baroque equitation begins with the ancient French equitation of
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This equitation
was so great, so refine, so influential, that the dignitaries of
all Europe were going to France to improve one’s riding …
His equitation was already flourishing during the seventeenth century,
but it has reached his peak, the 15th December 1682, when King Louis
the fourteenth has inaugurated, in Versailles, the "Grande Écurie" and
the "Petite Écurie".
Despite this greatness, something incredible has happened: this
equitation has completely disappeared in France!
Nevertheless the strength, at the end of the seventeenth century
had increased its numbers. The "Grande Écurie" was
accommodating 4000 horses and the staff had
800 people …
The Revolution of 1789 has destroyed the famous Versailles‘s
School, the great sanctuary of this riding, and the other academies
in Paris and in the provinces. The great Masters has disappeared
(I don’t specify how … Their one fault was they had
a "de" in front of their last name), or they went into
Therefore in France the tradition of the baroque equitation
has been abruptly and completely interrupted. And it was impossible
to restart the Versailles’s School. Recently Mister Michel
Henriquet, brilliant author and horseman, could not realize his plans
to that effect, because of lamentable reasons.
But the ancient French equitation had scattered his knowledge
to the four winds, to foreign countries, to Spain, to Portugal, to
Germany, to Austria. That is the reason why it is still alive … In
the foreign countries it had even important extensions. For example,
one of the better treatises of baroque equitation, and probably the
best, has been written … in Portuguese language. It is the
monumental work by Manoel Carlos de Andrade: Luz
da liberal e nobre Arte da Cavallaria, Lisboa, 1790.
I shall restrict my study here to three themes:
- The fundamental characteristics of the baroque equitation.
- The baroque equitation, a museum equitation?
- The baroque equitation, an equitation of the left hand.
The fundamental characteristics of the baroque equitation
This equitation, brilliantly set out by François Robichon
de La Guérinière, in L’École de cavalerie (Paris, 1754), was dominated by five important principles:
- The limbering up of the whole horse by inflexions,
without any forcing.
- The extremely lightness and the impulse obtained by the balance
and not by the constraint.
- The promotion of the tact and of the sharpness of the aids,
that found expression in the "release of hand" and
the "release of legs" (technical expressions used for
the hands and legs of the rider to obtain the release of the reins –hands-
and to stop their actions –legs-, in order to give to the
horse some liberty, when the wished movement is realized).
- The subtle hand, pleased with the "leather’s weight".
- The use of the sole left hand to ride the educated horse.
Concerning the processes, the keystone is the shoulder
This equitation has reached his peak during the eighteenth century
and was a model to all European equitations until French Revolution
of 1789. It is necessary to insist on the expression "whole
horse", considering that some equitations have "divided
the horse", broke up him into its component parts to work them
Here, I don’t take a stand for one conception,
I set out the facts. All the more so since I practise both …
The baroque equitation, a museum equitation
This equitation is known by the works of 14 French horsemen of
the eighteenth century and 3 German horsemen of this same eighteenth
century, German horsemen who has written … In French language,
that well shows the influence of this equitation. Bourgelat, Montfaucon
de Rogles, La Guérinière, Dupaty de Clam, Mottin de
la Balme, have more influence on me. We are obliged, to become initiated
into the baroque equitation to consult the written works (and the
painting reproduced on this page of Mr de Nestier … The perfection
of the position on the horse) of the eighteenth century. They are
the sole testimonies we have and this gives a first impression of
museum. This impression is strengthened by the Spanish School of
Vienna that shows one’s intention of handing down an unchanging
equitation. No criticism in my words, the work of the horses in Vienna
is absolutely wonderful and we need to do as well, as beautiful,
to have the right to criticize.
for me this equitation is not ossified. First because, when it has
disappeared in France, the French horsemen where in search in several
fields, in particular on a point I have turned on my attention a
long time, and it is possible to call it optimization
of the rider’s requests.
