Marco de Pavari and the dominion of pleasantness

Anonimo italiano, Studio della testa di un cavallo, circa la metà del XVI sec.  © Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York

Italian Anonymous, Head of a Horse, mid 16th century
© Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York

by Giovanni Battista Tomassini

[This is the text of my speech at the Resolution Day, organized by Francesco Vedani at the Spia d’Italia Riding Center in Lonato del Garda (Italy),on Sunday, December 3, 2014]  

This is the story of a mysterious horseman. We only know his name and a few pieces of information that we can deduce from a very rare book, which was published in Lyon (France) in 1581 and which bears his signature. Even though it is very interesting, this book it is still quite unknown. Our horseman was called Marco de Pavari and he was of Venetian origin. This does not necessarily mean that he was born and raised in the city of the gondolas. In fact, in the sixteenth century the Republic of Venice had a vast hinterland, which spread to the river Adda, not many miles from Milan.

We also know, because his publisher Jean de Tournes wrote it in the dedicatory letter of the book, that Marco lived in France and was the horseman of François de Mandelot, the governor of Lyon. At the time, Lyon was an even more important city than it is today. It was a flourishing center of trade. For this reason, many Italians lived there. Indeed, according to the Renaissance writer Matteo Bandello, between the European cities at that time, Lyon was the one in which there perhaps were more Italians that in any other place outside of Italy. And it is not surprising that an important person, such as the governor of such a rich city, had an Italian horseman in his service, because at that time, the majority of the horseman in the European courts were Italian. And even an Italian, Galeazzo Sanseverino, became Grand Squire of France, during the kingdom of Francis I (1494-1547).

Stefano Della Bella, Pesade, da Diverses exercices de cavalerie, circa 1642-1645 © Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York

Stefano Della Bella, Pesade, from Diverses exercices de cavalerie, ca 1642-1645
© Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York

The book, entitled Escuirie de M. de Pavari venitien, is a folio volume of about sixty pages in which the Italian and French texts are side by side in two columns. In addition to the text, the content of the book is enriched by fourteen full-page plates, which depict different models of bits. The fact that the dedicatory letter of the treatise is signed by the publisher, and not by the author, suggests that, most likely, the book was published after de Pavari had left Lyon, or perhaps even when he was already dead. The most interesting feature of the work is that it is largely dedicated to the rehabilitation of horses that became resistant or rebellious because of mistreatment. In fact, even if in those days the practice of horsemanship was much more widespread and important than today, the use of coercive and brutal methods was quite frequent. As just one example, consider that the first book dedicated to horse riding ever published in print, Ordini di cavalcare (Rules of riding, 1550) by Federico Grisone, ends with a gruesome collection of “secrets”, that is to say tricks of the trade, so brutal as to seem invented on purpose. It is then easy to imagine that many horses subjected to these abuses became very difficult to ride. What is most original in the book by De Pavari is that he suggests rehabilitating them with gentleness, shown in the following excerpt:

that gentleness earns more than desperation: which you too can learn to be true, that desperation leads them [the horses] to do all these bad wills and not gentleness, which does not do this, but mitigates them and draws them to itself [i.e. to gentleness] (DE PAVARI, 1581, [42] p. 31).

Il libro di de Pavari è ornato di tavole che rappresentano diversi modelli di imboccatura

de Pavari’s book is enriched by full-page plates, which depict different models of bits

De Pavari focuses on preventing traumas to the horse from the very early beginning, in order not to spoil his good disposition towards man. For this reason, for example, he recommends placing an experienced horse next to the colt in order to calm him in the first phase of the taming and to use only the cavesson at the beginning of the training, in order not to damage his mouth with the bit. (Actually, even the much-maligned Grisone recommended starting to use the bit only when the horse has already learned how to turn and stop). Along with these guidelines, he emphasizes the importance of caresses, to calm and to give a reward to the animal. He also points out, something that we all should keep in our minds, that we should not expect too much from a young and untrained horse, not to bother and ruin him by imposing on his generous nature.

Similarly, he then recommends to not attempt to cure a trauma with another trauma. For example, he says: when a horse has a tendency to escape and evade the action of the bit, usually this happens because it has suffered the abuse of an inexperienced and heavy hand. In that case then, instead of clinging to the reins, with strong, constant pressure:

you must give, that is to say to loosen the hand little by little and then to collect it in the same way, so that they [the horses] will lose that bad will and they will stop (DE PAVARI, 1581, [42] p. 31).

Anonimo, Uomo su un cavallo impennato, datazione incerta © The Trustees of the British Museum

Anonymous, Man on a rearing horse, uncertain date
© The Trustees of the British Museum

And if this expedient method does not work, rather than clinging to the reins, he says, it is enough to put the horse on a tight volte to stop his flight. He then suggests a funny trick: to distract the horse from his desire to escape, the rider can ride him carrying a branch of willow, full of leaves. While riding, he should offer the branch to the horse, letting him eat it, but without giving it completely, but holding it, in order to divert him from his intention.

The same applies to the horses which refuse to turn to one side, or which recoil instead of going forward. Rather than beat them (as suggested by Grisone), de Pavari prescribes to use a milder bit and the cavesson and to ride them without spurs, ensuring that the girth is not too tight.

To conclude, de Pavari writes:

And if you love this virtue, I urge you to proceed with gentleness, which dominates everything, that if you will do the opposite you will not acquire anything but the blame of the people who are worthy and expert (DE PAVARI, 1581, [60] p. 38).

Stefano della Bella, Cavaliere conduce la sua cavalcatura ad abbeverarsi in un fiume, XVII sec. © Metropolitan Museum of Art - New York

Stefano della Bella, A horseman descends a riverbank, ca. 1644-1647
© Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York

In conclusion, I would like to add a final, personal observation to this story. The difficulty of rehabilitating a horse that has become rebellious because he suffered abuses by man, highlights the complexity of our relationship with these wonderful animals, which are extraordinarily compatible with us, but at the same time are very different. This diversity, which has some even enigmatic traits (if you only consider how difficult it is for us to understand the sudden terrors that sometimes trouble these behemoths weighing one thousand pounds), makes it extremely difficult to communicate with them and to turn them into our companions. This is especially true since each of them has completely different characteristics and sensitivity. Already in the sixteenth century, another author of a wonderful book, Claudio Corte who published his Il cavallarizzo (The Horseman) in 1562, emphasized how the art of training horses should be considered more difficult than others, because contrarily to what the teacher does with his students, the horseman cannot instruct his mount through spoken words.

Only a positive experience, together with a great love and a continuous reflection, allows us to improve the communication between man and animal. And this explains why any horse visibly changes if it is handled by an experienced rider, or by a less experienced, or even by a novice. After thirty five years of horseback riding, I am deeply convinced that you cannot gain competence only through an assiduous practice (which is also essential), but you must enrich your experience through study and theoretical reflection.

