The Kikkuli Method of Horse Training (Equestrian / Sports)
by Dr A. Nyland
A 3000 year old fitness program for horses offers modern trainers the opportunity to improve horses' fitness while keeping them sound and happy. The program was named after its creator, the Mitannian Master Horse Trainer Kikkuli, whose horse conditioning techniques helped establish a military empire in around 1345 BC. By following the instructions laid down in the Kikkuli Text, you will be able to produce a superb equine athlete without the use of drugs or expensive feed additives.
The Kikkuli Text, a horse training text dating to c. 1345 B.C., played a major role in the development of the powerful Hittite Empire in the ancient Near East. Prior to this time, Hittite horses had not been used in great numbers, nor to any great advantage, in warfare. Up to this time the Hittites only had farm horses. However, on the accession of the Hittite King Suppiluliuma, the Hittites purchased vast numbers of Arabian horses and to provide instruction in their training acquired the services of Kikkuli, a master horse trainer from the land of Mitanni.
The Mitannians were acknowledged leaders in horse training, and as a result of the horse training techniques learned from Kikkuli, Hittite charioteers forged an empire of the area which is now Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Northern Iraq.
Kikkuli trained the Hittite war horses and had his horse training regime recorded upon four clay tablets known today as the Kikkuli Text.
Surprisingly, the Kikkuli Text used 'interval training' techniques similar to those used so successfully by Three Day Eventers, Endurance riders and others today and whose principles have only been studied by equine sports medicine researchers in the past 20 years. The Kikkuli program involved state of the art sportsmedicine techniques such as the principle of progression, peak loading systems, electrolyte replacement theory, fartlek training, intervals and repetitions and was directed at horses with a high proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Thus it was an amazing system of horse training developed 3,300 years ago without any scientific backup.
In 1991, then doctoral student Ann Nyland - an Arabian breeder and endurance competitor - translated the Kikkuli Text from Hittite cuneiform into English.
On June 1991, Ann started a replication of the Kikkuli Text regime with ten Arabian horses, the breed used by the Hittites. The training program set down by Kikkuli lasts for seven months and was followed precisely.
- Dr A. Nyland, December 2011
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