Interviewer : When was the first time Horse-ball was spoken about ?
Colonel: To begin with, the name Horse-ball is anglicised, when I was younger we spoke about it in French as "ballon Ã cheval", was to my knowledge invented by the military, as a pedagogical means to instruct the novice, because the issue facing the army at the time when it was a Conscript army, was in fact to transform a biped (a foot soldier) into a cavalry man in the shortest possible time. In this respect, Horse-ball is a fantastic means to achieve that goal, since the trainee is more concerned with his team, with the ball, with the goal, and thus stops thinking about the horse. He then gradually sits into the saddle, so instead of doing hours of tedious exercises, as we did in the past, and which were absolutely horrible, the same aim is achieved through a fun approach.
Interviewer: What are those pedagogical aspects which could be brought into today's equestrianism?
Colonel: As I said earlier, the trainee, the young rider, will forget his apprehension of climbing on to such a large animal, as we live in an environment which is more and more in cities, less and less rural;
We used to have horses all around us, as a means of transport, as working animals, these funny animals were even used to go to the war. Today, people have to learn everything about the animal. And I truly believe, this of course doesn't only concern horse-ball but also Polo, and games are an extraordinary way to teach people to ride. It seems also that Polo,(horse-ball) I played it myself many years ago, helps to develop a team spirit, it's tactical, it really is a team game. What's more it calls upon the horse's capacity to learn, and very quickly - at least so it seems from what we've seen here - the horse begins to play too. In all these respects horse-ball requires athletic abilities from both horse and rider. For example when you watch the horse get to the end of the pitch and lower his haunches, engage his hind quarters, so as to turn and go in the opposite direction; that is absolutely extraordinary. Or when the horse changes from one shoulder to another, when he plays changing from one leg to the other. That is, if the rider is in the least bit sensitive... that's what amuses me is to watch the game, the horses' balance, and to see the riders "with" their horses, because that's really what any form of riding is all about; the horse is the real athlete. So be it in racing, eventing, being "with" your horse is the main thing, not going against the horse. The additional dimension to horse-ball, or so it seems to me, is that the rider remains the main actor, as he is the brain,(or should be) so he has to make the horse comply to his requests and that's where things start to become amusing. That's where I, as a mere spectator, enjoy watching how they play with the horses, and how they remain "with" their horses, how they make the horses participate.
Interviewer: What do you think of the technical level of the game we've seen here during these European Championships?
Colonel: I don't really have the capacity to judge the technical side, as I played about thirty years ago - which doesn't make me any younger! - and I have to admit we had a lot fewer rules at that time.
So I think that if all these good rules have appeared, it's to avoid the game becoming violent and aggressive for the horses, the players and to make the game of better quality; I truly believe, from what I've seen that you have made the game into something which I adhere to, in terms of sportsmanship. Although it's physical - a man's sport, one might say - it's not violent or brutal. Thus, the horse's well-being is respected - without being a trade-unionist representing the cause of horses - I must say that I am pleased to see it. And it's pleasant to watch, after three or four days I'm beginning to notice the tactical side, that's the military side of me speaking, ah there's a group, ah they're trying to draw the defence to the side, that amuses me
Interviewer: Compared to other sports, do you consider that it's a genuine, serious sport?
Colonel: I've always considered it as a serious sport. A practical example, I would like to remind you that despite this rather austere uniform,... the stables of the School, dating back to when the Cadre Noir was under military rule, and there is still a plate outside those stables in the "Ecole de Cavalerie", they were called the" ManÃ¨ge and Polo stables", they could just as well have been called "Horse-ball stables" ,what I mean is there is no "Minor Sport" as opposed to "Noble Disciplines", and any idiot who says to the contrary, is precisely that: an imbecile who hasn't got any sense!
Would that mean that someone doing show jumping should be more respected than the poor guy doing dressage? That's absolutely unthinkable.
I would like to illustrate that once again with a little bit of history. For those who have a short memory I would like to remind you that Dressage is not in itself a goal, it is merely a means, and it appears that the exercises are to strengthen the horse and make him suppler, are a form of gymnastics to improve the horse's balance; balance that we have changed by climbing onto his back., as the horse doesn't have a collar bone, and that's how God made the horse. So when we climb onto the horse's back it means that the rib-cage moves downwards between the shoulder-blades, so through the centuries man has had to invent a series of movements, which have become presentation movements (in a dressage test) In short, the means has become a goal; that's what amuses me. In horse-ball, the same thing has happened; a pedagogical means has become an objective: a game, a game which has become a discipline, and a discipline which deserves to be recognised.
Interviewer: So, do you think that horse-ball will continue developing?
Colonel: Of course, that is fairly obvious, it can only go on expanding. At least as long as the Organisers (with a capital O), those who have the "power", make sure that it doesn't degenerate, and complies with the awareness which is budding, even within the FEI and on an international level, awareness of the horse's comfort and well-being. As long as the horse and rider's integrity is respected, horse-ball can only develop, and I might add should develop fast. One doesn't need to come from St Cyr (if you don't mind the reference) to see that horse-ball is bound to develop exponentially.
Interviewer: You don't like the name Horse-ball, what would you have called it?
Colonel: I would have preferred to see it called "Ballon Ã Cheval" or something like that. Not that I'm anti English or anything like that, but the way everything is "anglicised" annoys me somewhat.
Interviewer: How would you improve the sport for the future?
Colonel: Give me a bit of time to watch a little more. As I said earlier, I haven't played it myself for over thirty years and this week I've had a lot of time taken up by the Olympic disciplines. I have watched it though, but from too much of a distance to be able to form an opinion. Ask me the same question a couple of years on!
Interviewer: Thank you very much,
Colonel: Not at all, my pleasure.