Book Review: Hints On Horsemanship

Hints On Horsemanship To A Nephew And A Niece, by Col. George Greenwood

One of the more interesting aspects of this book is the way that it could only have been written in the period before World War I.  The author makes a great deal of the bad form that military figures have with riding horses, and given that cavalry stopped being important when machine guns made horses a difficult thing to bring into combat in Western warfare, this book helps mark an important transition point between horsemanship being primarily a military matter to it being a civilian one as is the case nowadays. And that pivot point is a worthwhile one apart from the virtues of this book.  By and large this book is an enjoyable enough one to read and that is certainly something that can be celebrated.  Any time one can read a historical book and find it enjoyable is something that one can use as a way of encouraging more reading of old books that seldom find much of an audience these days.  At any rate, this book makes for an informative read that is informative not only when it comes to riding horses but also in looking at the importance of horses to the culture of the late 19th century.

This book is a bit more than 100 pages and it is divided into eleven chapters.  The author begins with a discussion of the lack of fitness of military riding for civilian use (1).  After that the author discusses holding the reins (2) and indication (3), as well as some dismissive comments about the mechanical aid the rider gives to the horse in jumping (4).  Discussion of the seat (5), mounting and dismounting (6), and the bit (7) follow as the author provides some very useful and practical discussion on taking care of horses and avoiding the sort of frustration that makes horses become surly and upset.  There is a discussion of riding both saddle and side-saddle (8), which was done more often by women, as well as the short rein (9), as the author demonstrates an interest in more technique for normal riding.  The book then ends with chapters on colt-breaking (10), an activity the author views as suitable for young and gentle riders, as well as some discussions about horses and their stabling (11), a very practical concern in the late 19th century.  After that the book finishes without the usual sort of material like an index or notes that one would find in present-day works.

It is interesting to ponder the aspects of horsemanship that the author thought it was worthwhile for his young relatives to know.  For one, the author notes the importance of having a good rein so as not to frustrate the horse with bad signals.  For another, the author is very keen to discuss matters of stabling as well as breaking horses, not matters that tend to be the most obvious ones that contemporary readers think about.  There are a lot of aspects of taking care of horses that contemporaries care about more, like riding and even dressage, that the author does not really have much interest.  He seems more interested in the basics and the logistics, which makes sense given that horses were still practical and useful work animals at the time.  This is, obviously, not so much the case nowadays, and so the focus that people have on horses is far less practical than it was when this book was written.  The book is short, though, and it seems unlikely that the niece and nephew will have minded the advice of a relative turning into a short book.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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