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The next and most considerable draft from racing stock is that carried off by exportation; this affects our means of obtaining stallions to get hunters, because the better class of horses are selected—those that have run, have stood their work, and are of good size and sound. Amongst these borses which annually leave the country, are some equal to the best of those left behind. It may be excusable to point to some inconveniences (though the remedy is not so readily seen); because until the influences in operation are shown, the remedies cannot be instituted. Blood horses fit for country stallions are from the above causes much higher priced now than formerly, hence the scarcity of them amongst country stallion keepers. Some of the best blood stallions in England formerly travelled in Yorkshire, serving country mares at two guineas each, and the owners made a good business by the number of subscriptions obtained; an attempt should be made to open up this channel again. What are called tried stallions are not wanted for this purpose. There are always young blood horses in various localities, advertised to serve mares at ten guineas each, which do not pay their way; yet these, if properly appreciated in a breeding district, would get plenty of mares. Horses so employed have full as much chance to obtain some blood mares as if they were kept at more important centers, where those of established repute stay. Brutandorf was serving mares at two guineas each, in the East Riding, when one of his sons, "Physician," was the first young stallion of his day, and another, Hetman Platoff, one of the best horses in training. The owner of Brutandorf did his business well over a succession of seasons in the same district, and when the horse was about twenty years old he was sold to go to Russia, for nearly as many hundreds of pounds.
The wintering of mares and foals calls for little special notice in studs which are well provided with shelter and paddocks for exercise. Farmers, however, can only adopt such measures as are essential or least inconvenient, and although individually they may have only two or three mares, still on them we are dependent for the greater part of our general supply. In their case the farm-yard is commonly made the receptacle for stock indiscriminately, when the field affords neither food nor shelter.
There is a commonly prevailing notion that wet about horses' feet and legs is either good or not injurious, Nothing can be further from the truth. Without discussing the relative value of open and covered farm-yards, I may state that a wet farm-yard is most injurious to horses. A small home field, with a dry soil, is of the greatest use to turn the young horse-stock into daily. Shedding can be made temporarily in fields distant from home by means of upright posts, across which smaller timber or rough material may be placed, to be covered with furze, reeds, haulm, and such like material, and finished off with thatch. Such a shed for mares and foals or young growing colts will be as comfortable and as conducive to their health as the most elaborate building. Care must, however, be taken that the site is dry and free from all accumulations of wet, nor should these animals be allowed to stand upon an accumulation of dung, but their sheds should be as clean and dry as a well kept stable. These rules are not less applicable to permanent buildings; firm, clean, stone bottoms are the best surfaces for horses to stand on; these should be thinly covered over with clean straw, which should be changed and the floor swept daily.
Breeders of hunters require to be, as they mostly are, good judges of horses generally, that each animal may be assigned to his proper use. When a colt is growing large and coarse, more like a coach-horse than a hunter it is well that this should be seen in time before extra expense is incurred, when perhaps the proper time, for sale would be passed over; though good horses often run in families, there is nevertheless frequently great diversity, even in horses that are full brothers.
Hunters of the greatest power, and the best performers under heavy weights are usually about sixteen hands high; and some geldings exceeding that height are very well formed animals, and have good action. Most experienced riders, however, who are in possession of a very good large horse, will be able to tell of one that could carry them quite as well which measured a hand less; my own experience is against high horses; hunters of from fifteen to sixteen hands high may be equally good for different weights from eleven stone upwards.
Some of the questions which most perplex men in trying to understand the relative merits of horses from their sizes, shapes, and general external appearance, could be reduced to more simple rules, if action were better understood than it has been. Excellent judges of both form and action are to be found who yet, from want of some fundamental rule, are unable to connect the one with the other. Hence the fine form of a horse is not appreciated until after he has performed some feat; and, since the value of the horse turns principally on his locomotive power, the art of breeding and rearing hinges on a right appreciation of action, which is the representation and offspring of form.
When horses like Little Wonder and Daniel O'Rourke, that were sensibly under fifteen hands high, are seen to outrun horses of sixteen hands for the Derby, it is generally thought that the little horse has gained over the larger, through his quicker movements; that more strides must be taken in the one case than the other; or else that the lower horse keeps up the pace the longest, as is really the case, the larger borse being the weaker. But as regards the length of stride, the notion of the little horse having the shorter is very probably wrong; and when he has beaten the larger animal, it generally is by his length of stride; and the same construction which gives that faculty, confers the power to keep it up.
