Thursday, March 26, 2009

Advice on a horse for the Good Wife of Paris for the pleasure of Hawking

While researching numerous equestrian oriented topics, a work that I came across, but had only heard of in regard to culinary pursuits was The Goodman of Paris (Le Menagier de Paris, 1393), a domestic guide book that was written for a fifteen year old bride of a wealthy, bourgeois, Parisian man. Like many marriages of the middle ages, the man was no doubt many years, if not decades her senior, so at times the document might sound condescending, but I tend to think of it as more of a fatherly tone as he advises a daughter about life and the management of a household.

Having received Eileen Powers version, much to my dismay, the section regarding the care and selection of horses was not included. Greatly disappointed, but not deterred, I went in search of Le Menagier de Paris. And what should I find but a newly printed work by Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose titled The Good Wife's Guide. It contains a similar translation with the major difference, it was complete and contained the portion that was of keen interest to me, mainly that dealing with Horses, which I will not go into any detail here.

My primary goal for this entry is the gentleman’s advice on the pleasures of hawking and the type of horse required.

3.2 Hawking Treatise

1. Item, To complete what I earlier promised you , my dear, I place hereafter what I know about being an austringer and the art of hawking, so that in the hunting season you can divert yourself with this pursuit if you so choose. To begin with, you must know that, for the season, a good austringer readies 9 dogs and three horses for hawking, if he wishes to continue and perform well the duties of the occupation....I will treat later when I speak of hunting with hawks. But here in the beginning, I will first deal with dogs and then horses,...(pg. 233)

5. Item, you must be equipped with a small horse, easy to mount and dismount frequently, calm to ride, and not too lively, does not squirm, or buck, or bolt, or do anything to hamper the sparrow hawk’s return to the gauntlet. The horse must remain quiet and immobile when waiting for its master to mount or dismount. (pg. 235)

Some might recall my earlier entry regarding the Fatal Ride of Mary of Burgundy. She was hawking. I don’t know what manner of horse she rode, but the outcome of her hunt was tragic. Her horse shied and Mary fell from the horse's back and was trampled. She died several days later from the wounds that she received. Was her horse spirited? I'm not certain, however, it did buck according to the accounts.

It seems that then, as now, ones level of horsemanship and the activity in which one wishes to engage, must be evenly matched. I suspect that given his young wife’s age and most likely her level of horsemanship might have something to do with the advice on a “less spirited” horse. Recognizing the potential for danger, even today, we train our horses, so that no matter the discipline or activity, they stand quietly and calmly for the mount.

Books references:
The Good Wife’s Guide by , 2009 (complete translation in English)
The Goodman of Paris by Eileen Powers, 2006