1870: from combat cavalry to reconnaissance cavalry

In 1870, the increase in firepower of military formations changed the role of the cavalry, which began to remain at a distance of two or three thousand meters from the fighting. From a force dedicated to combat and line-breaking, the cavalry became a force for exploration and coverage, with smaller and lighter units responsible for reconnaissance and liaison missions.

The remoteness of the battlefield required powerful and strong horses able to go the distance. Horse rearing and training were thus stimulated, providing well-channelled health and training in order to endow the horse with the utmost speed and strength.

In the cavalry, for example, it is much better appreciated to know one's horses than to know one's men.

Hubert Lyautey, « Du rôle social de l’officier dans le service militaire universel »[On the officer's social role in the universal military service], Revue des Deux Mondes, 15 mars 1891.

In order to wage and win the war in the days following its declaration, horses and riders had to undergo continual training so that they could be immediately ready for such eventualities. The invention of equestrian competitions, major long-distance treks or the Championnat du cheval d'armes [later Concours Complet d'Équitation (Three-day Event)] became one of the solutions devised to respond to this new requirement and to provide rider and horse training a permanent basis. All these changes were not without consequences for riding.

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Jean-Pierre Béneytou, Histoire de la cavalerie française des origines à nos jours, Lavauzelle, 2010, 248p.

Colonel Dugué Mac Carthy, La cavalerie au temps des chevaux, éditions Pratiques Automobiles (EPA), 1989.