Episode 122

Teaching horses martial arts with the Horsemen of Eire

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Show Notes:

Alessia Pagani and Jack Gassman run Horsemen of Eire, an equestrian training school and medieval combat academy outside Wexford in Ireland. Alessia specialises in natural horsemanship and Jack takes care of the swords.

In this episode we talk about what’s natural about ‘natural horsemanship’, and its origins in American cowboys and medieval training techniques. Here are some images of the single and double pillar training techniques we discuss, and there is a blog post here with more images: https://dariocaballeros.blogspot.com/2013/09/antoine-de-pluvinel-images-from.html

Alessia spent time living and working as a cowgirl in Arizona and she explains how Rossfechten (swordfighting on horseback) is similar to herding cattle. Teaching horses to fight is not dissimilar to teaching humans to fight, when you understand their motivations and characters. As Jack says, horses intimately understand violence and will beat the shit out of each other over “you looked at me funny”.

We also find out why there is so much unarmoured longsword in Liechtenauer, why it helps to be a dancer, and how many plates you have to spin to run a business involving horses.

 

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GW:  I’m here today with Alessia Pagani and Jack Gassmann, who run Horsemen of Eire, an equestrian training school and medieval combat academy outside Wexford in Ireland. Alessia specialises in natural horsemanship and Jack takes care of the swords. So without further ado, Alessia and Jack, welcome to the show.

 

AP:  Hello.

 

JG:  Hi. Thanks for having us on.

 

GW:  And so whereabouts are you right now?

 

JG:  We’re right now just at our place in Wexford, Ireland. We’ve actually been enjoying some decent summer around here.

 

GW:  Excellent.

 

AP:  Finally.

 

GW:  Yeah, well, here we’ve had a heatwave, and like forest fires and things. It’s been a bit too bloody hot.

 

AP:  But the heatwave in Ireland, it’s like 24 or 25 degrees.

 

GW:  Excellent. Alessia, am I right in thinking you come from Italy?

 

AP:  Yeah, I was born there, though I did leave about ten years ago and I moved to the States. And then I lived half the year in the States and half the year in Switzerland. And then Jack and I moved to well, we met in Switzerland and then we moved to England, himself first, and then I followed him and found out I wasn’t really going anywhere when I was in England. So I slowly moved west. And ended up in Ireland. So that’s it

 

GW:  Well, that’s quite a trek. Yes. So I guess having lived in Italy, you’d be used to the heat.

 

AP:  Oh, yeah, yeah. My parents, then they’re like, “When are you going to visit us? This summer?” Like, never. Like in October, maybe, because it’s like 42 or so. They’re just under the Alps, north of Milan. But still, it’s way too warm there for myself. And no, not a hope.

 

GW:  So Switzerland suits you better up in the mountains.

 

JG:  Yeah. Her favourite temperature is around like 30.

 

GW:  Okay. That’s comfortable. Okay. All right. So there’s been quite a lot of trekking about. So what made you decide to move to Wexford particularly and start Horsemen of Eire?

 

JG:  Well, so my background is in HEMA, teaching HEMA, competing, travelling a bunch. A little bit of game design too. But after school, I figured out that nobody pays you for actually hitting people with swords, but they do pay you for pretending to hit people with swords on camera. So I thought, okay, I started doing film work in London and doing stuff. I’d done some stage combat and stunt work in Switzerland while I was in school, and stage acting. So I went to London, tried to play that game, but then Alessia was in Switzerland and doing the horse thing and when she tried to move in to the UK, the issue was either I was close enough to London to play the whole entertainment industry game, but then she was too far away from any kind of decent horsey areas that weren’t too expensive to run the business or we would move farther out, and then she’d be able to run the horsey business. But I was so far out that it was impractical to do the film work. And then my parents had moved to Ireland, so we visited them and we fell in love. And Ireland has a strong horse industry and also a strong film industry. And there are some like Paul from Goat’s Head and there are a few others, Mike Prendergast, and there’s a small but good crew out here from a HEMA standpoint. So we decided, let’s try it here. There are also not many places doing live equestrian shows or things like that. So we thought we’d start the company and start doing that. It was going quite well until the whole COVID thing happened.

 

GW:  Right.

 

JG:  Funnily enough, there weren’t many clients looking for large for outdoor shows that were going to have like 6-7,000 people, you know, cheek to jowl.

 

GW:  Yes. So your primary business from an income stream perspective was these large events?

 

JG:  Well, we also do, I mean I was also travelling and teaching workshops, you know, from a HEMA perspective.

 

GW:  And that got fucked by COVID, I didn’t teach any workshops during 2020 at all.

 

JG:  I was teaching club sessions. Which did better with COVID, didn’t do great. I do private lessons. Those were okay, but still not great. And then we also do private riding lessons. We do Rossfechten bootcamps. I mean, the private riding lessons did okay, because you can really social distance during them, and you’re very careful while doing it. So while restrictions were going up and down, we could do riding lessons. But the shows, which is the thing that we enjoy most really and where we’re hoping to expand most in future, that didn’t happen.

 

GW:  Right. And of course, the horses didn’t eat last year during COVID just because you were making less money.

 

AP:  No.

 

JG:  I tried to nicely explain it to them, but they weren’t really compliant.

 

GW:  So, I mean, if you don’t mind going into it, quite a lot of the people listening who are fascinated by historical swordsmanship and martial arts and whatnot are also interested in how on earth you make a living doing this kind of thing, because it is fairly unusual to actually be able to make a living doing sword related activities. I mean, how did you manage to set up a stable in the first place? I mean, that is not a cheap endeavour.

 

JG:  Well, yeah. We were quite lucky in that respect that my parents run a breeding facility for a rare breed, Spanish Mustangs. So basically we were able to manage their property in return for the facilities. So we were quite lucky in that in that respect.

 

GW:  So that’s why Wexford, right?

 

JG:  That’s one reason why Wexford. We were hoping to be getting our new, our own facility fairly soon. And then COVID kind of scuppered that. But also knowing other places that do it, the key to find doing something like this is usually finding a good partnership with either a heritage location or someone who has bought a large heritage property with stables on it and then has, OK so I bought this mansion which has stables in it from the 1800s, but I don’t have horses and I don’t want them. And then they rent that area off the estate. There’s not as many of those here in Ireland that are as amenable. Most got turned into golf courses fairly quickly.

 

GW:  Of course. Fucking golf. I hate golf. They take up so much space and what do they do with it? They whack a stupid little white ball with a stupid club for absolutely no good reason. It’s ridiculous. Total waste of space. Sorry, you hit a hot button.

 

JG: You can save a lot more space and get a very similar sport if you just had cutting tournaments.

 

GW:  Right. Absolutely. And in the space of a single putting green, you could have a reasonable cutting facility.

 

JG:  Yeah. Anyway, in my experience, either you have to find a heritage park that will cooperate or something that. That’s one of the ways we make it work. Also Alessia goes and teaches back in Switzerland and Italy and with groups so it’s a lot of diversification.

 

GW:  So you have lots of streams of income, not just one particular thing. So you’re doing classes here and classes there and private lessons in your place and private lessons in other places and film stuff and events stuff. And so there’s lots and lots of these streams. That doesn’t surprise me.

 

AP:  Yeah, you can’t really make a living just out of one of them. And if something goes bad with that kind of market, whether that’s film work or the shows, you need to still have something else coming to cover in. Like Jack was saying during COVID, the stuff that really kept me alive was training horses for other people. And some classes because it respects social distancing at all. That was handy.

