Decoding Baucherist Leg Effects

Decoding Baucherist Leg Effects

Technically speaking, there is no final written record of Baucher’s “Second Manner” – and, really, even the notion of there being “two” discrete manners – instead of simply an evolution of one – is debatable.

Some would argue (and I am one), in essence, there is no “second manner” – just a documentation gap between Baucher’s initial description and the inevitable evolution of techniques, refinements, and principles which were passed on to direct students.  What is certain is that the second manner principles were an extension – not a redaction – of Baucher’s original innovation.

The last snapshots of Baucher’s practices come to us only vicariously through Baucher’s last students.  As such, there is room for interpretation, and, in my opinion there is a critical gap in even the most excellent interpretations, such as Faverot de Kerbrech’s Methodical Dressage of the Riding Horse.

Specifically, I’m speaking of a cogent description of the use one’s legs – and, specifically, delineation of the rider’s intent to “demobilize” versus the rider’s intent to “mobilize” or increase energy.

We may attribute many of the difficulties in describing high school equitation to the difficulty inherent in describing the qualities of any fine art.  We are describing things which are extremely subtle – the horse’s ‘give’ to the jaw flexions, for example.

In the case of Baucherist effects – hand and leg aids in particular – subtlety doesn’t justify the absence of a better description, because it is quite simple to describe at a high level – and yet even Kerbrech seems to overlooks a clarification.

Why is this?  It is perplexing, but I believe Baucher believed he had well enough treated the matter, and was simply misunderstood, and ultimately criticized, based upon an erroneous assumptions and interpretations of his nuanced French language and usage (the use of “attaque” in describing the action of the spur has been misrepresented at every possible opportunity, even though the most cursory reading of Baucher puts the action of the spur in proper context, describing a range of applications, none of them suggesting abuse).

The Language of the Heels

Ever heard of Morse Code?  Morse is the perfect analogy for Baucherist effects for important reasons I’ll expand upon later.  For now, it suffices to understand, Morse Code is a language for signaling.

We can indicate our need for emergency assistance anywhere in the world by communicating “S.O.S.” in the language of Morse Code.  We can communicate “S.O.S.” in any medium – sound, light, smoke, what have you.  The Morse Code schema is so versatile because it is so simple.

Here’s what “S.O.S.” looks like:

. . . – – – . . .

It’s all dots and dashes.  Simple.  But what’s the difference between a dot and dash?

Using a hand-held radio, “SOS” would sound like “beep beep beep (pause) beeeeep (pause); beeeeeep (pause); beeeeep (pause), beep beep beep.”

Lacking a radio, we could use light.  We can effect the same signal with three quick flashes, followed by three longer flashes at longer intervals, followed by the three quick flashes again.

It means the same thing using any discernible means. Still with me?  If I asked you describe the letter “S” in Morse Code on your horse using your heels from the saddle, you could do it, couldn’t you?  You could quickly, gently apply three taps with your heel.

Let’s use Morse Code as a point of departure then.

To keep things simple, let’s even retain the same symbols.  A “dot” or ” . ” is punctual – a “poke” versus a “press”; it is a “tap” versus a “touch”.  It is quick, impulsive; and it repeats in tempo, desisting only (but IMMEDIATELY) when the operator is satisfied with the horse’s INTENT to execute a given order.

This impulsive sensation – the “dot” – means “MOBILIZE NOW“.

Depending upon what my hand is doing, this signal may mean mobilize by extending, simply increasing energy (elevation), or mobilize to the rear versus forward … but it always means “mobilize”.  If my horse is slow to execute, the taps will become crisper – all the way up to what I would describe as a “punch” with my spur (for example, in the case of a resisting, rearing horse, in order to make him move forward to avoid any risk of falling backward – and, of course, to discourage such a resistance in the future).

Think of the “dash” as the opposite of the dot.  It means DEMOBILIZE.  It is a pressure which softly “approaches”, and remains palpable to the horse until the operator is fully satisfied with the horse’s response.  It is an analogue effect, versus binary or “digital”.  This means we can begin to demobilize very softly and just a little (in effect, bringing our horse rassemble in his current gait) – or, using a more sincere, frank “approach” –  where the pressure of our legs more quickly reaches the quality of a “squeeze” – we can effect a short or sliding stop.  A continued, unabating squeeze should result in complete immobilization – not reverse, nor any movement whatsoever.

Baucher described the “dots” as an “attaque“.  Of course, in French the word merely meaning implies a lancing-like quality, as if poking something with a spear quickly.  Baucher is highlighting the quality of ‘poke and pull back’, not connoting “violence”.  Unfortunately, English speakers (and German, among others) find it easy associate “attack” or “attaque” with only brutality, and therefore miss Baucher’s intention (delineation of a kind signal) entirely – instead, considering this some evidence that Baucher (the king of lightness) was a brute.

Such misunderstandings have made it easy for Baucher’s critics to paint him as a harsh trainer who used wicked methods to achieve such spectacular results.  In fact, of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  How would we ever achieve the products of Baucherism – namely, incomparable lightness and responsiveness to the hand and heel – with primitive brutality?  If you know horses, you know grace cannot be fashioned this way.

How did we create the notion of the “dot” and the “dash” in the horse’s mind to begin with?  Simple:

The “dot” emerged through the principle of “hand without legs, legs without hand”.  In early training, when we ask the horse to “go” with our heels, we carefully avoid ANY room for misunderstanding by avoid any overlap between pulling with our hand and tapping with our leg … we are either definitely getting going, or not.

The “dash” was installed automatically via the lesson of the combined effect – Baucher’s effet d’ensemble.

This is as clear as I can make basic leg effects for the newcomer to Baucherism, and I hope it helps, as – otherwise – I believe the only path to the knowledge is a rather long period of trial and error attempting to use the Baucherist system, as I have not seen it clearly expressed elsewhere.