Xenophon, was a soldier, mercenary, and a contemporary admirer of Socrates. He is known for his writings on the history of his own times, preserving the sayings of Socrates, and the life of ancient Greece. He wrote ‘The Art of Horsemanship’. The Art of Horsemanship is the earliest known work on the horse and how to ride it. Though Xenophon wrote his treatise twenty-three centuries ago, it still provides the modern-day equestrian enthusiast with much food for thought and is delightfully easy to read.
His Chapters include Grooming a Horse, creating a Showy Horse and advice on Bitting. It is interesting to note that many of Xenophon's suggestions are still applied in modern day riding.
Below is an extract on Riding the Spirited and Dull Horse.
Part IX: Riding the Spirited and Dull Horse
‘’Xenophon emphasizes the importance when riding a very spirited horse of annoying the animal as little as possible. After mounting, the rider should sit quietly for a longer period than usual, and only ask the horse to move off with the slightest of aids. He should begin at a slow gait, and only gradually work his way up to faster gaits. Sudden signals will only disturb the horse.
To pull up the spirited horse, the rider should do so very slowly and quietly, rather than harshly, bringing the bit slowly against him to coax him to slow down. A spirited horse will be happier if he is allowed to gallop on straight rather than continually being asked to turn, and should be allowed to carry out a pace for a long time, as this has a soothing effect and will help him relax. One should not ask for several fast gallops with the intent of tiring the horse, as that will simply anger him. The spirited horse should always be held on check, so that he may not run away with his rider. He should never be raced against other horses, as that will only make him more difficult to handle. Xenophon suggests that dull horses be ridden in a manner in every respect opposite to that used for the spirited horse.’’
Xenophon was a preacher of kindness not cruelty; you can clearly see this in his writing, making The Art of Horsemanship an empathetic and delightful read for any horse lover.