Saturday, 6 December 2008

Review: JOSEPHINE - How Horses Are Trained

How Horses are Trained is this week's book. It was first published in 1961 and is a non fictional work.

The blurb reads:-

Josephine Pullein-Thompson, famous for her books on riding, explains the basic training of all riding horses and then deals with the specialists - from show jumper to pit pony. There is a chapter on how horses were trained in the past and one of advice to would-be-trainers.

Written in comprehensive language it will be of interest to all who wish to know what lies behind the accomplished performances of race horse, circus pony or show jumper.

This book is part of the "How" series and this series includes such titles as "How We Weigh and Measure" and "How A Book Is Made".

Curiously, this book has a list of acknowledgements, of which one is a Mr. Dennis Far, who is her sister Diana's late husband.

The first chapter is entitled "The Trainer", which deals with the history of training horses from early Stone Age to the (at the time) present.

The second chapter is called "The Kindergarten", which deals with the training and handling of youngsters from a foal to early riding years (generally 4-5 years). It also deals with, albeit briefly, abandoned methods, such as the use of dumb jockeys.

The third chapter is called "The General Certificate of Education" which details with basic schooling (regardless of the discipline or job the horse is used). This includes some basic dressage such as a turn on the forehand, the rein back, and the half pass. It also deals with some basic faults.

The fourth chapter is entitled "Jumping Lessons". It deals with jumping, right from the extreme basics of teaching a horse to jump, to basic jumping.

The fifth chapter is called "The Stars". This deals with the various roles of the horse. The first part is called The Showjumper, and this deals with what sort of horse is best for jumping (competitively), and also how at the time, show jumping has changed.
The second part details The Competitive and High School Horse (basically the Dressage Horse). This details the various competitions that are (or were; there are more out now) available and what sort of horse is both conformationally and temperamentally suited to dressage. It also says about various movements requited (which have not been previously been discussed) at each level.
The third part details The Event Horse, and the sort of things you need for such a horse. This is slightly out of date as it says that a horse needs to do the road and tracks and steeplechase sections of a three day event. Very few events (and certainly not the major ones) have this section these days, as in the past few years it has been phased out. It also details with a minimum weight a horse must carry (11 stone 11 pounds for men, and 11 stone for women). which was phased out in the 1990s.

The sixth chapter is entitled "More Stars", which is basically a follow on to the previous chapter.
The first part is called Race Horse, which details with early training methods (1600-1700) and the type of horses that were around then. It then details with more up to date training methods too, from early training to a two year old. I'm not too sure how accurate it is, as like Eventing, the training of racehorses has changed over the years.
The next part deals with Polo Ponies, from a short basic history, to the training and the sort of pony that is useful.
The next part deals with Show Horses-Hacks, from the brief history of them (mainly to do with Rotten Row) to what is needed for a Show Hack as opposed to a "working" Hack.
The next part details with the Show Hunters, and what details it, and what is required of it (basically a well behaved type that the judge finds easy to ride).
The next part details Show Ponies. Basically set out as above, but the pony must be suitable for a child to ride. Instead of the judge riding it, they give shows, so must be well behaved.
The next part deals with Gymkhana Ponies. Basically it details what sort of pony temperamentally and in terms of speed is needed, rather than actual games.
The next part details the Circus Horse. This is out of date as there are few circuses that use animals (and consequently very few Circus Horses) but it is interesting from a historical point of view.

The seventh chapter is entitled "The Workers". The first part is called Riding School Horses. This details (albeit briefly) about what sort of pony that is needs, and basically what a good riding school should do.
The next part deals with Pit Ponies. Basically, like Circus Horses, this is out of date, as there are no Pit Ponies in the UK. Again, this is interesting from an historical point of view.
The next part deals with the Police Horse. I suspect that has hardly changed, as the ideal police horse has to be unphased by smoke, cars backfiring etc. It details with the extra things that are generally not taught to horses, and what sort of horse is suitable.

The eighth (and penultimate) chapter is called "How Horses Were Trained". This details with the history from the early Greeks (aroundd 400-350 years B.C.) to (at the time) present day. It also details (albeit briefly) on how the Romans, Saxonse etc had an influence on the (British) way horses/ponies were handled and ridden. It is interestign to deals. It also details, again, briefly, about the former roles of the hores as (save for show purposes) horse are not used for pulling mail coaches and for ploughing.

The nineth (and final) chapter is called "Advice to Would-Be Trainers". This details with what people should have (in terms of experience) before breaking a horse or pony. It also details do's and dont's.

There are also a couple of photos/drawings included in this book, one of Josephine riding a horse called Rosebay.

This book on the whole is still basically sound, though a little bit dated in places. A lot of it is due to changing attitudes and methods over the years, for example join up. For me, it was disappointing that it did not cover Western Riding. It is perhaps best used as an informal guide, with more up-to-date information out there. Of course this is terribly subjective, even horse care books written in the 1980s are how out of date. This fortunately on the whole has not dated as much when compared to other books that were around in the 1960s. The easy readability of this, though meant to be an instructional book, is not dull or boring, but is largely down to Josephine herself. This is because generally (her fictional) book are full of knowledge and are a wealth of information, but you get so absorbed in her story, that you hardly notice that you are getting a lesson too. Though the language in some places is a little old fashioned the book is still readable. Had it been written by a less able writer, then this book would have been better off on the history shelves.