The 19th-century horseman

Throughout the course of the 19th century a new social figure began to appear, a new type of rider breaking from the aristocracy. Equestrian activities then ceased to be privileges of birth. In this cultural and social mini-revolution, the "horseman" embodied the bourgeois values of work, competence and efficiency. He understood horses, knew how to ride and train them and was a master of their anatomy and behaviour. More importantly, he respected and cared for them to keep them in shape following the principle, "he who seeks to go further cares for his horse". He differed in that the aristocrat, who used the animal first and foremost as a pedestal, a tailored throne to physically rise above the masses. The horseman respected his horse and did not use it to win fame. He spent more time in the saddle than in the saloons and was more concerned about caring for his stables than his home. However, he also cultivated its look in a search for chic and elegance.

The horseman, who is both the impoverished aristocrat and informed peasant, says little, does not open up, never makes any brusque moves and he is as cautious as an exile. If he speaks it is with understatements and apophasis. He is not much of a talker, he is more of a looker.

Jérôme Garcin, La Chute de cheval, Paris, Gallimard, 1998

This horseman term entered the vocabulary in the 19th century. Jules Pellier, indoor school master, gave the first comprehensive definition in his 1900 book Le langage équestre [The Equestrian Language]. Closer to our times, the writer and journalist Jérôme Garcin offered his own definition in La Chute de cheval [The Fall of Horse].

The criteria to become a horseman disclose a certain segregation. First, one must be a man, as the female is not entitled to enter into a male, clearly authoritarian sphere. As it was, there was no "horsewoman" recognised as such, despite the famous female sidesadders and equestrians who marked the century.

Finally, while the break from the aristocracy was obvious, there was nevertheless a push to avoid mingling with the people. No longer did noble power and blood succession distinguish. Now it was a way of being in the world, a unique relationship to the horse fully focused on understanding and respecting the horse.

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