Starting from this Easter weekend and taking place in the spectacular surroundings of the Riding House at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire highly trained riders and equally well trained stallions will perform breathtaking displays of horsemanship for visiting members of the public. ‘Cavendish’s Horses‘ carry out a series of advanced dressage training techniques. Techniques that were first introduced to England in the 17th century by William Cavendish, the first Duke of Newcastle and once riding master to King Charles II. They remain the only displays of their kind seen regularly in the country.
The intricate displays of circles, turns and leaps that the stallions are trained to perform come from the need to train horses for times of conflict and these moves acted as defensive actions that could be carried out on the command and the actions of the rider to use the horse and its size to protect them both from attack by an enemy. Modern dressage comes from this early method of training horses.
The white post or ‘pillar’ that can be seen in the arena is used to encourage the horse to move into increasingly smaller circles and which allows the horse to ‘centre’ itself before performing an explosive move such as a Capriole. This is where the horse rears onto the hind legs before jumping up and kicking out with all four legs. Other displays include the demi-capriole where the horse only kicks out with its rear legs or the Levade – where the horse rears up onto its hind legs. To do this the horse uses inner core strength from its stomach muscles to raise itself up and is an extremely difficult move to perform.
The Pesade is where the horse rears up on hind legs and holds the front legs straight out and the Half-pass is where the horse walks sideways crossing its legs and like all the moves demonstrate great control, strength and discipline all under the great skill of the riders.
Ben Atkinson who has worked with horses since a child is one of the riders who carries out the displays at Bolsover. The black horse in some of the pictures is Ocle, a 6 year old Spanish stallion. This particular horse is more explosive than the others and as a result is used for the more dramatic displays such as the Capriole. The other horses, Almonzor a 14 year old stallion and Bonito, a 10 year old gelding are still highly trained and capable of performing many of the other routines. However the picture in the gallery where the white stallion, Almonzor is lying forward on his front legs with his head lying on the floor isn’t part of the actual Bolsover display and was part of another routine that Ben performs.
I spent most of the day with the horses and with Ben and his father Mark as they conducted rehearsals of the display routine as I was shooting a feature story for Getty and whilst I’m not particularly a ‘horsey person’ you can’t fail to be impressed by these highly trained and artistic stallions – well worth a look if you’re ever passing by Bolsover and have the time to pop in.
Pictures remain copyright Getty Images
The full set of pictures can be seen HERE