Disegno di Stefano Marchi

Design by Stefano Marchi

Studying the history of horsemanship is not just a pastime for intellectuals, but it is a way to share the knowledge of generations of riders who came before us. This heritage is there: in the books that form the tradition of the equestrian art. It is up to us to rediscover their inestimable value, in order to nourish our passion and enhance our experience of this wonderful way of life that is the practice of riding.

Bibliography

DE PAVARI, Marco, Escuirie de M. de Pavari venitien (en ital. Et en franç.) Jean de Tournes, Lyon, avec fig, 1581 [citiamo dall’edizione moderna Escuirie de M. de Pavari venitien, a cura di P. Arquint e M. Gennero, Collegno, Roberto Chiaramonte Editore, 2008].

GRISONE, Federico, Gli ordini del cavalcare, Napoli, stampato da Giovan Paolo Suganappo, 1550.

Da sinistra: Giovanni Battista Tomassini, Francesco Vedani e Massimo Da Re al Resolution Day

From left: Giovanni Battista Tomassini, Francesco Vedani e Massimo Da Re
during the Resolution Day
© Massimo Mandato

In horseback riding “it always remains something to desire”

Édouard Boutibonne, Portrait of Napoleon III, 1856,  © The Royal Collection

Édouard Boutibonne, Portrait of Napoleon III, 1856
© The Royal Collection

by Giovanni Battista Tomassini

“In the military art there is no discipline more beautiful of this of the Horses, which is not only adorned with beautiful effects; but it is necessary and of great value.” This is the beginning of the first printed book dedicated to horseback riding. Written in 1550, this model, established by Federico Grisone in his The Rules of Riding, was followed by many other authors and the initial apologia of the equestrian art became commonplace in equestrian treatises. Although in some instances, these panegyrics are tangled in a nearly incomprehensible and convoluted style, they however represent a source of very interesting ideas for the modern reader because they offer a perspective on how mankind narrated and motivated over the centuries his millennial passion for horses.

Even if all of the ancient works emphasize the importance of horsemanship for military purposes, there are also several authors who underline that learning how to ride a horse produces beneficial effects on body and spirit. We have, for example, already seen in another article (see Riding as a way to cultivate the soul. Dom Duarte and the remedies against fear) that in the fifteenth century, the King of Portugal, Dom Duarte, claimed that riding a horse formed a person’s character because it instills courage. However, it is probably Claudio Corte  the author who writes with more depth than others, his thoughts on this subject. First, extolling the benefits that riding brings to the health of the body:

the use of the horse is very helpful to the health of the body; since it is a very noble and moderate exercise of almost all limbs, as in mounting a horse each limb is used separately and the whole body all together, with an incredible proportion of motion that is impossible to put into words. […] Riding also generates cheerful humor and banishes melancholy, which is a very bad and very harsh humor in the human body. And this you can easily see, by considering that anyone who is oppressed by any great sorrow feels very much relieved when riding a horse who satisfies him (CORTE, 1562, p. 11v).

In the fifteenth century, Dom Duarte claimed that riding a horse formed a person’s character because it instills courage (The tournament of Camelot, miniature from Gautier Map, Le livre de messire Lancelot du Lac,  manuscript of the fifteenth century Source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliotèque nationale de France)

In the fifteenth century, Dom Duarte claimed that riding a horse
formed a person’s character because it instills courage
(The tournament of Camelot, miniature from Gautier Map, Le livre
de messire Lancelot du Lac, manuscript of the fifteenth century
Source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliotèque nationale de France)

According to Corte, from horses and equitation comes also social prestige. Every gentleman is, in fact, judged by others for the way he rides and maintains his mounts. In addition, the author adds a remark that is still fully valid today: the horse gives the pleasure to contemplate places that without him would be difficult to reach:

And that it is true you can see in considering that without the horse it would be difficult to enjoy that great pleasure and happiness, which the view of the countryside away from the tumult of the city and the goodness of the weather and the serenity of the sky give to men, being impossible to go there on foot without a lot of effort and discomfort, which would take away the pleasure, either in whole or in large part (CORTE, 1562, p. 13v).

The practice of equestrian sports imposes the contact with nature to man. For that alone, riding is an activity that makes us a better people. (Diego Velasquez, Don Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, 1635, © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

The practice of equestrian sports imposes the contact
with nature to man. For that alone, riding is an activity
that makes us a better people.
(Diego Velasquez, Don Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, 1635, © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

If this was true at a time when the horse was also used as a means of transport, it is perhaps even more so today. The practice of equestrian sports imposes on modern man, whose life is marked by the rhythms of technological society, the urge to carve out a moment in his day devoted to contact with nature. For that alone, riding is an activity that makes us a better people.

The spiritual dimension of horseback riding is further emphasized in the first treatise in French: Le Cavalerice François, by Salomon de La Broue. According to the author, the study of the nature of the horse and the practice of the means to tame and train him for war, or for the use in jousts and tournaments, changes the rider, enhancing his best qualities.

Because to fully master such a vigorous and proud animal, the horseman must be naturally ingenious, patient, brave and strong. In addition to this, it is necessary that the long experience of the best schools that teach this exercise has given him a knowledge such that he can judge well the mood and disposition of the horse to industriously profit of the good effects of the same horse’s nature (LA BROUE 1602, p. 3).

Author of the first equestrian treatise    ever published in French, Salomon de La Broue  emphasizes the spiritual dimension of horsemanship. (Salomon de LA BROUE, Le Cavalerice François, Paris, A. l’Angelier, 1602, frontispiece)

Author of the first equestrian treatise
ever published in French, Salomon de La Broue
emphasizes the spiritual dimension of horsemanship.
(Salomon de La Broue, Le Cavalerice François, Paris, A. l’Angelier, 1602, frontispiece)

To train the horse, the horseman must possess innate, and further refine, his own sense of proportion and rhythm, reaching an almost mathematical ability to perform with the due rigor, the complicated “manège airs”. La Broue adds that the gifts required are so sophisticated that, considering a horseman who is really competent in his art, it is easy to believe that he may well succeed in many other activities. Indeed, horsemanship is an art that requires very subtle qualities that, according to the author, cannot be learned by everyone. Especially by a rough and uncultured person:

I think it never happens that the perfection of such knowledge is communicated to certain weak and coarse spirits who profane it every day apparently attributing the honor of such competence to themselves and letting the ignorant admire them (LA BROUE 1602, p. 3).

