Part 1 out of 3
Transcribed by Elizabeth Durack, who is very pleased to be able to share
this rare and charming book.
IN THE RIDING-SCHOOL; CHATS WITH ESMERALDA
BY THEO. STEPHENSON BROWNE
-- We two will ride,
At your pleasure, side by side,
Laugh and chat.
TO THE MODERN MEN OF UZ; MY FRENCH, ENGLISH, AND AMERICAN
I. A PRELIMINARY CHAT WITH ESMERALDA The proper frame of mind
II. SHALL YOU TAKE YOUR MOTHER, ESMERALDA? The first lesson--
Various ways of mounting--Slippery reins--Clucking--After
III. CHAT DURING THE SECOND LESSON Equestrian language--
Trotting without a horse--Exercises in and out of the saddle.
IV. ESMERALDA'S TRIALS AT THE THIRD LESSON Pounding the saddle
--A critical spectator--A few rein-holds.
V. ESMERALDA ON THE ROAD Good and bad and indifferent riders--
A very little runaway.
VI. THE ORDEAL OF A PRIVATE LESSON Voltes and half voltes--
"On the right hand of the school"--Imagination as a teacher.
VII. ESMERALDA AT A MUSIC RIDE Sitting like a poker--The
ways of the bad rider.
VIII. ESMERALDA IN CLASS Keeping distances--Corners--
Proper place in the saddle--Exercises to correct nervous
IX. ELEMENTARY MILITARY EVOLUTIONS "Forward, forward, and
again forward!"--How to guide a horse easily.
X. CHAT DURING AN EXERCISE RIDE The deeds of the three-legged
trotter--The omniscient rider--Backing a step or two--
Fun in the dressing-room.
XI. ESMERALDA IS MANAGED Intervals--The secret of learning
XII. CHAT ABOUT THE HABIT Riding-dress in history and fiction--
Cloth, linings and sewing--Boots, gloves, and hats.
XIII. CHAT ABOUT TEACHERS Foreign and native instructors--Why
American women learn slowly--"Keep riding!"
Impatient to mount and ride.
And you want to learn how to ride, Esmeralda?
Why? Because? Reason good and sufficient, Esmeralda; to require
anything more definite would be brutal, although an explanation
of your motives would render the task of directing you much
As you are an American, it is reasonable to presume that you
desire to learn quickly; as you are youthful, it is certain that
you earnestly wish to look pretty in the saddle, and as you are a
youthful American, there is not a shadow of a doubt that your
objections to authoritative teaching will be almost unconquerable,
and that you will insist upon being treated, from the very
beginning, as if your small head contained the knowledge of a
Hiram Woodruff or of an Archer. Perhaps you may find a teacher
who will comply with your wishes; who will be exceedingly
deferential to your little whims; will unhesitatingly accept your
report of your own sensations and your hypotheses as to their
cause; and, Esmeralda, when once your eyes behold that model man,
be content, and go and take lessons of another, for either he is
a pretentious humbug, careless of everything except his fees, or
he is an ignoramus.
It may not be necessary that you should be insulted or ridiculed
in order to become a rider, although there are girls who seem
utterly impervious by teaching by gentle methods. Is it not a
matter of tradition that Queen Victoria owes her regal carriage
to the rough drill-sergeant who, with no effect upon his pupil,
horrified her governess, and astonished her, by sharply saying:
"A pretty Queen you'll make with that dot-and-go-one gait!" Up
went the little chin, back went the shoulders, down went the
elbows, and, in her wrath, the little princess did precisely what
the old soldier had been striving to make her do; but his
delighted cry of "Just right!" was a surprise to her, inasmuch as
she had been conscious of no muscular effort whatsoever. From
that time forth, _incessit regina_.
You may not need such rough treatment, but it is necessary that
you should be corrected every moment and almost every second
until you learn to correct yourself, until every muscle in your
body becomes self-conscious, and until an improper position is
almost instantly felt as uncomfortable, and the teacher who does
not drill you steadily and continuously, permits you to fall into
If you were a German princess, Esmeralda, you would be compelled
to sit in the saddle for many an hour without touching the reins,
while your patient horse walked around a tan bark ring, and you
balanced yourself and straightened yourself, and adjusted arms,
shoulders, waist, knees and feet, under the orders of a drill-
sergeant, who might, indeed, sugar-coat his phrases with "Your
Highness," but whose intonations would say "You must," as plainly
as if he were drilling an awkward squad of peasant recruits. If
you were the daughter of a hundred earls, you would be mounted on
a Shetland pony and shaken into a good seat long before you
outgrew short frocks, and afterwards you would be trained by your
mother or older sisters, by the gentlemen of your family, or
perhaps, by some trusted old groom, or in a good London riding-
school, and, no matter who your instructor might be, you would be
compelled to be submissive and obedient.
But you object that you cannot afford to pay for very careful,
minute, and long-continued training; that you must content
yourself with such teaching as you can obtain by riding in a ring
under the charge of two or three masters, receiving such
instruction as they find time to give you while maintaining order
and looking after an indefinite number of other pupils. Your real
teacher in that case must be yourself, striving assiduously to
obey every order given to you, no matter whether it appears
unreasonable or seems, as the Concord young woman said, "in
accordance with the latest scientific developments and the
esoteric meaning of differentiated animal existences." That
sentence, by the way, silenced her master, and nearly caused him
to have a fit of illness from suppression of language, but
perhaps it might affect your teacher otherwise, and you would
better reserve it for that private mental rehearsal of your first
lesson which you will conduct in your maiden meditation.
You are your own best teacher, you understand, and you may be
encouraged to know that one of the foremost horsemen in the
country says: "I have had many teachers, but my best master was
here," touching his forehead. "Where do you ride, sir?" asked one
of his pupils, after vainly striving with reins and whip, knee,
heel and spur to execute a movement which the master had
compelled his horse to perform while apparently holding himself
as rigid as bronze. "I ride here, sir," was the grim answer, with
another tap on the forehead.
And first, Esmeralda, being feminine, you wish to know what you
are to wear.
Until you have taken at least ten lessons, it would be simply
foolishness for you to buy any special thing to wear, except a
plain flannel skirt, the material for which should not cost you
more than two dollars and a half. Harper's Bazar has published
two or three patterns, following which any dressmaker can make a
skirt quite good enough for the ring. A jersey, a Norfolk jacket,
a simple street jacket or even an ordinary basque waist; any small,
close-fitting hat, securely pinned to your hair, and very loose
gloves will complete a dress quite suitable for private lessons,
and not so expensive that you need grudge the swift destruction
certain to come to all equestrian costumes. Nothing is more
ludicrous than to see a rider clothed in a correct habit, properly
scant and unhemmed, to avoid all risks when taking fences and
hedges in a hunting country, with her chimney-pot hat and her own
gold-mounted crop, her knowing little riding-boots and buckskins,
with outfit enough for Baby Blake and Di Vernon and Lady Gay
Spanker, and to see that young woman dancing in the saddle, now
here and now there, pulling at the reins in a manner to make
a rocking-horse rear, and squealing tearfully and jerkily:
"Oh, ho-ho-oh, wh-h-hat m-m-makes h-h-him g-g-go s-s-s-so?"
If you think it possible that you may be easily discouraged, and
that your first appearance in the riding-school will be your
last, you need not buy any skirt, for you will find several in
the school dressing-room, and, for once, you may submit to
wearing a garment not your own. Shall you buy trousers or tights?
Wait till you decide to take lessons before buying either, first
to avoid unnecessary expense, and second, because until
experience shall show what kind of a horsewoman you are likely to
be, you cannot tell which will be the more suitable and
comfortable. Laced boots, a plain, dark underskirt, cut princess,
undergarments without a wrinkle, and no tight bands to compress
veins, or to restrain muscles by adding their resistance to the
force of gravitation make up the list of details to which you
must give your attention before leaving home. If you be addicted
to light gymnastics you will find it beneficial to practise a few
movements daily, both before taking your first lesson and as long
as you may continue to ride.
First--Hold your shoulders square and perfectly rigid, and turn
the head towards the right four times, and then to the left four
Second--Bend the head four times to the right and four times to
Third--Bend the head four times to the back and four times to
the front. These exercises will enable you to look at anything
which may interest you, without distracting the attention of your
horse, as you might do if you moved your shoulders, and thus
disturbed your equilibrium on your back. Feeling the change, he
naturally supposes that you want something of him, and when you
become as sensitive as you should be, you will notice that at
such times he changes his gait perceptibly.
Fourth--Bend from the waist four times to the right, four to
the left, four times forward, and four times backward. These
movements will not only make the waist more flexible, but will
strengthen certain muscles of the leg.
Fifth--Execute any movement which experience has shown you will
square your shoulders and flatten your back most effectually.
Throw the hands backward until they touch one another, or bring
your elbows together behind you, if you can. Hold the arms close
to the side, the elbows against the waist, the forearm at right
angles with the arm, the fists clenched, with the little finger
down and the knuckles facing each other, and describe ellipses,
first with one shoulder, then with the other, then with both.
This movement is found in Mason's School Gymnastics, and is
prescribed by M. de Bussigny in his little manual for horsewomen,
and it will prove admirable in its effects. Stretch the arms at
full length above the head, the palms of the hands at front, the
thumbs touching one another, and then carry them straight outward
without bending the elbows, and bend them down, the palms still
in front, until the little finger touches the leg. This movement
is recommended by Mason and also by Blaikie, and as it is part of
the West Point "setting up" drill, it may be regarded as
considered on good authority to be efficacious in producing an
erect carriage. Stand as upright as you can, your arms against
your side, the forearm at right angles, as before, and jerk your
elbows downward four times.
Sixth--Sit down on the floor with your feet stretched straight
before you, and resting on their heels, and drop backward until
you are lying flat, then resume your first position, keeping your
arms and forearms at right angles during the whole exercise.
Still sitting, bend as far to the right as you can, then bend as
far as possible to the left, resuming a perfectly erect position
between the movements, and keeping your feet and legs still.
Rising, stand on your toes and let yourself down fifty times;
then stand on your heels, and raise and lower your toes fifty
times. The firmer you hold your arms and hands during these
movements, the better for you, Esmeralda, and for the horse who
will be your first victim.
