Horse Selection


Xenophon – Horse Selection

On Selection of a Young Horse by Xenophon. (430BC – 350BC)


Selection of a Young Horse

In this section of his book On Horsemanship, Xenophon describes in detail what you should look for in a young horse to be prepared to become a war horse.   Some examples of his advice in horse selection follows:

    -The hooves must be hard and thick and the frog must be well-off the ground.
    – Pasterns should not be too straight because these will jar the rider and become sore.   Not too long or low because they can hit rocks while galloping.
    -Thick canon bones.
    – Good bend to the knees for the horse may stumble and hurt itself.   Thick, muscular forearms that could support all the weight carried by the armored rider as he charges downhill.
    – Broad chest to reduce interference from the legs. This also gave the horse a more imposing and threatening appearance before the troops he was charging.
    -High set neck, Xenophon believed that this would improve the horse’s ability to look forward and would also make it harder for it to oppose his rider because of the inability to lower his head too much.   Prominent eyes that would allow for a better field vision.
    -A large crest and prominent ears and large nostrils which would improve breathing and would look fierce to the men standing before him.
    -Tall withers that would hold the rider in place, double “loins” for a more comfortable seat and a round side which allows for better equilibrium of the rider and improves the horse’s digestion.
    -Muscular, firm hind quarters for a better sprint and speed, well-separated gaskins and buttocks to give the horse better balance and a prouder stand.   Testicles should be small.

Xenophon also advises the reader that by looking at the colt’s cannons it was possible to predict his height.

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