Per L’Equitatzione Di Campagna (For Riding in the Field)

Website Update –

I’ve posted a 2nd edition (improved for readability and clarity) of my translation of Federico Caprilli’s “Per L’Equitazione Di Campagna” (For Cross Country Riding) which appeared in the January-February 1901 issue of Revista di Cavalleria: “Federico Caprilli – Per L’Equitazione Di Campagna”

It’s a very interesting read. Most riders will be fairly familiar with Caprilli’s ideas but there are a few points of equitation and theory that have become neglected or forgotten my many riders today.

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2 Responses to Per L’Equitatzione Di Campagna (For Riding in the Field)

  1. Roger Hanington says:

    In re-visiting your site I came across the following :–

    Caprilli’s principles for jumping, and riding in general can be distilled to these six general items:

    1.) The horse must be given the freedom to use his instincts in approaching the obstacle and freedom from being guided or restrained by the reins, legs, body weight of the rider or any ‘assistance’ from the rider

    2.) The horse is allowed the greatest freedom to use his neck to balance, and the rider’s upper body and hands must accompany the forward motion of the horse’s head, neck and mouth in the execution of the jump

    3.) The horse’s spine and back must be freed from the weight of the rider, and especially in the lower back at the kidneys where that weight would impinge upon the ability of the horse’s hind end to propel the horse over the jump.

    4.) The rider should be up out of the saddle on the approach to the jump as well when passing over the jump

    5.) All this must be done by with as little interference with the natural balance and motion of the horse and without restricting the natural range of movement of the horse’s legs.

    6.) Any attempt by the rider to ‘assist’ the horse in jumping by either timing the jump, counting strides or otherwise attempting to ‘help’ the horse while in the air is useless and generally harmful.

    It is paragraph 4 above which surprises me. As I have understood or interpreted and endeavoured to practice the Caprilli system the rider should be well down in the saddle, his weight being taken on the thighs and stirrups but with the rider’s seat just touching the saddle ( in other words the rider’s weight being taken off his seat but not leaving the saddle). The riders shoulders moving downward rather than forward, the thigh/knee angle remaining constant thus giving the sensation of the rider’s seat sliding back as the body leans forward and the hands move forward leaving the rider balanced and his own centre of gravity unaltered without touching the horses neck.

    So difficult to put this into words! What I have tried to describe can in fact be demonstrated easily standing on the ground in the attitude of being in the saddle.

    I have tried to introduce the novice to jumping by not making any drama by talking about jumping but getting the pupil to just walk the horse at a very steep bank about 36- 48 inches high with the advice that the rider should lean forward a little as the horse surmounts the bank and that the rider should push his hands forward to allow the horse to stretch out its neck freely as it walks up the bank . Afterwards I point out that the rider has just adopted the perfect jumping seat. It has all been done at the walk and that jumping is as easy as that! No tension in the rider because he did not know that he was “jumping”.

    It is my opinion, with which I imagine you will disagree, (please shoot back) that the seat as described by Harry Chamberlin (sic) is as close as one can get to the true Caprilli seat for cross-country work. (But very tiring if used for an extended hack!)

    Many many years ago I was hunting two days a week and became dissatisfied with the way I was riding and was unimpressed by the way others were riding across country in what was called the forward seat — far too forward in my view. I began to experiment from square one on all the conceivable ways of sitting on a horse and staying on a horse. I began to evolve what in the face of the fashionable “forward” seat, I called the Central Seat. It was then that I encountered the writings of McTaggart and Santini and realised just what a tyro I was and that others had been there before me. I worked at Santini’s descriptions of the Caprilli method for a long time before I began to entertain doubts about Mr Santini.but used his writings modified by those of Waldemar Seunig to improve my Central Seat which I now believe to be close to the original forward seat. It was Barbara Fox who introduced me to Harry Chamberlin who with one or two very minor reservations summed it all up for me

    It gives me great delight to read your words on riding today and the methods of Caprilli. I am appalled to find that people are actually being taught to jump leaning on the horses neck these days.

    Extract from the British Cavalry Manual of 1912 —- which is notable for how little it says about riding ! ——

    2. The recruit should be taught to jump without reins before being required to do so with them. By this means he learns to rely on balance and grip and become independent of the reins to retain his seat.
    B. The men trotting round the school with suitable distances
    between horses sho~ld be made to jump a bar lying on the ground. As the training progresses, the height of the bar should be increased, but so gradually that the men never lose confidence.
    The recruit should at first either hold the end of the rein in the flat of one hand, or drop it altogether. The arms should be folded across the chest; or the men may be made to grasp their breeches at the thigh. Stirrups should be allowed until the instructor considers it advisable for the beginner to jump without them.
    I 4. As the horse takes off, the pupil should be instructed
    to lean forward and to tighten his leg grip; if he is successful in this his body will soon swing in harmony with the movement of the horse. The movements of the body from the hips upwards when riding over a jump vary so much with different horses and different fences, that it is impossible to lay down any hard and fast rule. Balance must be combined with leg grip. The horse should be eased up gently after a jump, and on no account should his pace be checked suddenly.
    5. When the initial stage is passed frequent change of horses accelerates progress.
    6. The pupil should be gradually trained to handle the reins when jumping, and care must be exercised to avoid ill-treatment of the horse’s mouth during the process. If the shoulder- joints are given free play when the horse requires more rein all jerky movements of the arms and wrists will be avoided as the hands go forward. The reins must be held long, and the man taught to keep his hands low and allow them to come freely forward as the horse is descending.
    7. Jumping low obstacles is very little exertion to the horse, and the more the recruit has of it the sooner he will be ready to enter the third period of instruction, Before he enters this stage he should sit his horse with ease both with and without reins, and, when jumping, should be able to keep a light feeling on the horse’s mouth without in any way interfering with it.
    During the third period the pupil may be given horses that require “riding” at their fences, and be taught to handle them with resolution. A combination of the qualities of determination and patience are invaluable in a horseman, and should be developed and encouraged at this stage of the training.

  2. Dan Gilmore says:

    I know what you mean about “close to the saddle” as per:

    4.) The rider should be up out of the saddle on the approach to the jump as well when passing over the jump”

    One has to remember that in Caprilli’s day, jumping was largely conducted with the rider’s arse sitting weightily in the saddle. In fact, ‘in the saddle’ largely meant ‘on the saddle’ if you know what I mean.

    ‘Well up out of the saddle’ meant about two to four inches in such a fashion that if one is in time with the horse (neither ahead of nor behind) and balanced properly one should not catch the cantel nor the pommel and not disturb the balance or natural locomotion of the horse. One has to look at it in terms of classical riding of the day as it was used in military equitation. The idea of not sitting weightily (for lack of a better term) in the saddle in 1900 was an alien concept. The idea was to take a ‘light’ seat the lightness of which was determined by the interplay of the conformation and natural movement of the horse and the conformation of the rider.

    Unfortunately, ‘well up out of the saddle’ today has morphed into laying on the horse’s neck over a jump and standing in the stirrups with daylight between the rider’s legs and the panel of the saddles. ‘Forward Seat’ has wandered a lot from Caprilli’s original concepts especially in the show rings today where style, or should I say, ‘fashion’ is the norm rather than efficient riding.

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