Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: East Central Illinois
I became interested in Dressage after we started Civil War Reenacting. There was a local--2 hours away-- Cavalry unit, headed by a Veteranarian, Carl Luthen., "Carl Luthen's 7th Cavalry" There were HUGE in the mid 1980's bc he could supply companies of Cav for National Reenactments and movies bc he could supply horses to rent to his unit's members and had contracts with the Amish to build period tack. Although it was a "man's club", anybody could pay to go their Spring warm up camp in March, which we did, two years in a row.
They had thoroughly studied Cook's (I think?) Manual and had understood and practiced the School of the Soldier, all of the drills and how the Cavalry trained to fight.
THIS is where Dressage comes from, Military Horsemanship.
We learned close order drill, turns, obliques, w-t-c as a unit, instead of a cowboy type race, dismounting and fighting on foot.
They had figured out that in order to mount with a carbine, you needed to put the strap on your throat and choke yourself so you wouldn't slam it into the horse before you got into the saddle--stuff like that.
We learned that you always put your most experienced riders and horses with the green ones, and that you dress together by riding with your stirrups touching. We learned the purpose for all of the extra horse equipment and how the Army used them.
We learned the drill, and then my horses KNEW the drill and never forgot it. Unlike the established European Cavalry Schools, the US in the 19th century didn't teach airs above the ground. Instead, they were about trying to breed a "super horse", who could do anything. Unfortunately the horse was, in WWII, replaced by the tank and the Army Air Corp, so it disbanded in 1942. Still, the US used mules in the jungle mountains of Viet Nam, and keeps show companies at old bases, like Fort Riley, KS.
Today's Dressage show ring is much different.
US Civil War Reenacting is now practically dead. Where there were 23,000 Reenactors at the 135th Gettysburg in 1998, there will be barely 400 at the 151st National Gettysburg. The depression is largely responsible. We were in it during it's peak, and MY HORSES the beneficiaries of all of the work we did to prepare them for it.
I still think it's the best training for a horse, EVER, and I try to use everything I learned form it to train today.