In Pluvinel's work horseback riding assumes the character of a true spiritual gymnasium (Antoine de Pluvinel (1552-1620), L’instruction du Roy en l’exercice de monter à cheval,  Paris, P. Rocolet, 1627, engraving watercolored in the seventeenth century, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris)

In Pluvinel’s work horseback riding assumes the character of a true spiritual gymnasium
(Antoine de Pluvinel, L’instruction du Roy en l’exercice de monter à cheval,
Paris, P. Rocolet, 1627, engraving watercolored in the seventeenth century,
Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris)

These arguments are further developed in the subsequent work by Antoine de Pluvinel, L’instruction du Roy en l’exercice de monter à cheval (1625). In this work, horseback riding is described as assuming the character of a true spiritual gymnasium. Indeed, while one can learn the sciences and other arts in a state of calm and with no other concern than to apply to the study, the equestrian art can be learned only by mounting a horse, which is to say, deciding to suffer all the extremes that can be expected from an irrational being. The rider must, in fact, face his mount’s fears, anger and laziness, while overcoming at the same time, his own concern about the dangers to which he is exposed. According to Pluvinel, the rider can overcome these difficulties only through knowledge and the firmness of his judgment, maintaining the same calmness and readiness with which the student tries to learn something from a book, but while in the midst of danger.

By this, your Majesty may know very clearly in which sense this beautiful exercise is useful to the spirit, because it educates it and accustoms it to execute with precision and order all of these functions between the hassles, the noise, the agitation and the continuous fear of danger, which are like an encouragement to make it capable of performing the same tasks between the arms and in the middle of the dangers that you meet in a battle (PLUVINEL, 1625, p. 3).

In short, by riding horses we become accustomed to facing difficulties and dangers, while maintaining self-control, thanks to the knowledge and serenity that comes from our experience. Pluvinel emphasizes the importance of this exercise in the military and political field, but the modern reader can easily grasp its existential value: while getting used to facing problems and risks, keeping our nerve and making quick decisions on the basis of our own experience, it is useful not only on a battlefield, but in everyday life.

Antoon Van Dyck, Portrait of Tommaso di Savoia Carignano, Torino,  Galleria Sabauda, 1634.

Antoon Van Dyck, Portrait of Tommaso di Savoia Carignano, 1634, Torino, Galleria Sabauda.

In the following centuries, the equestrian treatises seem to put more attention to the benefits that physical exercise brings to health, although there are authors, such as the Italian Federico Mazzucchelli, who identify further positive consequences of riding:

When sometimes our spirit is jammed by lazy cares and slow torpor, this obedient, fast, and elegant animal shakes our burdened senses, rekindles the languishing genius in us and awakens the activity, without which even the most useful, and bright works remain unattempted (MAZZUCCHELLI, 1805, pp. 7-8).

A century later, in the posthumous masterpiece of General L’Hotte, we find, again, an idea already mentioned by La Broue at the end of the sixteenth century: it is not so much horseback riding that has an effect on certain aspects of the personality of those who ride, but rather that in order to become a good rider, one must already have special “inborn” qualities, both physical and spiritual. According to L’Hotte, the one who aspires to become a true horseman must have a calm and, at the same time, energetic character, sweet but without weakness, firm without being rude. He must, especially, always maintain his self-control in order to act on the horse opposing his patience toward the animal’s impatience, calm to violence, energy to laziness, and obedience to rejection. He must be persevering and competent, but above all he must have an innate and essential quality:

a very special feeling called equestrian tact, which is the ability to recognize the nature of the good or bad contractions of the horse and that inspires the appropriateness and moderation of the horseman’s actions.
This feeling that the work develops, but cannot generate, it is so necessary to the horseman, that is to say the rider-artist, like the feeling of the color is essential to the painter and the feeling of the harmony of sounds to the musician
(L ‘HOTTE 1906, pp. 201-202).

According to General L'Hotte (1825-194), only those with innate qualities can really excel in horseback riding.

According to General L’Hotte (1825-194),
only those with innate qualities
can really excel in horseback riding.

Let us finally add a personal remark to this brief survey of the arguments used by the authors of equestrian treatises to describe the peculiarity of horseback riding. Being based on the confrontation between two living beings, riding is an experience that is perpetually renewed. Each horse, in fact, has his own temperament, his physical conformation and a particular sensitivity, a degree of training and therefore a different ability to interact with human beings. For this reason, on every occasion on which we ride a new horse, we live a profoundly different experience. On the other hand, simply because we confront ourselves with a living being, even riding the same animal, we live each time a different experience.

Each rider has experienced, at least once, the exciting feeling of a perfect reciprocity with his horse: the heady giddiness of an ineffable communication with the animal, which makes it possible to perform, without apparent effort, exercises that up to then seemed very difficult. Those are the moments when the horse responds promptly to the imperceptible aids of his rider, nearly foreseeing his intentions and happily complying with them. However, generally enthusiasm is soon replaced by disappointment. The next day, the rider comes back to the barn, being sure to live again the ecstasy of that miraculous ride, but he soon realizes that, even if the conditions are apparently the same, the magic does not repeat, the connection with the animal appears less immediate, the gestures are more mechanical and the man’s intentions cannot be so easily translated into the horse’s attitudes. The rider feels his body inexplicably heavy and clumsy. And the animal, that just the day before was full of energy and sensitivity, seems rather unwilling and insensitive to the aids. The result is not up to the previous one. There is no denying that to realize this, it is often very bitter. The failure, however, inevitably nourishes the desire to rediscover the joy of those moments of enthusiasm. The initial dejection is soon replaced by the desire to try again and to improve.

Charles Édouard Boutibonne, The Empress Eugénie on horseback, 1856 © The Royal Collection

Charles Édouard Boutibonne, The Empress Eugénie on horseback, 1856 © The Royal Collection

This seesaw of opposing emotions fuels our passion. Of course, between one ride and the other (except in cases of accident, or illness) nothing definitive happened. The rider has not forgotten how to ride, nor has the horse suddenly been deprived of his qualities. The fact is that every ride is the result of a complex relationship between living beings that influence each other. For this reason, the rider cannot help but wonder if the cause of his temporary failure is due to his own unaware fault, or to a change in the physical, or mental condition of the animal. It is most likely due to both and to a remarkable series of further concomitant factors, which make it impossible to reduce the issue to a mechanistic relation of cause and effect. On the other hand, it is precisely the variety of sensations that each ride gives us, pointing out new goals to achieve, which makes the equestrian practice an activity in which it is substantially impossible to become bored.

And this applies for all riders. Even for the best. Once General L’Hotte confessed to his master, François Baucher, that he was never completely satisfied with the training of his horses. Baucher looked at him with his piercing gaze and replied with a smile: “But it will always be like this; it always remains something to desire” (L’HOTTE 1906, p. 209).

Anche per i più grandi cavalieri, in equitazione

Even for the best riders,
in horseback riding “it always remains something to desire”
(François Baucher, Méthode d’équitation basée sur de nouveaux principes, Paris, 1842)

Bibliography

CORTE, Claudio, Il Cavallarizzo, Venezia, Giordano Zilletti, 1562.

Dom DUARTE, The Royal Book of Jousting, Horsemanship and Knightly Combat. A transaltion into English of King’Dom Duarte’s 1438 Treatise Livro da Ensinança de Bem Cavalgar Toda Sela, by Antonio Franco Preto, ed. by S. Mulhberger, Higland Village, The Chivalry Bookshelf, 2005.

