The concept of modern horsemanship is based in the military training and athletic competitions utilized by the ancient Roman cavalry. It is officially defined as the art or practice of riding on horseback, and refers to the art, skill, ability and manner of a horseman, or horsewoman. Horses may not play a functional role for most people’s daily modern life, but they are still a special animal in our culture and offer a great deal of fascination for many.
The history of showing horses is based in ancient Roman military tradition. However, it continues into modern day. Horse shows demonstrate riding technique, and also show the beauty of the horse, its power, its athletic ability and agility. During these shows, there are variety of skills that are displayed from riding (and there are several riding styles), racing, jumping, and horse obedience. For the riders there are classes and workshops, vendors, and breeders with whom to network and learn from.
Modern Competition Styles
Perhaps the most visible competitions are during the Olympics. With televised games, more and more people are aware of horsemanship, even without knowing this official term. Dressage is the term used to describe a high level of training that essentially renders instinctive maneuvers into a choreographed and coordinated movements set to music.
Combined training is a much more athletic focus for horse and rider, combining jumping over various obstacles with cross-country racing distances. Show jumping focuses on horse and rider clearing several obstacles on a course with the goal of finishing as quickly as possible without knocking over and clearing all obstacles. For both combined training and show jumping, obstacles may include hurdles, logs, water, ditches, walls, and more.
The earliest known tournament featuring horsemanship was in medieval Europe in the ninth century. During this tournament, the cavalries of Charles and Louis embarked on military training maneuvers that ultimately ended in all participants embroiled in a general upheaval. As time went on, the tournaments and friendly competition continued to grow in popularity and were adopted across much of Europe. Today, modern equine competitions and exhibitions, such as racing and polo, show the medieval traditions of tournament.
Training and Skill
Of course, competitions of yore or today are not possible without training. Training both the horse and rider are key elements of horsemanship. When the horse and rider seem to function as one cohesive unit, this is often due to a great deal of training of both the horse and rider. The training is for the physical feats, as well as the verbal and other commands for jumping, trotting, running, and other physical maneuvers.
Luckily for those who may not ever have the opportunity to attempt learning horseback riding or other equine skills, there are many opportunities to see this talent in person. One such venue is a dinner theater show that focuses on older equestrian talents such as jousting and parading. Not only is there the chance to watch the horse and show, but also for dinner, socializing and wonderful memories.