Treatise on Bits by Jehan de Feschal

The term “Bit-Fitting” did not exist at the end of the 15th century. However, riders were already concerned with finding the right bridles for their horses. Although the effectiveness of the action seemed to be much more important than the concern for the welfare of the animals, this was not absent, contrary to what one might think.

Jehan de Feschal’s manuscript (late 15th, early 16th century) contains no less than 160 colored drawings of different bit models, with captions in Gothic script difficult for our contemporary eyes to decipher. Presumably it served as a catalog for the squire or as a model for the blacksmith: each bit was forged to measure, taking into account the size of the tongue, the presence of canines, the height of the bars, the width of the jaw, etc. The dimensions of the bit legs have also been adjusted. “Toys” have been added to the barrel to help relax the jaw. Although these bits are far from the ones we use today, the truth is that the objective was still not to bruise the horse’s mouth: since Xenophon, many authors speak and recommend the “gentle hand”. Jehan de Feschal would surely be just as surprised if he had the chance to see the overflowing windows displaying bits models in today’s horse riding supply stores.

More than three and a half centuries later, the volume reappeared in 1837 in the fabulous Huzard library, and then passed into the collection of Baron de Curnieu, professor at the Le Pin stud school and later director general of studs. It entered public collections in 1986.

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The Manuscript of Jehan de Feschal

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