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Painting of Maestoso II Catrina ridden by Shana Ritter. Painting by Janey Belozer.

























Quotes of Thomas Blundeville
With commentary by Dr. Thomas Ritter
(Previously published as an edition of Classical Quotes)


Thomas Blundeville was the English translator of Federigo Grisone's "Gli Ordini di Cavalcare" (1550). The English translation, "The Arte of Ryding and Breakinge Greate Horses" was published in London in 1560.

The Neapolitan aristocrat Federigo Grisone is generally credited with writing the first book on classical dressage after Xenophon, although King Edward (Dom Duarte) I of Portugal wrote a book on horsemanship that is almost forgotten today, which predated Grisone by more than a century. I have chosen a few paragraphs from Thomas Blundeville's English translation that illustrate the odd mixture of attitudes and principles set forth in Grisone's book. Some of them can still be considered quite valid and useful today, whereas other practices seem rather odd, to say the least. I kept the 16th century spelling, because it helps to convey the spirit of the time in which the book was written.

First book, Chapter .vi.:

"Grison sayeth, that besides the helpe of a good Constellacion, enlinynge you to followe contynuallye, wyth a feruent zeale the scoole of Mars: to make you a perfect horseman, three thinges be requisite. Firste, to knowe howe, and when to helpe your horse. Secondly, how and when to correct him. And thirdlie, howe, and when to coye him, and to make muche of hym. Whiche .iii. thynges beinge as generall kindes, haue manye specialties and particularities belonginge unto them. And thoughe they doe seeme whollye to appertayne to the offyce of the Ryder, yet can I not make you thorouglye to understand them, until I come to entreate of the Lessons, whyche the Horse for his parte hathe also to learne. Bycause in dede, they must goe bothe together." Chapter .x.:

"For who so wil haue his horse reane well: let him beare his hande rather lowe than highe, so shall he be hable to keepe it alwayes at one stay, which is one of the chiefest pointes of horsemanship. Notwithstandinge, if our horse be anything headstronge, then when you manege him, or otherwyse handle him, beare not to stiffe a hande, but rather somewhat lyghte and temperate, for the more you force him, the lesse he wyll yeald. But if he hath no such fault, then doe alwayes as I tolde you before. And remember alwayes when you tourne your horse, to drawe neyther your arme nor hande more of one side then of another, but to keepe it euen with the horse's creast, and onlye by tourning your fist a little inwarde, or outwarde, to signifie unto him to tourne."

Chapter .xi.:

"I may well shewe you how to correct or helpe your horse, wyth the caulfes of your legges, & with your heeles, and where to strik him together wyth the diuersitye of the strokes and the names therof, and to what ende euerye one serueth. But to tell you exactlye in what time, and with what measure, until I come unto the Horses lessons I can not. But of one thinge I will aduertise you in any wyse at the first, not to be to rash, but to use suche temperaunce and moderacion, as you may cause your horse litle by litle to understande your meaning, without any disorder or confusion."

Second Book, chapter .i.:

"Thus hauing declared unto you, with what instrumentes, you should helpe or correct your horse and generally how, and when to use them, and also howe, and when to cherish him, as thinges onlye pertaynynge to the Ryders office: I thinke it therefore now mete to shew you what youre horse hath to learne for his part, and also what order you shall kepe in breakinge him, for yf a horse be taught unorderlye, he shall neuer be perfect in any thinge. As for example if you, (as some men doe for lacke of skill) would use to galloppe youre horse before he can stop well in his trotte, or to run him, before he can stop well in his gallop, or to manege him with a swift gallop, before he can stop, aduaunce and tourne redilye on both handes: you should mar him for euer. And therefore take hede that ye dewlye folowe thys order heare folowynge. "First you must use great dyligence in makinge him to treade loftelye, to kepe one pathe, and to trotte cleane, which is one of the chiefest pointes of all, bycause it is harder by nature for a Colte to trotte well then to goe softly, to runne, or to gallop.

"Secondly, you must teach him to be light at stoppe.

"Thirdly, to aduaunce before, and to parke behind.

"Fourthlye, to turne redilye on both handes with single turne and double turne.

"Fiftly, to make a sure and redy manege.

"Sixtlye, to passe a swift Carier. And finally, if your horse be nimble, and apt thereto by nature, you maye make him a sterer, by teachinge him to bounde aloft and to parke withall: to gallop the galloppe galliarde, to feach the capriole, to daunce the Corvetty and such like kindes of sawltes: and in al his doinges from the beginning to the endyng, you must see that he reane wel, and beare his head steadilye which is the foundacion of all the rest."

Chapter .ii.:

"To thintent than that your horse maye haue a loftye pace, trotte cleane, and learne to keepe one pathe, you shall firste cause him to be brought into the fyelde, nyghe unto some newe plowed grounde, and the deper the forrowes be, the better to make him lift his feete. Whereas after that you haue taken hys backe, you shall trot him right out, aboute the length of C. paces. That done, you shall enter a good waye into one of the forrowes, in such parte of the land, asyou may haue space inough, and mould inough, rounde about you, and there on the right hande, ouerthwarte the forowes, make him to treade oute twise together, a rounde ringe, conteyninge in Circute aboute xxv. or xxx. paces: and beinge come about at the seconde time, to the place where he began: cause him to treade out the like ringe on the left hande. About the whiche after that he hath also gone .ii. times, let him beginne agayne on the ryghte hande, and so to shifte from ringe to ringe, treadynge euery one, still, twise about, untyll he hath gone about the lefte rynge foure times, and about the right ring syxe times. For as he muste beginne wyth the righte ringe, so muste he ende wyth the same."




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