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Per L' Equitatzione Di Campagna (For Riding in the Field)

by Federico Caprilli

From the January-February 1901 issue of Revista di Cavalleria.


A New Translation (Second Edition) from the original Italian
by Dan Gilmore


Published by Daniel Gilmore
PO Box 793
Columbus, NC 28722

Translation and Introduction 82012 by Daniel Gilmore, PO Box 793, Columbus, NC 28722

All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted by any form or any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system without written permission from the publisher except for brief quotes or academic purposes with proper attribution.



Introduction - notes on the translation

            Federico Caprilli's article Per L' Equitazione Di Campagna (For Riding in the field) which appeared in the January/February 1901 issue of the Italian cavalry journal Revista di Cavalleria marks the birth of modern forward riding. Ask most people about who Federico Caprilli was and the invariable answer is, "he is the father of modern forward." Ask them if they have ever read anything he wrote and the number of respondents in the affirmative rapidly diminishes. Unfortunately, this article (which is much referred to by riding instructors world-wide) is largely inaccessible to most students of riding for a number of reasons.

The first reason is that the article in its entirety only appears once in English (other than in this new translation from the original Italian). That particular translation appears in Piero Santini's book The Caprilli Papers (translated and edited by Major Piero Santini. J.A.Allen, London, 1967). Piero Santini was a student of Caprilli's and tended to be somewhat 'evangelical' about Caprilli's new "Natural System" and tends to color his interpretation and translation to promote the system while treating the High School in general (upon which military equitation up to the inception of Caprilli's "Natural System" was based upon) as something that is entirely obsolete and of no particular use. Caprilli only indicates that the evolutions, maneuvers and collection of the High School are not suited to riding in the field in general.

One of the difficulties of producing a new translation of Per L' Equitazione di Campagna rests in the way Caprilli himself writes. Vladimir Littauer rightly notes in his book Modern Riding - The Story Of Formal Riding From Renaissance Times To The Present (originally published as The Horsemans Progress, D. Van Nordstrom Company, Inc., 1962) that Caprilli must have had an aversion to the written word because he wrote very little about his Natural System. Littauer also notes that Caprilli's article that is presented here is quite chaotic in terms of organization. This is absolutely correct as you will find that Caprilli tends to be highly disorganized in a literary sense. This is understandable because Caprilli was a horseman and not a writer. It is also understandable because most of what Caprilli speaks about and concludes must be experienced by the rider through experimentation or through the guidance of an instructor familiar with the original Natural System of Equitation, it's proper application and who understands that Caprilli's system was largely intended to be a system of military equitation. 

It is also worth noting that Caprilli also leaves a number of ‘holes’ in his description of his new system of military equitation. These holes can be attributed to the facts that the article is somewhat brief and that his target audience was the skilled cavalryman. Experienced riders today (of any discipline) can easily recognize those ‘holes’ and at the same time have very little difficulty in filling in those holes by integrating the principles involved with any existing forward system of riding. Also, most of what Caprilli says in his article will be familiar to any modern rider of any number of variants of the ‘Forward System’. 

In later interpretations of Caprilli’s ‘Natural System’ such authors as Vladimir Littauer and Piero Santini tend to eliminate the military nature of the Natural. This is a natural development due to the demise of Horse Cavalry (for the most part) but also unfortunate because there are elements of the military aspect of the Natural System that modern cross country riders (and especially the casual rider) can benefit from. Riding with the reins in one hand is one particular point of the military nature that most riders will find useful - mainly because it allows for better control in those instances in which a rider needs one hand free for any number of reasons. Caprilli cursorily explains this in his article in the context of ‘riding to arms’ but does not cover riding to arms (which he felt was already sufficiently covered in the contemporary literature on that subject) or the various rein aids necessary to riding to arms which can get quite sophisticated in the case of advanced riders. What  Caprilli is describing in this article is the basic principles of his system and the basic training of new recruits. 

Ignoring the military nature of the Natural System is also to ignore another point that Caprilli makes: ‘riding to purpose’ (that is, training a horse and rider to engage is a specific discipline of equitation to serve a specific purpose) and integrating Schooling, Seat and Control into one comprehensive system. Caprilli was a firm believer that one should school a horse and rider not in the arena (although riding in the arena has its uses) but in the environment in which the horse and rider are to be mainly employed. If you are going to ride in the field, school the horse (beyond the basic essential points) in the field. The collected nature of High School riding looked nice on the parade grounds but was quite useless and inefficient in terms of ‘campaign’ riding (what we could call ‘cross country’ riding in terms of covering ground in the field). Caprilli conspicuously notes, as the reader will easily discover, that the last goal of the cavalry of his day was proper and efficient riding in the field.

The vast majority of what Caprilli says in his article, as Littauer notes in Modern Riding, is taken as the norm today. But that does not take into account that much of what Caprilli promoted has been neglected or even ignored by today's riders. Caprilli wanted to eliminate the complexities of the High School in favor of a more simple and effective system mainly because it expended fewer resources and time in getting cavalrymen and horses into the lines quicker and more effectively. It would seem that today, too much of the classical methods (mostly in terms of collection and imposed balance and frame placed upon horses) have crept back into Caprilli's original simple Natural System of Forward Riding has become something arcane and unnecessarily complicated. I can largely be concluded that little, if any, improvement on Caprilli’s original system has been made (and some ‘improvements’ take on the appearance of a regression). This state of things I conclude would dismay Caprilli who only wanted to simplify matters for practical purposes of cross country riding.

The modern rider should consider, if nothing else, one of Caprilli's main points concerning the nature of the horse and the nature of the rider. Until Caprilli, the nature of the horse was something that was to be altered to meet the nature of the rider. Caprilli put the horse first: it is easier to change the nature of the rider to suit the nature of the horse. He was the first to really consider the psychology of the horse, equine locomotion, and how to best preserve and promote the nature of the horse and how it moves.

