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.
April 28, 1957
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.
The best pupils he turned out were, naturally, his two sons. Piero was born on March 4, 1923 and was put on the saddle, in the Macao barracks in Rome, at the age of 8. Raimondo, born on February 8, 1925, was given his first lesson by his father at the age of 10. Piero took to riding immediately. Raimondo cried the first time. He was frightened by the big animal under him and by the unfamiliar motion. Carlo Costante slapped his face.
"Our life," reminisced Raimondo not long ago, "was different from that of other boys. We went to school in the morning, we rode in the afternoon, and we spent every evening doing our homework. All our days were the same, for years, as far back as I can remember. We never had time for frivolous amusements, friends, games, parties or movies. Papa was especially severe with us to show he played no favorites and to set a good example to other pupils."
Work, study, ride
But the brothers loved their riding lessons. The only punishment they feared was to be without them for a few days. For that they studied hard and almost always had good marks. The horses papa gave them to work on at La Farnesina were difficult, stubborn, unruly, unpredictable; horses other pupils did not want. Thus the brothers learned to ride all kinds of mounts with equal ease, automatically adjusting their behavior to each horse's particular character and mood.
In the late '30s the boys started competing in provincial horse shows for young people and won their first prizes. Then the war came. Piero was 17, a cadet at the military academy at Modena; Raimondo, 15, was finishing high school. When the armistice was signed with the Allies in September 1943, the King and his government retreated south, the Wehrmacht occupied the north, and the Italians started fighting the Germans to help liberate their country. Meanwhile the Fascists, around Mussolini, made a last stand. Piero made a dash south to join his father, his brother and the legal government. He left Modena with a few other cadets and all the horses they could ride and lead.
After a few days, crossing the Apennines, the boys had to abandon the horses, here and there, in the hands of farmers and continue on foot. The group had been too conspicuous. They had had a few encounters with German patrols and had already become a legend, a company of young horsemen riding over the countryside like knights of old.
At the same time Raimondo left school and joined a formation of partisans in the woods of Palestrina, near Rome. When Piero finally arrived home, after his long and adventurous walk, his father made him hide. The Germans were shipping all able-bodied men to the north in sealed freight cars. Piero's refuge was a cellar under a well-known hat shop, Radiconcini, on the Corso Umberto in Rome. The cellar communicated, through a century-old maze of underground galleries, with the cellars under the Spanish embassy in Piazza di Spagna. In an emergency, Piero could always claim the protection of extraterritoriality.
Back to the old love
In June of 1944 the Allies broke through the German lines at Cassino and finally arrived in Rome. Piero and Raimondo resumed their lives. Neither thought riding was to be his sole occupation. Piero went on with his military studies in the academy, which had been temporarily transferred to Lecce. Raimondo wanted to be an engineer and registered in the University of Rome. Raimondo explains: "I started going to classes six days a week and rode the seventh. Then I went to classes five days and rode two, then four days and rode three. It took me a few months to drop classes altogether and ride all the time. I don't think I would have made a good engineer."
Piero had no similar problems. Horsemanship was part of his curriculum and he also dedicated to it all his leisure hours.
When the time came, like all boys of his age, Raimondo, too, had to serve in the army. He joined the famous Savoy Regiment in Milano, the same that had charged in Russia. It was now a tank regiment, owned no horses and was called Gorizia. But for the sake of tradition, health and character building, the colonel allowed any officer who wanted to, to keep a horse and ride it in his free hours.
Raimondo, who lived on the miserable salary of a second lieutenant, bought a mare and all the saddlery on the installment plan. The horse was of vague German origin, not a great mount, Maya by name. He applied himself to instructing it as carefully as if it were an expensive Irish hunter. Maya became a good show jumper and won a few prizes with Raimondo in the saddle.
Raimondo always falls in love with his horses. He visits them in the stables, brings them sugar and talks to them. When he was officer of the day at the Savoy Regiment, or later with the Carabinieri squadrons in Rome, he always brought an armchair into the saddlery room, from which he could watch his horses, and spent hours looking at them. He sometimes stole oats from somebody else's horse to give to his own. "Horsemanship begins in the stables," he says. "It is extremely important to establish a personal relationship with your horse. It must know you. It must recognize your voice and your step. It must be happy to see you." When he has to sell a horse he speaks to no one for days and is in an angry mood. It is as if he were to part from a son.
Piero is different. He always rides horses he does not own or owns only in part, with no sentimental entanglements. He changes mounts as thoughtlessly as a racing driver changes cars. He pats his horse on the neck when riding and talks to it, of course, because these practices are part of the art, necessary to calm it and make it amenable and obedient. But he wastes no time mooning over it, otherwise.
Raimondo explains this difference between them by saying: "Piero is more military than I." By "military" he means self-controlled, disciplined, apparently feelingless. The difference is important. Raimondo's frequent visits to the stables, his difficulties in finding grooms as kind to his animals as he is, his motherly and fussy control of all details, obviously put the horses in a contented mood, make them like the presence of men and probably pay off in competition. His favorite animal, Merano, on which he won most of his victories and the world championship, recognizes and neighs at the sound of his wheezy old car when Raimondo enters the barracks courtyard. It neighs when he calls it from far away, a trick that astonishes visitors. It shows evident pleasure when Raimondo visits it in its box.
On the other hand, this unusual attachment for his horses complicates his life. The brothers' salaries are very small—the regular pay of army captains, between $150 and $200 a month. They make a little money on the side by training young and ignorant horses, bringing them to their best form, winning important prizes on them and then selling them. The difference between the starting price, that of an unknown and raw 4-year-old, and the final price, at which an international show champion can be sold, is very high. Merano, for instance, originally cost $600. It was sold to a rich gentleman for about $11,000. (It was bought back later by the organization responsible for horse shows and jumping competitions, the Federazione Italiana Sport Equestri, and entrusted again to Raimondo. He could not live without it.) Piero has no qualms. He starts training a small number of promising horses each year and sells an equal number of well-instructed jumpers at about the same time. Raimondo has the heartbreaking doubts of a sentimental slave owner in the Old South.