Already one can seem to see him, poor, innocent beast, miserable
in the memories of an army of beginners, his mouth so accustomed
to being jerked in every direction, without anything in
particular being meant by it, that neither Arabia nor Mexico can
furnish a bit which would surprise him, or startle his four legs
from their propriety. No cow is more placid, no lamb more gentle;
he would not harm a tsetse fly or kick a snapping terrier. His
sole object in life is to keep himself and his rider out of
danger, and to betake himself to that part of the ring in which
the least labor should be expected of him. The tiny girls who
ride him call him "dear old Billy Buttons," or "darling Gypsy,"
or "nice Sir Archer." Heaven knows what he calls them in his
heart! Were he human, it would be something to be expressed by
dashes and "d's"; but, being a horse, he is silent, and shows his
feelings principally by heading for the mounting-stand whenever
he thinks that a pupil's hour is at an end.
Why that long face, Esmeralda? Must you do all those exercises?
Bless your innocent soul, no! Dress yourself and run away. The
exercises will be good for you, but they are not absolutely
necessary. Remember, however, that your best riding-school master
is behind your own pretty forehead, and that your brain can save
your muscles many a strain and many a pound of labor. And
remember, too, that, in riding, as in everything else, to him
that hath shall be given, and the harder and firmer your muscles
when you begin, the greater will be the benefit which you will
derive from your rides, and the more you will enjoy them. The
pale and weary invalid may gain flesh and color with every
lesson, but the bright and healthy pupil, whose muscles are
like iron, whose heart and lungs are in perfect order, can
ride for hours without weariness, and double her strength in
a comparatively short time.
But--Esmeralda, dear, before you go--whisper! Why do you want
to take riding lessons? Theodore asked you to go out with him
next Monday, and Nell said that she would lend you her habit, and
you thought that you would take three lessons and learn to ride?
There, go and dress, child; go and dress!
Bring forth the horse!
Being ready to start, Esmeralda, the question now arises: "Is a
riding school," as the girl asked about the new French play, "a
place to which one can take her mother?" Little girls too young
to dress themselves should be attended by their mothers or by
their maids, but an older girl no more needs guardianship at
riding-school than at any other place at which she receives
instruction, and there is no more reason why her mother should
follow her into the ring than into the class-room.
Her presence, even if she preserve absolute silence, will
probably embarrass both teacher and pupil, and although her own
children may not be affected by it, it will be decidedly
troublesome to the children of other mothers.
If, instead of being quiet, she talk, and it is the nature of the
mother who accompanies her daughter to riding-school to talk
volubly and loudly, she will become a nuisance, and even a source
of actual danger, by distracting the attention of the master from
his pupils, and the attention of the pupils from their horses, to
say nothing of the possibility that some of her pretty, ladylike
screams of, "Oh, darling, I know you're tired!" or, "Oh, what a
horrid horse; see him jump!" may really frighten some lucky
animal whose acquaintance has included no women but the sensible.
If she be inclined to laugh at the awkward beginners, and to
ridicule them audibly--but really, Esmeralda, it should not be
necessary to consider such an action, impossible in a well-bred
woman, unlikely in a woman of good feeling! Leave your mother, if
not at home, in the dressing-room or the reception room, and go
to the mounting-stand alone.
In some schools you may ride at any time, but the usual morning
hours for ladies' lessons are from nine o'clock to noon, and the
afternoon hours from two o'clock until four. Some masters prefer
that their pupils should have fixed days and hours for their
lessons, and others allow the very largest liberty. For your own
sake it is better to have a regular time for your lessons, but if
you cannot manage to do so, do not complain if you sometimes have
to wait a few minutes for your horse, or for your master.
The school is not carried on entirely for your benefit, although
you will at first assume that it is. As a rule, a single lesson
will cost two dollars, but a ten-lesson ticket will cost but
fifteen dollars, a twenty-lesson ticket twenty-five dollars, and
a ticket for twenty exercise rides twenty dollars. In schools
which give music-rides, there are special rates for the evenings
upon which they take place, but you need not think of music-rides
until you have had at least the three lessons which you desire.
Buy your ticket before you go to the dressing-room, and ask if
you may have a key to a locker. Dress as quickly as you can, and
if there be no maid in the dressing-room, lock up your street
clothing and keep your key. If there be a maid, she will attend
to this matter, and will assist you in putting on your skirt,
showing you that it buttons on the left side, and that you must
pin it down the basque of your jersey or your jacket in the back,
unless you desire it to wave wildly with every leap of your
horse. Flatter not yourself that lead weights will prevent this!
When a horse begins a canter that sends you, if your feelings be
any gauge, eighteen good inches nearer the ceiling, do you think
that an ounce of lead will remain stationary? give a final touch
to your hairpins and hatpins, button your gloves, pull the rubber
straps of your habit over your right toe and left heel, and you
In most schools, you will be made to mount from the ground, and
you will find it surprisingly and delightfully easy to you. What
it may be to the master who puts you into the saddle is another
matter, but nine out of ten teachers will make no complaint, and
will assure you that they do very well.
If you wish to deceive any other girl's inconsiderate mother whom
you may find comfortably seated in a good position for criticism,
and to make her suppose that you are an old rider, keep silence.
Do not criticise your horse or his equipments, do not profess
inability to mount, but when you master says "Now!" step forward
and stand facing in the same direction of your horse, placing
your right hand on the upper pommel of the two on the left of the
Set your left foot in whichever hand he holds out for it. Some
masters offer the left, some the right, and some count for a
pupil, and others prefer that she should count for yourself. The
usual "One, two, three!" means, one, rest the weight strongly on
the right foot; two, bend the right knee, keeping the body
perfectly erect; three, spring up from the right foot, turning
very slightly to the left, so as to place yourself sideways on
the saddle, your right hand toward the horse's head.
Some masters offer a shoulder as a support for a pupil's left
hand, and some face toward the horse's head and some toward his
tail, so it is best for you to wait a little for directions,
Esmeralda, and not to suppose that, because you know all about
Lucy Fountain's way of mounting a horse, or about James Burdock's
tuition of Mabel Vane, there is no other method of putting a lady
in the saddle.
After your first lesson, you will find it well to practise
springing upward from the right foot, holding your left on
a hassock, or a chair rung, your right hand raised as if
grasping the pommel, your shoulders carefully kept back, and
your body straight. It is best to perform this exercise before
a mirror, and when you begin to think you have mastered it,
close you eyes, give ten upward springs and then look at
yourself. A hopeless wreck, eh? Not quite so bad as that, but,
before, you unconsciously corrected your position by the eye,
and you must learn to do it entirely by feeling. You will
probably improve very much on a second trial, because your
shoulders will begin to be sensitive. Why not practise this
exercise before your first lesson? Because you should know just
how your master prefers to stand, in order to be able to
imagine him standing as he really will. It is not unusual to
see riders of some experience puzzled and made awkward by an
innovation on what they have regarded as the true and only
method of mounting, although, when once the right leg and wrist
are properly trained, a woman ought to be able to reach the
saddle without caring what her escort's method of assistance.
Mounting from a high horseblock is a matter of being fairly
lifted into the saddle, and you cannot possibly do it improperly.
it is easy, but it gives you no training for rides outside the
school, and masters use it, not because they approve of it, but
because their pupils, not knowing how easy it is to mount from
the ground, often desire it.
But, being in the saddle, turn so as to face your horse's head,
put our right knee over the pommel, and slip your left foot into
the stirrup. Then rise on your left foot and smooth your skirt, a
task in which your master will assist you, and take you reins and
your whip from him.
How shall you hold your reins? As your master tells you!
Probably, he will give you but one rein at first, and very likely
will direct you to hold it in both hands, keeping them five or
six inches apart, the wrists on a level with the elbows or even a
very little lower, and he is not likely to insist on any other
details, knowing that it will be difficult for you to attain
perfection in these. An English master might give you a single
rein to be passed outside the little finger, and between the
forefinger and the middle finger, the loop coming between the
forefinger and thumb, and being held in place by the thumb. Then
he would expect you to keep your right shoulder back very firmly,
but a French master will tell you that it is better to learn to
keep the shoulder back a little while holding a rein in the right
hand, and an American master will usually allow you to take your
choice, but, until you have experience, obey orders in silence.
And now, having taken your whip, draw yourself back in your
saddle so as to feel the pommel under your right knee; sit well
towards the right, square your shoulders, force your elbows well
down, hollow your waist a little, and start. He won't go? Of
course he will not, until bidden to do so, if he know his
business. Bend forward the least bit in the world, draw very
slightly on the reins, and rather harder on the right, so as to
turn him from the stand, and away he walks, and you are in the
ring. You had no idea that it was so large, and you feel as if
lost on a western prairie, but you are in no danger whatsoever.
You cannot fall off while your right knee and left foot are in
place, and if you deliberately threw yourself into the tan, you
would be unhurt, and the riding-school horse knows better than to
tread on anything unusual which he may find in his way.
Now, Esmeralda, keep your mind--No, your saddle is not turning;
it is well girthed. You feel as if it were? Pray, how do you know
how you would feel if a saddle were to turn? Did you ever try it?
And your saddle is not too large! Neither is it too small! And
there is nothing at all the matter with your horse! Now,
Esmeralda, keep your mind--No, that other girl is not going to
ride you down. Her horse would not allow her, if she endeavored
to do so. The trouble is that she does not guide her horse, but
is worrying herself about staying on his back, when she should be
thinking about making him turn sharp corners and go straight
forward. Regard her as a warning, Esmeralda, and keep your mind--
What is the matter with the reins? Apparently they are oiled,
for they have slipped from under your thumbs, and your horse is
wandering along with drooping head, looking as if training to
play the part of the dead warrior's charger at a military
Shorten your reins now, carefully! Not quite so much, or your
horse will think that you intend to begin to trot, and do not
lean backward, or he will fancy that you wish him to back or
stop. The poor thing has to guess at what a pupil wishes, and no
wonder that he sometimes mistakes.
But, Esmeralda, keep your mind on those thumbs and hold them
close to your forefingers. Driving will give no idea of the
slipperiness of leather, but after your first riding lesson you
will wonder why it is not used to floor roller-skating rinks. But
remember that your reins are for your horse's support, not for
yours; they are the telegraph wires along which you send
dispatches to him, not parallel bars upon which your weight is to
depend. Hitherto, you have not ridden an inch. Your horse has
strolled about, and you have not dropped from his back, and that
is not riding, but now you shall begin.
In a large ring, pupils are required to keep to the wall when
walking, as this gives the horse a certain guide, but in small
rings the rule is to keep to the wall when trotting, so as to
improve every foot of pace, and to walk about six feet from the
wall, not in a circle, but describing a rectangle. New pupils are
always taught to turn to the right, and to make all their
movements in that direction. Hold your thumbs firmly in place,
and draw your right hand a very little upward and inward,
touching your whip lightly to the horse's right side, and turning
your face and leaning your body slightly to the right.