This brief article by Caprilli which I have translated should speak for itself as it describes in detail a very simple system of equitation that can be applied by any thoughtful rider of any level of skill with exceptional results. It will also demonstrate how far modern forward riding has wandered in certain aspects from Caprilli’s ‘Natural System’ of forward equitation (and usually for the worse).

My goal in translating in Caprilli's article to make this particular article available to those who have heard of Caprilli but have had no means of reading what he said in his own words and to let the reader understand how modern forward riding has developed in variance with the original system for better or worse. This last conclusion is up to the rider of today to determine for himself (a proposition that Caprilli might have encouraged).

This is the second edition of my translation. The differences from the first and second editions largely concern the editing of the language used in the translation for clarity of language and ease of reading. The translation is, for the most part, a sentence for sentence, paragraph for paragraph rendering so that it can be compared to the original text in Italian.

Special thanks must be extended to Barbara Fox of www.ushorsemanship.com for her indispensable editorial help and input on the first edition, and by extension, of this second edition.



Dan Gilmore




Per L' Equitatzione Di Campagna - On Riding in the Field
by Federico Caprilli

(From the January-February 1901 issue of Revista di Cavalleria.)



1. General principles for or against the development of an improved system of military equitation.

It is my increasing opinion, for reasons easy to understand, that the purpose of military equitation is to train men and horses in the shortest amount of time possible; to obtain from them maximum effectiveness and maximum speed in a way that promotes the temperament and physique of both; and to do so with less waste of resources.

Horses, above all else, must be trained to military purposes as the intent is for cavalry is to be used in actions of war: both horse and rider must be familiar with rugged terrain and varying conditions so they both can be calm in the face of difficulties. It is therefore appropriate that training exercises are rational and continuous to promote the required boldness in both the horse and rider.

Thus, the purpose of military riding lies in good performance in the field.

Should our policies dictate that one understands that the following pages should be placed at the end of the volume on educated horsemanship, with the exception that these pages, which have infinite value in themselves, should only be in harmony with the book in which they are placed? Allow me to express some doubt about that.

In fact it seems that the intent of this new system is to train a horse in a manner that is different from that traditional course. The traditional system believes that a soldier is best served by a horse trained by methods which desire to modify the horse's balance, head position, natural movement of the joints, and based upon the concept that a horse must only be balanced on the center of its mass, with head vertical and only articulated in the first vertebrae of the neck. The very fact that there are few horses in the regiments that match this requirement perfectly and other horses that serve them well would demonstrate that the methods suggested by existing rules as applied are too difficult and, at the same time, unnecessary.

We will see how the majority of so many horses that fail simply depend upon the desire at any cost to apply them in exactly the same way whether or not those methods lead to good results or produce barriers and other difficulties.

Instead, I think we should strive to produce a horse which is in its natural state, with natural balance, with natural head position, because if there is a need for some modification of balance we will see how the horse can correct itself when both horse and rider are left the appropriate freedom to do so.

I believe everyone needs to learn the fundamental ideas of what I believe in terms of principles of military riding because I am convinced that the rider who is natural in terms of position and balance serves the horse well, and that such a horse easily adapts to being submissive to the will of the human.

Both rider and horse in the field are, I believe, not united and work to the detriment of each other. This most often occurs as a result of the formal regulations in which the practices of riders produce mediocre results because of the requirement that horses be trained for the many derivations relevant to the High. In fact, all else aside, the regiments are too large and difficult for the soldiers to manage.

Let us now examine what the requirements are of a cavalryman and cross country riding to see if one can accomplish these requirements without strictly applying the aforementioned precepts.

What I call a ‘field horse’ is one that is good natured, calm and confident in the rider, fast and durable, long accustomed to galloping over any ground, calm and attentive in difficulty, and readily amenable to the will of the rider. This is what makes the ‘field horse’ and this is what makes the horse soldier.

Long years of practice and continuous observation have convinced me that the horse acquires the qualities of general effortlessness that I enumerated earlier, and submits to the cavalryman who applies work rationally and continuously, during which the cavalryman works to make his horse better trained in its actions and not thwart the development of its natural attitudes and energies. This does not mean that we should allow the horse to do what it wants; on the contrary, it must be firmly persuaded and with energy, if needed, to do what the rider wants, however, leaving complete freedom to the horse to use and dispose of itself as best serves its means of balance and energy. This principal is fundamental and constantly informs all of the general riding rules that I shall expound later.

Thus, free from worry, the horse shall give you all of its attention to do what it should do, and gradually learn to better use its strength and improve its skill. Instead, when the horse is apprehensive of the rider as a result of suffering from the rider's apprehension, the horse will constantly look for the pretext and opportunity to evade, as it learns to be in a state of distraction, turning away from any work to be accomplished. We will recall that the horse will submit itself naturally without the rider seeking to limit the horse by use of the force and strength in order to keep it in certain positions and rider imposed balance!

            Also, let us remember that when a horse is resisting difficulties it is agitated and as a result it often attempts to evade, falls, or defend itself. If evading, horse almost always attempts to evade in anticipation of pain remembered. The horse will always try to escape pain brought on by the actions of the rider or by fear of the rider. This real pain, anticipated or remembered pain, very often causes the horse to react, or while submitting, causes it not to use its energy and balance in a natural way making efforts that are unnecessary and harmful.

When we examine the jump, we have clear evidence of this truth: a horse that balks at a jump or rather doesn’t take to the air properly, ends up getting a shot in the mouth and a shot to the kidneys. To avoid this discomfort a horse learns to refuse a jump or learns to jump without extension of the neck resulting in a >tower jump' or rather a jump that involves a leap in which all four feet leave the ground simultaneously. Sometimes, the obstacle is not recognized by the horse and without any real intent the horse plants its feet, refuses the jump and then concentrates all of its attention on planting its feet and refusing. Occasionally, the horse, in despair, attempts the jump.