GRISONE, Federico, Gli ordini del cavalcare, Napoli, Giovan Paolo Suganappo, 1550.

L’HOTTE, Alexis François Questions équestres, Paris, Librairie Plon, 1906

LA BROUE, Salomon de, Le Cavalerice François, Paris, A. l’Angelier, 1602.

MAZZUCCHELLI, Federico, Scuola equestre, Milano, presso Gio Pietro Giegler, Libraio sulla Corsia de’ Servi, 1805

PLUVINEL, Antoine de, L’instruction du Roy en l’exercice de monter à cheval, , Paris, M. Nivelle, 1610.

The breeds of the Kingdom. An unpublished manuscript by Federico Grisone (Part 2)

Il baio Stella

The bay Stella portrayed in a fresco (XVI century) at Pandone Castle, Venafro (Is).
He was a “jennet”, that is a horse of Spanish breed, small and agile.
© Ministero dei beni culturali – Soprintendenza del Molise

____________________________________

In the first part of this article [to read it just click on the foregoing link], we saw that the Fund Osuna of the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid holds the manuscript of an unpublished work by Federico Grisone, the famous author of the Orders of Riding (1550). This work, entitled Razze del Regno (Breeds of the Kingdom), lists those, who in the opinion of the author, were the best breeding farms in the south of Italy during the sixteenth century and offers some guidelines for choosing the foals, the management of the stables, and the feeding of horses.

by Giovanni Battista Tomassini

Just as it still happens today, as even during the Renaissance, to contact the best breeding farms, and perhaps even spend a lot of money, did not guarantee the purchase of a good horse. After listing and showing the brands of the most renowned breeding farms of the Kingdom of Naples, Grisone states that, even if in those breeding farms one can “have horses of such a great a value, that they will surpass all the others that can be found in the world” (71r), one should, in addition, know how to chose the foals. Because even in the most perfect breeding farms, he says, there are “worthless” horses. Therefore, Grisone recommends to make sure that the selected foals have

the hair and the marks [such as stockings, whorls, blazes] and the placing and features of the limbs, in the way that I explained in the first book of the orders of riding. (71V)

But also to give preference to the one

who between the foals goes with more boldness and courage, and lightness, like a cat that going in and out of the midst of the herd makes his way with the power of his chest. (71v)

While even following this guideline, he then warns that this is not a set rule and that

some of those who move more slowly and look lazy might be the best. So great care is needed. You must inquire of the good quality of the father and of the other ancestors, and of his mother’s brother, and then having the good marks, with a perfect coat and the appropriate features, although he does not demonstrate that promptness, you could feel free to chose him because in many cases the foal is similar to some of his ancestors, or to the brother of his mother. (71V)

The portraits of the most famous riders in Naples between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in the beautiful treatise by the Duke of Pescolanciano, gives us an idea of the horses bred in the Kingdom of Naples. Opere di Giuseppe d’Alessandro duca di Pescolanciano, Napoli, Antonio Muzio, 1723

The portraits of the most famous riders in Naples between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in the beautiful treatise by the Duke of Pescolanciano, gives us an idea of the horses bred
in the Kingdom of Naples.
Opere di Giuseppe d’Alessandro duca di Pescolanciano,
Napoli, Antonio Muzio, 1723

The blood relationships are seen as particularly important. Grisone says that it is important also to inquire about the docility and the good will of the father of the foal, because from an undisciplined stallion, even if he is beautiful and physically perfect, rarely come foals who will become a success. He also suggests to favor animals raised in rugged and mountainous country, with good pastures, but far from water sources, so that to nourish and drink the horses have to move over the distance and thus they become more robust and enduring. In the assessment of a foal one must also make sure that he has good eyesight and, to do this Grisone suggests, observe how he moves his ears while walking. If the foal moves them often, turning them over one at a time, it is generally a sign of poor eyesight, but in some cases, the author says, this attitude is only due to his inexperience and the fear of the environment that surrounds him. According to Grisone, poor sight is produced by some defect in the semen from which the animal was procreated, or by the fact that he ate some toxic weed in the pasture. He also suggests that it could be because he is the son of a stallion who is too old. According to the author, the reproductive age goes from five years up to twelve for the stallions and from three to twelve for the mares.

Grisone then evokes the splendor of the Aragonese cavalry:

It seems well to me to declare that in no age did cavalry have a greater value than in the time of the King Alfonso of Aragon and of the Kings Ferrante the elder and the younger, during which, for the care that they held in it, the horses were provided with a nice disposition and a wonderful attitude, but adorned with a beautiful name. (73v)

Although the hypothesis is controversial, some believe that in his

Although the hypothesis is controversial, some believe that in his “Portrait of a Knight” (1510), Vittore Carpaccio has shown the features of Ferdinand II of Aragon,
King of Naples from 1495 to 1496.
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza – Madrid

While speaking of the names of the horses, he explains that at that time although a name was given to each foal at the moment of his birth, when the foal began to be ridden usually this name was changed, according to his beauty, his value and his virtues, so that the name was a better match to his actual qualities. Grisone agrees with this habit and he then lists 283 horses’ names, so that the readers can chose between them those that fit their horses better. Otherwise, he suggests to give them the surnames of the owners of the breeding farms, or, if these latter are noble, the name of the city which they hold. The names listed range from the classic Bucephalus to the magniloquent Monarca  (i.e. Monarch), Sangiorgio (San George) and Nobile (Noble), and to more common names like Gentile (Gentle), Thesoro (Treasure), Scacciapensiero (Worries dispeller) and Portabene (Lucky charmer), up to the sinister Scorpione (Scorpion) and Furiainfernale (Infernal fury).

Grisone then goes on describing how the stable should be maintained. It should be neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter, but above all not moist and not exposed to wind. At that time, the horses were kept in “posts”, that is to say, in stalls where they were tied to the manger, separated by partitions. The stall could be paved with bricks or boards, but the pavement should not reach the distance along the floor to the front legs. In fact, it was believed that the front hooves should stand on the bare ground,

otherwise the hooves would dry, and for that reason they would have easily some sort of hoof crack, or quarter. (83r)

Giovan Battista Caracciolo Opere di Giuseppe d’Alessandro duca di Pescolanciano, Napoli, Antonio Muzio, 1723, p. 295

Giovan Battista Caracciolo
Opere di Giuseppe d’Alessandro duca di Pescolanciano,
Napoli, Antonio Muzio, 1723, p. 295

The author also prescribes building the manger quite low. Both, because in this way, the horse does not run the risk of knocking against it, injuring his chest, but also because it is typical of quadrupeds to eat with their head down. So much so, he adds, that in some cases, when the horse’s shoulders are soared, it is enough to let him graze a few days to heal. The horses were not only kept tied to the manger, but during the day their hind and one front leg were tethered. Grisone also recommends preventing all those who work and visit the barn from relieving themselves inside the stable, as the smell of human dejections would cause the horses to lose weight and to incur serious diseases.