The instant that the corner is turned, drop your hand, keeping
the thumb in place, square your shoulders, look straight between
your horse's ears, and then allow your eyes to range upward as
far as possible without losing sight of him altogether. No matter
what is going on about you. Very likely, the criticizing mamma on
the mounting-stand is scolding sharply about noting. Possibly, a
dear little boy is fairly flying about the ring on a pony that
seems to have cantered out of a fairy tale, and a marvelously
graceful girl, whom you envy with your whole soul, is doing
pirouettes in the centre of the ring.
All that is not your business. Your sole concern is to keep your
body in position, and your mind fixed on making your horse obey
you, doing nothing of his own will. Stop him now and then by
leaning back, and drawing on the reins, not with your body but
with your hands. Then lean forward and go on, but if he should
remain planted as fast as the Great Pyramid, if when started he
should refuse to pay any attention to the little taps of your
left heel and the touches of your whip, nay, if he should lie
down and pretend to die, like a trick horse in a circus, don't
cluck. No good riding master will teach a pupil to cluck or will
permit the practice to pass unreproved, and riding-school horses
do not understand it, and are quite as likely to start at the
cluck of a rider on the other side of the ring as they are when a
similar noise is made by the person on their own backs.
But now, just as you have shortened your reins for the fortieth
time or so, your master rides up beside you. You told him of your
little three-lesson plan, and being wise in his generation, he
smilingly assented to it. "Shall we trot?" he asks, in an
agreeable voice. "Shorten your reins, now! Don't pull on them!
Right shoulder back! Now rise from the saddle as I count, 'One,
two, three, four!' Off we go!'" You would like to know what he
meant by "off!" "Off," indeed! You thought you were "off" the
saddle. You have been bounced up and down mercilessly, and have
gasped, "Stop him!" before you have been twice around the ring,
and not one corner have you been able to turn properly. As for
your elbows, you know that they have been flying all abroad, but
still--it was fun, and you would like to try again. You do try
again, and you would like to try again. You do try again, and, at
last, you are conscious of a sudden feeling of elasticity, of
sympathy with your horse, of rising when he does, and then your
master looks at you triumphantly, and says: "You rose that time,"
and leaves you to go to some other pupil. And then you walk your
horse again, trying to keep in position, and you make furtive
little essays at trotting by yourself, and find that you cannot
keep your horse to the wall, although you pull your hardest at
his left rein, the reason being that, unconsciously, you also
pull at the right rein, and that he calmly obeys what the reins
tell him and goes straight forward. Then your master offers to
help you by lifting you, grasping your right arm with his left
hand, and you make one or two more circuits of the ring, and then
the hour is over and you dismount and go to the dressing-room.
Tired, Esmeralda? A little, and you do wonder whether you shall
not be a bruised piece of humanity to-morrow. Not if your flesh
be as hard as any girl's should be in these days of gymnasiums,
but if you have managed to bruise a muscle or to strain one, lay
a bottle of hot water against it when you go to bed and it will
not be painful in the morning. If, in spite of warnings, you have
been so careless about your underclothing as to cause a blister,
a bit of muslin saturated with Vaseline, with a drop of tincture
of benzoin rubbed into it, makes a plaster which will end the
This is not a physician's prescription, but is hat of a horseman
who for years led the best riding class in Boston, and it is
asserted that nobody was ever known to be dissatisfied with its
effects. Muffle yourself warmly, Esmeralda, and hasten home, for
nothing is easier than to catch cold after riding. Air your frock
and cloak before an open fire to volatilize the slight ammoniacal
scent which they must inevitably contract in the locker, and then
be as good to yourself as the hostler will be to your poor horse.
That is to say, give yourself a sponge bath in hot water, with a
dash of Sarg's soap and almond meal in it, rubbing dry with a
Turkish towel, and then dress and go down to dinner.
Looking at your glowing face and shining eyes, your father will
tell your mother that she should have gone also, but when he
marks the havoc which you make with the substantial part of the
meal, and sees that your appetite for dessert is twice as good as
usual, he will reflect upon his butcher's and grocer's bills,
and, considering what they would be with provision to make for
two such voracious creatures, he will say, "No, Esmeralda, don't
take your mother!"
Up into the saddle,
Lithe and light, vaulting she perched.
And you still think, Esmeralda, that three lessons will be enough
to make you a horse woman, and that by next Monday you will be
able to join the road party, and witch the world with your
Very well, array yourself for conquest and come to the school.
Talk is cheap, according to a proverb more common than elegant;
but it is sinful to waste the cheapest of things. While you
dress, you will meditate upon the sensation which it is your
intention to make in the ring, and upon the humiliation which you
will heap upon your riding master by showing wonderful ability to
rise in the saddle. Although not quite ready to assert ability to
ride hour after hour like a mounted policeman, you feel certain
that you could ride as gracefully as he, and perhaps you
are right, for official position does not confer wisdom in
equitation. To say nothing of policemen, it is not many seasons
since an ambitious member of the governor's staff presented
himself before a riding master to "take a lesson, just to get
used to it, you know; got to review some regiments at Framingham
tomorrow." And when, after some trouble, he had been landed in
the saddle, never a strap had he, and long before his lesson hour
was finished, he was a spectacle to make a Prussian sentinel
giggle while on duty.
And for your further encouragement, Esmeralda, know that it is
but a few years ago that a riding master, in answer to a
rebellious pupil who defended some sin against Baucher with, "Mr.
--of the governor's staff always does so," retorted, "There is
just one man on the governor's staff who can ride, and I taught
him; and if he had ridden like that !" An awful silence expressed
so many painful possibilities that the pupil was meek and humble
ever after, and yet it was not written in any newspaper that any
of those ignorant colonels were thrown from their saddles in
public, nor did the strapless gentleman furnish amusement to
civilian or soldier by rolling on the grass at Framingham.
The truth is, that the number of persons able to judge of riding
is smaller than the number able to ride, and that number is
rather less than one in a hundred of those who appear on
horseback either in the ring or on the road; but Boston could
furnish a legion of men and women who find healthful enjoyment in
the saddle, and who look passably well while doing it, and
possibly you may add yourself to their ranks after a very few
lessons, although there is--You are ready? Come then!
Into the saddle well thought, thanks to your master, but why that
ghastly pause? Turn instantly, place your knee over the pommel
and thrust your foot into the stirrup, if you possibly can,
without waiting for assistance. Teachers of experience, riding
masters, dancing masters, musicians, artists, gymnasts, will
unite in telling you that unless a pupil's mental qualities be
rather extraordinary, it is more difficult to impart knowledge at
a second lesson than at the first, simply because the pupil gives
less attention, expecting his muscles to work mechanically.
Undoubtedly, after long training, fingers will play scales, and
flying feet whirl their owner about a ballroom without making him
conscious of every muscular extension and contraction, but this
facility comes only to those who, in the beginning, fix an
undivided mind upon what they are doing, and who never fall into
Keep watch of yourself, manage yourself as assiduously as you
watch and manage your horse, and ten times more assiduously than
you would watch your fingers at the piano, or your feet in the
dancing class, because you must watch for two, for your horse and
for yourself. If you give him an incorrect signal, he will obey
it, you will be unprepared for his next act, and in half a minute
you will have a very pretty misunderstanding on your hands.
But there is no reason for being frightened. You cannot fall, and
if your horse should show any signs of actual misbehavior, you
would find your master at your right hand, with fingers of steel
to grasp your reins, and a voice accustomed to command obedience
from quadrupeds, howsoever little of it he may be able to obtain
at first from well-meaning bipeds. You are perfectly safe with
him, Esmeralda, not only because he knows how to ride, but
because the strongest of all human motives, self-interest, is
enlisted to promote your safety. "She said she was afraid to risk
her neck," said an exhausted teacher, speaking the words of
frankness to a spectator, as a timid and stupid pupil disappeared
into the dressing-room, "and I told her that she could afford the
risk better than I. If she broke it, than don't you know, it
probably could not be mended, but mine might be broken in trying
to save her, and, at the best, my reputation and my means of
getting a livelihood would be gone forever in an instant. It's
only a neck with her; it's life and wife and babies that I risk,
and I'll insure her neck." And when the stupid pupil, who was a
lady in spite of her dulness, came from the dressing-room, calmed
and quieted, and began to offer a blushing apology, he repeated
his remarks to her, and so excellent was the understanding
established between them after this little incident that she
actually came to be a tolerable rider. Feeling that he would tell
her to do nothing dangerous to her, she was ready at his command
to lie down on her horse's back and to raise herself again and
again, and, after doing this a few times, and bending alternately
to the right and to the left, the saddle seemed quite homelike,
and to remain in it sitting upright was very easy for a few
Only for a few moments, however, for the necessity of paying
attention still remained, as it does with you, and again she
stiffened herself, as you are doing now.
As Mr. Mead very justly says, in his "Horsemanship for Women," a
lesson may be learned from a bag of grain set up on horseback,
which is, that while the lower part of your body should settle
itself almost lazily in place, the upper part, which is
comparatively light, should sway slightly but easily with the
Manage to ride behind the girl who was teaching herself to do
pirouettes the other day. Her horse is walking rapidly, and you
could almost fancy that her prettily squared shoulders were part
of him, so sympathetically do they respond to each step, but if
you should let your horse straggle against hers and frighten him,
you would see that no rock is more firmly seated then she.
If it should please your master to require you to perform the
bending exercise, you will feel the advantage of having practiced
it at home, for it is infinitely easier in the saddle than it is
on the floor, and your riding master will be exceedingly pleased
at the ease with which you effect it. There is no necessity for
telling him that the little feat is quite familiar to you. The
woman of sense keeps as many of her doings secret as she can, and
the wise pupil confesses no knowledge except that derived from
her master. Being, in spite of his superior knowledge, a mortal
man, he will take twice the pains with her, and a hundredfold
more pride in her if persuaded that she owes everything to him.
There is no reason to worry about a little stiffness during the
first lessons. It is almost entirely nervousness, and will
disappear as soon as you are quite comfortable and easy, but the
beautiful flexibility of the good horsewoman comes only to her
whose muscles are perfectly trained, and it is surprising how few
muscles there are to which one may not give employment in an
hour's practice in the ring. If you like, you may, without the
assistance of your master, lean forward to the right side until
your left shoulder touches your horse's crest, and when you are
trotting it is well how and then to lean forward and to the right
until you can see your horse's forefeet, but you would better not
perform the same exercise on the left side for the present, for
you might overbalance yourself and almost slip from the saddle.