If the rider attempts to >help' the horse over the jump, the horse, for fear of this action, learns to anticipate the jump.

Another example we have is the horse that is being restrained when approaching a jump. The horse then tries to overcome a heavy hand to avoid the resulting pain which then often results in a horse that bolts in reaction to the rider's heavy hand.

In fact, by ceasing to drive the horse into the bit and reducing contact by using a light hand, the horse is not bothered by the rider's legs and ceases to bolt.

The facts that demonstrate the irrefutable truth of what I assert are perhaps more numerous than you would believe. The first rule of good riding is to simplify the aides and reduce the interference of the rider with the horse. Enough of applying the hands to hold back a horse while at the same time applying leg to move it forward to instill resolve and determination in the horse! If at the appropriate time the rider applies one of these actions and then releases it and remains passive and does not disturb the horse under work, the results will be beautiful. To do otherwise will result in discomfort to the horse.

Remember that it is very easy to pull on the horse and do harm but it is very difficult to give to the horse always under any circumstance - and this is something a rider must learn and be taught. He who has the ability to concentrate this way will always give to the horse and apply the aides in due time, applying contact in the right measure.

Well, it seems to me that our regulations do not state with sufficient clarity the principles I have just mentioned. The current regulations wish to preserve the refined and outdated methods and do not call for a more modern paradigm consistent with current needs. It follows an inevitable mixture of old methods with the prevalence placed upon classical methods and interpretation of methods according to regulations and is reflected by the results of such an education, particularly in the resulting condition of the horses.

            A horse can make much better use of its impulses, instincts and natural balance if it is required to perform natural work in the field and not the artificial work of the manège. The exercise in the field and the work performed there will enhance its natural balance. It will be the case and it will naturally follow that with any intervening action on the part of the rider progress cannot be made with a horse that is unfit and uncomfortable.

Sometimes the use of two reins in correcting the horse is required and other times it only requires taking the reins lightly and not bothering the horse's mouth to correct bend, collection, unity, gaits, leads, etc., if one thinks control needs to be exerted. However, it must be accomplished in a way that does not prescribe a specific intensity of contact and control as uniform for all horses in general.

While I agree that in recent times there has been a strong current to aim our current methods in a new direction, the means employed to obtain this end are either insufficient or contradictory.

I was astonished at the meaning of this and admitted that field equitation is the last goal of the cavalry, and it followed that there was a need to teach the soldier a new principle of equitation that was diametrically opposite to the system that currently informs the present system of the campaign school and consider the latter as being a corollary of horse handling.

If you admit the necessity for the cavalry being well educated in order to go in the field, we must prohibit many of the present methods and principles: under those rules, the soldiers are required to ride any horse, even those not scheduled for field work, but which are available to them at that time and location; add to this, a rider may be given a horse not required to ride in the field resulting in a false criterion for field work for the cavalry horse.

Let me now, after speaking in the abstract in terms of principles and methods, to be clearer, come to the point, and that we, including the cavalryman to whom I have much to say, take a look at a horse which was trained in accordance with the regulations. This horse, sooner or later, will have to go into the arena to change its balance and loosen its poll, learn collection, lateral gaits, tempo, etc. The horse will come out either well or poorly educated. If one detects that the horse has been trained and has good gaits, the goals will be easily met, it will be easy to collect and that in itself is already a defect in the cross country horse, and much more so if you consider that the amount of energy a horse consumes to cover a given distance of travel, much energy being consumed by his upright carriage and departure from his natural carriage.

But even after this, I agree that should this horse be given an education in the field which, if properly completed, the horse will forget and become unaccustomed the work wasted by training in the arena.

Therefore, at best you have done a great job training these horses under one hypothesis and then proceed to undo it. Suppose the horses come out of the stable flawed. Then it will be difficult to make good cross country horses out of them because they lack the essential first requirement of having the proper character which consists of trust and submission to the rider. It is indeed painful to think about the number of horses made vicious and sometimes useless by inept handling by our soldiers only because of the kind of riding they have been taught!

Things cannot continue this way. In fact, the handling in the stables presents so many difficulties that it requires an overhaul, which is impossible for a soldier considering the brevity and multiplicity of the instructions given him, to be able to learn and apply well the principles involved. In conclusion: the principle and method that I set forth, based upon proper military equitation, also have the advantage of great simplicity. Reason, practice and continual observation have convinced me that it is the only course that can be adopted to suit riding in the field.

The scope of this method is not obtained by other methods:

1.) Because, even if well executed, do not always prepare the horses for riding in the field but do them harm there;

2.) Because, the will of the horse to move forward has been diminished as is speed and increases resistance;

3.) Because they are too difficult to be learned well by the soldiers who, by misapplication of them, spoil the horses.

4.) Because their poor implementation of the rules assures that the primary purpose is not achieved as stated in the regulations: that of having the horse in hand at all times and being master of it. This is easily explained if you think about the many stiff actions involved, poor arrangement of the soldier which makes the soldier sore, stiff head position of the horse which annoys the horse, a horse in hand in the arena doesn't mean a horse in hand in the field. Indeed, it will often be entirely out of reach while it is mainly in the field that the soldier must be the master of the horse.

It now remains to say a word about the belief of many that work in the field can be extremely harmful to the conservation of the horse. This is absolutely not the case. That being said, at first, horses and riders should not be put to strenuous or extraordinarily hard work in the field. Only light, daily and continuous moderate exercise, in small increments and short gallops (and such work should be well adjusted and proportionate to the fitness of our horses) is needed and is not harmful but rather beneficial to the conservation of a good military horse.

