17 NOVEMBER 1866, Page 19


Tun object of this little book is to show the good and bad points in the horse by a "series of graphic and descriptive illustrations." As a chapter of "hints to purchasers of horses" is added, we may assume that the work is intended as a guide for the inexperienced in horse-flesh. On the whole, we cannot recommend them to buy it. The pictures are not positively bad, though they are not first- rate, and a certain number of nseful hints are scattered up and down through the boa. But the author writes crudely, and the hints given are mostly such as require some knowledge to be applied. We regret this the more because we think there is great room for a good manual on horses. Mr. Youatt's interesting little handbook goes too much into questions of breeding and into the past history of the race. There are two admirable chapters in the Roving Englishman, but two chapters, however good, are of course inadequate to exhaust the subject. Mr. Miles's excellent treatise on shoeing, though so written that any tyro might underatand it, is kept out of general circulation by a title that only promises a professional book. What we really want is a manual for' menof limited fortunes, who wish in their small way to buy a good animal and to handle it well. No book knowledge can put any gentleman on a par with an average horse-breeder or veterinary surgeon. But a man has a better chance of being well served if he knows a little what points to look for in a horse, and what arrangements to make in his stable.

The first and most important point' is that the' purchaser should know his own mind. One horse differs from another in glory, and it will not often answer to buy at random, on -the speculation that a bargain will turn out serviceable. A man looking Oat- fOr a hack commonly knows that he ought not to purchase -a racer, though well bred beasts, disqualified by some fault for the turf, are sometimes to be seen in the shafts of a Hansom. Hitt the in- experienced are not equally aware that a hunter 'has several qualities that unfit him for the road or the park, being Apt to pull hard and have 'rough paces. It need scarcely be said' that a car- riage horse is not often pleasant for riding, thengh conversely it may be improved by it. Practically, therefore, a horse is not likely to do more than one thing well. This extends even to its paces. The high action of a good trotter is often aceompsnied by a slow, lather mincing walk ; bitt a horse that gallops well is pretty certain to cover ground rapidly in walking. We agree with "A Knovring Hand " that "a-man who is a tolerable horse- man had better choose a high-couraged horse." A badly bred horse may often be a strong, hardy animal, 'but it will knock up if it is pushed, while the thorough-bred will' go on till it drops. A thorough-bred ought not to be chosen for pounding along turn- pike roads, as its legs will not stand constant hammering. A cob had better be avoided, unless its history is known, natio horse

• The Horse, his Beauties and Weds. By A Knowing liand. London : W. Tegg.

more likely to be tricky. For several reasons it is better to buy a horse under seven years old. With such a oae a reliable guarantee of age can be procured, whereas the horses that are just aged, that is to say, just eight when they come into the market, occur in numbers that might baffle a Quetelet. Again, horses are so badly used and so overworked in England, that it is quite uncertain how much strength an eight or nine-year horse may retain. As a rule, no animal that has been hacked at such places as Brighton or Oxford ought to be bought. After a year or two of such work the mouth is generally spoiled and the sinews of the leg go. Some persons consider colour an indication of temper, and distrust a bright chestnut. We believe the rule is sound, but the exceptions are numerous. The ears and eyes of a horse, when it is first led out, when its mouth is handled, when a whip is shaken near it, and when it is backed, are much better criteria of anger, no leas than of fear, and are easily recognized. Irish horses, excellent as fencers, are apt to be of difficult temper. A horse sometimes overhangs its fore legs, so to speak. This is a dangerous fault, as the centre of gravity being too far forward, the beast is likely to stumble. A horse with its belly "tucked in," as it is called, that is to say, going up backwards, as in a griffin—a fault more common in carriage horses than in hacks—feeds and fattens badly, and will wear out rather sooner than another. Ladies and cockneys are a little apt to admire thin chested spindle-shanked horses. This of course is a mistake. A deep, broad chest is indis- pensable for wind, and a thin-boned leg will be easily knocked to pieces. We have mentioned only the points that an inex- perienced purchaser can remark for himself, and that do not enter into a warranty. As to positive vices or diseases, he can only guard against them by buying through a respectable veterinary or from an honest horse-dealer. We believe the common opinion about the especial rascality of the trade to be a mistaken one, and we would sooner buy ourselves from a dealer than from a private owner, who is apt to form a fancy estimate of his property, and is often ignorant of unsoundness or tricks.

