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Campaign Stage

“The greatest pleasure to be got from a horse is to gallop a well trained one over varied country, dotted here and there with jumps, and I cannot understand why any one would try and obtain the more or less stiff and fantastic airs of the school before making him an agreeable and pleasant out-door horse. If I have often done the contrary, it has been because circumstances forced me to it: either the unsuitable country in which I was stationed, or the lack of quality in my horses that could merely serve in studying the haute e’cole.”

Beudant was only a Captain in the French Military. It is an important understanding as the Generals were always people of standing and the Captains ended up training the best horses for the Generals. While the other French masters writings are of value, I look on Beudant as the most accurate has his horsemanship was the most practical and not clouded by their social status.

A campaign horse is a product of calm, forward and straight, confidence conditioning, balance and lightness. This is the foundation Classical Dressage is built on and Dress is an extension of this foundation.  Without a solid process to build solid Campaign horses, there is no true classical dressage, it is all just different variations of circus training.

“Outside the Army, the pursuit of Academic Equitation and the preparations for the dressage tests is far more difficult.  Those who wish to study the art will need a passionate devotion, a rare tenacity and great ingenuity to surmount all of the obstacles they will find in their way.

They will have to sacrifice time and money and worldly pleasure, in fact they must have the courage to withdraw from the world, not to the extent perhaps of entering a religious order of  “Equestrianism”,  but at least a lay brotherhood of the Order of St George. One cannot but admire those who decide to do so and who remain steadfast in their purpose.

As for the “spirit” that should animate the student, the formula used by General L’Hotte, to describe the spirit of the dressage horse in the sequence of its aims can be applied to it. Calm, Forward, Straight.” General Decarpentry.

As a youth in the 1960’s I listened to some of these conversations. The thought was to circus train upper levels to build the interest in horsemanship and back fill with the actual classical horsemanship later. It sounded good to a 10 year old, but 45 years later; I have come to discover you cannot sell circus train the upper levels of Classical Equation, and then convince people they need to learn the real skills. Their egos will not permit that.

The Campaign stage is actually the goal of Classical Equation; dressage is a stretching exercise to improve the range, balance and flexibility of a campaign horse.  When you consider the skills and riding needed to build a quality campaign horse as a foundation for dressage, you can see why outside of the army this is almost an impossible task.

Sadly, if you taught horsemanship from a riding school standpoint, were you had students of various levels riding horse at different stages, it would be very easy to build solid campaign horses and keep them into shape.  Since we do not have a standard quality education process, horses are forced to learn individual training techniques, most which have never produced a single campaign horse and this makes it almost impossible for a student horseman to even ride a campaign horse, let alone build one.

When I bought my experimental horse, Peppy, I figured I would ruin him by taking out all the force and pressure out of my horsemanship and just drifting with him.  When Peppy proved that you did not need force and pressure, I started using him to test the conditioning program of a campaign horse.  I took the time to perfect simple things, straight, and soft jaw. I found the biggest issue was working though all the issue that were trained with operant conditioning.  Operant conditioning at a root level conflicts with the horse natural learning methods. This is why the technique is so effective for training horses.

I deliberately kept my training to a minimum so I could first understand natural gaits and balance and second understand the effects conditioning has on those natural gaits and balances. There is an important understanding in horsemanship that needs to be clarified. The issue is whether upper level movements are the results of training or conditioning.  When you read the historical references, logically the only way to maintain natural gaits is to condition natural gaits until the reach the upper levels.  There is a gray area here, where you have to direct those natural gaits appropriately and effectively when the conditioning supports it. This is a skill that can only be learned if you understand the connection between a soft jaw and balance.  If you are conditioning a horse on a soft jaw and you exceed his level of conditioning or confidence, you loose the soft jaw.  That does not imply you cannot push through that line, or work on the other side of it, but it tells you where the horse is at mentally and physically. 
Today the concept of the soft jaw in a horse is so perverted, it is either reflex trained by operant conditioning or the chomping and working of the mouth due to stress.

