New French translation of
«Das Gymnasium des Pferdes», Potsdam 1886
to be published as:
«Le gymnase du cheval»
(working title)
in collaboration with Patrice Franchet d'Espèrey, Ecuyer at the Cadre noir, Saumur
(with grant support from the French Ministère de la culture)
Spring 2011

    «Le gymnase du cheval», the French version of Gustav Steinbrecht's book, universally acclaimed as the "Bible" of German riding, has been available since 1935. A highly regarded translation by Edouard Dupont, an eminent écuyer and linguist, it has been the principle source of information and insight for French-reading riders about what undeniably has become, especially in the years since the publication of the French version,  the transnationally dominant "school" in modern riding.

    But a careful juxtaposition of the original and the French text, backed by a thorough  understanding of the distinct cultural and intellectual "worldviews" which undergird both of these authors' outlooks, shows that much in Dupont's rendering of «Das Gymnasium» subtly - but significantly - misses the meaning of the original author. The Steinbrecht one encounters in «Le gymnase» is, simply stated, too French or, alternatively, not clearly German enough.

    It is therefore not surprising that readers of the existing (though since long out-of-print) French version "come away" from reading Dupont/Steinbrecht with a not entirely correct understanding of "German" riding, i.e. such as authoritatively expounded by the great classic Steinbrecht in the original. Even N. Oliveira and M. Henriquet, for instance, have in  recent years stated that - to paraphrase - "there is a profound similarity between Steinbrecht and Baucher", an affirmation which for readers capable to knowledgeably compare versions of Steinbrecht in different languages (including, if possible, the original) is of doubtful validity. Jean-Claude Racinet, for instance, has shown, with the French and the English versions in hand, that such an affirmation can hardly be sustained and points out in his elaborate analysis that even the great Decarpentry (who was the instigator of Dupont's work) fell prey to this ill-founded conclusion.

    Such "distortions" in intercultural communication are obviously nothing new in the field of equestrian literature. All translations known to me,  including La GuérinièreBaucher, Faverot, Decarpentry, Oliveira etc., when juxtaposed with their originals, bear the mark of the immense difficulty the task of translation - an undertaking going far beyond technicalities - faces. And because few have been, and still are, the riders who can and do "verify", the large majority of reading riders absorbing translated classic works have received, and receive, knowingly or not, interpretations of "other riding". That their understanding of the "other" approach therefore always, to a greater or lesser degree, risks to be a misunderstanding and that their attempts to "integrate" the "others' " ways of doing into their practice  often leads to inconsistencies, difficulties, and aporias (and "lack of success" despite enthusiastic acceptance, or rejection "because it doesn't make sense") is thereby easily conceivable.

    A new translation of Steinbrecht into French therefore is of urgency. This both in the interest of French riders who wish to properly understand the doctrine of "German" riding so as to master that manner which has become the prime "school" in much of modern competitive equestrianism, and in the interest of those riders who, because they wish to not follow this approach but rather cultivate their (whether "native" or not) "Latin" orientation, want to clearly understand that which they wish to distance themselves from. In both cases, it is of paramount importance that the reader have access to a "radically" clear (i.e. clarifying the roots) text of what Master Steinbrecht so brilliantly (and, in German, absolutely clearly and unambiguously) presents. Needless to say, to learn about the "others" without the material being "a vision through one's own lens" also sharpens one's perception of the very identity of one's own equestrian culture.

    To minimize the risk of "mirror distortions" in this new translation, I shall collaborate in this undertaking with Patrice Franchet d'Espèrey, Ecuyer at the Cadre noir, Saumur, and renowned author of numerous books. We are confident that a lucid version, clearly expressing  in French the culture-specific particularities of Steinbrecht without deforming them, will contribute to removing the ungroundedly "over-positive" acceptance of "German", or the unnecessarily "self-negative" rejection of "Latin", riding among French riders. As "German" riders increasingly struggle to come to terms with "French" riding, free of prejudicial deformations, so also "French" riders need to have the tools for accessing the "German" equestrian approach with all clarity. The orientation which an individual chooses ought not to be based on myths anymore, because as the past shows the progress of equestrianism is thereby not furthered. We consider a new translation of Steinbrecht into French a contribution to freeing Riding yet a little more of the consequences of what remains of obsolete nationalisms and to having the world of horses and riding come still closer to the objective of "Enlightenment".

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