 

JG:  You also just have to be willing to make a few sacrifices, like we live quite simply. We’re pretty cold in the winter, we don’t have much space. We don’t buy that many nice things. We don’t go out to eat that often. You know, it’s a lot of like minimising costs as well.

 

GW:  Yeah. I mean, I’ve been basically making a living teaching swordsmanship for over 20 years and certainly for the first ten it was very much hand-to-mouth. I was never more than about one bad month away from being bankrupt. And then the books started to take off and that was another handy stream. And then my online courses started to take off and that was handy stream. And then when COVID hit and all of my live in-person teaching went away, the books and the courses got us through it. So yes, multiple streams of income for the win, absolutely. And also, yes, it’s very helpful to be able to live off less money. That’s a really useful life skill.

 

AP:  Yep.

 

GW:  Okay. So Alessia, for the benefit of listeners who are not necessarily well versed in horsemanship matters. What is natural horsemanship and how is it different from the regular kind?

 

AP:   Okay. So. Well, ‘natural’. It’s a little bit of a marketing word. It has been used in the last 20 years or so.

 

GW:  Okay.

 

AP:  My teacher says there is nothing natural on being a horse in the horse’s way when you actually are in a horse’s way. So it’s not really natural for a horse to park a person on their back. It is a word people use to put it in a box a little bit what myself and other people do. If you want to call it that way, that’s fine. I suppose the main difference that this kind of horsemanship gives compared to the others is teaching the horses a job.

 

GW:  Okay.

 

AP:  You’re teaching them how to do something and then ride it. And I’m not knocking on anyone skills but rather than having a horse that you have to micromanage with two hands in order to, I don’t know, go over jump or go to a racetrack or I don’t know, do some classes, some dressage, you will have a partner that knows what’s going on because you spend a lot of time teaching them that job. So if you end up doing a match against each other with swords or working cows, because that’s my background.

 

GW:  Working cows, did you say?

 

AP:  Yeah, that’s where I lived in the US. That’s what I was doing.

 

GW:  So you were actually really properly a cowboy? Or cowgirl. Is that fair to say? So you are like on a horse, outside, with a whole bunch of cows on the range, basically moving the cows from one place to another.

 

AP:  That’s right.

 

GW:  Oh, fantastic. And doing that with like Western style horsemanship.

 

AP:  Yeah.

 

GW:  Western saddles.

 

AP:  It was. They call it Vaquero Horsemanship over there in the West. I was in Arizona and my teacher has a training facility and a few cattle and that’s what we were doing. So it leads actually to my next topic that I wanted to talk about, which is how when I got back to Europe I didn’t have cows. Really sad girl because there were no cows to work.

 

JG:  Or at least not ones that you could be seen to be working.

 

AP:  Yeah. So I needed something with the skills that this horsemanship has taught me that I was then teaching to the horses that I was working with and I needed a practical application. And I found out that the combat, the Rossfechten training of a horse was very similar to how a Western horse was trained. So first of all, you need one hand on the reins.

 

GW:  Yeah. The other hand is busy doing stuff. Like cracking a bullwhip.

 

AP:  You can have your lasso rope or your sword or your cup of coffee, you know,  whatever your other hand needs to be doing. And then you really need in both disciplines, you really need a partner because there is a lot about positioning. I’m not going to probably go into lines, geometry and details on that. But positioning counts a lot in both working cows and when you are fighting against someone. So the angle where you’re coming at, how you are putting your opponent or how you’re putting your cow, how you’re putting your horse versus the other, whether that’s the cow or the other horse, it really changes the whole game and it really makes a difference whether you’re going to end up either running after that cow for 500 acres or you’re dead on a battlefield.

 

GW:  So yeah.

 

AP:  Both cases is quite important.

 

JG:  I was just going to say, for the more history nerd minded, the background of the tradition that she came from, they call it American vaquero and what fascinated me when I started learning about it was, it very much comes from the Spanish riding that was left in the new world, around 1600. There’s almost a cut off point where it becomes a genetic fossil as this riding spread to these ranches in the southern US, northern Mexico area, where you have these disparate landowners with their small groups of horsemen who they’re employing based on their riding capabilities and in some cases their fighting capabilities. And they’re kind of employed as freelance guns for hire and cattlemen. And then the tack that’s used when you take a look at it is very similar to early 16th century stuff. And you can even date exactly when the Spanish and classical dressage tradition separates from the American Vaquero tradition. If you look at Grisone, you still have the single pillar in 1550.

 

GW:  Grisone?

 

JG:  He’s a dressage master, the first dressage master we have, and then he had a competitor in Naples, in the same town, called Pinatelli, who comes up with this idea of a single pillar that you can wrap the lead rope around for some exercises. So if the horse pulls, say.

 

GW:  Hang on, a pillar? Is that part of a saddle?

 

JG:  No, no. So you’ve got the space you’re working the horse in, like a round pen or whatever. Pinatelli used a tree, but you put a pillar in the ground. And so if you’re working with a young horse and you’re smaller or in Pinatelli’s case old. And he is supposedly in his 60s, 70s when he started doing this. If the horse pulls and you’re moving the horse around in a circle. If the horse pulls, he’s pulling on the post, not you. So he doesn’t get in the habit of realizing he can pull you.

 

GW:  Right.

 

JG:  And you see these, some are called ‘snub posts’ in old traditional vaquero stuff sometimes. And you see it this technique used in the American vaquero tradition. But shortly after it they introduced the idea of two standing pillars, which if you look at the Austrian Riding School of Vienna, they use a double pillar and it’s something you see in Pluvinel and later. So that then that’s like beginning of the 17th century. So you can date exactly when things start to separate as a tradition.

 

GW:  Okay, so how do you use the two pillars?

 

JG:  So you tie each side of the horse’s nose to the pillar. And then you use that to teach them things like levade, which is basically it’s basically a horse doing a deep squat on its back legs.

 

GW:  All right. Yep.

 

JG:  So it’s not really a rear and different manoeuvres like that and it can be used for different things. But it’s when you want these very specific, very pretty and very powerful movements. But anyway, so that’s the history of it. The saddles are very similar to the old medieval stuff.

 

GW:  Do these historical sources have illustrations?

 

JG:  Yes, I can send you a few.

 

GW:  Could you please send me some of those. I’ll put them in the show notes to help listeners who may have trouble following along. They can go to the show notes and see the pictures and go, ah, okay, that makes more sense.

 

JG:  I’ll send you those. But anyway, so Vaquero stuff, a lot of the tack in its form and function stayed very similar with the bits and the saddles. The European classical dressage side kept a lot more of the aesthetic and some of the manoeuvres. But one thing that stayed very clear and was very much maintained in the American Vaquero, is this idea of getting a job done in this active partnership, in a deadly scenario. So that was something that really fascinated me as a fencer like that idea of having a that the horse is a willing and pro-active partner within the fight that you rely on and you turn over some duties to and it’s working rather than just something you’re driving. And also when you do that, you can actually go and spar a lot more. You can actually get into it a lot more. And that was something that really was interesting for me. And then the history of it is there were a few people in the early 20th century who were really instrumental in keeping this alive as the ranching culture started to decline. Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance. And there’s like a first generation of these masters that then had students who are a lot more prolific in their writings and their teachings.

