Grisone and Gli Ordini di Cavalcare






















The Romans were defeated in 410 AD by foreign barbarian tribes and the classical training of warhorses died out at that moment.

The Germanic tribes (and later Medieval people in general) required big, heavy war chargers over formerly popular lightweight horses. Ridden with force and metal amour, lightness and elegance were quickly lost to the dark ages.

It was an Italian that pulled out Xenophon's old texts one day and started to reflect on his writings. War with firearms had brought back the need for a light horse, and thus military training. The art of dressage, was, therefore, revived during the Italian Renaissance period of the 16th century, commonly known as the“Baroque Period".

Federico Grisone was a Neapolitan nobleman christened the "father of the art of equitation". Grisone wrote one of the first books of Classical dressage since Xenophon‘Gli ordini di cavalcare’ in 1550.
He also founded the first Riding academy in Naples in 1532 with Napolitan horses, a breed that influenced Lipizzaners, Maremmano horses, and many Germanic breeds like the Hanoverian, Oldenburger, Trakehner etc.


These academies were designed to teach children of aristocratic families how to ride with elegance, though both the Napolitano and Spanish riding school taught the old school military fixed hand and leg ‘Cheval d'Ecole’ training.
Now to why Grisone is so controversial:

Grisone used some horrendous training techniques.
Some of his famous training fixes include holding a live porcupine under the horses tail or using a cat tied to a pole on the horse's soft stomach.
He would deal with a horse that was scared of water by dunking his head until he almost drowned, and to get some of the heavy contractions in his horse's mouths, he would sometimes have teeth pulled!
In defence of Grisone, it should be remembered that he lived at a time where horses were treated as beasts of burden rather than works of art. The medieval ages were a rough time for horses, and the Renaissance period was the beginning of a change in the way horses were dealt with. It is easy to rip to pieces this man for his way of training and thinking, but if he was alive today it is very probable he would be a different rider using very different techniques.
In credit to Grisone, his initial spark of higher thinking would eventually improve horses‘lot’ immensely with the revival of classical training throughout Europe.



Grisone published a book that opened a new debate on horsemanship and influenced a new type of rider.

Grisone’s prodigies and ideas spread to France and the rest of the European continent where thankfully they were modified to more a gentle approach, with more emphasis put on training each horse as an individual using Xenophon's ideals.