Equestrian - Horsemanship
Then and Now

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Equestrians: More than Just Horse Riders

Horses have played a vital role in the history of mankind. They have served several purposes from transportation to heavy cavalry. Nowadays due to the development of technology and automobiles horses are much less in demand.

They can be mostly found working for humans on ranches, farms, in circuses and driving carriages for amusement rides. Although horses are not as vital as they were back in the days before the automobile - the tradition of riding them did not falter.

Horsemen were regarded as nobles in Rome when they were members of the cavalry. Today they are riders who participate in equestrian sports.

Horsemen in this day and age are mostly known for appearances at sporting events. Horsemanship refers to the ability to ride and drive horses with style. The definition does not just include the use of horses for recreational activities and sports - though that is where the most attention is gained - but it also applies to working and practical uses.

Contrary to what most people would associate with the term, it involves other skills than just riding horses in equestrian events.

Horsemen in earlier times

Horses were used in variety of purposes. They were used in war and peaceful pursuits. They were used for transportation, in agriculture and warfare.

In Rome horsemen were regarded as the elite. Horses were expensive then as now, so owning horses meant that you were rich and did not need to do manual labor. Horsemen were members of the upper class.

This class was most often referred to as knights. They were both a military and a political group because horsemen received financial compensation from the government.

As Rome expanded it relied on its allies for cavalry. Horsemen were no longer needed and they lost their military function. They did not engage in war anymore but retained their titles and were regarded as nobles. They commanded respect.

The knights were rich and governed provinces.

At the time senators were somewhat similar to knights in social standing.

The senators dominated the magistrate offices but were forbidden to operate businesses and gain commercial income. The knights on the other hand continued to invest in markets and collected taxes.

Conflicts arose between the two factions. Knights made as much money as they could while senators took note of rebellions due to excessive taxation.

During civil wars the two elites collaborated and their orders were defined and presented as reforms.

Horsemen today

Participating in equestrian sports during the Olympics put horsemen in the spotlight like no other sporting event.

Horse back riding is largely reserved for the rich. Even today horses are still expensive to train and maintain.

Equestrian events include dressage and show jumping. Horsemen must be able to make the horse carry out natural movements on request while allowing loose reins during competitive dressage. It is also referred to as "Horse Ballet".

Its goal is to develop a horse's athletic ability and its initiative to perform to the peak of its potential.

Show jumping is a timed even where horse and rider are required to jump over a series of obstacles with the fewest mistakes. Riders and their horses should be able to go through the obstacle with the least knocked over portions.

Some events are a combination of dressage and show jumping. The horse and the rider have to go through a series of fixed obstacles such as stone walls, water, logs banks, ditches with the fastest time possible.

Although the role of horsemanship has changed through the centuries it still carries the aura of nobility that it enjoyed in medieval times.