In all things, and especially in military equitation, long and habitual preparation is required.

What is most damaging, dangerous and not profitable at all for the soldiers, is to suddenly require them to ride in the field when they are accustomed to riding a horse in parade and assembly formation without having been trained to riding in the field and without any regard to the criteria and principles of working a horse in the field.

2. Standards concerning the method for the preliminary training of horses and riders to the field.

We have seen how to accustom the horse to riding in the field without ruining it and disturbing its temperament, and that one should always take advantage of the natural instincts of the animal, indulging movements and gaits, and inflicting the least amount of discomfort to the horse's mouth, kidneys and ribs. Care should be taken to eliminate all unnecessary bend and forced balance, as well as all leg action except that which is necessary for forward impulsion of the horse.

The soldier should never hear about this in the first place because he is not able to apply the aides well and secondly because it doesn’t make a false premise of the work that enables one to make the horse perform as it should.

With this you will accomplish a dual purpose: it will decrease or eliminate any number of horses of a vicious disposition that are in the squads, and by simplifying the instruction, one will bring able men into the lines in less time.

Consequently there will no longer be cavalrymen who ruin horses by asking them to perform work they cannot accomplish and, even if well done and asked, brings no advantage but rather give the cavalrymen real work intended to improve the horse.

I would want that all were well persuaded of this and that I assert these principles are proven by reason and long experience and the truth of which can be implemented and tested by anyone, if one so wishes, on their own.

This principle is that the horse with rational training, during which it is permitted to balance as it wishes, and without unnecessary and deleterious pain, develops the best value from and immense profits to its abilities and, thus becomes docile and subservient to the requests of the rider.

That said, let us see what instruction must be given to a soldier and how it should be simplified.

You will quickly mount, using irons (uncovered) to make everything from the beginning, especially at the beginning, as easy as possible.

In order to teach mounting and dismounting of the horse and the movements involved, imitation of one who knows how is required. Once on the horse, you will correct the recruit so that he keeps his knees against the horse's sides and that the stirrup leathers are long enough to allow the rider to place more of the arch of the foot comfortably on the bench of the stirrup (on long walks and trots it will also be permitted to use just the toe in the stirrup). If the stirrup leathers are longer than needed, many times you will have an unsafe seat. If too long, one will have the same situation only with the aggravating circumstance that the rider will worry about foot placement in the stirrup resulting in bad balance and fatigue of the knees, legs and entire body.

Remember that correct posture is one of the first requirements because the instructor can then obtain firmness in the saddle from the student.

Care should be taken, especially in the beginning, to make few corrections as to position so that the rider does not get into the habit of becoming stiff or tense, and to take into account the conformation of the recruit. The reins are always kept in one hand or two to a hand as in double bridles. I think the double bridle, as prescribed by the regulations, is one of the main reasons why the soldier is unable to ride a horse well, and is found to be the cause of apprehensive and reluctant horses in the squads.

Considering the fact that the horse is naturally invited to spin on the inside rein, and turns when the outside is equally yielded, what then happens with four split reins? The soldier moves his hands to the left to turn left and right to turn right and in this way is pulling the rein to the side towards which the horse wants to move. Would it not be better and easier to get him to hold two or four reins all in one hand, teaching him to use the other to pull the reins right or left having one hand occupied with a weapon? In short, the rider is asked to keep in mind and learn to mechanically pull on the reins to turn right by the right rein and by giving the left and vice versa; some horses hesitant to respond will be made to turn approaching the inside leg and also, if necessary, by application of the spur.

Thus the horse will always respond to the soldier, even with a weapon in hand, though with one hand cannot apply the force necessary to the inside rein, when the soldier brings the right hand (even though wielding a lance or sword) to the rein he needs to use in the proper moment as I mentioned.

As the rider learns to balance in the various gaits and takes shape in the saddle the instructor will teach that the hands must be held naturally and kept as close as possible and to the sides of the withers, and that in all movements and reactions the rider receives, the hands must always remain low and ready to give to the horse's mouth, letting the horse take whatever position best suits its neck, without receiving a shock to the its mouth, but at the same time maintaining light support. These are the most important and also the most difficult things that must always be done well and the instructor must never tire of insisting upon this principle from the beginning.

This first instruction in horsemanship will be carried out for about fifteen days until there is no danger to taking them to the field.

During this time the reins will be held at will as much as possible at first in one hand and then both hands because the recruit is made to turn his horse and the instructor will immediately begin to instill in the recruits the idea of the proper action of the hand on the horse's mouth.

After a few days when the cavalryman has been riding the horse, you will make him work over a small, moveable barrier that is gradually increased up to fifty or sixty centimeters.

This exercise is the only one that made progress (without which no one else has remotely found a replacement), to produce deliberate riders and teach them instinctively to take natural balance even when the horse makes unexpected moves, and at the same time convincing them not to balance off the horse's mouth. The instructor will cure no problems with exercise at the school trot, and it is a better use of time to work on the trot and, at the same time, raising the stirrups, doing a little work at preventing the hardening that comes from the use of the trot in the ring without stirrups.

Therefore the recruits will spend approximately 15 days in the arena where they will be taught to ride the different gaits with stirrups and taught to turn, advance, hold and stop the horse.

It will be convenient to put the recruit behind an experience rider for the first two or three days. Please note the movements in this section that are to be avoided as much as possible, like those that uselessly tire the horse and those which do not benefit the horse otherwise the rider will not be able to get the horse to go where he wants despite the commands of the instructor.

It is expected that the reins are to be held long enough to allow the horse to take with its neck the position it likes best, and so that the smallest amount of contact is applied to the mouth with the bit. The legs will never be applied except to advance, or, in some cases to make the horse turn: the hands applied as little as possible to hold the horse. One must from the beginning assure that the rider asks the horse to move forward with the aide and gradually increasing the pace required to move the horse forward quietly at a slower cadence.