 

GW:  Are we talking about the same tradition as Monty Roberts?

 

JG:  Monty Roberts. He came there. He’s worked with them a little bit, and then he did his own thing.

 

GW:  Okay.

 

JG:  A lot of the work was known as Natural Horse, more well-known natural horsemanship traditions went to Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, learnt with them and then started their own brands that were a lot more… I mean, the old school ranch Vaquero types, they’re not marketing gurus. They’re very strict and old fashioned and a lot of how they do things, it’s a very, very much a kind of a Mr. Miyagi old discipline way of doing things that doesn’t necessarily sell well. I think some of the advantages of opening things up and doing different things, you lose some things and you gain other things, you know. But yeah, you get some things that say the American Vaquero guys are a little bit closer to how a classical dressage in how they want to exercise and mobilise the horse, and get a more what I would consider a holistic view. But it’s also a very harsh and disciplined way, as like harsh on the ego too, to work with them. To find clients who are willing to do that is not always easy.

 

GW:  I have to mention that because we brought up Monty Roberts. I think for most people who have who have like natural horsemanship, an idea in their head of what it might be, they are probably thinking of books like The Horse Whisperer, which was made into a ghastly movie with Robert Redford. And it’s basically about communicating with the horse through the way horses understand body language and like how the herd dynamics work. So basically getting the horse to view you as the lead mare of the pack and so will then happily do whatever you tell it to do. Is that a fair description of natural horsemanship?

 

AP:  Yes. Yes.

 

GW:  Okay, good. I’m not completely off track then, excellent.

 

AP:  No, no, you’re good. It’s actually good that you are mentioning the movie and the book of The Horse Whisperer. Cause I’m pretty linked to that, because the guy that I started with in the U.S.. His name is Paul Dietz. You guys can look it up if you want to follow his horsemanship. He travels all over Europe and gives clinics. You want someone wants to go have a look. He worked for a more famous guy whose name is Buck Brannaman. And Buck Brannaman was the guy that the horse whisperer was inspired to. He is the guy to personally coach Robert Redford. And Paul was as well on set as they were filming it. It’s very accurate, actually, on that. There are a lot of small things that are very accurate, such like even the tack itself. It is spot on on this horsemanship. Not that that really matters because you can ride in an English saddle or an historical saddle or a reining saddle. It doesn’t really matter. But it is very traditional on the Vaquero style. Nothing fancy but done just right. And then I had some stories like, what’s the actress there?

 

GW:  Scarlett Johansson?

 

AP:  The actress that plays a little girl there that they had the horse that was supposed to walk up to her, but that just the horse just wouldn’t. Often cast, I hope there is not much cast listening to me, but often cast doesn’t have a great energy for horses. They’re a bit tense. Horses like to be with people that feel peaceful. That they are solid and they’re comfortable of their own skills and things and cast, it’s probably just a matter of like where they are in that moment. There’s a lot of pressure. And there is, you know, a lot of expectations. And they tend to not have the best energies for horses to be drawn towards them. And so, anyways, the idea that the horse was supposed to walk up to Scarlett Johansson and the horse just wouldn’t. So Buck Brannaman went behind the actress, off camera obviously, and he put the lasso rope on the horse’s front feet and the horsemanship that you learn, well I can get on a little bit later, they say about getting to the feet and be able to direct the horse’s feet where you want them to go. So a way to teach that sometimes to horses is literally to put a rope around their feet and lead them from their feet without even a halter on them, without even a head collar, whatever you want to call it. So Buck spent some time teaching that horse to be led from their feet, from his feet. And then the camera was just probably up at the chest height to the head of the horse, and they had the lasso on the front feet and Buck just led the horse at Scarlett. And the horse just magically walked up to the actress.

 

GW:  That is brilliant. Yeah. Movie magic. Absolutely.

 

AP:  Yeah. But, I mean, without these horsemanship, the horse would have never walked up to the actress.

 

GW:  Yeah, absolutely.

 

AP:  I suppose, I mean you could use a bucket of feed, but then often horses walk up to buckets of feed a bit too fast. And he would have completely passed Scarlett because no matter if you are the most important Hollywood celebrity, a bucket of feed will always be more important for a horse than a celebrity.

 

GW:  Horses don’t really watch movies. I once went on a horsemanship retreat for about five days in Sweden. And the first day we were taught, you go into the field to get the horse and you basically walk up to the horse, basically walk through the horse and the horse has to get out of your way and you do that for a little bit. So the horse sort of recognises that you are in charge and then you walk away in a particular way and the horse just comes and follows you. And so we walked these horses into the training area. And we were getting them to go over these, not an assault course, but like little obstacles, like stepping over a log and stepping up onto a platform and off the platform and so on. And it was the strangest thing. At one point, this obviously very well trained horse, it was putting its left forefoot forward almost to the ground and then taking it back again and then putting it forward again. As I was turning my body to indicate whether it should move the foot forwards or put the foot back. It was absolutely magic.

 

AP:  In fact, that exactly leads to what I was saying about directing the horse’s feet. The herd in nature, some horse people obviously know about that, but for non-horse people. They do have a hierarchy in the herd and you would see that the alpha horse will move the other horse. And we say we move the horses who moves the horses feet first. If I go into a herd with the horse in order to prove to that horse that I am alpha over him, I need to be able to move their feet and not reverse myself so that they move mine unless I’m inviting them into my space. And that’s more probably what sometimes people call it for the natural horsemanship. You try to behave and talk like a horse. I’m stepping into a horse’s space. The horse should move away or they’re going to be consequences, just like an alpha horse will do that. They’ll first walk in with their energy if they move great, no bother, they give them peace, because that’s what horses are looking for. If that’s not working because maybe it’s a dull horse, maybe because it’s distracted. Whatever reason, they’re given plan B, which is pinning their ears, plan C, turn around, kick them or give them a bite. So as a person, if you want to do this natural horsemanship, that’s how you want to approach a horse. You step into a horse’s space with a certain energy. When I say energy, which is difficult and a little bit more technical, but imagine of kind of like squeeze your stomach or pump your blood faster from your heart, something like that. Something that raise your heartbeat. So do that as a plan A, plan B? You show that you got you’re going to have a plan C and plan C is to follow through with that. But then has the horse moved their feet? You want to be able to give them peace, to leave them alone, not to keep chasing them. Or then you’re just a bad boss. You’re not a good leader, you’re a bad boss. So then as you get more refined in the control of the feet, you’re going to be able to set each foot where you want it. And that’s what you did in Sweden. You could move the foot forward or take it back and a horse can feel a fly landing on them. So you can never ride so bad they can stop feeling the fly landing on them. They’re always going to have to be able to have that sensitivity of feeling a fly. So if you shift your weight, if a fly lands is like a one hundredth of a gram and a person is, I don’t know what, 70 kilos with a saddle, 80 kilos, whatever, you know. So of course they’re going to feel that shift. It’s more a matter of can I communicate that in the right way for a horse to understand it?

 

GW:  Yeah, my job would be a lot easier if everyone who I taught swordsmanship to was an experienced rider because they understand intimately posture and hip placement and moving the weight precisely, it’s like, oh my God, if everyone had those skills, my life would be so much easier. It reminded me of when we were doing this course in Sweden. If the horse didn’t do as it was told, you would make it take a few steps backwards. And it really didn’t like that. And then it was like, Oh.

