About Riding – Xenophon

A summary and review of About Riding from Xenophon’s The Art of Horsmanship.

This chapter provides many suggestions for exercising the horse, and several of these methods are still in use today.

Logically, Xenophon begins with the proper method of mounting a horse.

Xenophon The Art of Horsmanship

A rider should be careful to alight slowly and should also be able to mount from either side. When mounted, the rider should sit with his legs positioned as though he were standing, and the leg from the knee down should remained relaxed and not braced against the horse’s side. The body from the hips up must also be flexible.

The horse is to be trained to stand quietly while the rider organises himself, and when the rider is ready to proceed, the horse should begin with a walk.

A rider should be able to encourage his horse to carry his head properly by raising his hands to raise the horse’s head, or lowering them to achieve the opposite effect. The horse should stretch out naturally at the trot, so that he can break smoothly into the gallop.

Clearly, the Greeks understood the idea of the leading leg at a canter or gallop, as Xenophon directs the rider to signal for the gallop when a horse is prepared to lead with the proper leg.

Xenophon also recommends exercising in a circle because the horse must learn to remain balanced and responsive to its rider.

When the horse has performed satisfactorily, the rider should then reward it by ceasing the work.

The rider should also practice starting and stopping suddenly, and forcing a horse away from other horses.

The rider should dismount away from other horses when finished, but he should dismount in the area where he has exercised the horse.

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