If able, as you should be, to touch the floor with your
fingertips without bending your knees, this little movement will
be nothing to you, but do not bend to the left, Esmeralda. Why
not? Why, because if you will have the truth, you are slipping to
the left already, your right shoulder is drooping forward, and
your weight is hanging in your stirrup and pulling your saddle to
the left so forcibly that your horse has lost all respect for
you, and would be thoroughly uncomfortable, were it not that you
have forgotten all about your thumbs, and you have allowed your
reins to slip away from you, so that he is going where he
pleases, except when you jerk him sharply to the right, and then
he shakes and tosses his head and goes on contentedly, as one
saying, "All things have an end, even a new pupil's hour."
Now, sit well to the right, remembering the meal sack; shorten
your reins, keeping your elbows down and your hands low. Shorten
them a very little more, so as to bring your elbows further
forward. When you stop, you should not be compelled to jerk your
elbows back of your waist, but should bring them into line with
it, leaning back slightly, and drawing yourself upward. Stop your
horse now, for practice. Do not speak to him during your first
lessons, except by your master's express command, but address him
in his own language, using your reins, your foot, and your whip,
if your master permit. "Why do you make coquette of your horse?"
asked a French master of a pretty girl who was coaxingly calling
her mount "a naughty, horrid thing," and casting glances fit to
distract a man on the ungrateful creature's irresponsive crest.
"Your horse does not care anything at all about you; don't you
think he does!" pursued he, ungallantly. "You may coax me as much
as you like," said a Yankee teacher to a young woman who was
trying the "treat him kindly" theory, and was calling her horse a
"dear old ducky darling;" "and," he continued, "I'm rather fond
of candy myself, but it isn't coaxing or lump sugar that will
make that horse go. It's brains and reins and foot and whip."
When you have a horse of your own, talk to him as much as you
like, and teach him your language as an accomplishment, but
address the riding-school horse in his own tongue, until you have
mastered it yourself.
Now, adjust yourself carefully, lean forward, extend your hands a
very little, touch your horse with your left heel, and, as soon
as he moves, sit erect and let your hands resume their position.
Hasten his steps until he is almost trotting, before you strike
him with the whip. You can do this by very slightly opening and
shutting your fingers in time with the slight pull which he gives
with his head at every step, by touches with your heel, and by
touches, not blows, with the whip, and by allowing yourself, not
to rise, but to sit a little lighter with each step. It is not
very easy to do, and you need not be discouraged if you cannot
effect it after many trials. Some masters will tell you to strike
your horse on the shoulder, and some will prefer that you should
strike him on the flank as a signal for trotting. Those who
prefer the former will tell you to carry your whip pointing
forward; the others will tell you to carry it pointing backward,
and many masters will say that it makes little difference as long
as it is carried gracefully, and as long as you understand that
it takes the place of a leg on the right side of the horse.
General Anderson, in "On Horseback," lays down the rule that a
horse should never be struck on the shoulder, as it will cause
him to swerve, but use your master's horses in obedience to his
Now, then, one, two, three, four! One, two, three, four! You
don't seem to be astonishing anybody very much, Esmeralda! Again,
one, two, three, four! Never mind! Sit down and let the horse do
the work. Keep your left heel down, and your left knee close to
the saddle. Not close to the pommel, understand, but close to the
saddle. Try and imagine, if you like, that you are carrying a
dollar between the knee and the saddle, after the West Point
fashion, and do not fret overmuch because you are not rising. If
you were a cavalryman riding with your troop, you would not be
allowed to rise, and to sit properly while sitting close is an
accomplishment not to be despised. "Ow!" What does that mean? You
rose without trying? Watch yourself carefully, and if such a
phenomenon should occur again, try to make it repeat itself by
letting yourself down into the saddle, and then rising again
quickly. But keep trotting! Count how many times you trot around
the ring, and mentally pledge yourself to increase the number of
circuits at your next lesson. And--"Cluck!"
Sit down in the saddle, Esmeralda! Lean back a little, bring your
left knee up against the pommel, keeping the lower part of the
leg close against the saddle; keep your right knee in place and
your right foot and the lower part of your right leg close to the
saddled; guide your horse, but do not otherwise exert yourself.
How do you like it? Delightful? Yes, with a good horse it is as
delightful as sitting in a rocking-chair, but, if you were a
rider of experience, you would not allow your horse to enter upon
the gait without permission, but would bring him back to the trot
by slightly pulling first the left rein and then the right, a
movement which is called sawing the mouth. The poor creature is
really not in fault. He heard the cluck given by that complacent-
looking man, trotting slowly about, and not knowing how to use
his reins and knees in order to go faster, and he said to
himself: "She is tired of trotting and wants a rest; so do I,"
and away he went. If you had been trying to rise, you might have
been thrown, for the greatest danger that you will encounter in
the school comes from rising while the horse is at a canter. The
cadence of the motion is triple, instead of in common time like
that of the trot, and you will soon distinguish the difference,
but eschew cantering at first. If you once become addicted to it,
you will never learn to trot, or even to walk well.
Having had your little warning against clucking, perhaps you
will now sympathize with the indignant Englishwoman who, having
been almost unseated by a similar mischance, responded, when
the clucking cause thereof rode up to say that he was sorry
that her horse should behave so: "It wasn't the horse that was
in fault, sir; it was a donkey." But now, try a round or two
more of trotting, then guide your horse carefully about the ring
two or three times, bring him up to the mounting-stand, dismount,
and go to the dressing-room. You are rather warm, but not in
the least tired, and you have had "such a good time," as you
enthusiastically explain to everybody who will listen to you, but
as there is much merry chatter going on from behind screens, and
as it is all to the same effect, nobody pays much attention, and
if you were cross and complaining, everybody would laugh at you.
A riding-school is a place from which every woman issues better
contented than she entered, and there is no sympathy for
Remember to be careful about your wraps, and that you may be able
to ride better next time, practice these exercises at home: Place
your knees together and heels together, adjust your shoulders,
hands, and arms as if you were in the saddle, and sit down as far
as possible, while keeping the legs vertical from the knee down.
Rise, counting "One," sink again, rise once more at "Two," and
continue through three measures, common time. Rest a minute and
repeat until you are a little weary. Nothing is gained by doing
too much work, but if you do just enough of this between lessons,
you cannot possibly grow stiff. When you can do it fairly well,
try to do it first on one foot and then on the other, and then
bring your right foot in front of your left knee, and, standing
on your left foot, assume, as nearly as possibly, the proper
position for the saddle, and try to rise in time. You will not
find it very difficult, and you will be compelled to keep your
heel down while doing it, especially if you put a block about an
inch thick under your left tow. You may try doing it while
sitting sidewise in a chair, if it be difficult for you to poise
yourself on one foot, but a girl who cannot stand thus for some
time, long enough to lace her riding boot, for instance, is much
too weak for her own good.
Take all your spare minutes for this work, Esmeralda. Bob up and
down in all the secluded corners of the house; try to feel the
motion in the horse-cars--it will not need much effort in many
of them. And if you want to be comfortable in a herdic, sit
sidewise and pretend that the seat is a horse. This is Mr.
Hurlburt's rule for riding in an Irish "outside car." In short,
while taking your first riding-lessons, walk, sit, and think to
the tune of
"One, two, three, four!
Near the wall,
Make him trot;
You cannot fall!"
The Horse does not attempt to fly;
He knows his powers, and so should I.
Wilful will to water, eh, Esmeralda? You are determined to appear
in that riding party after your third lesson, and you think that
you "will look no worse than a great many others." Undoubtedly,
that is true, and more's the pity, but, since you will go, let us
make the most of the third lesson, and trust that you will return
in a whole piece, like Henry Clay's pie.
You do not see why there is any more danger on the road than in
the ring, and you have never been thrown! It would be unkind, in
the face of that "never," to remind you that you have been in the
saddle precisely twice, and, really, there is no more danger from
your incompetency, should it manifest itself on the road, than
might arise from its display in the ring, but with your horse it
is another matter. Having the whole world before him, why not, he
will meditate, speed forth into space, and escape from the
hateful creature who jerks on his head so causelessly, making him
sigh wearily for the days of his unbroken colthood? He would
endure it within doors, because he has noticed that his tormentor
gives place to another every hour, and pain may be borne when it
is not monotonous; but he remembers that there is no limit to the
time during which one human being may impel him along an open
road, and he also remembers some very pretty friskings,
delightful to himself, but disconcerting to his rider, and he may
perform some of them.
Even if he should, he would not unseat a rider well accustomed to
school work, but you! You actually rose in the saddle three times
in succession, the other day, and where were your elbows and
where were your feet when you ceased rising, and long before your
steady, quiet mount understood that you desired him to walk?
Your master smiles indulgently when you announce that this is
your last practice lesson, and says: "Very well, you shall ride
Charlie, to-day, at least for a little while, until some others
come in." He himself mounts, moves off a pace or two, one of the
assistant masters puts you in the saddle, and before the groom
lets Master Charlie's head go, your master says, easily: "Leave
his reins pretty long, especially the right one. Put your left
knee close against the pommel; don't try to rise until I tell
you. Ready. Now."
You feel as if you were in a transformation scene at the theatre.
The windows of the ring seem to run into one another, and at very
short intervals you catch a glimpse in the mirror of a young
woman, in a familiar looking Norfolk jacket, sitting with her
elbows as far behind her as if held there by the Austrian plan of
running a broomstick in front of the arms and behind the waist.
On and on! You earnestly wish to stop, but are ashamed to say so.
Close at your right hand, pace for pace with you, rides your
master, keeping up an unbroken fire of brief ejaculation: "Hands
a little lower! Arms close to the side!" Shoulders square!
Square! Draw your right shoulder backward and upward! Now down
with your right elbow! Don't pull o the right rein! Don't lift
your hands! You'll make him go faster!"
"I like this kind of trot," you say sweetly. "It's easier than
the other kind."
"It isn't a trot; it's a canter," says your master, with a
suspicion of dryness in his voice, "but you may make him trot if
you like. Shorten both reins, especially the left. Whoa, Charlie!
Wait until I say 'Now,' before you do it! Shorten both reins,
especially the left; that will keep him to the wall, Then extend
your left arm a little, and draw back your right; draw back your
left and extend your right, and repeat until he comes down to a
trot. That saws his mouth, and gives him something besides
scampering to occupy his mind. Now we will start up again at a
canter. Lengthen your reins, but remember to shorten them when
you want to trot."
"Shall I tell you before hand, so that you may have time to make
your horse trot, too?" you ask.