The splitting in six intervals of the horse’s foot on
the ground and in six intervals in the
air, goes back very long time
in the history of the riding. The theory is born at the Castle of
Alfort during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The veterinary
school was founded, in 1765, by the famous Veterinarian and Riding
Master Claude Bourgelat (dead in 1779). This theory belongs to two
meticulous observers : A.F.Vincent (historical painter, animal painter,
art teacher at Alfort) and G.C.Goiffon (engineer, mechanic, architect,
drawer, art teacher of anatomy at Alfort). This theory has been published
practice, for example, here is the start to the canter of Dupaty
de Clam: "When you have decided to start a horse at the canter,
to put him on the right leg, after a period of trot, you have to
feel the instant when the back left leg touches the ground and approach
the two legs and at the same time to hold up the front part." I
put in italics the passage that interests me.
I put down in writing the results of my works in this field in
my book and CD Sensual
riding by the self-posture of the horse in comics, book where
the theme of the optimization of the rider’s
requests is dominant.
With the "optimization of the rider’s requests" and
the use of "favourable instants", a lot of problems can
this equitation is still alive in two great academies of the Iberian
Peninsula, the Escola
Portuguesa de Arte Equestre, founded in 1979,
heir of the Royal School, of the Portuguese Royal Court … And
Escuela Andaluza de Arte Ecuestre, in Spain. They are
recently founded academies. They gather horsemen who have, of course,
a common doctrine, but they stay individual riders who have a personal
In Vienna, the Spanish School, founded in … 1729,
people gather one’s thoughts in the majestic indoor school
at the Holfburg.
We only know by his name Colonel Podhajsky who
has codified in his book Riding the oral tradition of the School
and, above all, because he is an important person appearing, not
himself but an actor, in a Walt Disney’s film Miracle of White
(a film showing the rescue of the Lipizzans of the stud
farm and of the School during the Second World War). While in Portugal,
for example, we know, I am spoken about riders in general and not
only about riders of the Academy, Alvaro Domeck, his son Alvarito
Nuncio, D.Ribeiro Télès, Mestre Batista, Don José Althayde,
the great master Nuño Oliveira, D. Diogo de Bragance …
The baroque equitation, an equitation of the
riders, who ride, for the most part, with both hands, do not sea
the interest of the one hand’s ride. They only sea in this
ride, a servicemen’s practice, a practice only kept traditionally.
Error, for two reasons:
The French horsemen in the eighteenth century, in the ring, used
the long crop with their right hand. This long crop had not any force,
made of hazel tree, it broke if the horseman had an … impatient
movement. No, it was the extension, very happy, of an intelligent
and gentle hand, a hand that could touch any part of the horse’s
body, that could, for example, to give rhythm to a piaffe, accompanying
the contact with the ground of each diagonal, with a simple touch
of the horse’s hindquarters.
And more, the sole hand better respects the delicate mucous membrane
of the horse’s mouth, because all people have a problem of
coordination between the two hands. Test yourself, move with a cup
filled with water to the brim, handing it with two, then with one
hand … It is not forbidden to use the sole right hand, if
the rider feels at ease with it … Personally, I find again
the whole of my person thanks to the baroque equitation and the use
of my left hand, my "good " hand.
I have to say, I belong
to a breed in the process of extinction, fortunately: I am a left-handed
person forced to use his right hand …
JYLG, has noted that the horsemen of the baroque equitation
did not codify the long crop’s use, and, after long research,
he has written a treatise of ancient equitation, of baroque
equitation, a "treatise on the left hand, holding the
reins in the French manner ", and a "treatise on
the hand of the long crop": L’équitation
de Majesté, proposed in a second edition, on CD.
And, very important, JYLG own a copy
of a film, a color film, in english,
although it is very old, that allows to sea the famous work,
in hand and mounted of Colonel Podhajsky, the legendary Director
of the Spanish School of Vienna and all his Riding Masters.
If you want to sea this great rider,
who wined fame during the Olympic Games of 1936, contact
He has a solution to send you this film.
The photographies of this page, except personal
photographies (for more pictures, see page "Training " the
photography on the right, Curvet, and page "Videos" the
videos Pirouette at the canter and On
the spot canter), are devoted
to the Spanish School of Vienna. I must point out that I also
admire and respect the Portuguese Academy and the Spanish Academy.
order to sea the horses of these Academies, click on Real
Escuela Andaluza de Arte Ecuestre or Escola
Portuguesa de Arte Equestre