The eye is the best guide to the forms of the horse. Like the sculptor and painter, we cannot proceed far by measurement; although, like the artist, we can run our rule over one or two points, and then take in the details with the eye.
When making a few remarks on what is understood as good shape in horses of different classes, I will not so much repeat accepted rules as notice a few exceptions to them.
The head of every horse is an important point to be observed and studied. Mechanically considered, the head, by its form and position, in relation to the neck and trunk, regulates the action and powers of the horse. Functionally, as the seat of the senses, the head indicates the general character of the horse; and this is the more important consideration.
Good heads I consider may, be found in two forms; firstly, we have the Arab type of head, with its broad forehead, tapering muzzle, capacious Dasal cavities, small ears, and large free space for the breathing apparatus to play between the upper vertebrae of the neck, and the broad expanse of the lower jaw. Everybody agrees in considering such a head as most beautiful when it is in keeping with the rest of the horse. This character of head, transmitted down a line of our blood horses, pervades the breed, and is exhibited to a great extent, in our mixed breeds. Nothing tends to stamp the character of cross-breed horses, so much as this head, taken in connection with form. It is by no means my object to disparage this caste of head, which is characteristic of the finest Asiatic horses, but simply to remark that the head which becomes one borse or class is not the best for
The Barbs generally present a different type; in these we find the horse larger, his hind quarters somewhat drooping (not like the vulgarly-bred horse, but resembling many stout racers,) the chest deep, with large forequarters and loins, the profile is longer and more flattened, the ear and eye very beautiful, all giving a placid appearance, whilst the head is fully as easily placed in relation to the neck and trunk as that of the Arab just noticed; moreover, the nasal passages are fully as capacious in this class of oriental horse as in the other.
The Barbs formed in all probability the parent stock of fine horses, extending over the south of Europe, as their characteristic qualities have always been exhibited in the Andalusian horse, the Calabrian, the choice old breeds of Rome, and those of the island of Sardinia; and their form of bead is characteristic of some of the English lines of blood stock to the present day. When the broad square head is found in common breeds or in the heavier class of horse, it looks dull, as is seen in those of Central Europe, including those of Switzerland and France.
Artists have fallen into the way of always giving the same head to all forms of horses; and the Paris prints always show the uplifted head, with expanded nostril aud out-stretched tail. But our colossal figures of great horses with these square heads, are quite out of keeping. That I may not be supposed to admire the large bony head of the horse of Flanders or Normandy, or of some of the English horses, I will point to Voltigeur as the representative of the fine type I approve of.
The point to be looked to in the head of a horse is its connection with the neck so as to admit of its being brought into a graceful position, when the horse is easily broken, moves gracefully, and breathes freely. If a cross-bred horse combines a large square head with a defective connection in relation to neck and trunk, he cannot bring his forehead into a good posture; and if this be attempted, he breathes with difficulty, hence many roarers are found of this form.
Let us, then, improve heads by careful breeding, but not try to obtain on one horse the head which would have better become another.
Whether looking at stallions, mares or their produce, breeders will be more likely to arrive at a correct appreciation of their worth if they take the whole animal in view at a glance, where, if nothing offend the critical eye, it is most likely that more strict and patient examination into details
will confirm the first impression. Men, on the other hand, who are always talking of points, and criticising in detail, without knowing what relation one part bears to another, in producing such effects as constitute good action, are seldom right by chance.
The choice of a stallion, with the idea that something in his shape may correct a defect in the mare, is seldom found good in practice; that a horse has good hocks whilst all the rest is indifferent, cannot justify his selection; I have never seen good derived from these comprises; sire and dam should be good all over.
Two measurements may be taken of a horse, which will be found useful and afford instruction, after which the rest may be left to the eye and the touch. Every symmetrically formed horse in good and normal condition, will be found to measure about one-fifth more in girth, viz., round the circumference of the chest, than he measures in height; he should be of the same height, when standing on level ground, over the withers and rump.
By this rule a perfectly formed stallion of 16 hands in height, will girth 80 inches, whilst the good Clydesdale of 16 hands 3 inches, will fully sustain that proportion; and horses of lower standard show no noticeable difference where we find perfection in form.
