Posts from the ‘familiarization’ Category

3.Bibliography: V.S. Littauer, Field School

3.Bibliography: V.S. Littauer, Field School

    Schooling Your Horse : a Simple Up-To-date Method of Schooling Hunters, Jumpers, and Hacks

by Vladimir S. Littauer

This is the first non-fiction book I read about horses, 55! years ago. I still chortle when I remember that the bookmobile librarian phoned my mother to ask permission to check the book to me because it was an ADULT book. I was captivated by the images of Barnaby Bright, The Captain himself astride. I could see Barnaby Bright’s muscles ripple, and feel the joy and power of unity in motion. I studied, made notes, practiced.

Littauer, a Russian cavalry officer, emigrated to the US and should be credited with founding the American system of training working and showring hunters and tournament jumpers, and riding in the forward seat. Dressage riders will find that all the elements of the Training Scale are addressed, without fanfare or cerebral machination. His texts, for which people who knew them credit his anthropologist wife, Mary, are just plain lucid. And his program for schooling unfolds understandably to the mind of the horse and for the progression of the horse’s physical development. Especially for Thoroughbreds, whose minds tend to learn faster than their bodies are able to develop. Anyone who brings horses through field school, events through novice level, or foxhunts will benefit from this book.

    Commonsense Horsemanship

by Vladimir S. Littauer

Published first in 1951, my copy is the 1963 Second Edition, hot off the presses when it arrived via the bookmobile and came to occupy my mind and strum my essence.

I had already read Schooling Your Horse, and was practicing on the neighbors ponies and horses. I had never taken a riding lesson. I handled and rode unsupervised, trained the ponies the way I trained the family G. Sheps. I loved, petted and groomed them, admonished them when they misbehaved, rewarded lavishly when they behaved well, especially when they offered new, desirable behavior. Safety was not an issue; I learned to keep my head and feet out of harm’s way. I loved the horses, they loved me. What could go wrong? Why worry?

But I was more than receptive to knowledgeable help. I was ravenously hungry for it, when along came this seven course meal. After describing the nature of the horse, and it’s motion, leading to why to sit as he prescribes, Littauer narrates how to sit a horse, thence to control it, and school it. Next to teach others to ride, and to teach others to school their own horses. Craft understood. Field School accomplished. Foundation of the horses’ futures laid.

Although there are photos, diagrams, and sketches, the Littauers’ words were and are worth a gazillion pictures. Every time I pluck Commonsense from my shelf, I find new passages of illumination.

Holding it now, I see that the very first note I made inside it’s cover refers to this passage:
(PAGE 218)”In order to be a horseman he must forget himself, identify himself with the horse, feel that it is he, himself who has changed leads at the canter or taken the jump; only then will there be that complete union and harmony which produces true art.”

Local Motion: Cavalia is HERE!

High above Chouteau's Pond...For weeks, I’ve been watching the development of Cavalia Village while traversing the Poplar Steet Bridge. Even when only the White Big Top was erect between the Bridge and the carriage horse stable, I was drawn to stop and focus on it’s graceful presence on Chouteau’s Pond, Downtown St. Louis. My anticipation of Cavalia’s St Louis premiere had been building.
Cavalia's White Big Top in St. Louis

So when Cavalia invited Dressage Underground to the photo-op arrival of the horses themselves, I thought “Pourquoi -non?”  Dusted off my rusty photo-journalist self, and organized yesterday to include this picnic on Chouteau’s Pond.

Arriving early,  I was acknowledged with a nod and smile from a happy groundskeeper, and upon donning equipment and opening the trar door, surprised to be greeted by a gracious voice intoning “Are you media?…here to greet the horses’ arrival” “Mais, oui, madame” I replied, and was directed around a muraled security enclosure to the meeting point at the box office.  First to arrive, and greeted once more, I asked to have a respectful look about, and was able to peer through the parted curtains of the performance tent, one of the two exercise tents, the hospitality and staff cafeteria enclosures. Approaching a plexiglass double casement in the curtain wall of the stable tent…”Le Habitat,” I had heard the assembly crew call it…I stopped to read the sign,
.............................

and while peering around it, I heard a friendly, French inflected voice “One P.M.”
“I can wait” I said, catching M. Valcour’s grin, as he opened and passed through the portal, and strode in to himself be greeted by the huge gray head of vaulting horse, with whom he stopped to exchange pleasantries. Junior, it seems, had arrived at 10A, had been showered, but not yet shaven, and was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his people.