And the Rider beware of allowing that in the stable, or private barn, there are human excrements, because there is nothing that keep horses more thin and consumes their lives, causing large and deadly diseases, such as the smell of human dung (83r-83v).

According to Grisone the stable must be illuminated at night and should have skilled and solicitous grooms, each of who must care for no more than four or five horses, given the fact that every animal should be curried for at least half an hour a day. The cleaning of the stables must begin at sunrise in summer and at least one hour before sunrise in winter. The horse should receive first of all the fodder, then the water, and then the grain. The ration of oats, or barley, was given in the morning and in the evening, but the author praises that in the summer, it was also given a supplementary ration at noon. According to Grisone, the fodder must be given at least three or four times throughout the day: straw in the summer and hay in winter. Even if, in his opinion, after the fifth year of age, the best thing is to feed the horses always with straw:

That is reasonably said: horse of barley and straw horse for war. (84r unfortunately in the translation we lose the rhyme of this proverb)

Neapolitan courser  William Cavendish of Newcastle, Méthode et invention nouvelle dans l’art de dresser les chevaux, 1658

Neapolitan courser
William Cavendish of Newcastle, Méthode et invention nouvelle
dans l’art de dresser les chevaux, 1658

The diet of adult horses was mostly based on dry forage. While Grisone recommends giving grass to the foals up to five years, particularly during the months of April and May. In June, instead the diet may be supplemented by stubble, accompanied by the ordinary oats. Grisone advises against giving grass to the horses in March and recommends to gradually accustom the animals to fresh forage and to bleed them when they enter in the new diet regimen, after about ten days, and again before moving on to eat stubble. However, in the case of young foals or of particularly thin horses, the blood-lettings can be reduced to only two. To accustom the horses to dry forage again during the summer, Grisone suggests mixing a few bunches of chicory into the straw, or mauve, or vine-shoots, or willow buds. In December, he recommends instead to mix lupines into the straw, or hay, while having the foresight to dry them first for a few days and gradually accustom the animals to avoid the risk of colic.

The text ends rather abruptly with the promise to expand the discussion afterwards to cover the criteria of proper breeding and of the care of diseases:

Now keeping silence I should not say more, putting off, with the will and help of the eternal God, to talk about it in more detail later, and not just about few details of what I discussed here, but also of the order of how to keep the breeding farms. And finally about how to cure horses of their infirmities, as well as it should be of use to every rider (87R).

The gray Scorbone (fresco - XVI c.). Note the brand on his cheek (partially hidden by the harness), which usually was used to distinguish the different “parcels” the breeding farm. Castello Pandone, Venafro (Is) © Ministero dei beni culturali – Soprintendenza del Molise

The gray Scorbone (fresco – XVI c.). Note the brand on his cheek (partially hidden by the harness), which usually was used to distinguish the different
“parcels” of the breeding farm.
Castello Pandone, Venafro (Is)
© Ministero dei beni culturali – Soprintendenza del Molise

The presence of this and of other manuscripts about equestrian topics in the Osuna Fund of the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid (which we will further cover in future articles) shows that, contrary to what has so far been considered, the printing of the first equestrian treatises in the mid-Sixteenth century, was not a radical innovation. Between the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries the circulation of texts devoted to horseback riding, as well as to the care and breeding of the horse, was certainly not limited to the most famous works, which have easily reached us, because they were spread into a greater number of specimens through printing. It is evident that several other works devoted to horseback riding circulated in manuscript form and this limited their reproduction and dissemination. Many of these are likely to be lost, and many, such as the Razze del Regno by Federico Grisone, must be rediscovered and deserve the attention of scholars and enthusiasts because they enrich our knowledge of the equestrian tradition.

Bibliografia

DE CAVI, Sabina, Emblematica cittadina: il cavallo e i Seggi di Napoli in epoca spagnuola (XVI-XVII sec.), in AA. VV. Dal cavallo alle scuderie. Visioni iconografiche e rilevamenti architettonici, atti del convegno internazionale (Frascati, 12 aprile 2013), a cura di M. Fratarcangeli, Roma, Campisano Editore.

HUTT, Frederick Henry, Works on horses and equitation. A bibliographical record of hippology, London, Bernard Quaritch, 1887.

MENNESSIER DE LA LANCE, Gabriel-René, Essai de Bibliographie Hippique donnant la description détaillée des ouvrages publiés ou traduits en latin et en français sur le Cheval et la Cavalerie avec de nombreuses biographies d’auteurs hippiques, Paris, Lucien Dorbon, 1915-21.

PODHAJASKY, Alois, The complete training of Horse and Rider. In the principles of classical Horsemanship, Chatsworth, Wilshire books Company, 1967.

TOBAR, María Luisa, Fondo Osuna en la Biblioteca nacional de Madrid, in AA.VV., Cultura della guerra e arti della pace: il 3° Duca di Osuna in Sicilia e a Napoli, (1611-1620), diretto da Encarnacion Sanchez Garcia; a cura di Encarnacion Sanchez Garcia e Caterina Ruta, Napoli,  Pironti, 2012, pp. 97-122.

The breeds of the Kingdom. An unpublished manuscript by Federico Grisone (Part 1)

by Giovanni Battista Tomassini

Anonimo fiorentino, Cavallo impennato, XVI sec. © Metropolitan Museum - New York

Florentine Anonymous, Rearing Horse,
16th century – © Metropolitan Museum
New York

Mariano Téllez-Girón y Beaufort Spontin’s standard of living became a legend. Within a few decades, the twelfth Duke of Osuna (1814-1882) was able to squander the immense patrimony of the most important and wealthy family in Spain. As Ambassador in Russia, he traveled across Europe on his private train, indulging in every extravagance. It is said that his horses were shod with silver alloy horseshoes. When his years came to an end, he had already accumulated a colossal debt and, therefore, a committee was formed of his creditors that put together an inventory and handled the sale of his assets. In three centuries, the Dukes of Osuna, in addition to having amassed an impressive number of titles of nobility, had put together a wonderful library of about twenty thousand volumes of printed books and manuscripts. In order not to disperse this important cultural heritage, in 1884, the collection was bought by the State and it was decided to distribute it among the libraries of the kingdom. Most of the books were incorporated to the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, while the rest went to the library of the Senate and to some of the leading universities in Spain.