 

AP:  Yeah, it’s that kind of making the right thing really easy and the wrong thing difficult, not impossible, but a bit more difficult. And the backing up a horse, it’s a great tool to have for them because it puts the weight on the hind without doing anything super fancy. Horses move in nature in pretty much just six basic manoeuvres and backing up is one of them. It’s a basic that they do in the herd and it shifts that weight on the hind. And the moment that you have a horse with a weight on the hind, you have a car with a good engine basically. In small words, you know, like I’m trying to make it simple for people.

 

GW:  So yeah. And, and we were taught when the horse has done the right thing, you don’t pat its neck, you stroke it. And the image was like the horse’s mother would lick it with her tongue. Basically, it was mother’s tongue was the expression.

 

AP:  Where did you go? Because I teach in Sweden twice a year. And can I ask you where you were.

 

GW:  Of course. Yeah. It was a long time ago, I think it was 2005, so 17 years ago and it was a couple. Kind of like you where Ola did the sword stuff. I knew him because he was one of my sword students. And Moa, whose surname I have forgotten because it was 17 years ago. Her first name was Moa and she had this beautiful horse called Yonderla. I remember the horse’s name better than I remember the people’s name.

 

AP:  I do the same. Who was that person? Oh it was the one with the horse such and such. Oh, yeah. Now I remember.

 

GW:  Okay, I will look up Moa’s full name and stick it in the show notes.

 

AP:  The tools they gave you, you were really lucky and ending up with these people. Such a small thing like the patting that you don’t like tap it, you stroke it.

 

GW:  Mother’s tongue.

 

AP:  Mother’s tongue. Yeah. Yeah. Many natural horsemanship people, they don’t know that. They gave you a good tool, as simple as it is.

 

GW:  So how do you integrate the swords with the horses? I mean, because swords are big and dangerous and the horses are conscripts, not volunteers. So how do you make it safe for the horses and how do you make that work?

 

JG:  Well, it’s an interesting one because as you say, the horses are in this sense, conscripts, not volunteers. I don’t find it that different than teaching humans and teaching horses. Teaching horses martial arts will actually teach you a lot more about core assumptions you’re making about humans, because each horse has things it likes and doesn’t like, and they have the hierarchy. And they definitely and very intimately understand violence like they will hurt each other. They will beat the shit out of each other just, you know, over random things. As my brother says, they’re herbivores for tax reasons.

 

GW:  Just explain that.

 

JG:  Depending on the horse, they can get pretty aggressive about food or shelter or enforcing their rights to make the other horse move out. And so, they can have a barroom brawl over you looked at me funny. So if you’re asking a horse that is on a lower hierarchy to do to martial arts with a horse that is at a higher hierarchy, you very much first have to enforce the idea that there are boundaries that the humans will enforce. And the horse going into the situation has no debrief on whether or not this is an actual fight or play.

 

GW:  Of course.

 

JG:  So they don’t know whether the other horse is going to start actually attacking them, kicking them, biting them. So that’s one thing you really have to manage. But it’s not that different even from in normal fencing practice there’s a reason why if you go in a boxing gym, generally more you’ll get paired with a more experienced student and the more experienced student’s job is to just defend and the newer guys get comfortable throwing shots.

 

GW:  Right.

 

JG:  Because if, if the more experienced guy starts attacking all the time, it’ll shut down any initiative from the defender and from the newer guy. And they’ll just start defending and staying out of range because they don’t have the confidence to go in and they don’t want to try anything because they’ll just get punished for it. And you also don’t want to necessarily stop the more experienced student from doing what he or she should be doing. Okay, there is an opening. Punish it. But if you give us just a very clear goal, just defend, keep yourself safe. So a lot of times a lower ranking horse will first spend a lot of time chasing the other horse because that, of course, means that they’re more powerful than the other horse. But then you have to balance it again, that you don’t remove the fighting confidence of the more experienced horse by always making them get chased. Because then they lose their initiative. And then why should I play this stupid game? I always lose my status when I do it.

 

GW:  Right. I’ve never thought of that. That is exactly like setting up swordsmanship students. If the seniors are only ever getting beaten up by the juniors because they’re supposed to be helping them, then the seniors will eventually quit in frustration and annoyance. But if the seniors are allowed to just let rip on the juniors, it’s really bad for the juniors. And it doesn’t actually teach the seniors anything either. So you have these balancing acts to strike so that the juniors get brought along and allowed to strike, whereas the seniors also get a chance to actually be as experienced as they are.

 

JG:  Just as with humans, it’s also a very much a case by case basis. Some are more just chill and they’re okay with it. Some are more emotionally resilient and they like the grind of, you know, they don’t mind getting the shit beat out of them sometimes and then eventually earning that win. Some fencing students, they like getting thrown in with the deep end with seniors, and then they may land one shot a session, but they really value that because they know that was real.

 

GW:  But it’s entirely down to the individual student.

 

JG:  Exactly. You have to balance it. And you also have to find out what that horse likes about the job. There are some horses that don’t give a fuck about the technical details, having the nice frame, doing the movement elegantly. Some horses really like that, and they don’t give a fuck about achieving like crashing into the other horse and smacking and chasing and running fast or doing all this. Some horses love the running fast. Some horses love smashing into each other.

 

GW:  This is so like people.

 

JG:  That’s why I said it’s so much like people.

 

AP:  They have their own style.

 

JG:  And you have to balance the things that they want to do with the things they don’t want to do. You know, and just like humans. And even the even the leadership thing, it’s easy to mystify it. If you just think about the fact that horses are who are basically humans that don’t know what the fuck is going on and they don’t know that there is a say, a medical net, police you can call to resolve disputes, that there aren’t a zombie horde across the across the hill, that there aren’t poisonous snakes or things that might be hiding in certain spots. They don’t have any of the context that we take for granted. If you just know you only have like the communication of applying and releasing pressure and they don’t know anything about what’s going on and just take yourself and put yourself in that situation, a lot of things become pretty clear.

 

GW:  Sure. Yeah. Okay. So I was actually thinking also like you’ve got students who presumably have some sword skills before you can put them on a horse to swing the sword around. How do you keep the horse safe from getting basically clonked in the head by a sword?

 

JG:  You make sure you’ve done your homework with the sword stuff. I mean, it’s a slow, gradual build up. You don’t just put them on a horse and say, have at it, you know?

 

GW:  No.

 

JG:  There’s things like skill at arms where you just knocking things off posts with your sword as you ride past. There is like certain drills, you know, for management.

 

GW:  Yeah, I’ve done a bit of tent pegging.

 

JG:  Yeah, we do a lot of false mount work, what we call. If you look in old footage of cavalry training, you see people sitting on wooden horses with saddles, going through movements.

 

GW:  We also see that in some of the historical sources. I think Schmidt has a picture of that.

 

JG:  Yeah, exactly. I mean, you have you have references to it going back as far as Carolingian period. Because also it was a use as an as a conditioning exercise, vaulting on and off in various levels of armour.

 

AP:  Oh I was just going to say that a false mount is really handy for people that have a fencing background but not really a horse background and how to prevent a horse to get smacked in the head from a sword. It’s really to put them on the false mount. Those fake horses we have, Jack built them with a head and ears like he was really excellent. So as they are sitting on them, and they have the sword, they have a head right there of the horse, a fake head, but is right there to remind them to be careful.

 

GW:  So they make their mistakes on the wooden horse.

 

AP:  Yeah.

