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  I want to create here a source of knowledge for people who are interested in the technical details of classical equestrian maneuvers from the Renaissance period. I address this blog mainly to riders aspiring to ride in the style of that historical period.


Less formal article, a large part of which is based on an article by Giovanni Battista Tomassini

        Above are two images comparing the classical school to the English school. On the left a painting by Miles Barton "An 18th century Horseman" ( On the right, James Seymour- "Mr Russell on his Bay Hunter" circa 1740 (Tate Modern Gallery).

         Despite both paintings depict the English riders from almost one period, you can clearly notice many differences. The rider on the right uses a small bit and a bridle without a noseband sitting on a minimised "English saddle". On the right we see a rider on a double rein attached to a curb bit in a saddle with higher pommels used in a classic riding school.

        The difference in the conformation of horses is also noticeable. On the left we have a horse with an extended rump, bent to the ground, with a raised front. On the right, a horse with a clearly long body and neck extended forward that is a pure English horse.

        It is impossible to present this topic without mentioning politics and economics briefly.

From the 18th century, you can see differences between a continent still dominated by absolutism, and England, where a parliamentary monarchy was developing.

         In the context of an emerging democracy, England became a fashionable benchmark of freedom, which the continent's monarchies viewed with suspicion as English "freedom" became more and more popular.

         During this period, you can also note economic progress and colonial conquests making England a power. Soon Europeans began to be attracted not only by new political trends, but also by art and the British way of life. England has become a model of modernity to follow.

         Equestrianism also followed this trend and contributed to the spread of "British fashion". For the needs of fashionable horse racing at the end of the 16th century, a slow selection of horses of a new breed began: agile, impulsive and fast. The horses of the English breed were less suited to the academic exercises of the classical school, but they were ideal for racing. These horses were also suitable for fox hunting, trail racing and show jumping.

        Horse racing has long been known also on the continent, but it was in England that horse racing took on the character of a modern sport. Classic riding school was still practiced, however over time "country riding" and especially horse racing became characteristic features of the British equestrian world.

          More than two centuries later, when Alois Podhajsky (former director of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna) came to England in the middle of the 20th century, he experienced:

 "The demonstration of elements of the higher school of riding and the principles of classic horse riding in London in 1949 and in Dublin in 1950 was the peak of the career of my half-Hungarian horse. He managed to lift the audience sitting in the stands of the giant White City stadium, and what is more - to destroy the false image about dressage shared by many skeptics and antagonists of the sport in England."

        Horse races became social events where representatives of the high society met, and ladies and gentlemen showed off their fashionable clothes. The sport quickly started to attract more and more wealthy people and generate more and more profit. Such entertainment for the wealthy people quickly spread across the continent, which resulted in the import of pure English horses.

         One of the innovations was the introduction of the trot, which was exactly called "English trot". This was related with a seat with shorter stirrups and a slightly forward upper body. The technique also required a saddle with flat pommels.

         In the French encyclopedia "Le nouveau parfait marecha" (1746) by Alexandre de Garsault, we can find such a saddle and find out what it was used for:


"Selle raze or half-Angloise and Selle Angloise are the ones that hunters commonly use as being light and less hampering."

Figure G shows an "Angloise" saddle, figure C is a saddle "Raze",  figure E is a "Picquer" saddle used in "Manége" (classical dressage). "Le nouveau parfait marecha" - 1746 - Alexandre de Garsault

        François Robichon de La Guérinière writes the same about this type of saddle.

        Originally, the Angloise and Raze saddles were used for hunting, and the "Picquer" saddles had been used for centuries for classic riding school.

        When the "English" style of riding took over the old continent for good, displacing native breeds and equestrian equipment, it was Angloise saddles that were adapted to other disciplines, including dressage. Even then, many opponents and supporters of the new spreading riding style could be found.

        Federico Mazzucchelli in the book entitled "Avvertimenti sul modo di cavalcare all'inglese e sulle corse praticate in Inghilterra" (1805) distinguishes the right way of "English riding" from the wrong one, which dominated because it was easier and was commonly imitated on the continent by ignorance:


„The same thing happens also in England, where those who are good [riders] are not many, and indeed they can be pointed out among all the others and deservedly exalted. There [in England] the number of riders is infinite, and an easy way, suited to those who have no skills, or who do not want to learn, is widespread. In Europe, this way is fatally believed worthy of imitation, as if it was the best of that school. Instead that is not but the manner of common people, who are ignorant of these interesting gymnastics.”


        So here we have a thoughtless example of imitating foreign fashion.


