The Horse of John

saddlebred.jpg   The American Horse

John, the longhunter/longknife lead character in the John novels has a special mount. Although the breed of horse is not common now, or basically unavailable, it was a respected animal in the 1700’s and used by many men in the Revolutionary War.  Known as the American Horse at the time, it was the product of crossing the now extinct  Narragansett Pacer,  the first horse breed developed in the United States, with Thoroughbreds.  The Narragansett Pacer was a prominent horse during the revolutionary war period, and it is usually thought that Paul Revere was on one during his ride .  It was strong and hardy and learned an easy gate.  The were not seen as a particularly good looking horse, but they were respected for their quality.  At about that same time  breeders developed the American Horse.  It had the pacing ability of the Narragansett and the size and formation of the Thoroughbred.  It was handsome, could be taught to pace, and was big.

While I was thinking about what kind of horse John would be riding, I first thought of the Narragansett.  The problem that I ran into was that John is about 6’6″ and the Narragansett is a short horse.  It averaged the average height in 1769 was a bit over 14 hands.  I couldn’t very well have John’s feet dragging on the ground!  The American Horse averaged 16 to 17 hands, had a smooth gate, and could have a proud and regal demeanor.

John’s horse is a fictionalized character as well.  Named Caesar, he is well aware of his nobility and maintains an independent association with John.  He has not only been gated, but he also has Dressage moves, not the Dressage that we know but the the moves that developed in warfare that essentially made the horse a weapon in the skirmish.  These moves were intended to help a rider escape from attack or to fight more aggressively in a crowded battlefield.  Known as Airs above the ground.  The classic moves were the levade, courbette, and capriole..  The levade consisted of the horse rearing and crouch on its haunches with forelegs curled ready to strike.  The horse still has the ability to walk on his hind legs so her remains mobile.  The courbette is similar except the horse remains more upright in the rearing position.  From their it can jump forward to attack or for the rider to attack. The capriole requires the horse jump completely off the ground and strike out with its hind legs.  I once saw a large, beautiful Alsatian perform the move.  The rider was dressed in period costume as a king, with long purple robe covering the back of the horse.  It was a most impressive and powerful move that, if used in combat, would eliminate any close threat from the rear.

The American Horse became the American Saddlebred Horse and is now a fine riding and show horse.  Currently the term American Horse most commonly refers to the American Quarter Horse.

         The caprole, the courbette, and the levade

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