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Someone Named Kikkuli Was the First Horse Trainer

Or at least the first one who wrote things down.

Around approximately 1345 BCE, Kikkuli, a Hittite horse master, developed the first recorded plan for interval training and caring for horses. With Kikkuli’s horses, Hittite charioteers forged an empire covering what is now Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and northern Iraq and rivaled that of the better known Egyptians. The equestrian training manual was preserved on four clay, cuneiform tablets known as The Kikkuli Text excavated by Hugo Winckler in Boghaz-Koy, in Central Anatolia, in 1906.

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It begins, “Thus speaks Kikkuli, master horse trainer of the land of Mitanni” and focused on three areas – strong legs, a strong cardio-muscular system and neuromuscular conditioning.

Here’s a sample of the text as translated by Anthony Dent from the French translation of the original by B. Hrozy:

Day 2. Pace one league, run two furlongs (furlong = 1/8 mile). Feed two handfuls grass, one of clover, and four handfuls barley. Graze all night.

Day 3. Pace two and one half leagues (Hittite league = three miles), run two furlongs out. Run three furlongs, pace half a league home. Green grass at midday, followed by watering. Pace one league in evening. Feed grass and straw at night.

Day 4. Pace two leagues in morning, one at night. No water all day. Grass at night.

Day 5. Pace two leagues, run twenty furlongs out and thirty furlongs home. Put rugs on. After sweating, give one pail of salted water and one pail of malt-water. Take to river and wash down. Swim horses. Take to stable and give further pail of malted water and pail of salted water. Wash and swim again. Feed at night one bushel boiled with chaff.

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Day 6. Wash five times in morning, graze in afternoon and wash once. Repeat for four days.

Day 12. Keep in stable all day. Feed only grain and cut grass. Repeat for 10 days.

Day 23. Wash in warm water. Feed grass. Repeat for seven days.

Day 31. Same for three days…

Day 34. Picketed outside stable all day without feed or water. Race three furlongs in evening, graze all night. Repeat three days.

Day 38. Swim morning, then pace two leagues. No day feed or water. Evening, pace nine furlongs. Night feed grass and straw. Repeat nine days.

Day 48. Stand up all day. One handful of grass mid-day. Evening, pace half a league. Water and grass at night.

Day 49. Pace half a league. Swim.

Day 50. Pace three leagues, run two furlongs. Grass at night.

Day 60. Pace nine furlongs, run (?) furlongs. Grass at night. Repeat nine times

Day 61. Pace seventeen furlongs, morning. Pace seventeen furlongs, run two furlongs, evening.

Day 62. Pace seventeen furlongs, run two furlongs. Wash, swim three times. Feed bushel boiled barley with chaff. Grass at night.

Day 63. Pace four leagues, run two furlongs. Repeat nine days. Bathe in hot water on fifth evening.

Day 73. Two handfuls of barley after morning work, with chaff. Pace half a league, run two furlongs, evening.

Day 74. Pace half a league, morning. Pace seventeen furlongs, evening, run three furlongs.

Day 75. Pace seventeen furlongs, run three furlongs. Wash, swim five times, feed grass after every other swim. Boiled grain with chaff at night.

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The training methods were utilized by Dr A. Nyland in 1991 during research for her book, The Kikkuli Method of Horse Training. She advocates, “A 3000 year old fitness program for horses offers modern trainers a way to improve horses’ fitness while keeping them sound and happy. By following the instructions in the Kikkuli Text, you will be able to produce a superb equine athlete.” On a side, I am loving this cover photo.  The book was published in 2009, but the image looks like something straight out of 1972.

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What do you think, Horse Nation? Are you willing to give it a try? Give me a shout in the comments!

Kikkuli Text sample courtesy of International Museum of the Horse. Photos courtesy of The Works of Chivalry. Further Reading.

Go Riding.

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