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Spread out over the brilliant greensward of the Piazza di Siena under ancient parasol pines, Rome's International Horse Show is one of the most beautiful sporting spectacles in the world. Like a great painting come to life, it has, in a rare combination, the mellow patina of tradition and the lively gloss of international society, the whole blended with the ebullience of Italy's effervescent spirit and the particular warmth of Rome's timeless, golden sun. In that incomparable light, horsemen, the very best of them from all over the world, wheel and trot and jump and gallop in intricate maneuvers in the first—and one of the greatest—of the season's international equestrian shows.
This year the Rome horse show will be held from April 24 to May 1, launching once again a round of events that will take horses and riders through most of the major cities of Europe in the summer months and many of them to the U.S. in the fall. The graceful Spaniards will be there, the Irish and the British on their rangy hunters, the French, elegant bearers of the Saumur Cavalry School tradition; and, of course, the Italians—and the Italians, this year, as for the past several years, can be summed up and symbolized in the persons of two men: the brothers Raimondo and Piero D'Inzeo.
The D'Inzeo brothers are the two best horsemen in Italy, and among the eight or 10 best in the world. They look so much alike that many think they are twins. Actually they were born two years apart. Both had the same sheltered and severely scheduled youth, both were trained early by their father, an awe-inspiring cavalry instructor, on the same difficult horses, over the same jumps. Now, in their early 30s, famous champions both, they ride as if they had never known each other. Their styles, their approach to horsemanship, to international competitions, to show jumping in general have gradually become fundamentally dissimilar. Their careers have sharply differed. "There is no sure recipe, in riding as in every art," said Piero recently. "The mastery of a perfect technique takes a lifetime, but mastery is merely sufficient to become good, even very good. It is not enough to become great. From excellence to greatness a man is alone. He must count on imponderables, his own instinctive resources, his character and his secret gifts. These are never the same for two people, not even for brothers."
Piero is considered by experts, but only by experts, to be the better rider. The famous Italian horsemen of the past, the gentlemen of 50 or 60 who competed in international horse shows before the war and have now, since they no longer ride, become more and more difficult to please, think Piero is the most complete and accomplished horseman ever produced in Italy, even better than they themselves were in their prime. Raimondo, on the other hand, wins more prizes and is the present World Champion, a title won at Aachen, Germany in July 1956.
Horsemanship is as important in Italy as modern painting is in Paris, and for approximately the same reasons. For many centuries the art of riding and the art of painting had changed little until the Italians developed what is known abroad as the "forward seat" and the French, impressionnisme. The Italian development was, for riding, no less revolutionary than was the French for painting. It was the creation of one man, Federico Caprilli, who at the end of the last century succeeded in formulating a style of riding that freed the horse from the unnatural strictures of its rider and allowed it, to a greater degree than ever before, to follow its natural style in jumping. The Caprilli-trained horse is no longer a performing animal doing difficult tricks under duress. While it is still in captivity and still carries a man on its back, it can nonetheless follow all the natural movements that would come to it spontaneously at liberty or at play.
Other horsemen, even Caprilli's fellow countrymen, were slow to adopt the new technique (Caprilli himself was killed in a fall in 1907), but after the interruption of World War I, in the early '20s, Italian cavalry schools developed a large group of younger officers trained in the Caprilli style. They were considered at the time the best in the world. Instructors from all over (including the United States) came to Pinerolo and to Tor di Quinto, the postgraduate school near Rome, to study. The forward seat conquered the world.
Like all new and successful schools, when the Founder's immediate influence begins to wane, the Italian riding technique degenerated. The crisis in the Italian riding school came just before World War II. Nobody worried about it at the time, as the crack regiments and all the best riders were sent to Russia. It was the last campaign in which cavalry could be thought useful. One regiment, the Savoy Cavalry, was probably the last in the long history of European warfare to charge the enemy. The officers rode at the head of their men, sword in hand, shouting the old cry of "Savoia! Savoia!" followed by the thunder of hoofs in a cloud of dust. The Russians sat tight and sprayed men and horses with machine gun bullets. The losses were terrific but useful. The counterattack had freed infantry units from a dangerous situation. With this episode and with the death of General Cigala Fulgosi in Croatia, the Italian cavalry had written the last glorious pages of its long history. After the armistice between the Allies and Italy, September 1943, the general and his men joined the Yugoslav partisans. He was captured. He was given a choice between being sentenced to death or betraying his country. He chose death. Facing the firing squad, he asked for one minute, pulled out his gloves and carefully put them on. Then he gave the order: "Fire!"
The postwar Italian army, like most other armies, eliminated all horses. A few decorative mounted units were kept for ceremonial use, the famous Carabinieri squadrons, a handful of policemen and the King's Guards of Corazzieri, who are now the President's. Everybody agreed that cavalry was dead. Everybody except one stubborn and modest man, a former noncommissioned officer, who held a different opinion, Carlo Costante D'Inzeo, father of Piero and Raimondo.
Carlo Costante D'Inzeo was born at the end of the last century in a remote village in the Abruzzi, Montecilfone, in the province of Campobasso, inhabited mainly by the descendants of the Albanians who emigrated there four centuries ago. In 1915, at the beginning of World War I, he volunteered and was sent to a cavalry regiment. He fought well and was decorated for bravery. He was good with horses. He loved and understood them. At the end, when peace came, he asked to re-enlist. He had found the life he liked. He became a sergeant, riding instructor in various regiments, then sergeant major, later chief instructor in Piemonte Reale, the Royal Piedmontese Dragoons, garrisoned in Rome, the smartest regiment of all. In 1926 he won the army riding championship. After that he was sent to Pinerolo to teach the finer points of the Caprilli method to cadets and younger officers. He could go no higher in the army.
When the government decided to create an athletic university, at La Farnesina in Rome, in which trainers for all sports could be instructed to teach in high schools and colleges, the army was asked to suggest a good man for the post of dean of the horse faculty. D'Inzeo was appointed. He set about to preserve and improve Caprilli's teachings; he taught, with passionate dedication, the management and care of horses in the stables, the breaking and training of colts but, above all, he tried to transmit to his pupils the traditional qualities of courtesy, fairness, discipline, self-control, cool-headedness and disregard for danger, which traditionally make a gentleman and without which, it is said, horses cannot be managed efficiently.