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THE HORSE - I.
IntroductionOF all animals, excepting those which serve for man's sustenance, none equal the horse in importance. He is at once a valuable servant and a trusty companion, and be is never more a companion than when he is our servant. It is the business of our superior intelligence, therefore, to make him a useful servant, and to keep him so. We desire, in these articles, to give horse-owners the greatest amount of practical knowledge of the horse, with all things pertaining to his stabling, food, equipment, and management, conveyed in the most concise and intelligible language. Where technicalities occur, we shall explain them, but we shall endeavour to steer clear of stable expressions and horse-dealers' slang, so far as the peculiarities of our subject will allow.
OF THE DIFFERENT BREEDS OF HORSES.
But before going to these divisions of our subject, it becomes those who wish to have a proper knowledge of the horse to consider it from a point of view which will enable them to become gradually acquainted with his perfect symmetry of form, and adaptation for his work ; and with his higher qualities — sagacity, docility, and courage. For this purpose we must regard the principal breeds from which the ordinary horse of this country has, by various crossings, been derived. It is not possible to determine accurately which breed was the original stock, but for our purpose of investigation, we may classify the prominent divisions under three heads:— the Eastern, the Western, and the European breeds. The question is far too deep and too full to he satisfied by the hasty inquiry which we can afford to give it.
It seems at first impossible to regard the sleek, blood-like Arab as being derived from the same stock as the rough, under-sized Shetland, the London dray-horse, and the lady's hack; and yet it is more difficult to believe that they are not. Nature is pliant, and accommodates herself to circumstances of climate and of food ; and in the case of the Arab and the Shetland she has acted the part she acts, in changing " wool to fur, and hair to down."
OF EASTERN BREEDS.
The principal of these is the Arabian, of which there are at least six varieties, different in value and in appearance. The best of these is the "Kochlaini," said by the Arabs to be descended from the horse of the prophet Mahomet. This is a breed almost unpurchasable, from the dislike of the Arabs to part with it ; we believe there is a law forbidding the exportation of the mare. Some have said that from the money value of the horse, he seldom finds his way to this country ; but there are plenty of Englishmen to whom price for a horse they want is no object whatever. The peculiarities of the Arab of high class, one of which we once possessed, are a head very light, wide in the forehead, small in the jaw, nostrils expanded, and very red and transparent when in motion ; neck short, and full [-296-] where it enters the fauces, or what horsemen call the "vives;" ears small and pricked; shoulders oblique, but not fine ; legs peculiarly flat, and the bone as hard and heavy as can be conceived; "arms" large and muscular, as are the thighs; the quarters are most beautifully rounded; and though the "barrel" is not large, the horse is deep in the girth, which gives him endurance, wind, and a capacity for carrying weight His absolute pace with our own thorough-bred race-horse has not been fairly tried, as we have not had a first-class Arab in condition on any of our courses. Their performances in their own country, and according to the statements of their own people, are past all credibility. Their endurance of thirst and hunger is beyond anything we dream of, and we have well-authenticated accounts of their travelling from sixty to a hundred miles over the desert without food or water, and almost without a halt. The height of the Arab does not exceed fifteen hands, and he is usually about fourteen hands two inches. He has the finest temper in the world, till ill-treated, but when roused he is indomitable.
The Persian Horse is larger in every respect, and not so handsome as the Arrib ; and the description given by Sir John Malcolm is much the same as that of Xenophon. They are, when roused, and loose among themselves, furious and vicious beyond measure.
The Turkoman is of the Tartar breed, but of a very superior class. Instead of small, awkward, heavy-shouldered, wild horses, which are hunted for the flesh, on which the Tartars live, the horses used by the Turks are from fifteen to sixteen hands high, held in high estimation, of considerable value, and exhibiting much of the fire and form of the Arab, for which he is sometimes mistaken. He is, however, most likely a cross between the last-named and the Barb.
India has some native breeds, but none of any importance. The climate is said to be unsuitable, save in the north of Bahar and Orissa ; and the importation of European blood was found to be absolutely necessary. Good Arabs are very expensive ; and frequently suffer from the sea voyage, disembarking with foot lameness from stamping on the deck. The horses bred at the Cape, or at Pietermaritzburg in Natal, might be very serviceable as soldiers' remounts, and would reach India at a moderate expense.
We give below a portrait of "Varna," the Arab alluded to as having been in the possession of the writer. The reader will notice one peculiarity: the unusual way in which the animal carried his tail—so much out.
Of Western breeds — meaning Egypt and westward — the principal is the Barb. His peculiarities are the fulness of his crest, the fineness of his shoulders, and the sudden fall of his quarters or haunches. He is larger than the Arab in some respects, but in height is about the same. The country of the Barb is Morocco. His is one of the breeds which is credited with the ancestry of the
English thorough-bred horse—the Godolphin Arabian, of which our readers have probably heard or read, being, in all probability, a Barb, sent direct from Barbary to Louis XIV. The ups and downs of life are pictured in his history, for he was bought from a water-cart in Paris by an English gentleman, and found his way into the hands of Lord Godolphin. He died in 1752. He was brown in colour, and rather better than fifteen hands high and so truly remarkable are the peculiarities of his head and neck, that we add a sketch from an authentic likeness.
