Cavendish, Part III: An Interlude in the Trenches

Start at Part I: In which Cavendish is snarky

     If the last two parts of this series didn’t get across how much Cavendish disparaged Blundeville, and by extension Grisone, maybe this one will. At WSECS this year I mentioned that his “extended weighing of the relative demerits of Blundeville was the strawman that Cavendish used to support his claim of having a new, more sensible, natural, and effective method for training horses.” He was likely able to do this, safely, because Blundeville had been wildly popular, with reprints every few years, but had ceased being republished some fifty years prior to Cavendish’s first publication (being his French edition of this work).

They Dig out Rings, and Entrench themselves (which is a Horrible Folly); but I desire no more for Stopping than a Plain place, without Hills, or any such Toyes; and will Dress any Horse perfectly there, by the New Method of my French Book: which I Refer you to.

     Here Cavendish refers to Blundeville’s use of trenches dug in to the ground to keep the horse straight, and his use of deep footing to tire a horse in to submission. While the use of deep footing and hills is something I will gladly do (especially to isolate muscle groups, or encourage a gaited horse to change gears), it ought to be part of an overall conditioning regime– not basic training. In addition to using these methods in starting horses (which given a lack of facilities can be understandable), Blundeville’s ‘sixth correction’ for a horse who does poorly turning in a particular direction is:

Go into some soft ground newly plowed with depe forrowes, and there first pace him faire and softlye to and fro, the length of a maneging course, then folow on with a good roūd trot…

     So far, so good. Shows concern for working the horse up to it, getting them used to their surroundings, and starting slow helps prevent tendon damage that deep footing can risk. But then, Blundeville writes”

…and when he will not tourne on that hande that you woulde haue him, all to rate hym with a terrible voyce, and beat him with a Cogel upon the heade, betwixt the eares

     Cavendish is not silent on the second half, either:

He would have Us to Strike a Horse with a Cudgel, or a Rod, between the Ears, and upon the Head; which is Abominable, though he thinks it a Rare Secret.

     Yeah, Abominable is a pretty good word here.

Thus ends Part III, because next Cavendish gets in to Blundeville on breeding and there is far too much to unpack. That deserves its own entry.

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