While the definition of a Baucherist may depend on who you talk to, the most recognizable cornerstone of Baucher’s philosophy is “hand without leg and leg without hand.”
In certain circles (of folks not flatwork), the very name Baucher will stir up controversy, as it has for a hundred years or so. That’s what happens when you make a big deal out of what you believe (Baucher’s First Method) and then change your mind later (Baucher’s Second Method). Just ask David Stockman, the Reagan Budget Guru turned Liberal Pundit.
As a self-proclaimed Baucherist, I believe there are sound reasons for the “hand without leg and leg without hand” philosophy. The first and most obvious is to make your desires clear to the horse, without conflicting signals (or aids). Put simply, if I ask you (the horse) to go forward (with leg aids), I won’t ask you to stop going forward (with rein aids).
What hangs people up, I think, is that it takes some time to be able to be proficient with your aids — to know what aids to use instinctively, to create an immediate response from your horse, and to release when the horse responds correctly. Until that time, you won’t be able to ride effectively as a Baucherist.
But everyone has to start somewhere, and “hand without leg” is a great place to start. Beginning riders are often taught this way. If instructors stayed with it, they might produce better riders. And if horses had their say, well…you know what I think already.
The good news is that as one’s riding progresses, hand without leg and leg without hand becomes easier, until the switching between them is so quick that it’s as if the hand and leg are being used simultaneously. That’s the path to lightness.
But back to Buck and his back-to-basics teachings on the hand and leg. His instruction is “learn to ride with your legs so your hands are more effective.” Learning to ride with your legs includes learning how to use them to create lateral as well as longitudinal movement as well as to do nothing at all. As he says, “If your legs are only gas pedals, way too much responsibility is in your hands and it will be hard for them to be soft.”
It turns out Buck also believes in flexions, another cornerstone of Baucherism. I promise to address that largely forgotten art in another post, so if you’re interested, be sure to check back.
To learn more about Baucher and his methods, I highly recommend the book Academic Equitation by General Decarpentry. I have yet to read Hilda Nelson’s Francois Baucher: The Man and his Method, which especially intrigues me given the use of the singular “Method” in its title. Since I am unlikely to purchase a copy anytime soon, as a used one starts at $499.99 (a ridiculous price on two counts), I will unfortunately have to wait. Have any of my readers gotten their hands on a copy?