Esmeralda, you must have been reading one of those sweet books on
etiquette which advise the horsewoman to be considerate of her
companions. How much notice do you think your master requires to
"make his horse trot"? You will blush over the memory of that
question next year, although now you feel that you have been very
ladylike, even very Christian, in putting it, for have you not
shown that your temper is unruffled and that you are thinking how
to make others happy?
Your master answers that his horse may be trusted, and that if
you prefer to take your own time to change from the canter to the
trot, rather than to wait for him to say, "Now," you may do so.
And the canter begins again, and, after a round or two, you try
the mouth-sawing process, doing it very well, for it is an ugly
little trick at best, rarely found necessary by an accomplished
rider, and beginners seldom fail to succeed in it at the very
first attempt. If it were pretty and graceful, it would be more
difficult. Down to the trot comes the obedient Charles, and up
you go one, two, three, four! And down you come, until you really
expect to find yourself and the saddle in the tan between the two
halves of your horse.
Of what can the creature's spinal column be made, to bear such a
succession of blows! You begin by pitying the horse, but after
about half a circuit, you think that human beings have their
little troubles also, and you feel a suspicion of sarcasm in your
master's gentle: "You need not do French trot any longer, unless
you like. It will be easier for you to rise."
You give a frantic hop in your stirrup at the wrong minute, and
begin a series of jumps in which you and the horse rise on
alternate beats, by which means your saddle receives twice as
much pounding as at first, and then you have breath enough left
to gasp "Stop," and in a second you are walking along quietly,
and your master is saying in a matter-of-fact way: "You would
better keep your left heel down all the time, and turn the toe
toward the horse's side and keep your right foot and leg close to
the saddle below the knee; swing yourself up and down as a man
does; don't drop like a lump of lead."
"Like a snowflake," you murmur, for you fancy that you have a
pretty wit like Will Honeycomb.
"Not at all," says your master. "The snowflake comes down because
it must, and comes to stay. You come because you choose, and come
down to rise again instantly. You must keep your right shoulder
back, and your hands on a level with your elbows, and you must
turn the corners, not let your horse turn them as he pleases--
but more pupils are coming now and I must give you another horse.
You may have Billy Buttons." The change is effected, the other
pupils begin their lessons, and you and Billy walk deliberately
about in the centre of the ring.
At first he keeps moderately near the wall, but after a time you
find that the circle described by his footsteps has grown
smaller, and that he apparently fancies himself walking around a
rather small tree. Your master rides up as you are pulling and
jerking your left rein in the endeavor to come nearer to the
wall, and says, "Try Billy's canter. I'll take a round with you.
Strike him on the shoulder, and when you want him to trot,
shorten your reins and touch him on the flank. Those are the
signals which he minds best. Now! Canter."
You remember having heard of a "canter like a rocking-chair."
Charlie had it, but you were too inexperienced to know it, but
bad riders long ago deprived Billy of any likeness to a rocking-
chair. He knows that if he should let himself go freely, you
would come near to making him rear by pulling on the reins,
and so he goes along "one, two, three, one, two, three,"
deliberately, and you feel and look, as you hear an unsympathetic
gazer in the gallery remark, "like a pea in a hot skillet." You
prided yourself on keeping your temper unruffled under the wise
criticism of your master, but in truth you did not really believe
him. You said to yourself that he was too particular, and you
even thought of informing him that he must not expect perfection
immediately, but this piece of impudence, spoken by a person
who, for aught that you can tell, does not know Billy from a
clotheshorse, convinces you instantly, and you decide to canter
no more, but to trot, and so you "shorten your reins and strike
him on the flank."
As you shorten the right rein more than the left, and as your
whip falls as lightly as if you meant the blow for yourself,
Billy goes to the centre of the ring, but you jerk him to the
wall, and in time, trot he does. But your left foot swings now
forward and now outward, and you cannot rise. The regular,
pulsating count by which a clever girl is moving like a machine,
irritates you, and you tell another beginner, "They really ought
to let us rise on alternate bats at first, until we are more
accustomed to the motion," and she agrees with you, and both of
you try this, which might be called trotting on the American
pupil plan, but even the calm Billy manages to take about six
steps between what you regard as the "alternate beats," and at
last breaks into a canter, and you hear yourself ordered, very
peremptorily, to "sit down." You obey, but begin the pea in the
skillet performance again, and at last you tell your master that
you will not try to trot anymore, but would like to know all
about managing the reins.
"And then," you say, looking as wise as the three Gothamites of
the nursery song, "even if I should not be able to trot long, and
should fall behind my friends on the road, I shall have perfect
control of my horse, and can walk on until they miss me and turn
back for me. Will you please tell me all the ways of holding the
Your master does not laugh; the joke is too venerable, and he
feels awe-struck as he hears it, so ancient does it seem.
"If you take your reins in one hand," he says, "an easy way is to
hold the snaffle on your ring finger, and the left curb outside
the little finger, with the right curb between the middle and
fore fingers. Then, when you want to use both hands, put your
right little finger and ring finger between the right curb and
right snaffle, and hold your hands at exactly even distances from
your horse's head, with the two reins firmly nipped by the thumbs
resting on top of the fore-fingers. This is the way recommended
in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in Colonel Dodge's 'Patroclus
and Penelope,' and you will see it in many very good hunting
"Colonel Anderson, in his 'On Horseback,' recommends dividing
the curb reins by the little finger of the left hand and the
snaffle reins by the middle finger, carrying the ends up
through the hand, and holding them by the thumb. Mr. Mead, in his
'Horsemanship for Women,' mentions this hold, but prefers taking
the curb on the ring finger, and the snaffle outside the little
finger, and between the forefinger and middle finger. This hold
is used in the British army, and it is convenient in school,
because if it be desirable to drop the curb in order to ride with
the snaffle only, you can do it by dropping your ring finger,
and, if your horse be moderately quiet, you can knot the curb
rein and let it lie on his neck. Besides, it makes the snaffle a
little tighter than the curb, and that is held to be a good thing
in England. An English soldier is prone to accuse American
cavalrymen of riding too much on the curb, and by the way, I have
heard English soldiers assert that they were taught the second
method, but it was a riding master formerly in the Queen's
service who told me that the third was preferred.
"M. de Bussigny, in his little 'Handbook for Horsewomen,' gives
the preference to crossing the reins, the curb coming outside the
little finger and between the ring and middle finger, and the
snaffle between the little and ring fingers and the middle finger
and forefinger. I hold my won in that way when training a horse,
but it is better for you to use both hands on the reins, and he
would tell you so. You are more likely to sit square; it gives
you twice the hold, and then, too, you know where your right hand
is, and are not waving it about in the air, or devising queer
ways of holding your whip. Now your hour is over, and I will take
you off your horse. Wait until he is perfectly still, and the
groom has him by the head. Now drop your reins; let me take off
the foot straps; take your foot out of the stirrup; turn in the
saddle; put one hand on my shoulder and one on my elbow, and slip
down as lightly as you can."
You glance at the clock, perceive that you have been I the saddle
almost an hour and a half, and murmur an apology. "Don't mind," is
the encouraging answer. "As long as a pupil does not complain and
call us stingy when we make her dismount, we do not say much. But
are you really going on the road, Monday, Miss Esmeralda?" "Yes,
I am," you answer. "Ah, well," he says, a little regretfully,
"don't forget, then. Hold on with your right knee and sit down
for the canter."
What shall you do by way of exercise before Monday? Practise all
the old movements, a little of each one at a time, and take two
lengths of ribbon as wide as an ordinary rein, or, better still,
two leather straps, and fasten one to the knobs on the two sides
of a door and run the other through the keyhole. Call the knob
straps the snaffle reins, and the keyhole straps the curb, and,
sitting near enough to let them lie in your lap, practice picking
them up and adjusting them with your eyes shut. When you can do
it quickly and neatly, try and see with how little exertion you
can sway the door to left and right, and then practice holding
these dummy reins while standing on one foot and executing the
movement used in trotting. If the door move by a hair's breadth,
it will show you that you are pulling too much, and you must
remember that your hold on your horse's mouth gives you greater
leverage than you have on the door, and then, perhaps, you will
pity the poor beast a little now and then.
What is that? Your master treated you as if you were an ignorant
girl? So you are, dear, and even if you were not, if you knew all
that there is in all the books, you might still be a bad
horsewoman, because you might now know enough to use your
knowledge. You don't care, and you feel very well, and are very
glad that you went? Of course, that is the invariable cry! And
you mean to take some more lessons if you find that you really
need them? Then leave your skirt in the dressing-room locker! You
will come back from your ride a wiser, but not a sadder, girl.
One cannot be sad on horseback.
--Pad, pad, pad! Like a thing that was mad,
My chestnut broke away.
Esmeralda was puzzled when she returned from her first riding
party. In the morning, looking very pretty in her borrowed riding
habit, her English hat with the hunting guard made necessary by
the Back Bay breezes, her brown gauntlets, and the one scarlet
carnation in her button-hole, she drove to the riding-school,
where she had agreed to meet Theodore and her other friends, not
like Mrs. Gilpin, lest all should say that she was proud, but
because her master had promised to lend her one of the school
horses, to put her ion the saddle and to adjust her stirrup, and
because she secretly felt that she would better give herself
every possible advantage in what, as it came nearer, assumed the
aspect of a trial rather than a pleasure.
Beholding Ronald, the promised horse, severely correct in his
road saddle, and looking immensely tall as he stood on the stable
floor, she inly applauded her own wisdom, strongly doubting that
Theodore's unpractised arm would have tossed her into her place
as lightly as the master's, and she was secretly overjoyed when
the master himself mounted and joined the party with her, making
its number nine; Esmeralda herself, the graduate of three
lessons; Theodore, all his life accustomed to ride anything
calling itself a horse, but making no pretenses to mastery of the
equestrian science; the lawyer, understood, on his own authority,
to be well informed in everything; the society young lady,
erect, precise, self-satisfied; the Texan, riding with apparent
laziness, his hands rather high and seldom quiet, but not to
be shaken from his seat; the beauty, languid and secretly
discontented because her horse was "intended for a brunette, and
a ridiculous mount for a blonde"; Versatilia, who had "taken
up riding a little," and the cavalryman, calm, quiet, and
fraternally regarded by the master, as he reviewed the little
flock from the back of a horse which had been offered to him as
the paragon of its species, and for which and its kind, as he
announced after riding a square or two, he "was not paying a cent
"It is a lovely horse," said the beauty. "It is such a beautiful
color. But men never care for color."
