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Kikkuli, the Horse Whisperer

"Thus speaks Kikkuli, master horse trainer of the land of the Mitanni."

Kikkuli, the ancient horse-master developed the first recorded plan for training and caring for horses. Many of Kikkuli's training methods are still considered sound and, in their time, they allowed the Hittites to become a mighty power rivaling Egypt.

Suppililiuma yearned for Hittite supremacy, leading to his acquisition of a large number of horses and the services of a leading Mitannian horse-master, Kikkuli. His training program produced superb horses for the Hittites. His methods were preserved on four clay, cuneiform tablets known as The Kikkuli Text.

Kikkuli used “interval” training, and stressed the leading of horses (from chariots) at a trot, canter and gallop, before subjecting them to the weight bearing stress of a rider or driver. The text detailed a seven month training regime. Rest days were scheduled, but workouts sometimes numbered three a day.

Kikkuli’s interval training contained three stages – the first two for developing strong legs and a strong cardio-muscular system, and the third for increasing neuromuscular conditioning. His workouts included brief recoveries to lower the heart rate. Swimming was also included in intervals of three to five sessions, with rest periods after each session.

So begins his manual for training war horses.EndFragment


Day 2. Pace one league, run two furlongs (furlong = 1/8 mile). Feed two handfuls grass, one of clover, and four handfuls barley. Graze all night.

Day 3. Pace two and one half leagues (Hittite league = three miles), run two furlongs out. Run three furlongs, pace half a league home. Green grass at midday, followed by watering. Pace one league in evening. Feed grass and straw at night.

Day 4. Pace two leagues in morning, one at night. No water all day. Grass at night.

Day 5. Pace two leagues, run twenty furlongs out and thirty furlongs home. Put rugs on. After sweating, give one pail of salted water and one pail of malt-water. Take to river and wash down. Swim horses. Take to stable and give further pail of malted water and pail of salted water. Wash and swim again. Feed at night one bushel boiled with chaff.

Day 6. Wash five times in morning, graze in afternoon and wash once. Repeat for four days.

Day 12. Keep in stable all day. Feed only grain and cut grass. Repeat for 10 days.

Day 23. Wash in warm water. Feed grass. Repeat for seven days.

Day 31. Same for three days…

Day 34. Picketed outside stable all day without feed or water. Race three furlongs in evening, graze all night. Repeat three days.

Day 38. Swim morning, then pace two leagues. No day feed or water. Evening, pace nine furlongs. Night feed grass and straw. Repeat nine days.


Day 48. Stand up all day. One handful of grass mid-day. Evening, pace half a league. Water and grass at night.

Day 49. Pace half a league. Swim.

Day 50. Pace three leagues, run two furlongs. Grass at night.

Day 60. Pace nine furlongs, run (?) furlongs. Grass at night. Repeat nine times

Day 61. Pace seventeen furlongs, morning. Pace seventeen furlongs, run two furlongs, evening.

Day 62. Pace seventeen furlongs, run two furlongs. Wash, swim three times. Feed bushel boiled barley with chaff. Grass at night.

Day 63. Pace four leagues, run two furlongs. Repeat nine days. Bathe in hot water on fifth evening.

Day 73. Two handfuls of barley after morning work, with chaff. Pace half a league, run two furlongs, evening.

Day 74. Pace half a league, morning. Pace seventeen furlongs, evening, run three furlongs.

Day 75. Pace seventeen furlongs, run three furlongs. Wash, swim five times, feed grass after every other swim. Boiled grain with chaff at night.

English translation by Anthony Dent from the French translation of the original by B. Hrozy

Kikkuli, the Horse Whisperer

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