 

GW:  Yeah, excellent.

 

AP:  Be careful. Every time you hit a horse head, you have to pay 50 bucks. Something like that. It stops people going, “Oh, well, I just hit the horse in the head,” because if you hit a horse in the head, no, you don’t have to pay 50 bucks. But I’m going to have to spend another hour or so at making sure that that horse would be okay with swords again, because, of course, if a horse gets hit in the head he is not going to be thinking next time, oh, sure. Let’s go to swords where I just got hit in the head.

 

JG:  Because the horse doesn’t know whether or not you meant to do that.

 

GW:  Of course. Yeah.

 

AP:  So you have to pay 50 bucks because I’m going to spend an hour fixing your mistake. You know.

 

GW:  That it’s very reasonable.

 

JG:  You know and the one thing sometimes I’ll do if I have more experienced fencers that are getting ready to do actual sparring on horseback, I’ll move the false mounts so they’re at an angle where you would be passing each other when fighting on horseback, because there’s some things that you need to be aware of if you’re a more experienced fencer, things like hanging guards and deflections.

 

GW:  Yeah.

 

JG:  Because like usually with a hanging guard, you’ll see the contact as soon as the strike comes into the hanging guard, let it glide off at an angle and use the energy for the riposte.

 

GW:  Yeah.

 

JG:  If you do that in the wrong way on horseback, you are just letting it fall onto the horse’s head or neck.

 

GW:  Yeah, right. I can see that.

 

JG:  So a lot of deflections also if you deflect it to the side and then it lands on that, you know, so what it ends up being is you have to be much more careful about collecting the blade and doing much more work that controls and maintains from a bind, which is also much easier on horseback. And also you start doing it and you realise, okay, so if something goes wrong, the blade ends up against me, just resting against my arm or my side. Okay, in fencing on foot. That might not be such a big deal because it’s hard to make a draw cut of significant value. If you’re riding pass at a canter, a little bit of pressure with edge alignment.

 

GW:  That’s going to do it.

 

JG:  You know, it’ll open a bad gash if you’re wearing some kind of textile, or against your horse’s flesh. So you need to be very careful about controlling the opponent’s blade much more accurately when you’re on horseback.

 

GW:  Okay. Interesting. While we’re talking about swords. I do have to ask. So, Jack, you mostly study Liechtenauer, right? Whereas everyone knows Fiore is better. I mean, what’s going on there?

 

JG:  I also do some Fiore. Fiore’s dagger is probably one of the best systems I’ve seen. However, I do feel that longsword was somewhat of an afterthought for him.

 

GW:  Take that back this instant!

 

JG:  But no, it’s partly to do with geography and location.

 

AP:  You should see Jack’s face.

 

JG:  Part of it has to do with geography and location. Growing up in Switzerland, I could translate German. We were in northern Switzerland. We were just in the heartland of arguably where the system came from.

 

GW:  Yeah. Just to put this in perspective, the reason that I do Italian martial arts primarily and I don’t do the German stuff professionally at all, is because I happen through accidents of education and where I’ve lived and whatnot, I happen to be okay with Italian and Spanish and French and I am not at all okay, with German, I don’t know German at all. If you happen to learn German as a kid, it does make sense to go for the German sources. So you get a pass on that one.

 

JG:  Yeah. So I mean, that’s a lot to do with it. And then I also enjoy a lot of the technical detail and variance. You have a lot more to work with, although I’m a very much a minimalist in that I think there’s an awful lot more to get from the Zettel. And most a lot of what you need to know is in the Zettel. The Glosses I see as kind of like they help explain it. There are a Gloss. But if you want to understand what Liechtenauer really believed in, it’s no more no less than the Zettel. I quite enjoy looking at that and coming from it. I’m also very interested in, and that’s one reason where the horses came in from, I’m very much focussed on using context to understand what is in the manual. I’m much more interested in using context as a data point than just comparing different Glosses for similarities in the text.

 

GW:  Can you give me an example of that?

 

JG:  Well, for example, if you started doing Rossfechten work, you start to see why there might be such a focus in Liechtenauer on, generally speaking, single time actions, cuts that turn into thrusts and Blossfechten in specific. Because there’s a few interesting things about the context of Southern Germany in the late 14th century, early 15th century. For one thing, if you’re a professional fencing master, there’s two large, prestigious, wealthy areas you can teach to. And generally speaking, high performers will try and go where the money is. So if you’re following the money, the two main clientele are upper and minor nobility whose entire identity and professional lives is built around acting as basically commando forces on horseback, operating in small groups. Or your main clientele is the upper merchant class in the free cities who, in order to maintain their freedom from these upper nobility, are learning to fulfil these cavalry duties, acting as commandos in small groups on horseback. So the skill set is the same. And you have these Konstaffe that are acting as knights because there’s a necessary military role that needs to be fulfilled for them to stay politically free. So either way, this is where the money is. And the other thing that is very specific about Southern Germany in this period is you have these cities and these areas that are very small and settled. And then you have large wilderness between them. You know, even if you go to modern Bavaria, it’s cultivated. But you’ve still got lots of forests, lots of hill country. So compared to Italy, you’re travelling much greater distances to engage. So it’s very clear from art that they’re not wearing as much armour on the march. Calvary is usually, unless they’re setting up an ambush and they know they’re going to be getting into a fight, often they’re wearing breastplate, sallet, a gorget and maybe gauntlets.

 

GW:  Right. That’s very lightly armoured indeed.

 

JG:  So and maybe gorget. The gorget is optional. Like if you look at the Beaufort manuscript and they’re operating in groups called Lances, which include one knight who has access to full armour yet is likely not wearing it, and three lightly armed professionals who are hired on. Two light lancers and one mountain crossbowman. So they don’t even have access to full armour. Breastplate, gorget, sallet, gauntlets are the max they will probably have. Maybe full chainmail. So if you’re doing that, it makes a lot of sense that you’re spending a lot of time on Blossfechten.

 

GW:  Jack, I just have to interrupt you. Because we have been asking this question for at least 25 years as to why there is so much unarmoured longsword stuff in Liechtenauer and also Fiore. And to date I think that is the best explanation I have ever heard.

 

JG:  It makes sense based on the sources and it makes sense based on my findings of how fighting works. If you start doing Rossfechten based on those principles, one thing that you will start doing is you will be spending a lot of time cutting to clear the blade and then finding an opening with the point on an exposed area. Winding works very well on horseback because on foot you have the problem of I’ve cut in, now how do I close distance? I take a step. Well, in that time I have a time to take a step, he can step back.

 

GW:  Yeah.

 

JG:  And he’s uncommitted in his movement, usually, unless I’m so committed in my forward movement while winding that there’s no way he can break distance fast enough. But you have to have a lot of discipline in your structure that you’re not leaning out over your body, you’re staying over your hips, and you’re just running like a motherfucker with your lower body. But on horseback, usually both opponents are committed to forward movement. So if you gain the central line and then turn it into a thrust, you will gain. You know, you’ll do it. And then you can either place a slice on the arm as a non-lethal blow. You can thrust at the body or you can turn it into a cut. And there you have your three wounders.

 

GW:  Can I just say you also have the first and second plays of the second Zogho Largo.

 

JG:  Yeah. One thing that I think is maybe different in the Italian context in general is I think the Italians are expecting a higher level of armour in general outside of a self-defence context.

 

AP:  Because you never know who’s your neighbour.

