21 April 2010

An Unfortunate Historical Remnant

Recently, I ran across a story about a British group's donations of snaffle bits to horsemen in the desert area of the subcontinent of India. 

One look at the Indian snaffle bit below, a bit of current vintage, should explain why these British folks were so eager to donate snaffles of modern design.

I took one look at this bit and said, "Echini!"  Greek for "sea urchin," this style of bit was well known to Xenophon some 2400 years ago.  In fact, he describes something quite like this Indian bit in The Art of Horsemanship.

Here's a bit from Xenophon's era:

The article said that the donated bits were well received.  I imagine so!  Riding with a thick, smooth snaffle is tough enough.  It takes a lot of careful schooling to teach a horse to give to the bit.  The horse's natural reaction to the pressure of ANY snaffle is to raise its head.

Considering the severity of the "sea urchin" bit, it's unsurprising to find this depiction of an inverted horse on this ancient Greek plate:

I need to contact these British folks and see if they need any more donations.