Media had gathered and were being greeted by M. Pacquette when I returned to the meet point.   Looking up to see two twelve horse transports in tandem approaching The Poplar, and knowing they would exit at 6th, I prepared for
http://youtu.be/DarFKKrKD5M

Soon a ramp was down and the sisal carpet rolled out for ‘the artists.’ As human cast and crew greeted one another, the scene unfurling was delightfully and factually narrated by Fairland Ferguson,  who trick and roman rides in the show.
http://youtu.be/JIKAkOppCJI

………………………………
http://youtu.be/wkOsLYw_A8A

When all of these 25 of the 49 horses were safely “en habitat” we were invited in to have a look around…
http://youtu.be/fXxCrYGlMg0
and observe preparations for their first sand box frolics in St Louis.  Drawn to the cluster of Iberian grays who dance dressage, I found myself engaged by the graceful motions Tatiana Daviaud, tacking her partner, Goloso. Addressing her in my schoolboy French, she agreed to express her obvious passion for dressage.
http://youtu.be/E4Py6F0Z0_s
When I stopped the film, I became aware, once again, of the presence of M. Valcour, who offered to provide this translation to English:

‘’ In respect to movement, we work to promote balance and agility with a focus on flexibility and relaxation for all of the horses. With these different elements in place, we ensure that the horses feel ready, mentally and physically, to take the stage and turn it into their very own playground each night.. ‘’

Soon, we were ushered  onward past the tack room.. a container with double overhead doors that can be loaded on and off an over-the-road flat bed, and placed in the perimeter of the stable tent. As I paused to snap it, Roman rider Chad Dyson asked whether I wanted him “out of the picture.” “Au contraire, bon homme,I want you IN the picture.”

And onto the river sand footing of a warm-up tent, where we were introduced to several of the horses and riders, including Head Trainer Gregory Molina, and his four graceful accomplices of this concentric circle synchronization.
http://youtu.be/ED6omHvwHeM
And got to see Fairland and Chad find their footings on the backs of their Roman pairs.

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If I hadn’t “heard” the voice of the schoolmaster calling “HAY,” I ‘d have made a nuisance of myself there in Cavalia Village, the rest of the afternoon. But artists deserve creative privacy.

And Dressage Underground is to return.

Listening to the riding horse

Free Translation Widget
Yesterday, I was schooling a novice horse, on near perfect footing, in falling rain, when he snorted at me. We had each other’s attention…I continued to listen and heard his ‘oil can’ precursor of schwung, and soon, the softly emphatic rhythm 1-2-1-2-1-2-… of cadenced working trot. We made much of this ….

Then, cleaning tack, I thought to revisit d’Endrody, and to republish this essay of yore:

“Well, Some of Them DO Talk”

Several years ago, I began handling and then stabilizing a former flat racer for I knew not then what other sports.  I noticed the very first day I put my hands on The Saint that he reacted to many of my motions, and often to my voice, with a snort. These snorts were not the snorts of a horse startled from grazing by a child passing in the lane on a bicycle, or the defiant snorts of a herd leader to the newcomer, or the snort of a fit horse who, upon being turned out on a chipper morning, throws up his head and exclaims before moving off to inspect the far of the field. These were low, soft, kindly snorts.

At the time I thought that the horse was telling me of his curiosity, surprise, bemusement, or disdain. But then horses don’t talk to people, only to each other, right? As his new surroundings, my motions, his tack, and clothing became familiar and then routine, the snorts subsided, and I forgot them.

As he progressed to lungeing on voice commands in the indoor hall, and I realized that, as he would go to the limits of the line to loosen up before I attached long reins, he was snorting again.  These were not look over the shoulder, snort, buck up and snort sort of snorts that celebrated a modicum of freedom, or the kick out and snort sort of snorts of a prankster. This horse would walk calmly away from the chambriere, increase the diameter of his path, bend his neck inward, make eye contact with me, and snort a few or several times while remaining entirely calm at walk and trot.

With the indoor hall otherwise silent, I would hear him snorting while he watched me prepare a grid for free jumping.  Of course I thought he was just blowing dust out his nasal passages, or that he had a minor allergy to winter mold.  Or… was this horse saying “Ah, time to get on with playing our games, eh?”  It did seem so, but then horses only talk to each other, not to people, right?

Soon I noticed that upon my first carrying tack to his stall front racks, but before I opened his stall door, The Saint would leave his hay, turn about his hindquarters toward me, lower his head, and snort.  sometimes he did this before I said anything to him, and sometimes soon after I greeted him with, “Hi, Snort!”

So, I was in my library one evening, ruminating about all this snorting. I was fascinated. Knowing that they would at least not laugh (out loud) at me if this was beyond the cutting edge, I considered faxing Equus to ask whether they knew of research on horses trying to talk to people (without being prompted by a pin prick.)

But I became distracted by the need to complete an assignment. So I looked over drawings on the drafting table, and then reached for A.L. d’Endrody’s Give Your Horse A Chance to verify the formula for the distance between two elements with ditches in a combination on a cross-country course to be ridden at preliminary speed. Opening to the index to find that table, my eyes became riveted upon “Snorting…147”.   SNORTING!  What was  d’ Endrody’s concern with snorting? Could I resist?

Actually beginning on page 146. I read:

“Creating of suppleness in the horses behaviour

The secret or producing suppleness is to obtain the horse’s understanding and willingness to obey, since the state of its body depends mainly upon the quality of its mental apprehensions.  The more successfully the suppleness of the animal’s mentality is attained, the more readily does it offer the suppleness of its body.