 

GW:  Italy was more densely populated.

 

JG:  Exactly. And you had larger professional armies moving around, you had a larger density of field battles much earlier. Field battles you know when and where, so you’re more likely to armour up. You’re going to be using different horse tactics because you can’t do long passes and use speed to protect yourself. If two formations crash together, it becomes like this blender. You need much closer, much different horse mechanics and riding going on. You also need heavier armour for you and the horse because you’re going to be taking way more damage because you can’t get away. You can also wear it because you’re not going to be travelling as far. I think there’s a little bit differences in context that the Italians are planning for. That’s why I’m way more interested in trying to piece together context with texts. For me, I don’t care how Ringeck compares to Jud Lew. I don’t know if they talk to each other. I don’t know if they have the same objectives. I don’t know what their comparative body types. I don’t know their students or the context their students were training for. So with that many variables, I feel very uncomfortable from a historical point of view, making assumptions based on the comparison of those datas.

 

GW:  Yeah. Okay. Now we need to get back to the horses just for a minute. Alessia, what do you wish everyone knew about horses riding before they came to your school?

 

AP:  Oh, Jesus. How much time you have?

 

GW:  Well, I have all day.

 

AP:  I’m joking. Right. Well, you know, before when we were talking about you wish that everybody that asked you for sword classes knew about riding. Yeah, because of body awareness. I wish that every of my student was an ex-dancer.

 

GW:  Okay.

 

AP:  So I’ve noticed, I mean you rode so you know yourself, as you ride, and I mean it’s the same thing with fencing. When your right hand is doing something your left hand is doing something else. Your right leg’s doing something. Your left leg’s doing something else. With the rider, it’s can you isolate each part of your body? Because it often happens that when I’m asking them, “Open to your right on the right rein.” They get all mixed up with their body. They can’t just open to the right rein and the rest of the body staying the same. They end up shifting everything and it’s can you isolate each part?

 

GW:  It’s funny because with swords, most of the time we’re trying to get people to connect their feet to their hands so that they’re striking with proper structure. But with riding, you have to be able to decide whether what you’re doing with your arm is going to affect what you’re doing with your hips and feet. But if you can’t separate it then the horse is going to get really confused when you start cutting with the sword, because you would be telling it to go left to right, go left, go right.

 

AP:  I’ve recently started with polocrosse because it’s brilliant. You still have a stick. You still are having horses going into each other. They’re still learning a job.

 

GW:  Could you just explain the game briefly for people who’ve never hear of it?

 

AP:  It’s kind of like soccer. You have a team, it’s three people. Each team you have a scorer, you have defenders, and you have this racket. It’s like a tennis racket, but you can scoop the ball and keep it in.

 

JG:  It’s a lacrosse racket.

 

AP:  Yeah. I suppose it’s pretty similar to Polo. I think it’s a bit more simple. And it you need a horse that is a bit more manoeuvrable than polo because the polo field is a lot bigger and the polocrosse field is smaller. So quick turns, just pretty much what you need for Rossfechten, right? Dialling up the energy, bringing it down. Same with working cows. So as you are going down to pick up your ball with your racket, your feet don’t need to give the wrong cues. And myself too, at the beginning, I leaned down to my right to grab the ball and somehow I gave the cue to my horse to turn right. So the horse turned right. Like, no, I needed to be straight here. And this links to the next part for me of what would I wish that my students knew before they came. It’s a little bit like staying humble and not think that it is the horse’s fault all the time.

 

GW:  Yeah. I mean, how can it be the horse’s fault?

 

AP:  It’s you. It’s not the horse. Yes, the horse turned when I leaned to my right. But I’m not going to say, oh, the horse did it wrong. I’m going to say, all right, let’s face this mirror. What did I do to give this horse these cues. How did the horse interpret what I did? How can I fix myself? If I can’t fix myself, I can fix someone else. Isn’t it right? I mean, I’m not a sword person, really, like I am around Jack. He’s a great teacher. He tried it hard with me. I’m not a good sword person.

 

JG:  She’s actually good.

 

GW:  I guess it depends on who you compare yourself to.

 

AP:  All right. So, yeah, it’s good to look at people that are not good so you can feel good about yourself. But sometimes I just hang out, you know, and I hear people when after tournaments or matches and how they’re blaming it on their opponent. The opponent wasn’t supposed to do that.

 

GW:  The opponent is supposed to hit you.

 

AP:  And for me, it’s the same thing with the horses when the people are coming to ride, they are like, he’s not turning left. And I’m like, well, then do something else.

 

GW:  Yeah. You’re not telling him to turn left. That’s why he’s not turning left. He’s a good horse, he’ll do as he’s told.

 

AP:  He didn’t parry. Well, deal with it, you know, and do something else. They attacked back. I don’t know, but maybe you can try and change your attack into a parry. I don’t know. In Italian there is a saying, you speak Italian, it says “Le vie del Signore sono infinite.” God’s roads are infinite. So there’s always a way to change it and to make it work, you need to stay humble and to work on yourself. So that’s the part like body coordination be able to isolate a movement or, like you were saying, putting together your body. If my hips turn, I’d like the shoulders to turn too. If I’m turning right with my hips. If I’m looking to my right, my shoulders should turn right. My right leg should go back and my left leg should go forward. Just because that’s easier to turn right if I do that.

 

GW:  Yeah.

 

AP:  Right. So put this together and if I say turn right, don’t do not turn left, please.

 

GW:  That’s funny because I thought you were going to say you would rather they knew absolutely nothing because most of what they would probably have learnt is probably wrong. That’s what I thought you going to say. You surprised me.

 

AP:  Some people come and they don’t know nothing. I had a couple of girls. They were pole dancers. I did 20 years ballet class, classic ballet myself. So they drill in since age three how to prepare your body for things. And those pole dancers I just put them on a horse and that’s an important one for me. They looked like they belong there. It’s important that when you are on a horse, you look like you belong there. You were born to be there because it’s the only it’s the only way I can see someone going on a horse and don’t look stupid. You look like you belong there. And you look good.

 

GW:  And the horse will feel that you belong there.

 

AP:  They look like they belong there. They are just naturally having the seat. And the second part that I was saying is be able to take a step back and face the reality that something went wrong and 99.9% of the time it was you and not the horse.

 

JG:  And even if it was the horse, the only person who’s there to do anything about it is you. You can’t send a sternly worded letter of complaint to the horse.

 

AP:  They’ll burn it. They won’t do anything about it.

 

GW:  You know what this reminds me of? Like when my kids were little. When they were very little, before you could actually reason with them about anything. Their behaviour was entirely and always directly in response to the environment they were put in. And you know, if they were pitching a fit because they were really tired or whatever, it’s because we as parents had failed to notice that they were getting tired and reduced stimulation and giving them a rest. Bad behaviour in little children is always the parents’ fault and I speak as a parent saying that. There would be some people listening who are like, oh no, no. As a parent, I would say with little tiny children, how they behave is entirely on you. And I think it’s the same with horses.

 

JG:  I mean, sometimes wording matters. I think there’s a difference between fault and responsibility. Even if the factors are external that cause it. Control of the factors and dealing with the factors is still someone’s responsibility. Unfortunately to come with 20 years’ ballet experience is not actionable advice.

 

GW:  Come with the right frame of mind is actionable advice.

