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Federico Grisone

Naples-resident Federico Grisone was one of the first masters of dressage and courtly riding and published one of the first books on the matter in early modern Europe.

His training methods are not practiced today due to their somewhat harsh treatment of the horse.


Federico Grisone was a Neapolitan nobleman who, during his time, was said to be the "father of the art of equitation".[1] Grisone not only began a riding academy in Naples in 1532, but also published Grisone's Gli ordini di cavalcare (translated “The Orders of Riding”) in 1550, one of the first pieces on horsemanship since the time of Xenophon.[2] Grisone later published The Rules of Horsemanship in 1561.[3]

Riding and Training Theories

Grisone is well-known for his rather forceful, sometimes cruel, methods of training.[4] He was influenced by the famous general Xenophon, especially in the positioning of the rider's seat and aids, but he appears to have given up the part where Greek master advocates the gentle training and riding of the horse.

There are several cases in his book "Gli Ordini di Cavalcare," or The Rules of Horsemanship, first published in 1550, where he applies abusive practices. He used harsh methods to subdue the horse, using severe spurring and harsh bits (some of which he was the inventor).[5] Other examples of his cruel methods include placing live hedgehogs under the animal's tail, punishing his horses by placing a cat, strapped to a pole, under their belly,[2] and forcing the horse's head under water to the point of near-drowning if it showed any fear of crossing water.

Grisone was not an advocate of the now "classical" position that was first suggested by Xenophon, and instead preferred the rider to sit with his feet pushed well forward.[2]

Grisone was considered a master of his time, and his training methods had a great impact on the training of horses of his day. They spread into France, thanks to de la Broue and Giovanni Battista Pignatelli. However, later masters such as Antoine de Pluvinel, restored the ideas of gentle training of the horse.


  1. Podhajsky, Alois. The Complete Training of Horse and Rider. Wilshire Book Company. Hollywood, CA. Copyright 1967.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 IOBA Standard. Early Dressage Literature to 1800. http://www.ioba.org/newsletter/archive/v11/iobanl-dressageto1800-5-03.php Accessed July 31, 2007.
  3. The International Museum of the Horse. The Renaissance: c. 14th - c. 1650 Centuries. http://www.kyhorsepark.com/museum/history.php?chapter=49. Accessed July 31, 2007.
  4. Jeffrey Rolo. "The Fatal Flaw Behind Horse Breaking". AlphaHorse. http://www.alphahorse.com/horse-breaking.html. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  5. The Complete Training of Horse ad Rider. Alois Podhajsky, 1965.


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