Remember that strong and unexpected aides harm the horse. Also, forcing the horse into departures is even more harmful because it precipitates disruption in the lines, especially when riding in formations, and is always followed by stops and harmful jabs to the horse's mouth and kidneys. All of this will be taught in the arena and will continue to be required while engaging in outdoor education.

When you have determined that a soldier has learned these few simple principles and applies them well, you are sure to have a good rider and a sensible horse that is decidedly willing.

The application of the rules I have established, very easy in normal cases, in moderate pace and easy terrain we should also remember in fast pace and varied terrain, as very often the rider loses attitude and then resorts to grip with hands and legs, losing composure, instead of remaining quiet and passive, being anxious to do anything, for fear that the horse won't understand what to do or not do enough.

These defects are lost only by the gradual, continuous, well-directed work in the field; any rules in the theoretical and absolute respect that differs from the few I have established in principle are useless if not harmful.

The rider in the field strengthens his structure with outdoor work since he learns there how best to adjust his balance and to be firm in its different actions as to the positions the horse takes, and is strengthened, as is generally believed, along with exercise without stirrups.

In fact, this hardens the soldier and teaches him to make unnecessary the use of force, whereas the secret of being firm on horseback is to be flexible and to use force only when necessary. The balance the rider needs without stirrups is completely different from that needed with stirrups, and then the rider must properly learn to make proper use of stirrups sometimes in order to lighten his seat and not shock the horse's back.

Therefore, work without stirrups, if used in some special instances and used sparingly can be useful, but in most cases is not only useless but harmful.

The rider is developed with exercise and with natural progression and not by trying to decrease or increase difficulty. It is necessary that the instructor takes great care to combat stiffness during exercises, and also in any respect in any part of the body in which it occurs, because it always ends with the rider spreading the hands, thus producing an action that results in pain being inflicted on the horse's mouth and which spreads to the kidneys.

3. Rules for riding in the field, overcoming difficult terrain.

In fifteen days of proper, intense work in riding, the instructor has prepared recruits to ride in a manner that it doesn’t present a danger in the field. The work up to this point will have taught them to turn, hold, stop and advance as an established norm.

After this period, recruits will be brought outdoors, first on flat ground and uneven ground. There riders will be put in groups and will with great care be called out from the group. It is now time for the soldier to understand how he must behave with a horse that works well in the field.

And I find myself having once again to repeat what I said and repeated: the horse will do good work and gladly do so when the cavalryman strives to make his actions less offensive to the horse, and, even though the rider requires that the horse be submissive to his will, leaves the horse freedom in committing its energy and equilibrium.

The instructor will then execute the trot and canter using, during that, the desired progression, expecting that everyone guides their own horse, from the walk and moving straight ahead maintaining the pace and always executing the method I mentioned above. And above all, attention must be paid to not allowing the straightness of the horse to be maintained by moving the hands laterally. Pull one rein, give with the other - here is something one should never tire of repeating. Also require that, as has been taught, hands are to be held low and firm, and the reins rather long, with slight support, always ready to give with the hands and yield and move them forward when the horse extends and stretches his head and neck. The chest will be held steady and upright as possible (very slightly bent forward when galloping), the legs still and not very close to the horse's sides and all supported by the feet in the stirrups. This will always be used in the light trot.

The purpose of this first part of outdoor education is to teach riders to stay calm and maintain the cadence at different paces, to let the horse work with the neck relaxed, maintaining light support and knowing to yield and advance the hands when the horse shows a desire for greater extension.

This thing always happens when the horse, in changing balance, needs to move his center of gravity forward and is similar to (in common with the carrying forward of the ears) a gesture of attention.

This last case occurs especially when a horse looks to a spot on which it intends to put its foot.

One must be careful not to upset this movement, but rather encourage it, however, but one must be careful because sometimes it precedes indecision and the desire to misbehave at that point. We then must be ready to apply the legs without applying the slightest amount of hand to prevent the horse from balking, and also be prepared with these actions to prevent a refusal. However, the extension of the neck should always be permitted because it helps the horse to be able to observe, and if the horse doesn’t observe, it refuses.

The attitude of the neck stretched out parallel to the ground, is valuable because it permits the horse to pay more attention and better observe the terrain over which it must pass, and is of the utmost advantage for another reason. In fact, it allows the horse to arch its back and hocks and relieve them of part of the weight and allows the lower back and hocks to work more efficiently. You should assist the horse and save both its back and hocks to help them work more effectively because it reduces wear on those parts as much as is possible. In addition, the arched back of the horse bears more weight with less effort. This point is very evident when we bend ourselves when we carry a weight on our shoulders.

Increasing the extension of the neck, then, is essential whenever the horse needs to perform any action in which it must move its center of gravity forward. The galloping horse generally assumes for itself, at work, any such attitude which is comfortable and does so when the reins are held conveniently long, and the support is light, and if care is taken to yield one's hands each time the horse requires you to do so. For this purpose, it will sometimes be useful to lighten your seat in the saddle, move your torso forward and not rely on the reins, even taking the reins up with the left hand and support with the right hand on or about the neck.

It should be noted that riders should show no anger towards the horse, but apply the aides with increased intensity in proportion to the sensitivity of the horse. Be mindful that you never stiffen the hand in the process, but relax even more tension in one’s muscles.

When restraining a horse, in general, and with nervous horses in particular, it is useful to relax and release the tension in all of the muscles of one's body and especially in one's legs and, when obliged to pull, one must never raise one's hands.

Remember, this generally causes the horse to react instantly to the firm action of the hand and in this case will be useful to stop the horse and produce a failure in cadence.

