Engaging Reading on Military Equitation Brightens Dark Days

Eventer Alane Alchorn kindly submits this review of a book published by Xenophon Press, a publishing house dedicating to preserving classical equestrian works, produced by EN contributor Charles Caramello. Military Equitation: or, A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride and A Treatise on Military Equitation are available as a single volume, and are worthwhile reading for anyone interested in learning from the works of the riding masters who preceded us by centuries. “Just as we learn from Jimmy Wofford, Denny Emerson, Ingrid Klimke, and George Morris today; so we can gain new insights and greater depth from Pembroke and Tyndale,” Alane says. “Since most of us lack the credentials (or even the time) to access rare-book rooms, we rely on researchers such as Chuck Caramello to open those windows into the past for us.” 

Military Equitation: or, A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride, by Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and A Treatise on Military Equitation, by William Tyndale. Ed. Charles Caramello. Frankstown, VA: Xenophon Press, 2018.

As autumn turns to winter, many riders turn to their bookshelves to prepare for the long, cold months to come. Even eventers fortunate enough to winter in Southern Pines or in Aiken know that dark nights brighten considerably with classical equestrian reading close at hand. Just in time to help us illuminate the pressing darkness, Professor Charles Caramello teamed up with Xenophon Press to pair Pembroke and Tyndale in a single approachable volume that offers readers new insights into eighteenth-century equitation.

Henry Herbert, tenth Earl of Pembroke (1734–94), happily declared that he had been “horse mad” from a very young age. It’s not surprising, then, that he asserts that good training exhibits patience and restraint and is grounded in quality horsemanship that employs sound theory and correct principles. Pembroke also offered strong opinions on such diverse equestrian issues of the day as proper bitting, effective saddlery, the correct cut-length for forage feeds, and safe fitting of halters.

William Tyndale’s birth date may be uncertain, but his service as a major in the 1 st Life Guards (1794) and two years later as a brevet lieutenant, places him almost a generation later than Pembroke’s in the continuum of classical equitation and training. Tyndale promoted reason, patience, and simplicity as vital elements in developing the kind of horse any of us might wish to ride. Interestingly, like American cavalry officer George B. McClellan, Tyndale also proposed a redesign of his military’s standard trooper’s saddle to improve utility, performance, and horse comfort.

So what can you expect to discover by reading Pembroke and Tyndale?

  • The living art of horsemanship, most particularly for eventers, is founded on proven principles tested and refined by British and European light-horse cavalry units. Riders in the 1700s strove to master suppleness, shoulder-in, and lateral work much as we do.
  • Balancing work on the longe, work in hand, work in the open, and work in the defined/enclosed arena varies for each horse and changes as the horse matures in its training. The horse, its condition, and its soundness will define the type and duration of the work needed to bestadvance the horse’s educational progress.
  • Horses and their riders are equally educable and capable of continual improvement. As the rider improves, so does the horse; the converse is equally true:“… the motions of the horse should be governed by the skill of the rider, who must first be instructed how to govern; for the as the untaught horse in an incumbrance (sic) to a taught horseman, so will the untaught horseman be to the taught horse; …” (Tyndale)
  •  “Everything in horsemanship must be effected by degrees, and with delicacy, but at the same time with spirit and resolution.” (Pembroke)

Charles Caramello’s “Introduction” and extensive explanatory notes provide historical context for these works for modern riders and instructors. (Two of his EN essays, one two-part series on Piero Santini and the development of the forward seat; and the other on scribing for dressage, YEH, and FEH competitions can be found here, here and here.)

A list of works cited in the explanatory notes accompanies each text.These specific bibliographies are a rich lode waiting to be mined by serious students of the equestrian arts. The “Introduction” also mentions more than a dozen influential historical titles.

The texts are presented in facsimile, with the original plates.The 17 plates for Pembroke are inserted at the end of the text, and the five plates for Tyndale within the text. Modern readers should expect a brief “break-in” period while adjusting to the conventions of eighteenth-century English writers. Yes, it quickly gets easier!

The book has illustrated cover, so a dust jacket is not included. A folded sheet of waxed paper or a large plastic food-storage bag will protect the book if it travels to the barn with you. Of course, this is the electronic age. Xenophon Press also offers an ePub edition that mirrors the printed one. Enjoy this new book either way!

About Alane: I am a USEA Life Member who has evented to Prelim. Yes, I rode in the  long-format days, too. My USEA # is 24133, so I am that old. I also ride Western, and have fun in sidesaddles of both English and Western designs. So, despite my first love of Eventing, I am shamelessly unfaithful to a single equestrian discipline. My current ponies are a lovely and classic OTTB red-headed mare and her sidekick, a smart dappled-gray IDSH six-year-old girl who is up for any tack I toss on her. 

I’m a current USPC Chief Horse Management Judge and have judged all across the country, from the Kentucky Horse Park to poor lonely Alaska. My local club, where I am a Horsemaster and an HM instructor, is Liberty Oaks PC in central California (Sierra-Pacific Region). I am also a Director-at-Large for the Irish Draft Horse Society of North America, serving for my first year in that capacity.