 

JG:  To come with the right frame of mind. But I one thing I will say is mobility and range of motion. Just the fact even that, if you look at it numbers wise, that riding is a female dominated sport will indicate to you that it’s a high mobility discipline.

 

GW:  You know, when I was learning to ride many, many, many years ago, because my girlfriend’s mother had a Grand Prix level dressage horse, and my girlfriend and her mother taught me to ride this amazing horse. And when I would go to the stables, all the other riders that were absolutely just baffled by the way I would do like a ten minute physical, warm up thing, stretch my legs and everything so that I had the ranges of motion that I needed to do the riding. And they were they were really taken aback by that.

 

JG:  Yeah. I mean, for me, just seeing it like the fact of who has an easy time and who doesn’t. It’s very range of motion dependent because if you’re fighting your body to be in the positions you need to be in, it’s going to be tricky. And men have a little bit of trouble, sometimes, more with the hip mobility than women and men tend to be much more locked up, just in general.

 

GW:  And also during rising trot, men when learning to ride tend to sit on their testicles. And women do not have that problem. And I remember I was having this problem and I asked my girlfriend who was teaching me what to do about it. She had no idea. We went found a really good male rider. And I asked him and he said, yeah, the thing is, after a while, you just stop doing it. That was all the advice. And he was right. You know, after a while I learnt not to sit on my own nuts when I was doing rising trot and my riding got a lot better quite quickly.

 

JG:  Yeah, it’s just one of those one of those things. But yeah, I mean, but I’m seeing it more and more also with fencing, I think we all completely underestimate the mobility and range of motion needed for a lot of what we’re asking of our bodies when we’re fencing.

 

GW:  We’re asking modern people who spend most of that time sitting in front of a computer to do these things. Which is why I have a huge range of motion and general fitness curriculum thing so that my students can train out of these modern restricted movement patterns and actually have enough range of motion to do things we are trying to do. It’s essential.

 

JG:  Yeah, it’s essential. And I mean, you also have to be careful with how you do it. Because the first thing that I have to do with people generally is get their back moving as a flexible entity, rather than just this rectangle that is attached to the legs.

 

GW:  This is very true.

 

JG:  You know, because most people for most people, the lower back and upper back just basically fossilises is because it never is asked to do anything dynamically and support it. If you warm that up too quickly and mobilise it too quickly, you can get back pain.

 

GW:  All sorts of problems. Yeah.

 

JG:  Because the body doesn’t have the strength to over a period of time dynamically support and be mobile. So yeah, there’s just all these things. But lower body and hip mobility is a big deal for people starting riding. You’ll save yourself a lot of time if you’re willing to do a lot more stretching and stuff before you start riding. It’s not a prerequisite, but you’ll just go a lot faster.

 

GW:  Makes certain things easier.

 

JG:  And if you’re paying for riding time, and all you’re doing is basically stretching while bouncing on a horse, you’re not doing your pocketbook any favours, you know, so just do a little bit, do some stretching, get the right headspace. And the other thing I would suggest, if you’re coming to it just for the first few months, this is with people who are really dedicated and really want to get better faster. We either put them in a round pen or on the lunge and no reins and they just walk, trot, canter and gain a seat.

 

GW:  That’s how I was taught.

 

JG:  Yeah. And in the end, you move along the progression much faster. Because you’re not focussing on 16 different things. You’re focussing on two or three at a time. Some people who just go on first with reins end up learning to balance via the face of the horse, which will not make you any friends.

 

GW:  Of course, like you’re holding on to the reins. And just so you get your balance from like basically getting a nice bit of tension on the horse’s head and then you just hang back and it’ll keep you upright.

 

JG:  On a biological level, it’s hard to get your body not to do that because you’re a monkey.

 

GW:  Yeah, exactly. We hold on to stuff.

 

JG:  Also you get into the idea that, okay, I operate everything via my hands. So obviously riding is also a hand oriented activity, where it’s much more body. You know, you have to separate, but then you have to combine again, like you have to move your body as a unit sometimes to create the things, but you also need to be able to individually fix when you’re putting something out of alignment. It’s one of those things where, even in fencing, I find sometimes you have to teach people to separate. Sometimes you have to teach them to combine.

 

GW:  Very true. So what is the hardest thing about running your school?

 

AP:  Uh. Well, it’s just…

 

GW:  Money? That’d be my guess.

 

AP:  Of course. But it’s kind of like, uh, you know, these three things that spin plates.

 

GW:  Yeah.

 

AP:  Our business, if we want to call it that, is a bit like that. We have a lot of plates to spin and jiggle at the same time because we have to… I don’t know, Jack’s on set next week for a couple of days. And then he’s leaving for Finland.

 

JG:  Yeah, yeah. I’m doing a presentation on HEMA and game design for Ropecon.

 

GW:  Oh really. Yeah. I’ve done presentations where people like every year from I think 2002 to until 2015. So say hello to everyone there for me.

 

JG:  Will do.

 

AP:  And then he’s back and then we’re both filming the week after. And then in the meantime…

 

GW:  You have to look after the horses.

 

AP:  Yeah, we have 18 horses on the property.

 

GW:  18?

 

AP:  18.

 

GW:  That is a lot of shit to shovel.

 

AP:  We still look after all of the 18. So when you are on set, you leave around 4:30 in the morning, you leave the house at 4:30 in the morning and you’re not back until 8:00 in the evening.

 

GW:  Okay. So who does the horses?

 

AP:  We do it.

 

JG:  We just we get it done. You know, you have to figure it out.

 

AP:  Now it’s summer. So some of them are out in the field and you can just light up a little candle and say, don’t make an irresponsible decision. Don’t get hurt until this evening kind of thing. Yeah, but then there is that. And then we have two shows on the 13 and 14th of August. Another show on 21st of August. Then we’re up in Northern Ireland for four days for another film, and we’re taking three horses up and we have an outdoor show in Northern Ireland right after that. And still the horses to look after here, still the weekly students that come for horsemanship classes. Jack still has the clubs to run every Friday, you know. And there’s still a team to train to prepare for them for the show. And the day is 24 hours and you need to sleep some of them.

 

JG:  Yeah.

 

AP:  We are trying to buy some land for the two of us to put some horses on. So there is like that part. And then there is the paperwork, you know, and like just daily stuff. Insurances, cars that break, whatever, you know, that lame horse, bring them to the vet, whatever. And so it’s about move forward all the projects and be able to not let everything fall behind and still have a life.

 

JG:  Yeah. Yeah. And then there’s also staying competitive in the increasingly competitive HEMA scene.

 

AP:  Yeah, I have to travel for myself to learn more horsemanship because yeah, I teach it. But I need to make the space for myself to fill up my own cup where I can learn more so I can teach more after.

 

GW:  Absolutely. That’s one of the hardest things I find about staying good at my job.

 

AP:  You need to make space for yourself through the year and say, no, I’m sorry, on that week I am going to go and learn there.

 

GW:  You have to be ruthless about carving out that time, otherwise it just gets sucked up with admin, and in your case, shovelling horse shit.

 

AP:  That is one of the hardest things I’d say.

 

GW:  Yeah, I’d say so. So I maybe I shouldn’t ask my next question, but regular listeners will be expecting it, so I’ll float it anyway. You’ve clearly acted on one great idea already, starting your school, but what is the best idea you haven’t acted on yet?

 

JG:  Doing less, doing fewer things.

 

GW:  Yeah, that’s not a bad idea. So what would you cut?

