Today we have something on the lighter side: An Academy for Grown Horsemen; Containing the Completest Instructions for Walking, Trotting, Cantering, Galloping, Stumbling, and Tumbling. The book was written and illustrated by English caricaturist Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811), under the guise of alter ego Geoffrey Gambado, Esq., Riding Master, Master of the Horse, and Grand Equerry to the Doge of Venice. The book was printed in 1796 and is part of the Vladimir S. Littauer collection.
The book spoofs the many Italian riding manuals of the 17th and 18th Centuries, treating poor practices and inattention as riding exercises to be learned and practiced. “When I have told [the reader] how to chuse [sic] a horse,” pontificates Gambado, “how to tackle him properly, in what sort of dress to ride him, how to ride him out, and, above all, how to ride him home again; if he is not a complete horseman in the course of ten or dozen summers, I will be bold to foretell, that neither the skill of Mr. Astley, nor the experience of Mr. John Gilpin, will ever make him one.”
Gambado decries the awful state of British horse stock, claiming that nothing can stop modern horses from running in a straight line forever.
“Meet a higler’s cart, he will stop it, either with his own head or your leg; fall in with a hackney coach, and he will carry you slap dash against it.”
Instead, the reader is urged to buy a horse who carries his head low, with “bald face, wall eyes, and white legs,” as this makes the horse easier to see at night.
“A cock’d hat . . . has so many [advantages] that it is wonderful to me, it is not universally worn, but more particularly by equestrians.”
“In riding the road, observe in passing a whisky, a phaeton or a stage coach, in short any carriage where the driver sits on the right hand, to pass it on that side, he may not see you on the other, and though you may meet with a lash in the eye, what is the loss of an eye to a leg or perhaps neck.”
“The Doctor went off at a spurt . . . and having got clear of the pavement, wished to (what is called) mend his pace; but his horse was obdurate, and all his influence could not prevail. The Doctor fancied, at times, he went oddly, and therefore brought to at Alconbury, five miles from Huntingdon, and alighted for an examination: when he discovered that the hostler, through inattention, had buckled up one of the horse’s hind legs in the surcingle: and to this alone he had to attribute his hobbling way of going.”
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