When you get the horses working quietly, looking where they put their feet, and the riders are not vexed or upset, it is time to get some good results in small steps. Anything can be accomplished sooner if you apply measures you deem useful for instilling a little bit of courage and resolve in the riders and to remove apprehension in them. However, one must always be sure to avoid incidents resulting in a contrary purpose.

In performing these steps a rational progression must be observed, and to require that the horse is quiet and performs these steps with the least possible expenditure of energy, not only because the horse can preserve his energy for unexpected trouble but also so they do not form an aversion to work. The rider will get the horse into a state in which the horse pays attention and understands what it is required to do and then the rider must not disturb the horse once it is in this state. Whatever obstacles that absolutely must be jumped, and I will discuss this in a separate chapter, that one meets in the field  uneven terrain, descents, climbs, features and difficult paths where it is necessary for the horse to look where it puts its feet. When these difficulties are of little account, it is useful to teach the rider to overcome them in the various gaits.

When passing an obstacle, under no circumstances should one alarm the horse by taking him too much in hand when there is no need, otherwise you will get a refusal or otherwise cause the horse to stumble or fall and generally prevent him from complying. The horse should instead proceed resolutely, with the same level of support and with neither increase nor decrease in cadence or pace.

Steep obstacles should always be approached straighton in case the horse is reluctant, refuses or reacts furiously. When in close proximity to the obstacle, the horse should be permitted to relax his neck, lower his head in order to better observe, and to bring his center of gravity back. And it is essential that the rider passively accompany the movement of the extension of the head and neck with the hands and moving forward without moving laterally. The rider's body will be held firm and vertical, and legs, if necessary, applied appropriately with pulsating and increasing force, until the horse takes the descent. But remember that in so doing, supporting the horse, as always, very lightly. On the landing, the rider will bring back his torso proportionately, and if the horse goes well, will stop the action of the legs by lowering the heels to avoid touching the horse with his spurs, and will continue to maintain low, steady hands and light support on the horse's mouth.

If the horse falls for any reason, the rider will try often to steady the horse by gradually withdrawing his hands towards his body in an effort to prevent the horse from going sideways. This is a very dangerous thing to do and we must try to avoid with all due diligence; as well as the need to repress the behavior of many horses to spin around and go backwards. Remember, however, the rider should keep calm, cool and collected because only in this state can the rider avoid adverse results. Keep in mind that in the process of a fall or the actual fall itself, a horse is often caused discomfort in his kidneys by the action of the rider's hands or legs, and sometimes the horse feels the discomfort from his kidneys down to his hocks. Also, back pain can be inflicted on the horse by the rider not paying close attention to the horse on the descent of the jump.

Also, steep inclines will be faced directly and are best undertaken at moderate speed, especially if the climb is a long one, so that at the beginning the horse will not consume all the energy needed to complete it. Sometimes it is better to take an incline at a more resolute gait when those inclines are short and steep because the horse can then combine muscle strength, impulse and momentum. It is also necessary when nearing the hill to lower one's body and advance one's hands allowing the horse to stretch his neck and head and carry his own center of gravity forward. Observe that in making such an ascent, a galloping horse does so in a series of consecutive jumps, in each of which he stretches back more and extends the neck and head forward further, especially in the last bound when power and impulse are failing, the rider must adjust himself in such a way that he always gives enough rein to the horse in order for the horse to make these indispensable movements.

The rider in the ascent will keep his chest forward and grab onto the mane with one hand if necessary. If the horse loses the will to move forward, the rider will apply leg vigorously in a pulsating fashion and also apply the crop behind the leg, if the horse attempts to turn away or evade, instead of pulling a rein, apply the crop or threaten to apply it.

This will be done in the training period, especially since it is during this time the mentioned problems occur. With well regulated and rational work in which the rider attempts to put into continual practice the principles I have discovered, the horse will learn to behave and understand all that is required of it. Any such work would be made useless should the rider apply any kind of coercion. This is one more reason why the rational correction of these difficulties should be conducted in field work otherwise, if attempted with weapons in hand, the soldier would lack the means to correct unruly horses.

When climbs and descents are very long, and their steepness is such that you can afford, they will be done in crosswise and winding fashion because that way the horse can proceed with more comfort and less fatigue.

It is good to train horses to enter and leave ditches, if the terrain is good and free of stones, and to cover ground at different gaits. When descending into and out of ditches, the rider will adjust himself accordingly and take care to prevent the propensity of many horses to attempt to jump the ditch. To accomplish this, observe that if the horse looks down into the ditch before descending into it, it makes it difficult for the horse to jump to the other side. If the horse attempts to jump, apply a side rein or otherwise you will completely miss the support necessary to keep the horse's mouth. To exit the ditch, one will endeavor to turn the horse so that he can apply his energy perpendicular to the ascending side by pulling on one rein and giving on the other until such time as the horse lifts his front end. Then immediately move your torso forward with the hands yielding as usual to the accompanying neck extension, which in this case is very pronounced. Lacking momentum at this point, and exits from ditches being generally very steep, it will help to apply leg at this time. When the horse has to climb a steep bank above a wall or a cut-bank, if it is not too high, the horse should elevate its front end and place the front legs on the bank, bringing up his front end onto the bank, and at the same time the rider gets more forward, lowering his head as the horse pushes forward to bring up the hind end. It is necessary at this point that application of leg only be given after the horse has his front end up on the bank.

The horse then learns by itself to do well in accomplishing the various other steps and difficulties encountered in the field if the rider knows how to allow and promote the horse's natural ability to look where it is putting his feet. A horse can beautifully and successfully overcome any difficulties of a journey when it can observe where it must put its feet, and then the rider only has to decide when the horse is to move forward, and then leaves the horse free in his mouth and bodily follows the horse's balance and motion. But the first and basic rule is to always allow the horse to observe and never force it to move forward before it has observed, leave it free, and maintain control and yield at the appropriate time.

