VII
 

The master, let us suppose, has received his horse and is ready to mount.[1] We will now prescribe certain rules to be observed in the interests not only of the horseman but of the animal which he bestrides. First, then, he should take the leading rein, which hangs from the chin-strap or nose-band,[2] conveniently in his left hand, held slack so as not to jerk the horse's mouth, whether he means to mount by hoisting himself up, catching hold of the mane behind the ears, or to vault on to horseback by help of his spear. With the right hand he should grip the reins along with a tuft of hair beside the shoulder-joint,[3] so that he may not in any way wrench the horse's mouth with the bit while mounting. In the act of taking the spring off the ground for mounting,[4] he should hoist his body by help of the left hand, and with the right at full stretch assist the upward movement[5] (a position in mounting which will present a graceful spectacle also from behind);[6] at the same time with the leg well bent, and taking care not to place his knee on the horse's back, he must pass his leg clean over to the off side; and so having brought his foot well round, plant himself firmly on his seat.[7]

To meet the case in which the horseman may chance to be leading his horse with the left hand and carrying his spear in the right, it would be good, we think, for every one to practise vaulting on to his seat from the right side also. In fact, he has nothing else to learn except to do with his right limbs what he has previously done with the left, and vice versa. And the reason we approve of this method of mounting is[8] that it enables the soldier at one and the same instant to get astride of his horse and to find himself prepared at all points, supposing he should have to enter the lists of battle on a sudden.

But now, supposing the rider fairly seated, whether bareback or on a saddle-cloth, a good seat is not that of a man seated on a chair, but rather the pose of a man standing upright with his legs apart. In this way he will be able to hold on to the horse more firmly by his thighs; and this erect attitude will enable him to hurl a javelin or to strike a blow from horseback, if occasion calls, with more vigorous effect. The leg and foot should hang loosely from the knee; by keeping the leg stiff, the rider is apt to have it broken in collision with some obstacle; whereas a flexible leg[9] will yield to the impact, and at the same time not shift the thigh from its position. The rider should also accustom the whole of his body above the hips to be as supple as possible; for thus he will enlarge his scope of action, and in case of a tug or shove be less liable to be unseated. Next, when the rider is seated, he must, in the first place, teach his horse to stand quiet, until he has drawn his skirts from under him, if need be,[10] and got the reins an equal length and grasped his spear in the handiest fashion; and, in the next place, he should keep his left arm close to his side. This position will give the rider absolute ease and freedom,[11] and his hand the firmest hold.

As to reins, we recommend those which are well balanced, without being weak or slippery or thick, so that when necessary, the hand which holds them can also grasp a spear.

As soon as the rider gives the signal to the horse to start,[12] he should begin at a walking pace, which will tend to allay his excitement. If the horse is inclined to droop his head, the reins should be held pretty high; or somewhat low, if he is disposed to carry his head high. This will set off the horse's bearing to the best advantage. Presently, as he falls into a natural trot,[13] he will gradually relax his limbs without the slightest suffering, and so come more agreeably to the gallop.[14] Since, too, the preference is given to starting on the left foot, it will best conduce to that lead if, while the horse is still trotting, the signal to gallop should be given at the instant of making a step with his right foot.[15] As he is on the point of lifting his left foot he will start upon it, and while turning left will simultaneously make the first bound of the gallop;[16] since, as a matter of instinct, a horse, on being turned to the right, leads off with his right limbs, and to the left with his left.

As an exercise, we recommend what is called the volte,[17] since it habituates the animal to turn to either hand; while a variation in the order of the turn is good as involving an equalisation of both sides of the mouth, in first one, and then the other half of the exercise.[18] But of the two we commend the oval form of the volte rather than the circular; for the horse, being already sated with the straight course, will be all the more ready to turn, and will be practised at once in the straight course and in wheeling. At the curve, he should be held up,[19] because it is neither easy nor indeed safe when the horse is at full speed to turn sharp, especially if the ground is broken[20] or slippery.

But in collecting him, the rider should as little as possible sway the horse obliquely with the bit, and as little as possible incline his own body; or, he may rest assured, a trifle will suffice to stretch him and his horse full length upon the ground. The moment the horse has his eyes fixed on the straight course after making a turn, is the time to urge him to full speed. In battle, obviously, these turns and wheelings are with a view to charging or retiring; consequently, to practise quickening the pace after wheeling is desirable. When the horse seems to have had enough of the manege, it would be good to give him a slight pause, and then suddenly to put him to his quickest, away from his fellows first,[21] and now towards them; and then again to quiet him down in mid-career as short as possible;[22] and from halt once more to turn him right-about and off again full charge. It is easy to predict that the day will come when there will be need of each of these manouvres.

When the moment to dismount has come, you should never do so among other horses, nor near a group of people,[23] nor outside the exercising-ground; but on the precise spot which is the scene of his compulsory exertion there let the horse find also relaxation.[24]

[1] Reading {otan . . . paradexetai . . . os anabesomenos}. Or, reading {otan paradexetai ton ippea (sc. o. ippos) ws anabesomenon}, transl. "the horse has been brought round ready for mounting."

[2] So Courier, "la muserolle." It might be merely a stitched leather strap or made of a chain in part, which rattled; as {khrusokhalinon patagon psalion} (Aristoph. "Peace," 155) implies. "Curb" would be misleading.

[3] "Near the withers."

[4] Or, "as soon as he has got the springing poise preliminary to mounting."

[5] "Give himself simultaneously a lift." Reading {ekteinon}, or if {enteinon}, "keeping his right arm stiff."

[6] Or, "a style of mounting which will obviate an ungainly attitude behind."

[7] Lit. "lower his buttocks on to the horse's back."

[8] Lit. "One reason for the praise which we bestow on this method of mounting is that at the very instant of gaining his seat the soldier finds himself fully prepared to engage the enemy on a sudden, if occasion need."

[9] i.e. "below the knee"; "shin and calf."

[10] Lit. "pulled up" (and arranged the folds of his mantle).

[11] {eustalestatos}, "the most business-like deportment."

[12] "Forwards!"

[13] Or, "the true trot."

[14] {epirrabdophorein}, "a fast pace in response to a wave of the whip."

[15] See Berenger, i. p. 249; also the "Cavalry Drill Book," Part I. Equitation, S. 22, "The Canter."

[16] {tes episkeliseos}, "he will make the forward stride of the gallop in the act of turning to the left." See Morgan ad loc.

[17] {pede}, figure of eight.

[18] Or, "on first one and then the other half of the manege."

[19] {upolambanein}. See "Hipparch," iii. 14; "Hunting," iii. 10; vi. 22, of a dog.

[20] {apokroton}, al. {epikroton}, "beaten, hard-trodden ground."

[21] {mentoi}, "of course."

[22] Or, "within the narrowest compass"; "as finely as possible."

[23] Or, "a knot of bystanders"; cf. Thuc. ii. 21.

[24] Or, as we say, "be caressed, and dismissed."