Mariano Téllez-Girón y Beaufort Spontin 12th Duke of Osuna

Mariano Téllez-Girón y Beaufort Spontin
12th Duke of Osuna

The Osuna Fund is still one of the finest collections of the Biblioteca Nacional de España, in particular with regard to the manuscripts. The collection of volumes of the Dukes of Osuna was formed based on the personal tastes of each duke and also by their individual political and military obligations.  It is therefore not surprising that in the property of a family that included two Viceroys of the Kingdom of Naples (the first and the third Duke of Osuna were appointed to this position, respectively from 1582 to1586 and from 1616 to 1620), we find many texts and manuscripts of Italian origin. Among them, several relate to the practice of horsemanship and to the care and breeding of horses and are a real treasure trove for the history of equestrian disciplines. These are works hitherto unpublished and largely unknown to the main equestrian bibliographies, such as those of Menessier de la Lance and Frederick H. Hutt. I owe this discovery to Sabina De Cavi, brilliant Italian researcher who works at the University of Córdoba and that, although she only partially covers matters concerning the equestrian culture, pointed me to the richness and importance of this heritage.

The most valuable and curious piece for historians and equestrian literature enthusiasts is a pergameneous manuscript of the sixteenth century, marked with the number 9246. On the recto of the first card it contains the following header:

Breeds of the Kingdom / collected in this volume / shortly by Federigo Grisone Neapolitan gentleman / Where below gives many beautiful / advices suitable to the knowledge of foals and the care and ownership / of each horse.

Federico Grisone, Razze del Regno (Brreds of the Kingdom), manuscript 9246 Biblioteca Nacional de España - Madrid

Federico Grisone, Razze del Regno (Breeds of the Kingdom), manuscript 9246 – page 1
Biblioteca Nacional de España – Madrid

In short, it would be a work hitherto unknown from the famous Neapolitan gentleman who in 1550 published his treatise, Gli ordini del cavalcare (The Orders of Riding), the first book devoted to horseback riding in print. The Orders had an immediate and extraordinary success, becoming the true founding act of the new literary genre of the equestrian treatise and earning Federico Grisone the title of “father of the equestrian art” (Podhajasky, 1967, p. 18). Suffice it to say that, between 1550 and 1623, there were twenty-one printed editions in Italian, fifteen French translations, six in English, seven in German and one in Spanish. Not to mention the numerous manuscript versions, one of which is in Portuguese.

The work contained in the manuscript of the Biblioteca Nacional is a sort of catalog of the best breeding farms (called razze, i.e. “breeds”) in the Kingdom of Naples, which are listed, showing illustrations of their brands and detailing some essential information on the property and, when possible, on the quality of the horses produced. The work is supplemented by a list of names of horses and by some guidelines for choosing the foals, the management of the stables and the feeding of horses. From the linguistic point of view, even if it is simpler and more basic, the text is written in the same style of the Orders of Riding, which is explicitly mentioned. From these aspects, it seems quite possible to attribute the work to Grisone.

Neapolitan Horse, in baron D'Eisenberg, Description du Manege Moderne dans sa perfection, Paris, 1727, tav. IV

Neapolitan Horse, in baron D’Eisenberg, Description du Manege Moderne dans sa perfection, Paris, 1727, plate IV

Since this is a work hitherto unpublished and entirely unknown to the historians and lovers of horseback riding, I decided to dedicate to it a detailed discussion. For this I have divided this article into two parts, so as not to exceed the size of the normal posts of this blog. In this first part, then, we will focus on the catalog of the breeding farms, while in a subsequent article I will cover the information on the evaluation criteria for the foals and the precepts concerning the stables and the feeding of the horses.

The publication of directories of brands similar to the one presented in this manuscript is well known. Works such as the Libro de marchi de cavalli (The Book of the horses’ brands), published anonymously in Venice in 1569 and then reissued in 1588 and, above all, the remarkable La perfettione del Cavallo (The Perfection of Horse) by Francesco Liberati, published in Rome in 1639. Grisone’s manuscript is more like the first one, as the one by Liberati is far more wide-ranging. At the beginning of text, the author makes his eminently pragmatic purpose immediately clear: he wants to provide to anyone looking for good horses a clear picture of the best breeding farms where it is possible to obtain them.

The Kingdom of Naples is located in the most abundant, fertile and enjoyable part of Italy in which there are fifteen hundred cities, lands and castles surrounded by walls, and endless other villas and inhabited farmhouses. […] And having so many pastures, Plains, Mountains, Valleys and waters there are many breeding farms for which the country is so suitable that there born are horses who are very vigorous, robust, and of long life, and with admirable disposition and attitude. Therefore, as I want to give you knowledge of some of them to help all private riders and Princes looking to have good horses, I will write the name of their  owners, and with the drawing of the brand. (1r)

Regno di Napoli Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum orbis terrarum, Antverpiae, apud C. Plantinum, 1579 Fonte: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliotèque nationale de France

Kingdom of Naples
Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum orbis terrarum, Antverpiae, apud C. Plantinum, 1579
Fonte: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliotèque nationale de France

The description of the breeding farms begins from the royal breed, the so-called Breed of the King, which was the largest and was divided between two provinces: Apulia and Calabria. The horses of the breeding farms in Apulia were branded on the right thigh, while those coming from Calabria were branded on the left. The breeding farms of Apulia produced eight different varieties, or “partite” (parcels), of horses: the Great; the Imperial, the Royal, the Gentle, the Favorite, the Elected, the Small and the one of the Jennets. These were identified by an additional mark stamped on the right cheek of the animal. In the farms of Calabria, five “parcels” were instead distinguished as: the Great, the Medium, the Common, the Small, and that of the Jennets. These were identified by a brand on the left cheek.

The author then explains the intention to list the main breeding farms in the Kingdom. For each he says he will indicate the owner’s name and location. He will then add some notes about those of which he has been able to “have some good cognition” (3r). However, he warns the readers that “generous horses” may also come from the breeding farms of which he cannot provide more information. In the same way, he cautions the readers saying that:

The perfect breeding farms may end, or deteriorate, for lack of stallions. And, by means of the help of excellent horses, the bad ones can likewise improve and get to be very esteemed. As well as new one of a greater value could be made day by day, but I will leave the task to think and remind these latter to those who will come after me. (3r)

Federico Grisone, Razze del Regno, manoscritto 9246, carta 5v Biblioteca Nacional de España – Madrid

Federico Grisone, Razze del Regno (Breeds of the Kingdom), manuscript 9246, page 5v
Biblioteca Nacional de España – Madrid

The drawings of the brands of 136 breeding farms follow. The enclosed annotations are, for the most part, very concise. In most cases, the notes specify any variation in the branding of the different “parcels” of the breeding farm, or summarize brief judgments, such as “Brand of the Breed of the Queen of Poland in the territory of Bari (*), which breed is good and perfect” (5v), or “Brand of the Breed of the Prince of Salerno. In Basilicata, which Breed generally gives birth to Jennets of good size and of admirable virtue” (7r). There are, however, also critical remarks, such as, for example, in the case of the breeding farm of the Duke of Santo Pietro, in the Territory of Otranto: “the horses of this breed are good runners and dexterous but are of little strength”(12r). Or, as in the case of the Breed of the Marquis of Lucito, in Apulia, “from which come excellent horses although in general before it had more value” (14v).

