An air of anticipation is descending on Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire as they prepare to welcome a special group of European horses and riders… Les Ecuyers de Historie is France’s leading historical equestrian interpretation group and English Heritage is delighted to introduce them to the iconic Riding House for their own unique displays of ‘Cavalier Horsemanship’ as they take over the displays on 12 and 13 July.
The work of William Cavendish and his contribution to the development of dressage is well known in France – developing as he did many of the techniques of the great Antoine De Pluvinel, Riding Master to the French King Louis XIII. The team, based in Northern France, will be bringing their own magnificent horses with them to England to demonstrate “Haute Ecole” (High School) movements. They also promise some Gallic flair to the performance!
Last year marked the welcome return for horses to the Riding House for the first time in over three centuries, with events full to capacity each weekend. Visitors continue to be wowed by the breathtaking and intricate displays of circles, turns and leaps introduced to England in the 17th century by dashing playboy, poet and royal horse master William Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle.
Throughout the summer weekends, three daily displays offer visitors the chance to witness expert horsemen in flamboyant 17th century costume, complete with feathers in their hats, put horses through their paces to baroque music in the spectacular surroundings of the Riding School at Bolsover Castle in tribute to Cavendish.
Cavendish used kinder training techniques than his contemporaries to perfect the complex art of dressage including leaps or ‘airs above the ground’ – the pinnacle of the dance-like moves which were once deployed on the field of battle to out-manoeuvre the enemy.
Once riding master to the future King Charles II, Cavendish was obsessed with horses and horsemanship from a young age. A man of many talents, from poetry to politics, he turned his hand to architecture, designing the castle’s Riding House to pursue his passion. The Riding House remains the finest example of this type of building. Today, just four schools of classical dressage remain in the world and Bolsover Castle is the only place in the country to stage regular performances of this spectacular art.
Entrance to the displays are for a small extra charge (£2 adult, £1 members and children) continuing until the end of September (except August Bank Holiday weekend) and it is advised to pre-book ahead of your visit.
Bolsover Castle’s equine heritage and the contribution made by William Cavendish to the modern art of dressage, is explained in the new interactive exhibition in the Riding House stables. Also, at this unique Derbyshire attraction, just minutes from the M1, is the chance to rediscover what Bolsover meant to Cavendish and his contemporaries through new furnishings and interpretation, and visitors this year can be among the first to experience the restored and repaired walled Fountain Garden, which, for the first time in almost 250 years, features the opportunity to stroll along the high-level wall walk giving a new perspective over the garden and surrounding countryside. Plus, a fantastically fun children’s play area is now open!