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Rendering the reins by Henry de Bussigny from "French Equitation" by Xenophon Press


Excerpt Copyright Xenophon Press 2023

"TO “render the hand” is to relax the tension of the reins, either by movement of the arms or by loosening the grip of the fingers. It is not the same as to “abandon” the horse, as already discussed. Since, in equitation, the various means act by strength of effects rather than by effects of strength, they tend to lose their effect the longer they are continued. We must, then, cease the effect for a longer or shorter time, in order to renew the sensibility. Raabe [ Captain Charles Raabe, a disciple of François Baucher. – Editor’s note], Baucher, and Fillis, although they evidently themselves employed the device, seem not to have thought it necessary to discuss or teach it.
I recognize, in rendering the hand, three different actions.

The first occurs when the horse has his head flexed at the axoid articulation, and the muscles of the neck, being under restraint by the tension of the reins, begin to show fatigue, stiffness, and a failure of sensibility. But if, after a time, the rider eases this tension, either by advancing the hand or by letting the reins slip in his fingers, he allows the animal to rest his muscles, and renders his hand in the first sense.
The second way of rendering the hand depends on fingering. When the head is flexed, as in the first instance, the rider’s control over the neck is by way of the lower jaw. But since the bars are of uncertain sensibility, if the mouth remains closed notwithstanding the pressure of the bit, the contraction at the temperomaxillaris articulation will be communicated to the alto-axoid. The result is still greater fatigue, stiffness, and loss of sensibility. But when the neck is flexed and the bit in contact with the bars, pressure of the fingers on the reins opens the mouth, while cessation of this pressure allows it to close. This cessation of the pressure which has flexed the lower jaw is rendering the hand in the second sense. The repetition of this flexing and rendering constitutes fingering.
“Fingering” is the only possible translation of the French, doighter, [literally to knead] used by musicians to mean the delicate sensibility by which they distinguish the quality of pressure which they exert upon their instruments to make them produce the exact quality of sound which renders the musical phrase.
Their instruments, however, are machines which do not tire; whereas the horse is a creature with bones, muscles, nerves, and will, capable of fatigue, and needing relaxation, lest the will move nerves and muscles to resist. It is, therefore, to prevent the state of revolt occasioned by fatigue that we must, though always retaining the contact, render the fingers, so that the horse vibrates under the rider’s control, without excessive fatigue.
The third sort of rendering the hand consists in allowing the horse to place its head and neck in a position other than that which they have been holding under the rider’s control.
The horse has completed a series of movements, head in position and fixed point at the atlas region. The contraction starting from this point tends to create weariness, so that the horse needs to rest this region. The rider, therefore, by lengthening his reins, lets the horse extend his neck. The fixed point shifts from the atlas region to the shoulders, and the horse rests.
This action of rendering has to be learned by the horse, first standing; then progressively at walk, trot, and gallop."

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