Secondo Grisone questo era il marchio del cavallo montato da Francesco I nella battaglia di Marignano Federico Grisone, Razze del Regno, manoscritto 9246, carta 51v Biblioteca Nacional de España – Madrid

According to Grisone this was the brand of the horse ridden by Francis I during the battle of Marignano
Federico Grisone, Razze del Regno, manoscritto 9246, page 51v
Biblioteca Nacional de España – Madrid

A note that is more interesting from an historical point, is the one about a breeding farm in Basilicata. To this herd would belong the horse ridden by Francis I (1494-1547), King of France, in the fateful Battle of Marignano (13-14 September 1515), with which the French took possession of the Duchy of Milan.

Brand of the Breed of Angeluzzo dello Tito. In Basilicata. Sent to him by the king Francis from France, due to the fact that in the day of Marignano he found himself on a horse of this breeding farm that served him so well as to bring him to victory. For this reason every year he sent someone to buy foals of this herd. Though now, after the death of Angeluccio, is no longer with such perfection. (51v)

Secondo Grisone, il re di francia, francesco I, nella battaglia di Marignano (1515) avrebbe montato un cavallo allevato in Basilicata Anonimo, Francesco I, XVI sec., miniatura, Musée de Versailles

Grisone says that, the King of France, Francis I, rode a horse raised in Basilicata during the battle of Marignano
Anonimous, Francis I, 16th century, miniature, Musée de Versailles

After presenting the brands of the main breeding farms, Grisone reaffirms that the herds of the Kingdom of Naples which give birth “to perfect and marvelous horses” (71r) are many more of those than he mentioned, but that he decided not to talk about some of them because they often change their brand, or because they have a few mares.

…to be continued

to read the second  part of this article  click here -> second part

(*) Bona Sforza was consort queen of Poland, consort Grand Duchess of Lithuania from
     1518, and sovereign Duchess of Bari from 1524.

Bibliography

ANONIMO, Libro de’ marchi de’ caualli, con li nomi de tutti li principi et priuati signori che hanno razza di caualli, In Venetia, appresso Nicolò Nelli, 1569.

DE CAVI, Sabina, Emblematica cittadina: il cavallo e i Seggi di Napoli in epoca spagnuola (XVI-XVII sec.), in AA. VV. Dal cavallo alle scuderie. Visioni iconografiche e rilevamenti architettonici, atti del convegno internazionale (Frascati, 12 aprile 2013), a cura di M. Fratarcangeli, Roma, Campisano Editore, 2014, pp. 43-53.

HUTT, Frederick Henry, Works on horses and equitation. A bibliographical record of hippology, London, Bernard Quaritch, 1887.

LIBERATI, Francesco, La Perfettione del cavallo, Roma, per Michele Hercole, 1639.

MENNESSIER DE LA LANCE, Gabriel-René, Essai de Bibliographie Hippique donnant la description détaillée des ouvrages publiés ou traduits en latin et en français sur le Cheval et la Cavalerie avec de nombreuses biographies d’auteurs hippiques, Paris, Lucien Dorbon, 1915-21.

PODHAJASKY, Alois, The complete training of Horse and Rider. In the principles of classical Horsemanship, Chatsworth, Wilshire books Company, 1967.

TOBAR, María Luisa, Fondo Osuna en la Biblioteca nacional de Madrid, in AA.VV., Cultura della guerra e arti della pace: il 3° Duca di Osuna in Sicilia e a Napoli, (1611-1620), diretto da Encarnacion Sanchez Garcia; a cura di Encarnacion Sanchez Garcia e Caterina Ruta, Napoli,  Pironti, 2012, pp. 97-122.

“Maneggi and jumps”. The basic exercises of Renaissance horsemanship (Part 2)

Benozzo Gozzoli, Chapel of the Magi, detail of the est wall, Palazzo Medici- Ricciardi, Florence, 1459

by Giovanni Battista Tomassini

At the beginning of the second part of his Trattato dell’imbrigliare, atteggiare e ferrare cavalli (Treatise on bridling, training and shoeing horses, 1556), Cesare Fiaschi explicitly states his intention of codifying the equestrian art of his time, setting the rule for the proper execution of the different “maneggi”. A rule which, in the author’s intention, served also to safeguard those who applied it from the criticisms of the many riders who at that time, rode without due accuracy.

In this second part of the treatise I intend with my speech not only to set the standard for the handling of horses, but also to expose by means of designs some acts of riders on horseback and their horse tracks [indicating the position of the hooves of the horse on the ground] and the time in Music of some exercises so that no one can be blamed every time that he performs them if following these instructions. Since I have seen many [riders], both in the past and now that do not aspire to do what they entirely ought to do with the horse, I feel pressed to undertake this effort, and also because I know that currently some, for the reason of not being made aware, incur in many errors […] but no one should disdain to accept my opinion, given that if he shall proceed as indicated in this treatise, and by means of drawings and Music, he will be honored, without fear of being considered ignorant, because with the living reasons in the hands he will shut the mouth of those who dare to contradict him. (FIASCHI, 1556, II, 1, pp. 87-88)

The part of  Fiaschi’s treatise specifically dedicated to horse riding can, in fact, be considered as a canon of the different exercises performed with a horse which has already been perfectly trained. However, the author says very little on how the animals were prepared to perform these refined movements.

The works by Grisone and Corte were reprinted many times during the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries
Frontispieces of the 1551 edition of the “Ordini” and of the 1573 Lyon edition of “Il cavallarizzo”

From the point of view of horse training techniques during the Renaissance, two other fundamental texts of the sixteenth century are more interesting. Namely, Gli ordini di cavalcare (The orders of riding, 1550) by Federico Grisone, a kind of real manual for the training of the horse “to the use of war,” and Il cavallarizzo (The Horseman, 1562) by Claudio Corte, one of the most refined and innovative works among those devoted to the equestrian art in the sixteenth century.

According to Grisone, the horse had to be tamed when he was at least three years old. The training was rather quick and lasted an average of four to six months. Grisone suggested that the horse be ridden initially on a plowed field, where other horses have made a track. In this way, the author argued,  the horse was induced to follow a correct path, avoiding the trouble of walking on loose soil. With the progress of the training, a shallow ditch could be used in order to force him to follow an even more rigorous path.

Grisone suggests using a shallow ditch to induce the horse
to follow a more rigorous path while performing the passade.
Pierre de la Noue, La Cavalerie françoise et italienne, 1620

According to the Neapolitan author, the so-called “torni” were essential to prepare the horse to perform the “maneggi”. They consisted in making two circles (“volte”) to the right and then, two circles to the left, followed by going along a straight line (“repolone”) after which the horse had to be stopped performing some pesades (“posate). Then, when the horse was “quiet and proper”, he had to make two narrow voltes to the right, then two to the left. With the progress of the training, the rider had to have the horse perform one or two pirouettes (which Fiaschi and Grisone call “doubling”- raddoppio – or “doubled voltes” – volte raddoppiate). Finally, the animal was led back on the straight line and “went out” of the “torni”. The exercise was performed initially at the trot and then, in a more advanced stage of the training, at the canter.