"Good color is a good thing, undoubtedly," said the master, "but
a beautiful horse is a good horse, not necessarily an animal
which would look well in a painted landscape, because its color
would harmonize with the hue of the trees."
"She is a beautiful girl, isn't she," said Esmeralda, looking
admiringly at the beauty, who, having just remembered Tennyson's
line about swaying the rein with flying finger tips, was
executing some movements which made her horse raise his ears to
listen for the cause of such conduct, and then shake his head in
"What do I care for a pretty girl?" demanded the master. "Pretty
rider is what I want to see, and 'pretty rider' is 'good rider.'
Wait until that girl trots three minutes or so, and see whether
or not she is pretty."
The party went through the streets at a rapid walk, now and then
meeting a horse-car, now and then a stray wagon, but invariably
allowed to take its own way, with very little regard for the rule
of the road. The American who drives, whatever may be his social
station, admires the courage of the woman who rides, but he is
firmly convinced that she does not understand horses, and gives
her all the space available wherein to disport herself.
"Are we all right in placing the ladies on the left?" asked
Theodore, turning to the master.
"Of course," cried the lawyer. "We follow the English rule, and
the left was the place of safety for the lady in the days when
English equestrianism was born. Travelers took the left of the
road, and this placed the cavalier between his lady and any
"And in the United States they take the right, and she is between
him and any possible danger," said the master. "It is the custom,
but it seems illogical and foolish. True, it removes any danger
that the lady may be crushed between her own horse and her
escort's, but who protects her from any passing car or carriage,
and in case of a runaway what can her escort, his left hand
occupied with his own reins, do to aid her with hers, or to
disentangle her foot from the stirrup or her habit from the
pommels in case she is thrown? Can he snatch her from the saddle,
after the matter of one of Joaquin Miller's young men? The truth
is that since the rule of the road is 'keep to the right,' the
rule of the saddle should be 'sit on the right,' but with a lady
on his bridle hand the horseman could not be at his best as an
escort, even then.
"It is one of the many little absurdities in American customs; the
old story of the survival of the two buttons at the back of the
coat, and, by the way, Miss Esmeralda, the two buttons on the
back of your habit are out of place, not because of your tailor's
fault, but because of yours. They should make a line at right
angles with your horse's spinal column. Draw yourself back a
little, until you can feel the pommel under your right knee.
'Draw' yourself back; don't lean, but keep yourself perfectly
erect, your back perpendicular to your horse's. Sit a little to
the left; lean a little to the right. Let your left shoulder go
forward a little, your right shoulder backward. Now you are
exactly right. Try to remember your sensations at this minute, in
order to be able to reproduce them. When I say 'Careful,' pass
yourself in review and endeavor to feel where you are wrong.
But," addressing the cavalryman, who was in advance with
Versatilia, "is this procession a funeral?"
"Not exactly," said the cavalryman, and the, after a backward
glance, he cried, in the fashion of a military riding-school
master: "Pr-r-re-pare to tr-r-r-ot--Trot!"
Esmeralda remembered to shorten her reins, and resigned herself
to the Fates, who were propitious, enabling her to catch the
cadence of the trot, and to rise to it during the few seconds
before the cavalryman slackened rein. "Careful," said the master,
and she shook herself into place, eliciting a hearty "Good!" from
him. "Look at your pretty girl," he growled softly, but savagely,
and truly the beauty solicited attention. Slipping to the left in
her saddle, one elbow pointing toward Cambridgeport and the other
toward Dorchester, her right foot visible through her habit, and
her left all but out of the stirrup, she was attractive no
longer, and to complete the master's disgust she ejaculated: "My
hair is coming down!"
"Better bring a nurse and a ladies' maid for her," he muttered to
Esmeralda, confidentially. "Hairpins in your saddle pocket? Well,
you are a sensible girl," and he rode forward with the little
packet, giving it to the lawyer to pass to the unfortunate young
woman. But here arose a little difficulty. The space between the
lawyer's horse and the beauty's as they stood was too wide to
allow him to lay the parcel in her outstretched fingers. The
Texan, on her right hand, had enough to do to keep her horse and
his own absolutely motionless that she might not be thrown by any
unexpected motion of either animal. Versatilia exclaimed in
remonstrance, "Don't leave me," when the cavalryman said, "Wait a
second, I'll come and give them to her;" the master sat quiet and
"Why don't you dismount and give them to her?" cried Theodore,
and was out of his saddle, had placed the parcel in her hand, and
was back in his place again before either of the other three men
"Very well done," said the master, approvingly, "but not the
right thing to do. Never leave your saddle without good cause,
and never leave your horse loose for a moment. Yes, I saw that
you retained your hold of the reins; I was talking at Miss
"Why didn't you make your horse step sideways?" he asked the
"I can't. He won't. See there!"
Sundry pulls, precisely like those which he might have used had
he intended the horse to turn, a pair of absolutely motionless
legs, and an unused whip were accepted as evidence that the
lawyer's "I can't" was perfectly true, and the master and the
cavalryman exchanged comprehending glances as the latter said:
"Well, don't mind. An eminent authority announced after the
Boston horse show of 1889 that high-school airs were of no use on
the road. To make a horse move a step sideways is the veriest
little zephyr of an air, but it would have been of some use to
you, then. Are we ready now? What's that? Dropped your whip?"
Up went the Texan's left heel, catching cleverly on the saddle as
he dropped lightly to the right, after the fashion of the Arab,
the Moor, the Apache, of all the nations which ride for speed and
for fighting rather than for leaping and hunting, and he caught
the whip from the ground and was back in his place in a
twinkling. The ladies were unmoved, because inappreciative; the
lawyer looked savagely envious, the cavalryman and the master
approving, and Theodore, frankly admiring, but no one said
anything, the little cavalcade rearranged itself, and once more
moved on at a footpace until an electric car appeared.
"Ronald is like a rock," said the master, "and you need not be
afraid, but I'll take this beast along in advance. He will shy,
or do some outrageous thing, and he has a mouth as sensitive as
the Mississippi's, and no more."
The "beast" did indeed sidle and fret and prance, and manifest a
disposition to hasten to drown himself in the reservoir, beyond
the reach of self-propelling vehicles, and he repeated the
performance a the sight of two other cars, although evidently
less alarmed than at first, but the fourth car was in charge of a
kindly-disposed driver, who came to a dead stop, out of pure
This was too much for the "beast" to endure; a moving house he
was beginning to regard as tolerable, but a house which stopped
short and glared at him with all its windows was more than horse
nature could endure, and he started for the next county to
institute an inquiry as to whether such actions were to be
allowed, but found himself forced to stop, and not altogether
comfortable, while the master cried good-naturedly: "Go along and
take care of your car. I'll take care of my horse!"
"More than some other folks can do," said the driver, with a
quiet grin at the lawyer, whose angry, "Here, what are you
doing!" shouted to his plunging steed, had brought all the women
in the car to the front, to explain to one another that "that man
was abusing his horse, poor thing."
The car glided off, and Versatilia turned to look at it; her
horse stumbled slightly, jerking her wrists sharply, and but for
the cavalryman's quick shifting of the reins to his right hand
and his strong grasp of her reins with his left, she might have
been in danger.
"Never look back," lectured the master. Esmeralda was his pupil,
and he would have taken the whole centennial quadrille and all
the cabinet ladies to point his moral, had he seen them making
equestrian blunders. "Where your horse has been, where, he is, is
the past. Look to the future, straight before you."
"The cavalryman looked back just now," Esmeralda ventured to say.
"Yes, but he turned his horse very slightly to do it, and he may
do almost anything because he has a perfect seat, and is a good
"Suppose I hear something or somebody coming up behind me?"
"If it have any intelligence, it will not hurt you. If it have
none, looking will do you no good. Turn out to the right as far
as you can and look to the front harder than ever, so as to be
ready to guide your horse and to avoid any obstacles in case he
should start to run. What is the trouble with the ladies now?"
"O, dear!" cried the beauty to the society young lady, "your
"What's the matter with him?" asked the other, still very stately
and not turning.
"Oh! The dreadful creature has caught his tail on my horse's
bit," said the beauty.
"Then you'd better take your horse's bit away," retorted the
other. "My horse's eyes are not at that end of him, and he can't
be expected to look at his tail."
"And you may be kicked," added the Texan. "Check him a little;
there! We ought not to be so close together, and we ought to be
moving a little, I think. Shall we trot again?"
Everybody assented, the cavalryman and Versatilia set off, the
others followed as best they might, the beauty "going to pieces"
in a minute or two, according to the master, the society young
lady stiffening visibly, losing the cadence of the trot very
soon, but making no outcry as she was tossed about uncomfortably,
and not bending her head to look at her reins, as Versatilia did.
"There's the advantage of training in other things," said the
master. "She's a good dancer and a good amateur actress, and she
is controlling herself as she would on a ballroom floor, and
remembering the spectators as she would on the stage. She's no
rider, but is perfectly selfish and self-possessed, and she will
cheat her escort into thinking that she is one. Glad she's no
pupil of mine, however! She always heads the conversation, one of
her friends told me the other day. That is to say, she is always
acting. I can't teach such a person anything; nobody can. She can
teach herself, as she can think of herself and love herself, but
she can't go outside of herself--and the lawyer will find it
out after he has married her."
Esmeralda and Theodore stared in astonishment.
"Walk," said the master, noticing that his pupil looked too warm
for comfort, and the three allowed the others to go on without
them. "Careful," he added, and Esmeralda, adjusting herself
studiously, asked: "Is it really easier to ride on the road than
it is in the school? It seems so."
"It is a little, especially if the corners of the ring are so
near together that the horse goes in a circle, for then the rider
has to lean to the right, while on the road she may sit straight.
Give me the right kind of horse for my pupil to ride, and I would
as leif give lessons on the road as anywhere, but it is not well
for the pupil, whose attention is distracted by a thousand
things, and who learns less in a year than she would in a month
in school. There is no finish about the riding of a woman so
taught. She may be pretty, as you said of one of your friends,
she may be self-possessed, like the other, but she will betray
her ignorance every moment. You were surprised just now at what I
said of the society young lady. A woman can't cheat an old
riding-master, after he has seen her in the saddle. He knows her
and her little ways by heart. Shall we start up? Ah!"
Ronald, the "steady as a rock," was off and away at a canter;
Theodore was starting to gallop in pursuit, but was sharply
ordered back by the master, who went on himself at a rather slow
canter, ready to break into a gallop if his pupil were thrown,
but keeping out of Ronald's hearing, lest he should be further
startled by finding himself followed. There was a clear stretch
of road before her, and Esmeralda sat down as firmly as possible,
brought her left knee up against the pommel, clung firmly with
her right knee, held her hands low and her thumbs as firm as
possible, and thought very hard.