When the above proportion subsists, the form of the horse will generally be good. Such form ensures a good loin, and, almost as certainly, the well placing of the shoulder, and the good proportion of the limbs, the form and character of which must be scrutinized to the ground; light, powerful, and easy movements result from proportionate construction.
The paces of the horse, the walk, trot, and gallop are all brought into use in the hunter and hack, as they are also constantly exercised in turn by the animal when free. Of the two subordinate and more artificial paces, the amble is seldom seen in England, nor does the English horse take to it easily, but the canter is a common requisite, and is a distinct movement, though it has been regarded as a slow gallop, to which, however, it has no real resemblance: the so-called canter in the trainer's language, is a gallop, and no canter at all.
Passing over the important paces of walking and trotting, I have a few words to say on the faster, the gallop.
Under the conviction that those who have attempted to describe the gallop in the horse proceeded by chance, with insufficient knowledge of the laws of progression, I have devoted much time to experimenting on different animals.
Before I make remarks on the gallop, I must say a few words on the descriptions hitherto published.
By all the writers with whom I am acquainted, the gallop is described as consisting of a succession of leaps; the horse's feet and limbs are placed in all sorts of positions but the right, whilst the great artists who have understood the subject best, from some motive or other, have generally represented the horse whilst standing still. The subject of proportion' and progression has been looked upon as settled by Vial de St. Bell, in his Essay on the Proportions of Eclipse, published 1795, who exhibited a diagram which is as erroneous as the text which gives the measurements. Passing over other teachers and writers, we come to the late Mr. Perceval,* who gives the views which up to time he wrote had been published by others. He says (page 150) Mr. Blaine observes, that "as the two fore feet at once beat the ground together, and then the two hinder, so it is evident that the gallop of speed is nothing more than a repetition of leaps.”
Mons. F. Lecog is also referred to by Perceval, as calling the gallop "a succession" of leaps. Mons. Lecog, in a later edition of his elaborate work on “Progression," p. 432,+ adheres to his previous description.
Neither have these so long prevalent notions been limited to writers on the horse. Naturalists and comparative anatomists have taken for granted that what was so aythoritatively given with illustrations, amplified by elaborately written pages, was all reliable and sound. The action of the horse has puzzled some of the greatest among human physiologists, the movements of the quadruped being found more complex, when attempts were made to analyze them, than those of man: these difficulties, however, seem all to be based upon a misconception of animal locomotion generally.
Dr. Humphrey, in his large work on the human skeleton, published in 1858, follows in the beaten track on the subject of progression; and the Professor, in his more recent work, published in 1861,5 goes still more at length into the supposed action of the horse, to illustrate that of man, where it is very clear that he is misled by the teaching on the physiology of the horse, and consequently the author's special subject has not profited by the importation.
My two diagrams represent two animals galloping with what is called "right leg first." These figures cannot, however, show movements in the order of sequence. I will, therefore, explain, and then show how the force is distributed over the four limbs, and how they move in succession.
The horse getting under weigh, which is done with least expense of power in a walk or trot for a few paces, pitches into his gallop more or less rapidly; in doing so the near hind foot is first moved, next the near fore, the off bind and off fore following in sequence, so that the off fore, which in the case is said to be going first, is the last to be raised; if the horse changes his leg the order will be reversed.
It is only in the canter and gallop that the hind foot does move first. The line of gravity, as Borelli states, is kept perfect by the first move in the hind foot, that limb being the first to make a short preparatory move; it next makes the fifth move, following in sequence to the off fore leg, and this is the true order of movement afterwards kept up.
The horse's balance in his galiop is as perfect as when he is standing or walking, he is so distributing his power, and the feet moving on the ground are one by one raised, and in the same way and succession implanted. Two feet of the horse are always on the ground in varied positions, whilst of
""Twelve Lectures on the Form and Action of the Horse," by William Perceval, M. R. C. 8., Veterinary Surgeon to the 1st Life Guards. Longman & Co., London, 1850.
f" Traité de l' Extérieur du Cheval et principaux Animaux Domestiques. Par F., Leoog, Directeur de l' École Impériale Vétérinaire de Lyon, &o. 3mo edition. Labé, Directeur, Place de l'Ecole de Médecin, Paris, 1856.
“The Human Foot and the Human Hand,” by G. M. Humphrey; M. D., F. R. S., Leotarer on Anatomy and Physiology in the University of Cambridge, pp. 66, 67.