"I sometimes ask myself how honest is this horse trading," he says. "No horse can be better than its rider. It takes months and years of patient schooling to make it do the things it did in the show ring, and it did them because Piero or I was in the saddle. Selling such a horse to a wealthy amateur, who hasn't the experience, the time and the patience to go on with the necessary routine, is like selling a clock without its key. It runs for a certain time, but then, when it stops, there is no way of winding it up again."
When the time came to go back to civilian life Raimondo, like his father years before, could not bring himself to abandon the army. He remained, always as a reserve officer, first in the cavalry and later in the Carabinieri, who still maintain two squadrons in Rome in the traditional manner. They still have trained personnel to take care of the stables. Piero, of course, graduated from the military academy and became a regular officer. He is now stationed in Fara Sabina, the last remaining training center of the army, kept open for sporting reasons, where a handful of officers keep alive the art of horsemanship. Both brothers are captains. Both wear almost the same uniform, with different little badges on their caps. The only substantial difference between them is imposed by an old clause in army regulations. A reserve officer has to pay for oats and hay. A regular officer does not. This, plus his incapacity to part easily with horses, burdens Raimondo's budget.
The D'Inzeo brothers' job is to win international competitions. They work at nothing else. Both are married. Piero has two children, a 6-year-old boy, Giancarlo, and a 4-year-old girl, Antonella. Raimondo has one little daughter, Alessandra, who is 3 years old. They live the restrained, reserved and modest lives of impecunious army officers, in tiny Rome flats filled with silver cups and medals. They commute to Fara Sabina by car every day. Their manners are those of old-fashioned gentlemen. In civilian clothes they look like intellectuals and not like either officers or athletes. They are of slight build, pale, with the ascetic and concentrated expressions of concert artists or mathematicians. In spite of the glamour of their names, their pictures in the papers, and their popularity, they refuse all invitations to parties and avoid the rich and fashionable crowds and café society. "We never learned to have a good time," Piero explains. "Our youth was spent riding. We go on riding."
"Look at the eyes"
Their year is divided sharply into two halves. Autumn and winter are dedicated to training. This is the time they buy their new horses. Breeders bring them to Rome and offer them at favorable prices. Piero and Raimondo spend weeks looking over the possible candidates and consult with each other and their father. They look at the horse's build, its general structure, ride it to get the feel of its movements under them and try to understand its character. "I look at the eyes," says Raimondo, the more sentimental buyer. "You can tell a lot from the expression of the eyes." He chose Merano that way. "It was a horse like many others offered by its breeders, the brothers Giuseppe and Filippo Morese of Salerno. It caught my eye. It had something. I tried riding it and found it easy. I immediately felt a strange affection for it, and Merano showed that he liked me. It was love at first sight." All of Raimondo's horses, from then on, with only a few exceptions, were bred by the brothers Morese. (The only foreign horse he owns is an Irish hunter, The Quiet Man, which appeared in the movie of that name.) He finds the Morese horses, all products of the same Thoroughbred stallion, Ugolino da Siena, bred by Federico Tesio (SI, Dec. 10), best suited to his tastes and ideals. Perhaps it is just a superstition. Raimondo denies it. "I have no superstitions. I only have a few habits." Piero is more catholic in his tastes and coolheaded in his choices. Any good, sturdy, capable, willing horse will do for him.
Show riding in 1957 is infinitely more difficult than in the '30s, when the Caprilli method allowed Italian riders to defeat so many opponents. To begin with, all good horsemen have now mastered the same technique. There is no monopoly. Many have joined the so-called forward seat to whatever good points their national schools had developed in the past.
The real change is in the difficulty of the course. The obstacles have grown in height and complexity, from year to year, until now all competitors have to jump what only a few did years ago. The itineraries on the ring between obstacles have become more intricate and confusing. Often, after a difficult 6-foot hurdle, there is a sharp, right angle turn, and another jump only 10 feet away. The time element has become vital. In the past a good rider could often go over the course at leisure, taking great pains not to make mistakes, and win. He must now aim at the same perfection in half the number of seconds.
"Tight little moments"
All this has changed the style of riding, from the happy freedom of the post-Caprilli days to a more concentrated and controlled technique. Horses must be held back by the reins and nudged in the ribs at the same time, keeping them always "wound up," ready to spring forward at the slightest gesture. Old-fashioned systems of training have come again into fashion. Instant obedience must be taught at all costs. Raimondo adds one more requirement to a good horse show. The horse must be allowed enough freedom in training not to be too dependent on its rider. "There are moments, tight little moments, when a man can do nothing and must trust his horse. It must still remember how it reacted when free, to save itself," he says.
Piero has brought this new, postwar riding method to perfection. No other man, Italian or foreign, past or present, has or ever had his impeccable style. He does not always win. Sometimes he is too slow. Sometimes he gets into a tight spot and does not manage to pull himself out quickly enough. In reality, what interests him is not winning cups and titles but bringing the art of training and controlling horses to its ultimate artistic expression.
Raimondo, on the other hand, is a fighter. Once in the ring, he forgets everything in order to come in first, with no mistakes, in the shortest possible time. If the horse is slow to respond to his commands, he will tug the reins with vigor. If the horse is hesitant, he will use the whip and the spurs. Often his position is not, like his brother's, a model for horsemen. He does what he can. He wins. Papa D'Inzeo is proud of both of them.