There is an interesting and convincing proof offered by the horse itself of the validity of this statement.  Horses often give an audible sign when they are changing from opposition into submission by starting to snort kindly.  The rider can best recognize this phenomenon during loosening exercises or regulating procedures at the moment when the change in the horse’s general behaviour [sic] sets in.  It is evident that this ‘talking’ is the expression of a mental function, thus the relaxation of the body, which the rider can perceive simultaneously with the snorting, must also be a direct result of the animal’s mental function.”

Of course I read further and with heightened respect for this authority who wrote about horses ‘talking’ in 1959.

Next day, I arrived at The Saint’s stall as he was sipping his water bucket.  Without waiting for him to finish his drink, I greeted him with “Hi, Snort!”  Then before my very eyes, he raised his chin from the lip of the goblet, stepped (or maybe only leaned) back, flexed his poll, and snorted. Upon my saying softly to him “Well aren’t you somebody?” he resumed drinking.  He snorted to me a few more times while we prepared to go to the indoor to play our games.

I don’t know whether this horse was really talking to me, d’Endrody wrote that some of them do. But I’m sure going to keep talking to horses… and listening.

Well…Some of Them Do Talk

Several years ago, I began handling and then stabilizing a former flat racer for I knew not then what other sports.  I noticed the very first day I put my hands on The Saint that he reacted to many of my motions, and often to my voice, with a snort. These snorts were not the snorts of a horse startled from grazing by a child passing in the lane on a bicycle, or the defiant snorts of a herd leader to the newcomer, or the snort of a fit horse who, upon being turned out on a chipper morning, throws up his head and exclaims before moving off to inspect the far of the field. These were low, soft, kindly snorts.

At the time I thought that the horse was telling me of his curiosity, surprise, bemusement, or disdain. But then horses don’t talk to people, only to each other, right? As his new surroundings, my motions, his tack, and clothing became familiar and then routine, the snorts subsided, and I forgot them.

As he progressed to lungeing on voice commands in the indoor hall, and I realized that, as he would go to the limits of the line to loosen up before I attached long reins, he was snorting again.  These were not look over the shoulder, snort, buckup and snort sort of snorts that celebrated a modicum of freedom, or the kick out and snort sort of snorts of a prankster. This horse would walk calmly away from the chambriere, increase the diameter of his path, bend his neck inward, make eye contact with me, and snort a few or several times while remaining entirely calm at walk and trot.

With the indoor hall otherwise silent, I would hear him snorting while he watched me prepare a grid for free jumping.  Of course I thought he was just blowing dust out his nasal passages, or that he had a minor allergy to winter mold.  Or… was this horse saying “Ah, time to get on with playing our games, eh?”  It did seem so, but then horses only talk to each other, not to people, right?

Soon I noticed that upon my first carrying tack to his stall front racks, but before I opened his stall door, The Saint would leave his hay, turn about his hindquarters toward me, lower his head, and snort.  sometimes he did this before I said anything to him, and sometimes soon after I greeted him with, “Hi, Snort!”

So, I was in my library one evening, ruminating about all this snorting. I was fascinated. Knowing that they would at least not laugh (out loud) at me if this was beyond the cutting edge, I considered faxing Equus to ask whether they knew of research on horses trying to talk to people (without being prompted by a pin prick.)

But I became distracted by the need to complete an assignment. So I looked over drawings on the drafting table, and then reached for A.L. d’Endrody’s Give Your Horse A Chance to verify the formula for the distance between two elements with ditches in a combination on a cross-country course to be ridden at preliminary speed. Opening to the index to find that table, my eyes became riveted upon “Snorting…147”.   SNORTING!  What was  d’ Endrody’s concern with snorting? Could I resist?

Actually beginning on page 146. I read:

“Creating of suppleness in the horses behaviour

The secret or producing suppleness is to obtain the horse’s understanding and willingness to obey, since the state of its body depends mainly upon the quality of its mental apprehensions.  The more successfully the suppleness of the animal’s mentality is attained, the more readily does it offer the suppleness of its body.

There is an interesting and convincing proof offered by the horse itself of the validity of this statement.  Horses often give an audible sign when they are changing from opposition into submission by starting to snort kindly.  The rider can best recognize this phenomenon during loosening exercises or regulating procedures at the moment when the change in the horse’s general behaviour [sic] sets in.  It is evident that this ‘talking’ is the expression of a mental function, thus the relaxation of the body, which the rider can perceive simultaneously with the snorting, must also be a direct result of the animal’s mental function.”

Of course I read further and with heightened respect for this authority who wrote about horses ‘talking’ in 1959.

Next day, I arrived at The Saint’s stall as he was sipping his water bucket.  Without waiting for him to finish his drink, I greeted him with “Hi, Snort!”  Then before my very eyes, he raised his chin from the lip of the goblet, stepped (or maybe only leaned) back, flexed his poll, and snorted. Upon my saying softly to him “Well aren’t you somebody?” he resumed drinking.  He snorted to me a few more times while we prepared to go to the indoor to play our games.

I don’t know whether this horse was really talking to me, d’Endrody wrote that some of them do. But I’m sure going to keep talking to horses… and listening.

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