I must now say something about horses that introduce some difficulty in submitting themselves to work.

First I will speak of the horse that is generally resistant because they do not adapt to work with due progress and which work has only resulted in unnecessary suffering. Such spoiled horses will soon do well if just taught to be mounted in a way to prevent them from any suffering on the part of the rider.

Then there are also horses that are lazy by nature and of poor temperament (though they are more rare than you think); and there are also those who have been spoiled by bad systems of equitation who have been made insensitive and have the habit of winning in defending themselves - horses which have been subjected to punishments that consume energy, strength and with increasing insistence until the horse has given up.

But if these horses submit and complete the work demanded of them should also suffer from pain inflicted by the rider, they will revolt with greater insistence and greater defensiveness. If the horse does not yield and submit except in hard work, he will learn to submit immediately to avoid the pain and penalty of adversely severe punishment.

An example of this is a horse that will only find it necessary to move forward only when it is to avoid the bite of the whip only to have pain transferred to the reins when he does move forward.

Please note that it is the standard practice that it is much more effective when one can accomplish things through polite persuasion, but when you do not get anything with these horses then punishment must be applied until the horse has somehow given in, however briefly or momentarily. In this instance it must be achieved at any cost before they stop resisting.

Quieting difficult horses is obtained gradually through long gallops at steady paces and rhythmic movements, through acquired structure, balance and tact on the part of the riders and you will enhance the education of both horse and rider with exercises at jumping. This, however, must be done well in order to give good results so long as it is not accomplished empirically since in this case it will provide no advantage to the rider and cause serious damage to the horse.

With work over well placed jumps the horse learns to overcome obstacles in the field that cannot otherwise be crossed and with only the minimal waste of energy strictly necessary.

But the usefulness of this work produces further gains for the rider. In fact, the jump comprises of actions of the horse in which the multiple changes in equilibrium and frame in the short space of a few seconds are most marked. It therefore requires a certain tact and firmness in the saddle on the part of the rider to accommodate and not bother the horse with hands or body weight.

When a rider assists a horse by accommodating it in the execution of a jump, he then has more than enough quality and ‘feel’ to not disturb the horse in any other action. This will become clear after a little study I am going to make on the actual process of the jump.

For my part I will say that this work has persuaded me more of what I have already said: horses become spoiled and revolt, in general, not as a result of hard work and work that is consistent with their abilities, but rather as the result of painful actions they receive from the rider. In fact, I have jumped obstacles with horses that refused and defended themselves and went badly. Yet, they have almost always managed to be put into place and I have made of them good-natured jumpers just by not trying to disturb them; and not sparing them any fatigue as a result of the work, but in just trying to avoid the agony and embarrassment that they can display from the inappropriate actions of the rider, and yet making with them the necessary progress.

I will try to study the jump in detail for the importance it has for the advantages it opens up when it is done well, and the dire consequences that can result when it is badly understood, and because I feel compelled by passion.

What I am about to say certainly cannot be learned from the soldier, but must come from the instructor so that he can sensibly regulate the work, correct timing, provide insight, and discover the real reasons for difficulty and waste of the horse.


De Salto (Of The Jump)

The jump, contrary to what you might casually think, is an action as natural to the horse as is the walk, trot and canter. For perfection and acquired skills, the horse needs efficient exercise, the basis of which is always the principles that require nothing artificial or forced, but only in accordance with nature, and leaving the horse freedom of movement and avoiding any unnecessary pain.

Who has not been told that the less you jump a horse, the better, and that it is better to avoid jumping because with each jump a horse loses some of its ability? I am not going to demonstrate how absurd this idea is, but it finds reason in how many times and in the way you perform this exercise, that the horse is inflicted with aches and pains induced by the rider who mounts it, and thus learns to jump badly and to refuse; and more so by the results of the bad actions of the rider who imparts artificial and forced balance, or uses force, and in going for the jump causing some damage to the animal after having seen what we have already observed about the way a horse moves.

Therefore, a horse should first be conditioned to be a good jumper so that it does not feel unnecessary pain in the execution of a jump. The rider should always have in mind that the unnecessary discomfort is always the consequence of every action that is contrary to the natural movements and mechanics of the horse that I would almost say it while jumping.

The main work to be concentrated on should concern the horse's mouth because the actions done to it can be the most painful and can change throughout the course of horse's natural balance.

Given the importance of this subject, we see briefly the way the horse jumps, and thus we study the horse jumping at liberty. Coming close to the obstacle, we see that it brings the tip of the nose forward, stretching the neck. This movement, which makes it easy for the horse to better observe and measure the obstacle is of great importance, and also important for the mechanical execution of the jump. In fact, as the horse relaxes the neck, the forehand points strongly to the ground receiving the weight of the body and throws it to the hind end when it is placed in a convenient way to receive it. With that, the horse has more smoothly placed its center of gravity on its hind end which has therefore agreed to bear most of the weight of the body, and then to launch the entire mass into the air.

What the horse does by retracting the head and neck and contracting the muscles of the trunk in this way is to allow for the center of gravity to be brought back, aided by the counterforce of the forehand and to rise in the front, and therefore the horse comes to due height by combining the momentum and energy of the gallop in the hind end.

The animal has at this moment made the effort to leave the ground, so I see us making a move of the utmost importance. In fact the horse has reached the desired height of the center of gravity, moves rapidly forward, stretching back very strongly, and the head and neck stretching forward at the same time as the foreend, which, after completing in this way the shifting of the center of gravity forward, also contributes a contraction of the torso muscles from back to front. The horse can then easily rear, and thus relieved, overtakes the obstacle. As soon as the front feet touch the ground, the hind end immediately comes back to shoulder the burden and allows the horse to continue the pace.