"Very soon," she said to herself, "I shall be thrown and dragged,
and hat a figure I shall be going home, if I', not killed! But I
sha'n't be! I shall be ridiculous, and that's worse." Here she
swept by the riding party, but as Versatilia and the beauty
turned to look at her, and forgot to control their horses, the
cavalryman and the Texan had to do it for them, and could do
nothing for Esmeralda except to shout "Whoa," which Ronald very
properly disregarded. The master came up, and the society young
lady addressed him with, "Very silly of her to try to exhibit
herself so, isn't it?"
"That's no exhibition; that's a runaway," said the master grimly.
"She's doing well too, poor girl," and he and Theodore went on
after the flying rider. Two or three carriages, the riders
staring with horror; a pedestrian or two, innocently wondering
why a lady should be on the road alone; a small boy whistling
shrilly; these were all the spectators of Esmeralda's flight. She
felt desolate and deserted, and yet sure that it was best that
she should be alone, since the master could overtake her if he
would, and she wondered if she should be very seriously injured
when thrown at last, but all the time she was talking to Ronald
in a voice carefully kept at a low pitch, and her hands were held
with a steadiness utterly new to them, and the good horse went on
regularly, but faster and faster.
"That isn't a real runaway," said the master to himself. "Ah, I
see! Her whip is down and strikes him at every stride, and so she
unconsciously urges him forward. If there were a side road here,
I'd gallop around and meet her, or if there were fields on either
side, I'd leap the fence and make a circuit and cut her off, but
through this place, with banks like a railway cutting on each
side, there is nothing to do."
Swifter and swifter! Esmeralda began to feel weaker, thought of
Theodore, and of some other things of which she never told even
him, said a little prayer, but all the time remembered her
master's injunctions, and kept her place firmly, waiting for the
final, and, as she believed, inevitable crash, when lo! She saw
that just in front of her lay a long piece of half-mended road,
full of ugly little stones, and she turned Ronald on it, with a
triumphant, "See how you like that, sir," and then sawed his
mouth. In half a minute he was walking. In another the master was
beside her with words of approval. Theodore galloped up, pale and
anxious, and between the two she had quite as much praise as was
good for her, and, being told of the position of the whip, found
her confidence in Ronald restored.
"But you should never start up hastily," said the master. "Take
time for everything, and check your horse the instant he goes
faster than you mean to have him. You are a good girl, and you
shall not be scolded, or snubbed, either," he muttered, and the
party came up, the cavalryman and the Texan loud in praise, the
other four clamorous with questions and advice.
"You look quite disheveled," said the society young lady
"Ladies often do after they have been on the road a little while.
Excuse me, but one of your skirt buttons is unfastened," said the
master, and, not knowing how to pass her reins into her right
hand so as to use her left to repair the accident, the society
young lady was effectually silenced, while the master, holding
Esmeralda's horse, made her wipe her face, arrange the curly
locks flying about her ears, readjust her hat, and generally
smooth her plumage, until she was once more comfortable.
After a little, the master proposed a trot up the hill, and
instructed Esmeralda to lean forward as her horse climbed upward,
"If you should have to trot down hill, lean back a little, and
keep your reins short," he said.
The lawyer and the society young lady, essaying to descend the
next hill brilliantly, barely escaped going over their horses'
heads, and all four ladies were glad when they perceived that
they were going homeward.
"I like it," Esmeralda said to the master, "but I wish I knew
more, and I'm going to learn, and I see now that three lessons
isn't enough, even for a beginning."
"I knew a girl who took seventeen lessons and then was thrown,"
said the society young lady. "Native ability is better than
teaching. I don't believe any master could make a rider of you,
"A good teacher can make a rider out of anyone who will study,"
said the master, to whom she looked for approval. "As for
seventeen lessons, they are better than seven, of course, but
they are not much, after all. How many dancing lessons, music
lessons, elocution lessons have you taken? More than seventeen? I
thought so. Here's a railroad bridge, but no train coming. Had
one been approaching, and had there been no chance to cross it
before it came, I should have made you turn Ronald the other way,
Miss Esmeralda, so that if he ran he would run out of what he
thinks is danger, and not into it. And now for an easy little
An easy little trot it was, and Esmeralda, left at her own door,
where a groom waited to take her horse to the stable, was happy,
but puzzled. "Theodore," she cried, as soon as he appeared in the
evening, "did you ask the master to go with us? He treated me
just as he does in school."
"Yes, I did," said Theodore boldly. "I was afraid to take charge
of you alone. That was a 'road lesson.'"
"You--you--exasperating thing!" cried Esmeralda. "But then,
you were sensible."
"That's tautology," said Theodore.
A solitary horseman might have been seen.
And so you are feeling very meek after your road lesson and your
runaway, Esmeralda, and are a perfect Uriah Heep for 'umbleness,
and are, henceforth and forever, going to believe every syllable
that your master utters, and to obey every command the instant
that it is given, and--there, that will do! And you are going
to take one private lesson so as to learn a few little things
before you display your progress before any other pupils again?
One private lesson! Did your master advise it? No-no, but he
consented to give it, when you had persuaded him that it would be
best for you? When you had persuaded him? Behold the American
pupil's definition of obedience: to follow commands dictated by
herself! However, there is no use in trying to eradicate the
ideas bequeathed and fostered by a hundred years of national
self-government, so go to the school at the hour when no other
pupils are expected.
The horses pace very solemnly around the great ring, and you
adjust yourself with wonderful dignity, feeling that your master
must perceive by your improved carriage and by the general
perfection of your aspect that your exquisite timidity and
charming shyness have been responsible for your awkwardness in
former lessons, when other pupils were present, but now he leaves
your side and takes a position in the centre of the ring, whence
he addresses you thus:
"Keep your reins even! The right ones are too short, the left too
long! Stop him! That is not stopping him! He took two steps
forward after he checked himself. Go forward, and try again when
I tell you. Stop! Not so hard, not so hard! You are making him
back! Extend your arms forward! There! A little more, and you
would have made him rear! Whoa! Wo-ho! Now listen! Not so! Don't
drop your reins in that way, and sit so carelessly that a start
would throw you from your place! Never leave your horse to
himself a second! Sit as well as you can, look between your
horse's ears and listen! Always use some discretion in choosing
your place to stop. Do not try to stop when turning a corner,
even to avoid danger, but rather change your direction. In the
ring, never stop on the track, unless in obedience to your
masters order, but turn out into the centre, but when you have
once told your horse to stop, make him do it, for his sake, as
well as for your own, if you have to spend an hour in the effort.
And it will be an hour well spent, so that you need not lose
patient, and if you do lose it, do not allow your horse to
"To stop, you should press your leg and your whip against your
horse's sides; lift your hands a very little, and turn them in
toward your body, lean back and draw yourself up. There are six
things to do: two to your horse, one on each side of him, two
with your hands and two with your body, and you must do them
almost simultaneously. Unless you do the first two, your horse
will surely take a forward step or two after stopping, in order
to bring himself into a comfortable position. If you do not cease
doing the last four the moment that your horse has stopped, he
may rear or he may back several steps, and he should never do
that, but should await an order for each step. Now, do you
remember the six things? Very well! Go forward! Stop! Did I tell
you to do anything with your arms? No> Well, why did you bring
your elbows back of your waist, then? It is allowable to do that
--to save your life, but not to stop your horse. Bend your hands
at the wrist, turning the knuckles, if need be, until they are at
right angles with their ordinary position, so that the back of
your hand is toward your horse's ears, but keep the thumb
uppermost all the time.
"Now, think it over a moment! Go forward! Stop! Pretty well! Go
on! Don't lean forward too much when you start, and sit up again
"Now walk around the school once, and go into all the corners.
Stop! You stopped pretty well, but you leaned back too far, and
you did not draw yourself up at all. Mind, you draw 'yourself'
up; you don't try to pull the bit up through the corners of your
horse's mouth. What I wanted to say was that a turn is just half
a stop as far as your hands, leg and whip are concerned. To turn
to the right, use your right hand and whip, but keep your left
leg and hand steady; to turn to the left, use your left leg and
hand and keep your whip and whip hand steady. When you turn to
the right, lean to the right instead of backward; 'lean,' not
twist to the right, and turn your head to the right so as to see
what may be there.
"If you were on the road, and did not turn your head before going
down a side street, you might knock over a bicycle rider, and
thereby hurt your horse, which would be a pity," he says, with
apparent indifference as to the bicycle rider's possible
injuries. "Now go around the school again. Left shoulder forward!
Right shoulder back! Sit to the right! Lean to the left! I told
you to sit to the left, the other day? And that is the reason
that I have told you to sit to the right to-day. You over-do it.
Miss Esmeralda, if I were talking for my own pleasure, I should
say pretty things to you, but I am talking to teach you, and when
I say 'This is wrong! This is wrong!' and again 'This is wrong!'
I do it for you, not for myself. When your father and mother say
'This is wrong; you must not do it, or you will be sorry,' you do
not look at them as if you thought them to be unreasonable--or,
I trust that you do not," he adds, mentally. "Heaven only knows
what an American girl may do when anybody says, 'You must not' to
"Now," he goes on aloud, "it is the same with your teacher; he
says 'You are wrong,' lest you should be sorry by and by, and he
is patient and says it many times, as your father and mother do,
and he says it every time that you do anything wrong, unless you
do so many wrong things at once that he cannot speak of each one.
Now you shall turn to the right, and remember that a turn is half
a stop. Go across the school and then turn to the left! Keep a
firm hold on your right rein now so as to keep your horse close
to the wall. Where, where are your toes? It was not necessary to
make you turn so as to see your right foot through your riding
habit as I can now, to know that they were pointing outward. Your
right shoulder told the story by drooping forward. M. de Bussigny
lays especial stress on this point in his manual, and you will
find that your whole position depends more on that seemingly
unimportant right foot than on many other things, so bend your
will to holding it properly, close against the saddle. Walk on
now, keeping on a straight line. If you cannot do it in the
school, you cannot on the road, and many an ugly scrape against
walls, horse-cars, and other horses you will receive unless you
can keep to the right and in a straight line. Now turn to the
left, and go straight across the school. Straight! Fix your eye
on something when you start, and ride at it with as much
determination as if it were a fence; now you turn to the right
again and go forward. Have you read Delsarte?"
