10 AUGUST 1907, Page 16



SIR,—Your well-known interest in questions concerning the efficiency of our national forces induces me to address you on a matter I believe to be deserving of consideration. We have long been accustomed to changes in the organisation and equipment of our Army, and even buttons and other trifles have been seriously discussed and remodelled in accordance with the ideas prevailing at the time. An encouraging feature, however, in recent changes has been their adoption with a view to increased efficiency, and they are in marked contrast with the "eye-wash" alterations which were the panacea of the former generation. But though the primary importance of efficiency in the field is now recognised, it is surprising that one desirable step in this direction should still remain untaken. We know that raw recruits can be transformed into good infantry after a few months' training. But it is otherwise with the mounted branches owing to the long time it takes to teach a man to ride ; hence it is said that a mounted soldier cannot be improvised. It seems to me, however, that the great difficulty in the way of making a recruit into an efficient rider lies in the method we adopt. It has been the practice from the times of the good old " spit-and-polish " days to polish the saddle till it shines like a mirror. Mounted corps pride themselves on the glitter of their saddlery, and the hapless recruits have to learn riding on these slippery contrivances, which, instead of being an aid to horsemanship, are really a serious handicap. This procedure is very similar to teaching a man to cliinb up a ladder by first setting him to learn to swarm up a greased pole. A recruit in his first lessons soon gets into the way of riding with a blanket on his horse ; but when he is promoted to the slippery saddle without stirrups his troubles begin, the confidence already acquired on the blanket is rudely dissipated, and only to be recovered after a long and tedious course of riding-school, including probably some croppers and injuries necessitating prolonged detention in hospital. Boer prisoners at one of their camps in India used to be greatly amused watching the recruits in the neighbouring riding-school " cutting cartwheels " when sent over the jumps mounted on saddles without stirrups.

Now I assert that a recruit can he made into an efficient horseman in a fraction of the time at present considered necessary if be is simply given a rough-leather saddle instead of the • usual slippery regulation article. _ Such a man may not be so finished a horseman as another trained under the present slow and laborious system; but he will be as good a rider as is required for an efficient mounted infantryman, and this is the main object desired ; for I maintain that it is most essential to be able to produce efficient mounted rifles in the shortest period practicable. Persons with Indian experience are aware that it is, so to speak, next to impossible to fall off the " eharjama," or Indian saddle, which is the antithesis of the polished saddle ; and many have observed the great aid a " sambur-skin " (rough-leather) saddle-cover affords in riding a horse that is difficult to sit. The rough-leather saddle would undoubtedly not look smart by the side of the regulation polished saddle, and possibly the former would cause increased wear and tear of riding-tog ; but this defect could be easily remedied, and I am firmly of opinion that the practical advantages of a rough-leather military saddle will be fully recognised if it is only given an unprejudiced and fair trial. Furthermore, I feel sure there must be many experienced officers who hold the same opinion.—I am, Sir, &c., A. M.