The first lesson to be drawn from these observations is that the rider is to behave in such a manner that the jump of the horse is always to occur in the way I described it.

Thus we always approach the obstacle straight on, at a steady pace, keeping the horse straight with even support, and holding one's hands steady and low at the withers. This will prevent the body from gravitating too far back, and any help that is not strictly necessary to maintain the cadence or pace of the horse will save the horse's legs.

The horse should move willingly towards a barrier, calm and attentive, so you have to avoid any movement or action that may excite or produce pain. Do not take the horse too much in hand, but wait until the horse is in hand of its own accord and sees the obstacle. Inspire him, and finally, make him observe and even smell it.

In this exercise, you will always need to pay attention to the process of starting with low hurdles and to never be in a hurry to raise them before the horse has done well on the previous jump.

In training a new horse, after the rider has made them understand what they must, one will first try to develop the eye, and I mean the ability of the horse to choose with precision and firmness the timing of the jump.

This is for me the most important talent required of a jumper, and a talent which is in part natural and partly acquired. The horse will accomplish it through long practice on an obstacle that may be gradually increased, although not too high, in which the rider will let the horse do it completely by itself, approaching the obstacle at moderate speed and just trying to eliminate anxiety and apprehension.

It is necessary that one approaches the obstacle so that the horse learns not to fear the actions of the rider and to convince him that this is always the way the jump will be accomplished and nothing to the contrary that will cause him any discomfort.

It is for this reason that the horse has to get used to having confidence in the rider and not to fear his actions. It is preferable to exercise the horse mounted rather than on a longe line when one is sure the horse can be mounted safely.

And do not forget that in practicing the jump you must use punishment sparingly, whether it is to correct excessive laziness, inattentiveness or misbehavior. Sometimes, when the horse resists the jump and advances in an undecided fashion, it is necessary to urge the horse forward with gradually increasing force proportionate to the need, but without harshness.

Given that firm balance in the saddle is the first essential requirement, without which it is useless to talk about other things, let us briefly look at what, in my opinion, distinctions should be made concerning the jump; to accompany with the body weight and especially with hands every movement that the horse makes and not to interfere nor apply any shocks or discomfort while performing them. More specifically: upon approaching the obstacle the rider should give with his hands and allow the horse to stretch its head and neck forward, decreasing support while keeping the same tension on the reins. Later, when the horse shows its head and neck and moves its center of gravity back to load the hind end, the rider will follow with his hands without increasing tension on the reins. As soon as the horse leaves the ground, the rider will accompany the forward shift of the center of gravity with his torso, but not rising up from the saddle too much. At the same time as the neck moves forward allowing the hands to give up the reins completely and, if necessary, allow them to scroll through your fingers, allowing the horse to relax its neck. This movement is important and essential because the horse can then perform the jump well and without pain. Notice that this movement which occurs when the horse is in the air is the most important point: the slightest bump of the rider at this time will compromise the outcome of the jump and also produce an action which is painful to the horse's mouth and kidneys, and will often causes the hind end to hit the jump.

A horse that is jumped without the rider's torso moving forward to accompany the forward shift of the center of gravity causes discomfort to the horse and many problems arise. In addition to this, the horse learns to >tower jump' with all four feet at once, which is extremely harmful or painful to its kidneys, and which requires much greater effort on the part of the horse. The rider with his torso forward, however, must be very forward, and therefore should always be ready to resume riding should the horse hit the obstacle or stumble on the landing. I think, in conclusion, that the part of the jump most affected by the movements of the rider is the flight and we must insist attention to this point be required of everyone.

To aid the horse by timing the jump, as some would wish to do, is a very difficult thing to do, and in this case produces, in my opinion, bad consequences. It is possible for the horse, out of fear of assistance, to stumble in the last stride seriously affecting the outcome of the jump. The good jumper will not want to be helped to jump because it has already measured the obstacle, already knows how much force is required to overcome the obstacle and any assistance on the part of the rider would be superfluous, and the mediocre and experienced jumper can become good through rational and continuous exercise and not through the use of aid or other violent means. Sometimes, as the exception, some aid can be useful in the last two or three strides of the canter approaching the jump if the horse hints that it is going to hesitate. But we must always be cautious to use it only to the appropriate extent.

As soon as the horse is going well, you must immediately desist from any action. At all costs avoid any lateral motion of the hands, and move your hands forward and yield the reins. Consider such a move (lateral movement of the hands) harmful as it prevents the horse from observing and then gives it an excuse to become more confused in its timing.

Please note never to jump considerable obstacles of which the horse is apprehensive or afraid. These horses will be given work over low obstacles, preferably at a slow pace, and even giving them the opportunity to look at or sniff them first. Finally, we will attempt to find the cause of the apprehension or fear, and then remove it. Once this is achieved the obstacle can be raised. With the nervous horse, the rider should also avoid gripping with the legs or to alarm the horse with too much hand, since these are the two things that make them fall or make them confused.

I have limited my study in this to draw some basic principles and I have certainly left many gaps, but the principle I have endeavored to highlight and which, in my opinion, is the foundation of the cross country horse, is to avoid producing any unnecessary suffering at work.

With rigorous application of this principle, which is also required for brevity and for the simplicity of the rules contained, the horse, by nature is submissive, will not revolt but will display, indeed, all of its qualities that made it so valuable a tool in every era of war.

I therefore urgently conclude that these few ideas should become the pivotal military equitation system imparted to the soldier. They are the fruit of no brief experience and have gained the approval of many foreign officers with whom I have had the opportunity to share. These ideas have spread amongst our cavalry to which much credit must be given.


Lieutenant Caprilli



All contents and original translations Copyright ©2012, Dan Gilmore, all rights reserved

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