No, you murmur to yourself, you have not read Delsarte, and, if
you had, you do not believe that you could remember it or
anything else just at present. What an endless string of
directions! You wish that there was another pupil with you to
take the burden of a few of them! You wish you were--oh!
Anywhere. This is your obedience, is it Esmeralda? Well, you
don't care! This is dull! Your horse thinks so, too. He gently
tries the reins, and, finding that you offer no resistance, he
decides to take a little exercise, and starts off at a canter,
keeping away from the wall most piously, avoiding the corners as
if some Hector might be in ambuscade there to catch and tame him,
and rushing on faster and faster, as you do nothing in particular
to stop him.
"Lean to the right," cries the master, and you obey, but the
horse continues his canter, almost a gallop now, when suddenly
your wits return to you, you draw back first the right hand and
then the left, he begins to trot, and by some miracle you begin
to rise, and continue to do it, you do not know exactly how,
feeling a delight in it, an exhilarating, exultant sensation as
if flying. "Keep your right leg close to the saddle below the
knee and turn your toes in!" You obey, and even remember to press
your left knee to the saddle also and to keep your heel down.
"Don't rise to the left! Rise straight! Your horse is circling to
the right, and you must lean to the right to rise straight! Take
him into the corners so that he will move more on a straight
line, and you can rise straight and be as much at ease as if on
the road. Whoa! Now, don't change your position, but look at
yourself! You did not shorten your reins when you began to trot,
and, if your horse had stumbled, you could not have aided him to
regain his balance. Had you shortened them properly, you could,
by sitting down, using your leg and whip lightly and turning your
hands toward your body, have brought him down to a walk without
hurling yourself forward against the pommel in that fashion. Now,
adjust yourself and your reins, and start forward once more," and
you obey, and are beginning to flatter yourself that your master
does not know that your canter was accidental, when he warns you
against allowing a horse to do anything unbidden.
"You should have stopped him at once," he says. "He will very
likely try to repeat his little maneuver in a few minutes. When
he does, check him instantly, not by your voice, but as you have
been directed. And now, have you read Delsarte? No? If you have
time, you might read a chapter or two with advantage, simply for
the sake of learning that a principle underlies all attitudes.
"He divides the body into three parts; the head, torso, and legs,
and he teaches that the first and third should act on the same
line, while the second is in opposition to them. For instance, if
you be standing and looking toward the right, your weight should
rest on your right leg and your torso should be turned to the
left. Neither turn should be exaggerated, but the two should be
exactly proportioned, one to another.
"Now for riding, your body is divided into three parts, your head
and torso making one, your legs above the knee, the second, and
your legs below the knee, the third, and you will find that the
first and third will act together, whether you desire it or not.
Your right foot is properly placed now, but turn its toes outward
and upward; you see what becomes of your right shoulder. Now try
to make a circle to the right, a volte we call it, because it is
best to become accustomed to a few French words, as there are
really no English equivalents for many of the terms used in the
art of equestrianism.
"To make a volte you have only to turn to the right and to keep
turning, going steadily away from the wall until opposite your
starting point, and then regaining it by a half-circle. Making
voltes is not only a useful exercise, showing your horse that you
really mean to guide him, and teaching you to execute a movement
steadily, but it affords an excellent way of diverting the
horse's attention from the mischief which Satan is always ready
to find for idle hoofs. Give him a few voltes and he forgets his
plans for setting off at a canter. Do you understand? Very well.
When you are half-way down the school try to make a volte. I will
give you no order. Your horse would understand if I did and would
begin the movement himself, and you should do it unaided."
You try the volte, and convince yourself that the geometry master
who taught you that a circle was a polygon with an infinite
number of sides was more exact and less poetical than you thought
him in the days before the riding-school began to reform your
judgment on many things. You are conscious of not making a
respectable curve in return, and you draw a deep breath of
disgust as you say, "That was very bad, wasn't it?"
"Not for the first time. Keep your left hand and leg steady, and
try it again on the other side of the ring. Better! Now walk
around, and make him go into the corners, if you have to double
your left wrist in doing it, but don't move your arm, and when
you begin to bend you right wrist to turn, straighten your left,
and remember to lean your body and turn your head, if you want
your horse to turn his body. Your wrist acts on his head and
keeps him in line; your whip and leg bring his hind legs under
him, but you must move your body if you want him to move his.
"Now, you shall make a half volte, or shall 'change hands,' as it
is sometimes called, because, if you start with your left hand
nearest the wall, you will come back to the wall with your right
hand nearest to it; or, to speak properly, 'if you start on the
right hand of the school, you will end on the left hand.' For the
half volte, make a half circle to the right, and then ride in a
diagonal line to a point some distance back on your track, and
when you are close to it make three quarters of a turn to the
left and you will find yourself on the left of the school, and in
a position to practice keeping your horse to the right. Try it,
beginning about two thirds of the way down the long side of the
school. Now to get back to the right hand, you may turn to the
left across the school, and turn to the left again.
"There is a better way of dong it, but that is enough for to-day.
Walk now. Do you see how much better your horse carries himself,
and how much better you carry your hands, after those little
exercises? Now you must try and imagine yourself doing them over
and over and over again, to accustom your mind to them, just as
when learning to play scales and five-finger exercises you used
to think them out while walking. Shall you not need pictures and
diagrams to assist you? Not if you have as much imagination as
any horsewoman should have. Not if you have enough imagination to
manage a cow, much more to enter into the feelings of a good
horse. Pictures are invaluable to the stupid; they benumb and
enervate the clever, and turn them into apish imitators, instead
of making them able to act from their own knowledge and volition.
Theory will not make you a good rider, but a really good rider
without theory is an impossibility, and your theory must have a
deeper seat than your retinae. Now, you shall have a very little
trot, and then you may walk for ten minutes, and try to do voltes
and half voltes by yourself, asking me for aid if you cannot
remember how to execute the movements. Doing them will help you
to pass away the time when you are too tired to trot, and will
keep you from having any dull moments."
And you, Esmeralda, you naughty girl! You forgot all about your
sulkiness half an hour ago, and, looking your master in the face,
you say: "But nobody ever has dull moments in riding-school."
There! Finish your lesson and walk off to the dressing-room; you
will be trying to trade horses with somebody the next thing, you
artful, flattering puss!
Here we are riding, she and I!
What is it now, Esmeralda? By your blushing and stammering it is
fairly evident that another of your devices for learning on the
American plan--that is to say, by not studying--is in full
possession of your fancy, and that again you expect to become a
horsewoman by a miracle; come, what is it? A music ride? Nell has
an acquaintance who always rides to music, and asserts that it is
as easy as dancing; that the music "fairly lifts you out of the
saddle," and that the pleasure of equestrian exercise is doubled
when it is done to the sound of the flute, violin, and bassoon,
or whatever may be the riding-school substitutes?
As for lifting you out of the saddle, Esmeralda, it is quite
possible that music might execute that feat, promptly and neatly,
once, and might leave you out, were it produced suddenly and
unexpectedly by "dot leetle Sherman bad," and it is undoubtedly
true that, were you a rider, music would exhilarate you, quicken
your motions, stimulate your nerves, and assist you as it assists
a soldier when marching. It is also true that it will aid even
you somewhat, by indicating on what step you should rise, so that
your motions will not alternate with those of your horse, to your
discomfiture and his disgust, and that thus, by mechanically
executing the movement, you may acquire the power of seeing that
you are not performing it when you rise once a minute or
thereabouts, but a music ride is an exercise which a wise pupil
will not take until advised thereto by her master. Still, have
your own way! Why did George Washington and the other fathers of
the republic exist, if its daughters must be in bondage to common
sense and expediency?
Borrow Nell's habit once more, for the criticism to be undergone
on the road is mild compared to that of a gallery of spectators
before whom you must repeatedly pass in review, and who may
select you as the object of their especial scrutiny. Dress at
home, if possible; if not, go to the school early, and array
yourself rapidly, but carefully, for there may be fifty riders
present during the evening, and there will be little room to
spare on the mounting-stand, and no minutes to waste on buttoning
gloves, shortening skirt straps or tightening boot lacings.
Remember all that you have been taught about mounting and
about taking your reins, and think assiduously of it, with a
determination to pay no attention to the gallery. There will be
no spectators on the mounting-stand, and Theodore, who will take
charge of you in the ring, will mount before you do, and when you
have been put in your saddle by one of the masters, and start, he
will take his place on your right, nearer the centre of the ring.
While you are walking your horses slowly about, turning corners
carefully and never ceasing to control your reins, warn him that
when you say, "Centre," he must turn out to the right instantly,
that you also may do so. If possible, you will not pronounce the
word, but will ride as long as the horses canter or trot in time
to the music.
"Do you understand," Theodore asks, "that these horses adjust
their gait to the music?"
"So Nell's friend says."
"Well, I don't believe it. They are good horses, but I don't
believe that they practice circus tricks. Why must I go to the
centre the minute that you bid me? Why couldn't you pull up and
pass out behind me?"
"Because if I did, somebody might ride over me. It is not proper
to stop while on the track."
"Oh-h! How long do they trot or canter at a time? Half an hour?"
"Only a few minutes," you answer, wondering whether Theodore
really supposes that you could canter, much less trot half an
hour, even if stimulated by the music of the spheres.
"That's a pretty rider," he says, as a girl circles lightly past,
sitting fairly well, and rising straight, but with her arms so
much extended that her elbow is the apex of a very obtuse angle,
though her forearms are horizontal. You explain this point to
Theodore, who replies that she looks pretty, and seems to be able
to trot for some time, whereupon your heart sinks within you.
What will he say when he sees the necessary brevity of your
Other riders enter: two or three men mounted on their own horses,
beautiful creatures concerning whose value fabulous tales are
told in the stable; the best rider of the school, very quietly
and correctly dressed, and managing her horse so easily that the
women in the gallery do not perceive that she is guiding him at
all, although the real judges, old soldiers, a stray racing man
or two, the other school pupils and the master--regard her
admiringly, and the grooms, as they bring in new horses, keep an
eye on her and her movements, as they linger on their way back to
"Her horse is very good," Theodore admits, "but I don't think
much of her. Well, yes, she is pretty," he admits, as she
executes the Spanish trot for a few steps and then pats her
horse's shoulder; "it's pretty, but anybody could do it on a
trained horse, couldn't they, sir?" he asks your master, who
rides up, mounted on his own pet horse.
"Anybody who knew how. The horse has been trained to answer
certain orders, but the orders must be given. An untrained horse
would not understand the orders, no matter how good an animal he
might be. Antinous might not have been able to ride Bucephalus,