin even well-formed hoofs. In order that they may not be damp, the floors should have a slope to carry off the wet, and, that they may not be slippery, they should be paved all over with stones, each one about the size of the hoof. Such floors, indeed, have another advantage because they harden the feet of the horses standing on them.

To take the next point: the groom must lead out the horse to clean him, and must loose him from the stall after the morning feed, that he may return to his evening feed with more appetite. Now the stableyard will be of the best form and will strengthen the feet if he throws down and spreads over it four or five loads of round stones, the size of a fist, about a pound in weight, and surrounds them with a border of iron so that they may not be scattered. Standing on these will have the same effect as if the horse walked on a stone road for some time every day.

When he is being rubbed down and teased with flies he is bound to use his hoofs in the same way as when he walks. The frogs also are hardened by stones scattered in this way.

The same care must be taken to make his mouth tender as to harden his hoofs. This is done by the same methods as are employed to soften human flesh.