My campaign riding was largely a part of my conditioning test. If you look at the conditioning trail, I got Peppy in shape so we could gallop/trot that trail in less than an hour.  I was using a heartbeat monitor and keeping the heart rate aerobic range and seeing how much performance you can actually achieve by conditioning in the aerobic range. The results astounded me, but it is a lot of riding to achieve those results.
When I started apprenticing with Emmett, I think was just through the two years of long and slow work and moving into the trot stage of my conditioning program.  I had a lot of life and natural collection I was working with and did not understand how rare that was in today’s horsemanship.

Regretfully I do not have any videos of my campaign riding from Peppy.  I got involved in documenting Emmett’s apprenticeship, life and other things got in the way and I have not had a horse in campaign condition for a few years now.  I hope to get a couple more horses to that stage of conditioning, because there is nothing like flying over anything on a confident horse that is in a campaign stage of conditioning.

One of the early issues I faced was my work was in conflict with the industry standards. Personally I never saw any outdoor work from the horse industry in general, so I as a professional I had to just dismiss what they were selling and do my own research.  Professionally this was a personal conflict. You cannot just rely on your own work as a professional, there was no real campaign work being done at an industry level, and I would have just kept this private, until I apprenticed with Emmett.  Emmett filled in the education parts I was missing and the exposure to his other two students and some other quality horsemen acquaintances, I began to understand I was actually practicing Classical Equation, while the horse industry was selling circus training.

There is also a huge difference between running a campaign course and building a campaign level horse.  I have not doubts I could have run a horse over that 10-mile course as a youth with no troubles and the horse probably would have survived it. When you build those skills as part of the conditioning process, you understand the difference between forcing a horse and a confident horse enjoying a conditioning run.

The one loop I was running at the time, which was longer the one on my web site, as a sport about 8 miles into to the 12 mile course, where we would meet a small herd of deer.  Peppy and I would race the deer for close to a mile, just so we could beat them to a spot and turn them back.  There is nothing that can describe that feeling.

When you start putting the process together from the natural horse to the campaign horse, you realize this is a professional process that requires a professional approach.  If we are going to keep quality horsemanship skills alive, we will have to rethink our approach to horsemanship in general, and rebuild professional horsemanship schools to rebuild these skills.

In the 1960’s, there was no way maintaining these professional skills and understandings. The last of the horse professional came out of the military schools, and they education structure that supported them disappeared.  Today, with the Internet, we can rebuild those horsemanship schools in a virtual manner. 

The issue is standing in the way is ego.  We cannot build an equestrian school that replaces what is being taught and sold today.  If you read the 1912, 1913, 193 RASP from the U.S mounted service school; you can see the work and the skills that went into building a campaign horse.  As a youth, there is nothing I would have enjoyed more than to start learning those skills in a professional manner.  While it is a professional task to build an education structure that works, the skills at each level are fairly simple for both the horse and the student, if approached from a logical education structure.  When the skills are approached from outside of that structure, then horsemanship becomes confusing, complex, and requires a lot of expertise and discussion of subject never studied.

If you look at the hours our youth spend learning other sports, there is no reason with a solid education structure that they cannot learn quality horsemanship skills at the bottom and at the same time keep horse in campaign shape. The issue is, as a culture we are training horses for ego needs, instead of professionally building an education structure around the horse based on his needs.

The horse industry has about 100 years of horsemanship without professional education structures. Building a quality campaign horse is almost impossibility. The process is broke from the natural horse to the upper levels. While you can ride a horse over a campaign course, it is not the same as professionally building a campaign horse.

The Campaign stage is the final product in Classical Equitation; Dressage is a practice that improves the Campaign stage.  In Circus training Dressage is the final product and it has no connection to the campaign stage.
If you look at the process from the natural horse to campaign stage, you can logically understand why a circus trained horse really has no place in the Classical Process to produce a campaign horse.