Having got your good horse, the next point is to keep him. It is a curious and at first sight a rather disheartening fact, that with all our stable appliances, the English horse is more liable to disease, less capable of sustained work, and sooner aged, than the horse in the deserts of Arabia, among the bleak hills of Norway aud Iceland, or in the thirsty Australian bush. For instance, in each of the countries we have named roaring and thrush are com- paratively unknown, a journey of seventy or ninety miles in the day is not considered an extreme effort, and the average duration of working life is from two to seven years longer than in England, being least in Australia, where the horse is often roughly handled and overworked. The difference certainly does not lie in the breed, for the common Australian horse is a weedy, half-bred animal of English origin, while the Arabs have been quite driven off the turf in India by the Walers or Australian racers. But we in England labour under heavy difficulties. The expense of keep- ing a horse is so great that it is taken into work young, and thus ages preitaturely. It is kept constantly in harness for the same reason, while in countries where pasturage is cheap a fresh horse is brought in from the run whenever the one in work shows signs of exhaustion. Above all, that villanous necessity of populous countries, the macadamized road, destroys the sinews of the legs or ruins the navicular nerve, the more surely and rapidly in proportion as the victim is wellbred and swift. These are difficulties which no science can overcome, and allowing for these, we have no reason to suppose that our care and skill in breeding have been thrown away. But there is still great room for improvement in stable manage- ment, and fortunately the revolution is already well advanced. The old system was to coop the horse up in a narrow box, to turn his head from the door that he might see nothing, to tie it up towards the rack in a position no horse in a field ever imitated,

and then to gorge the animal with as much solid food as he would swallow, giving him a pailful of water twice a day. Naturally, a nervous horse, unable to see round him or to move, contracted a habit of kicking at any sudden noise ; a fidgety horse took to crib-biting out of sheer ennui ; and one and all the horses under this system were feverish, and difficult to ride in crovfded streets.

A horse left to himself in a loose-box, will be found commonly to turn his head towards the light, that he may see what is going on.

If anything occurs to startle him, he will back, keeping his eye upon it, but not kicking. Being comparatively at large, he will scarcely ever bite his crib or eat his litter. If water be left by his side, he will drink it as he wants it, instead of overloading a naturally small stomach. The importance of cleanliness in a stable can hardly be over-rated. We have seen a bush horse deliberately leave the manger at which he was feeding, go outside

the stable to dung, and then hurry back to his corn. Some per- sons prefer sawdust as litter, on the ddlible grounds that the horse cannot eat it at night, and that the dung is more easily seen and removed. In a hot climate we have known sea-weed used, for the same reasons. Tan is the best litter of all for a horse that has. any tendency to thrush. As for the many evils that result. from bad shoeing, the subject would require a treatise, and none can be found better than the work of Mr. Miles. The two chief points to attend to are, that the shoe should fit well to the hoof, and should yet so fit as to allow it free play and growth. Country farriers will sometimes leave a projecting bar at either end, under which dirt collects or a stone wedges in,. and wrenches the shoe off. Generally, too, they secure the shoe with from seven to ten nails, five, or even three, being the right number. A shoe with too many nails is like a tight boot, and narrows and distorts the hoof, increasing the liability to stumble.

We have scarcely left ourselves space for any remarks on the of the horse. In fact the driver or rider, like the poet, is born, and not made. No doubt early training and long practice do a great deal, but they do not compensate want of nerve, a heavy hand, or a bad temper. Generally speaking, professionals, grooms, and jockeys, have the beat seats, and good lady riders the beat hands. No place better illustrates the defects of our actual system than Rotten Row. There a nervous or elderly gentleman may be seen riding a quiet, probably an aged horse, in front, while his groom is tugging for the bare life at a spirited hunter, that chafes at being kept back. The owner dares not mount his. best horse, hot and pampered from the stall, and the groom rides. by sheer force, because he has never been taught to trust to any- thing but pluck and strength. No one doubts that the pretty horse-breaker of Sir E. Landseer's famous picture would control nine horses out of ten in similar circumstances without visible effort. With equal results, the gentle system is the best for gentlemen, and few men of good feeling would care to emulate the success of the late Mr. Assheton Smith, whose habitual brutality was such that his favourite horse shook for fear when its master entered the stable. Time and temper will subdue any animal that an ordinary rider need care to mount. Of course a belting horse must be kept well in hand, a kicking horse may be disciplined with whip and spur, and a horse that rears had better be got rid of. But these, after all, are exceptional vices with the well broken animals which the class of men we are writing for should buy. Generally speaking, a horse that is well treated will be very patient with its owner, and bears a clumsy seat and a nagging hand in him as it would bear them in no one else. But it is as well to guard against these defects. The common idea that a saddle-horse can be saved from a fall by its rider pulling at the bit is now given up by many of our best horsemen. The man's seat is of real im- portance; and when the fall is an accomplished fact, it will no doubt. make adifference to the horse's knees, whether the rider is onits back or on its neck, butthe animal is only hampered and frightened when its mouth is suddenly wrung. Let a sceptic ask himself if a child with its arms round his neck could pull him up if he stumbled. The single apparent exception is, that when a horse is thoroughly jaded, it would sometimes fall without an effort to recover itsel1 if its attention were not stimulated. After all, Talleyrand's golden rule, " Surtout, point de zele," will apply to the horseman almost as much as to the diplomatist.