        Mazzucchelli also believes that English horses are not suitable for the typical collected gaits in academic exercises:


„From such clear principles it results, that the education of this quadruped, destined to racing and hunting, will be directed to instruct him to the extended trot in the open field, and supported with long working sessions. The disciplines which tend to collection would be inopportune; therefore the lesson which is said “to bend [collect] a horse”, which makes the horse sensitive to the legs and able to perform two track movements like half-pass and pirouettes, would be unworkable. So it all comes down to a negligent walk, a low but active and violent trot; to an ordinary and full speed canter, either right or left at random”.

        It was far too harsh opinion, because in the 19th century, English horses were used with amazing results also in academic riding and proved to be capable of it under riders such as François Baucher and James Fillis. According to Mazzucchelli the ideal English horse should be:

„quite tall; of light and slender shape; courageous, fast and enduring; strong in the extended trot, so that the movement on the horizontal line is resolute and fast.”

        On the other hand the horse recommended by Nicola Santapaulin (1696) as ideal for war, and also manege, is:


        „Il Cavallo da soldato à mio Giudizio non deve essere nè molto grande, nè troppo piccolo; Grande, perche oltre l'incommodo di montarvi, e smontarvi all'occorrenze, vi è, che difficilmente si unisce leggerezza, & agilità in una macchina grande.”

“In my opinion, a horse for a soldier have to be neither too big nor too small; Big because beside the inconvenience of mounting and dismounting when needed by you, it is difficult to combine lightness and agility in a large machine." 

         However, the new style is not only about a different kind of horse and different equipment. In a book by François Robichon de La Guérinière (French equestrian master quoted to this day) from 1730 we can find a very interesting passage:

"I persuaded that if the English horses were to be suppled by the rules of this art [classical], they would gallop with greater easy [more sure-footed], and more comfortable to their rider. Their legs wouldn't be ruined as soon as is often the case; for after two or three years of service, their legs tremble under them. The reason of this weakness, which does not appear to be natural, but more lokely accidental, comes without a doubt from galloping the horse too young, without having been previously suppled at the trot, and from the fact that they are galloped always withthe snaffle, whereas it should only be used in the beggening to supple them. This instrument is not designed to support the front end, nor to give the horse support. Sometimes a horse has no relief in his gallop; and the weight of the rider, combined with that of his own shoulders, neck and head, fatigues the nerves, tendons and ligaments of the legs, by which they are soon ruined, and the defect of stumbling or flinching is produced. For this reason, the old masters invented the curb bit, to suport the action of the horse in all paces, particulary his gallop; in which as he is more extended, and is more prone to take on false [fausse: distorted or skewed] positions."


        It was obvious to the eighteenth-century masters what we repeat today, which is lifting the horse's front and shifting the weight towards the rump to protect, among other things, the front legs from excessive strain. In addition, we get valuable information about the purpose for which the curb was introduced. Writing about "old masters" Gueriniere is probably referring to the Italian cavalrymen of the 16th-17th centuries, which he often mentions in his book "Ecole de Cavallerie".


        For Britain the interest in their culture certainly had extremely many positive aspects, but for the continent's native regional equestrianism it was often disastrous. Wincenty Pol (Polish writer), in his work from 1858 entitled "Mohort - Explanations to the Third Edition" also mentions what happened in Poland fasciated with this English fashion:


"Pamiętamy bardzo dobrze te czasy i ilu ludzi skrzywiło swój charakter i swe życie na tej zabawie, ile majątków podupadło lub pękło zupełnie! Bo chciało nam się od razu zostać anglikami, i to nie prostemi anglikami ale lordami od razu."

"We clearly remember those times and how many people distorted their character and their lives during this game [horseraces], how many estates deteriorated or ruined completely! Because we wanted to become English immediately, and not simple Englishmen, but lords at once."

        It should be realized that it was the momentary fashion that influenced the emergence of a new style, the popularity of this type of horse on the continent and the changes in preferences in equestrian equipment.


        To this day horse riding in most of Europe is influenced by the phenomenon known as Anglomania.



- - Giovanni Battista Tomassini


-A treatise upon horsemanship” – 1731 (wydanie 1801) - François Robichon de la Guérinière


-Avvertimenti sul modo di cavalcare all’inglese e sulle corse praticate in Inghilterra” – 1805 - Federico Mazzucchelli


-„Le nouveau parfait marechal, ou la connoissance general et universelle du cheval. Avec 50 fig. en taille-douce. 2. Ed” – 1746-  Francois Alexandre de Garsault

-„L'arte del cavallo di Nicola e Luigi Santapaulina” – 1696 - Nicola e Luigi Santapaulina

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