Wednesday, August 3, 2016

16th century dressage trivia: Sweat scrapers

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I've been researching dressage in the 16th century. Currently I'm reading (and in some cases, attempting to translate) all the books I can get my hands on. There are probably fewer than 20 surviving books on horsemanship that were written before 1600, so I have hope that someday I'll get through them all. Unfortunately, the majority of them are in Italian, Spanish, or German, so it may take me a really long time (every try to read medival German in Gothic font? It makes for massive headaches). Luckily a few were translated into English, and that's what I've been focused on thusfar.

Every so often, I come across a particularly interesting bit of information that seems worth sharing, so I've decided to start a series of posts on random bits of trivia. The first installment has to do with sweat scrapers.

Did you ever wonder how sweat scrapers got their current form - a long, curved metal "blade"? (Ok, if you're fancy you probably have a rubber one with a handle... I'm talking about the plain aluminum ones.) It turns out that the first sweat scrapers were swords!
"You shall ever when he hath ridden and cometh in much sweating, presently have him into the Stable, and first rub him down with clean wisps. Then taking off his Saddle, with a Sword-blade whose edge is dulled, you shall stroke his neck and body clean over, leaving no sweat nor filth that can be gotten out..." (Markham p. 21)  
So if you ever lose your sweat scraper, just get out that trusty dulled sword you've got laying around. It'll work just fine!

Markham, Gervase. A Discourse of Horsemanship. London, 1593. (Leaflet of 1656 reprint shown)

38 comments:

  1. Lacking a sword, I have found that a dressage whip, skillfully wielded, makes a useful sweat scraper. And having been born after the introduction of the combine harvester, I never did learn to make a proper wisp.

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    1. I need to find a reference for a proper wisp. I know what they are in theory, but never seen/used one in reality!

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  2. Interesting! I am enjoying these posts.

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  3. Replies
    1. For all those dull swords you just have laying around...

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  4. of course!! How very practical of them! My barn buddy uses a long shoe horn she got at the dollar store...

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    1. I suppose a shoe horn is kind of like a dull sword?

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  5. ugh, I don't even like THINKING about scraping my horse with a sword (but I suppose if that's all you got back in 16th century Europe...)

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    1. A DULL sword. I think that's important ;)

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  6. Lol. Yes, I have read archaic German in a gothic font. Gotta say, it's a bit easier than the archaic German in a copy of a hand copy of a medieval nun's handwriting. But only slightly.

    I think if I still had to use a sword to scrape the dirt off my horse after a ride, I might have actually killed him a long time ago!

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    1. You make a good point about the ease of horse murder if a sword is easily available...

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  7. Ah! Now I know what I can do with all those dull swords I have laying around.

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    1. I know you're surprised, but we have a few. However, hubby would kill me if I used them as sweat scrapers!

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  8. That's both fascinating and entertaining!

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    1. It's interesting where stuff comes from!

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  9. "So if you ever lose your sweat scraper, just get out that trusty dulled sword you've got laying around. It'll work just fine!" Best piece of advice I've ever received

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  10. With the herd I have right now, surely somebody will end up being skewered by a dull sword blade. Whether that will be me or the horses, well that's up to your imagination...

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    1. Yeah, it's best to keep any sharp pointy objects far, far away from you and your crew. FAR away.

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  11. You mean you *don't* just happen to have a dull sword lying around?!?

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  12. This is amazing! My younger brother used to collect swords... wonder if he still has any of them

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    1. I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you borrowed a few for sweat scrapers...

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  13. Brilliant! I knew I kept my dull sword around for a reason.

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    1. Yeah, you gotta keep one handy for self defense!

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  14. Super cool post! Guess I better add a dull sword to my wishlist :P

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  15. Cool. I very much look forward to future installments of this series!

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    1. There are lots more where that one came from!

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  16. Ha! That's crazy, though it does make sense. I'm sure you've already got plenty of resources, but I do speak some Italian (it's rusty but there) if you ever need someone to bounce translations off of. Obviously my modern Italian probably doesn't line up exactly with 1600s Italian but thought I'd throw it out there.

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  17. Hey, a sword wouldn't break like those crappy plastic sweat scrapers. Just ordered two more.

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  18. I was going to guess a scythe. But then what self-respecting knight would ever deign to touch a lowly scythe...

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  19. So glad to know that old sword in the closet has a use... Just kidding, no swords in this home.

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