This is the form of the “torni” offered by me, with some written words, by which, and also for what I said before, will be easily understood. By the way in which they are illustrated, you can see how different they are from the ancient turns, which, a few years ago, were done between the trees and in the countryside, and were done wider and with no measure of number or width, changing place and not as methodically as today. (GRISONE, 1550, II, p. 54r-54v)

Diagram of the so-called

Diagram of the so-called “torni”, the basic exercise to prepare the horse to the “maneggi,” according to Grisone

The “torni” were used to train the horse to find his balance under the weight of the rider, in order to teach him how to run the repolone (or passade), stopping after the charge and turning on his haunches, and cantering again in the opposite direction.

To help the horse to become accustomed to facing battle on any kind of soil, Grisone also suggested placeing stones on the path. The author insisted on the importance of training the horse to stop straight, perhaps even with the help of a man on the ground who put him into frame with a stick. For the same purpose, he considered it useful to rein back. At the first stage of the training, the horse was mounted with a cavesson and a curb bit. Then, when he was already trained at a trot, Grisone suggested to take away the cavesson and to use the so-called false-reins, namely additional reins which were secured to special rings on the bit’s shanks, at the ends of the mouthpiece. The bridle then functioned like a pelham bit (1). This use was harshly criticized by Fiaschi, who considered it harmful to the horse.

The pesade was considered essential to accustom the horse to stop carrying his weight on the hind legs.
Giovanni Battista Galiberto, Il cavallo da maneggio, 1650

Soon the horse was taught the “pesade” (posata), that is to say to bring his hind legs under his body, lowering his hips and lightening the front legs so as to lift them from the ground. This technique made ​​it possible to collect the horse to the extreme, making him capable of a rapid change of direction at the end of the “repolone”. It was also a spectacular exercise which was used as a presentation air.

Compared to Grisone’s book, the work of Claudio Corte introduces various other training exercises, the most part of which are still used today, even if with slight differences. Clearly, these were not invented by Corte, but he had the merit to explain them in his treatise, consolidating their use.

Corte proposed an updated scheme
of Girsone’s “torni,”
which he called “rote”
Claudio Corte, Il Cavallarizzo, 1562

According to Corte, the starting point of the training is the work on the circles. Therefore, he proposed an updated scheme of Grisone’s “torni”, which he calls “rote” (“wheels”). The difference between the two exercises is that, after covering the straight line, the horse had to turn on three contiguous circles with a diameter of 8-12 meters(26-39 feet), then he had to come back on the same straight path, after which he had to turn on three smaller circles (of about 6-9 feet in diameter).

Claudio Corte, Il cavallarizzo, 1562

According to Corte, the exercise of the “caragolo” was the most effective
to make the horse supple and obedient.
Claudio Corte, Il cavallarizzo, 1562

After confirming the horse in this exercise, Corte suggested to start him to another one: the so-called “caragolo” (from the Spanish “caracol”, i.e. snail). It was about performing a spiral then, after covering a repolone, performing another one in the opposite direction. Corte considered this the most important and effective exercise, capable of producing the same benefits of the work on the “rote” (circles), but allowing the horse to become more agile in a shorter time. After a certain amount of training, the horse had to perform it also at the canter. According to Corte, at that point, the exercise also assumed a significant aesthetic value, demonstrating the docility and the smoothness acquired by the horse and the skill of the rider.

Training the horse to the so-called “esse serrato” (tight S)
served to prepare him for the “repolone.”
Claudio Corte, Il cavallarizzo,1562

Another innovative exercise is what Corte called “esse serrato” (tight S). It was a path in the form of a figure eight, from which the rider comes up with a repolone, stopping the horse on the straight line. The author recommended performing it initially on a wider path, which was gradually reduced as the horse became accustomed and more dexterous in turning. Among other things, it was considered a prerequisite to the repolone (i.e. to the passade).

Curiously, Corte argued that the most generous and noble horses were pleased to perform the serpentine.
Claudio Corte, Il Cavallarizzo, 1562

Finally, the last exercise introduced by Corte was what he called “to snake” (“serpeggiare”), i.e. the serpentine. It was, he said, a kind of training suited to promote the balance of the horse and his obedience to the bit and to the legs. The author considered it also useful to avoid firearms shots in battles and, argued that horses, especially the most generous and noble, were pleased to do it. He added that, unfortunately this exercise was generally neglected in the riding schools, where courbettes and pesades were mainly taught.

The “Passade” remains the fundamental exercise for mounted combat
until the eighteenth century.
WIlliam Cavendish, duca di Newcastle, La methode et invention nouvelle de dresser les chevaux, 1658, Tav. 21

Corte was also the first author to mention the use of the work in-hand, with the rider on the ground who guides the horse with the reins. Over time, this way of training the horse would subsequently have a remarkable development, being used to teach the horse the different exercises of dressage without the hindrance of the weight of the rider. Corte recommended it for training the horse to rein-back. If the animal resisted the aids of the rider, he had to dismount and, taking in each hand the reins of the cavesson, he had to push the horse “pleasantly” back until he understood what he had to do. As soon as the horse took a few steps back, the rider had to get back in saddle and ask the horse to rein-back. If again he resisted, the rider had to repeat the exercise from the ground: “that you have to be very sure that doing so in two or three mornings, and even in less than an hour, you will have him at this” (CORTE, 1562, II, 8, p. 66v).

to be continued

to read  the continuation of this article, please click here -> part three

(1) Grisone and the other Renaissance authors do not describe the false-reins, but we find their description in later editions of the treatise by the Duke of Newcastle: “To work Horses with false Reins, is very false working, for, being tied to the Arches of the Bitt, and pulling it, that flacks the Curb: and so no Horse shall be firm and settled with it, for, that Horse that doth not suffer the Curb, shall never be a ready-horse; so it makes the Bitt like a Snaffle” (I quote from the English edition: William Cavendish (Duke of Newcastle), A New Method and Extraordinary Invention to Dress Horses, etc, Dublin, James Kelburn, 1740, p. 277). I owe this information to Michael Stevens, who has friendlily pointed out an inaccuracy in the first version of my article. Having such attentive and competent readers is a privilege and an honor to me.

Bibliography

CORTE, Claudio, Il Cavallarizzo, Venezia, Giordano Zilletti, 1562.

FIASCHI, Cesare, Trattato dell’imbrigliare, atteggiare e ferrare cavalli, Bologna, Anselmo Giaccarelli, 1556

GRISONE, Federico, Gli ordini di cavalcare, Napoli, stampato da Giovan Paolo Suganappo, 1550.