 

JG:  Nothing. That’s why we haven’t done it yet.

 

AP:  I actually have more projects and this.

 

JG:  On top of this, there’s game design projects that I’ve still have to do, finish about a bunch of edits on the new rulebook and stuff like that. So no, there’s a lot of shit that’s going on that we’re working on. But honestly, if I knew what my best idea that I haven’t acted on is, I would have already acted on it.

 

GW:  Yeah, fair enough.

 

AP:  We have a couple of things in there in the in the making.

 

JG:  Probably the best idea that I haven’t acted on is buy the right lottery ticket.

 

GW:  Yeah. Well, yeah, that’s tricky. That’s like, you know, my best idea would be go back to 1990, borrow a bunch of money and buy Apple and Amazon stock.

 

JG:  You know.

 

GW:  Yeah. That’s not terribly practical, but I guess it would be handy to have a shitload of money. Actually, my next question is somebody gives you €1,000,000 or whatever to spend improving historical martial arts, including horsemanship, if you wish, worldwide. How would you spend it?

 

AP:  First of all, I’ll never let my horses know I have that, because they’ll spend it.

 

GW:  Okay. Yes, they will.

 

AP:  They say, how do you become a millionaire with horses? And the same cowboys, they say start with 2 million, so.

 

JG:  Probably, practically, for me it would be probably focussing on more holistic youth programmes to get more or get younger groups into HEMA in a sensible way. But not just from the fencing aspect, but also bring up a new generation of researchers, interpreters.

 

GW:  Yeah, absolutely.

 

AP:  You know, they used to run this programme in the U.S.. It was in Texas and it was called A Legacy of Legends. So all the big guys would gather up on these dates and they would run this event. It was, I think, like three or four days. And they would run clinics and starting days and they would run all sorts of stuff that were like markets. And it was all like on the side of horsemanship and people would pay to go and see it. And I think it was pretty dear actually to go as a spectator, but because the money that they would make through this event was given for a scholarship for younger people that really want to go and learn the craft, but they can’t afford it. You know, like I was really lucky because Paul took me under his wing and I spent five years there at his place and I worked and in return for the knowledge that I got I just worked my arse off basically, and I was lucky enough that he took me under there because he made no money off of me. Okay, I trained horses. He kept the money from that. Or sometimes I was teaching classes and he was teaching me how to teach, which was really handy. Sometimes, you know yourself the thing, but you don’t know how to explain it to other people. But a lot of people don’t have they’re not so lucky. So travelling is expensive when you’re there somewhere learning, you’re not making the money right in that moment and the person is keeping you at their place is not making the money in that moment by teaching you. So that’s the one thing that I would like to see in the in the Rossfechten community is to have something similar where there are, I don’t know, five, ten people a year and they get a scholarship and they can travel and go to some mentors and stay there for a certain period of time a month, two, three, six months, whatever, depends on the funding. And the mentors get some money and something goes maybe in a little safe bank account when the student is out of the scholarship time has something in his pocket to start on his own business.

 

GW:  That is a very good idea.

 

AP:  I think it would really promote because I did have a few kids here. They loved this stuff. They were so driven. But the parents couldn’t afford it. It’s expensive. I know that horse riding is expensive.

 

GW:  My younger child did a little bit of horse riding for a bit. It’s complicated for us because my eldest is severely allergic to anything with hair, so horses, whatever. So we had this extraordinarily complicated procedure of getting our youngest to the stable and back. I mean, literally, she would have to, like, strip off, go around the side, strip off. Everything goes in the washing machine, she’d go and have a shower. And it was really complicated, but it was something of a relief when she lost interest because it wasn’t just, I mean, the hassle is fine. You do that for your kids. But it was not cheap.

 

AP:  So expensive.

 

GW:  Oh, my God. It’s cheaper than flying planes.

 

AP:  Okay, that’s a low bar.

 

GW:  Flying planes is somewhere around €200 an hour.

 

AP:  Depends which classes you get. But yeah, you can go €50 an hour no problem.

 

GW:  Let’s compare it was planes. Horses are cheap.

 

AP:  I have to charge those kind of money because I have to feed the horse, to keep the place. The insurance, all these stuff. So it’s an unfortunate thing. Money in this case, it’s an unfortunate thing. So having some scholarship and something for the people that can’t afford it, but they’re really driven. For me, it would be really cool. I love to just promote. I love to be able to teach the people that are into it and not even have to charge them. That would be fantastic.

 

GW:  My long term business goal is to be able to teach for free. I’m almost there with the books and online courses. Do you know, you could put together a Legacy of Legends event at your place and raise a shit ton of money, which goes to scholarships for people to come and train with you. You could do that. You could do that. And you know, if you had, like, historical fencing people come over and teach as well and make a big event of it. And people would pay money to go and pay money for classes and whatnot. And all the money goes into a fund that pays for people who can’t afford it to come train with you.

 

AP:  Yeah.

 

JG:  Oh, great. Another plate to spin!

 

GW:  We could do that.

 

AP:  We have nothing on our plate. Let’s do something else.

 

GW:  No, I don’t mean do it tomorrow.

 

AP:  But it will be a goal for, like, the next couple of years, though.

 

GW:  Yeah. Looking at it from a business perspective, if the event raises, say, €10,000, which is not unreasonable, and you’ll have some expenses for running it, maybe a couple of thousand euros, perhaps. And so you’ve got a pot of €8,000 in your business that wasn’t there before. And your commitment there, that money is basically paying for you, you say €50 an hour is what you’re charging, is that 160 hours of instruction paid for?

 

AP:  I’d say so.

 

GW:  If my maths is right. So then you have students who couldn’t afford to come, maybe pick one or two, and you give them 160 hours of free instruction. And if they are training with you for maybe know 3 hours a week or something. And by the next year,

 

AP:   You know, they would they live with us because that’s what I did at Paul’s.

 

GW:  That’s the best way.

 

AP:  You are there with the person you really breathe it. It’s just part of you. You don’t come and go. You stay. I was there in Arizona. I had no car. I had nothing. For 90 days I was there and that was it.

 

GW:  Yeah. Fantastic. I’ve done that. You know, students when I was living in Finland, students would come and they would live in my salle for months. And it was great. I’d train them and they would do stuff and then it was a really good way to get immersed.

 

AP:  Good. A new generation, I think of like I call them kids, but like between like 15 to 17 or 18 years old. That’s where I would go for.

 

GW:  Yeah. Okay.

 

AP:  Plus they can help me cleaning stalls.

 

GW:  Well, exactly. Because you got someone to shovel shit when you go off to some event. Well, no, but it is subsidised labour at least.

 

AP:   Yeah, it’s a trade. I did that too myself, you know.

 

GW:  Exactly. Yeah, I think this is a really good idea.

 

AP:  So that’s probably what I would do with a million.

 

GW:  Okay. But the given that the million is imaginary money that you can’t actually spend, I think that actually the best idea you haven’t acted on yet is to run a Legacy of Legends event in your thing so that you generate a pot of money that you can use to subsidise people coming to train with you for free. So, yes, I think we should do it.

 

JG:  Okay. Well stay in contact, we’ll see what happens. First of all, we need to get our own place set up.

 

GW:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. No pressure. Thank you both very much for joining me today. It’s been a delight talking to you.

 

AP:  No problem. Thanks for inviting us.

 

JG:  Enjoyed it.

 

AP:  It was lovely.