Egyptian Horses.— Egypt as a breeding country is far inferior to those we have already mentioned, and certainly to its own reputation in the days of Pharaoh and Solomon. The docility of these horses is the theme of praise with writers at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and interesting facts are recorded of the exercises, ridden by the Mamelukes of the Sultan of Egypt, which remind us of the ancient Persians, as described by classical writers. They possess, however, very little interest for us, as they are entirely unconnected with those breeds which have so greatly assisted in improving our own. [-297-]
South and North American Horses. — South America possesses herds of wild horses, which are caught and subdued by the horse-hunters ; but whose skill, although truly admirable, as it is described by Sir Francis Head, is certainly far less than that of the professional breaker of the artificial horse. These South American horses are rather diminutive, clumsy, and "tricksical," in all probability acquiring this property from their breakers sr rough-riders.
The North American breed are chiefly crosses with the European horse — French, Flemish, and English — and no an who has not seen it can have the slightest idea of their powers of trotting — an acquired quality in the first instance, but transmitted, as other acquired qualities may be. A mile has been done in 2 min. 20 sec., and ten miles in 28 min. to sec.. in harness, We are satisfied with ten miles an hour, and consider that fast work. Great improvements in the American studs are being wrought by constant crossings with the best of our own.
Of European horses the first we shall mention is the Flemish breed. This enjoyed a great reputation in our country, and in the reign of John were imported in great numbers. They improved very much our agricultural and war horses, and many of them found their way [-298-] during the Crusades to the East, from which cause mutual benefit was derived both to England and Flanders, Arabs doubtless returning to both countries. The rest of the Continental breeds from which we have gained most benefit, but which we have long ago repaid in kind, are the Norman, Hanoverian, and Spanish. It does not appear that we owe anything to Prussia or Austria ; they, on the contrary, are greatly our debtors for the best horses they possess.
The Flemish Horse is generically a heavy horse, with a magnificent crest, broad chest, small head, and round "barrel." His legs are small for the weight he has to carry. He has high and good action, and properly crossed, makes a valuable carriage horse. We have travelled in Flemish diligences, which were very heavy, nearly as fast as on our own stage-coaches —certainly eight miles an hour.
The Norman Horse came to us in great numbers with William the Conqueror. He was pre-eminently the warhorse of that period, and must have been used for all purposes of state. He was occasionally mixed with French and Spanish breeds ; the latter adding quickness to his great strength. Considering what he had to carry in the way of armour and heavy arms, the latter quality was the less indispensable of the two.
The Hanoverian Horses are very large, and, covered with harness, look handsome and showy. They have high crests, small heads, and very luxuriant manes and tails, and are almost invariably black and sleek in coat. But they have great faults; bad shoulders and small back ribs, and their muscular development is very light. We have seen the Queen's, which are not free from the national imperfections. Those which are in this country are usually met with in the hands of the undertakers.
The Spanish Jennet was (and is, we believe) a very quick and useful little horse, combining great courage with extreme good temper, which makes it so valuable as a lady's horse. Many of these horses are said to have found their way into this country at the time of the Spanish Armada, A.D. 1588, having been cast ashore and secured by the English. The cross is said to have been most serviceable, as, indeed, it must have been while horsemanship was in high repute, and race-courses were being established both in this country and Scotland, at a time when the Arab was not introduced — that attempt not being made until the following reign, when James I. obtained what is known as the Markham Arabian, and Place's White Turk, so called from his original owner. The Spanish horse, however, has long ceased to influence the English breed,but is too prominent in romance and history to be passed over.
The British Horse, with something of his history and varieties, must form a part of our introductory article. The earliest notice of any kind of British horse is to be found in Caesar's description of the invasion of these islands, for even then the Briton was a horseman, and, according to a partial judge, a good one. This horse could not have been, as he is sometimes represented, small, and similar to the Shetland or mountain pony of Wales, because he was manifestly capable of drawing the chariots of war on unmade roads, heavy and cumbrous as they were, and of carrying the warrior. He had certainly not yet attained the strength and size which later cultivation gave him, but he must have been much more like our galloway or cob. Cesar is reported to have taken back several with him to Rome. Roman cavalry was nct a strong arm of the service, and when England was garrisoned by Roman soldiers the advantage of the crosses was about mutual. Athelstane improved the English breed by presents of French horses which he accepted from Hugh Capet, King of France. William I., as we have seen, introduced the Norman, and. John the Flemish elements in our breed ; and the first Arab had been previously brought in by Henry I., A.D. 1120. The encouragement given to horse-breeding by the Edwards arose from their love of tournaments and their talents for war; and during this period the native breeds increased in size and strength, as well as by the judicious introduction of Spanish and French blood. They had increased in value from 30s., in the reign of Athelstane, to £3 6s. 8d. in that of Edward III. Henry VIII. enacted arbitrary but salutary laws for the encouragement of our horses, and despotically forbade the use of all inferior classes for breeding. We can give, too, some idea of the size of our horses at this time by telling the reader that the nobility and gentry were compelled to keep a certain number of entire horses of not less than fourteen hands high, obviously for the propagation of larger stock than the ponies and galloways, which were considered indigenous. There happened then what we fear is happening now, a great exportation of the best horses by the foreigners —for in Elizabeth's reign it was with difficulty that a supply equal to the demand could be obtained; and as coaches were invented, increased substance and increased numbers were called for. The Stuarts and Cromwell both encouraged the promotion of sport, we believe, from different causes; but there can be no doubt that after the civil war the great impetus, which we feel to the present day, was given to improvement in breeding. Newmarket -became the centre of racing, and in Anne's reign the last seal was set upon it by the introduction of the barley Arabian. He was bought from a merchant of that name in Aleppo, and became the sire of Flying Childers. This is said to have been the fastest and most enduring horse that ever ran. He did the round course at Newmarket (3 miles 6 furlongs and 93 yards) in 6 minutes and 40 seconds; and the Beacon course (4 miles 1 furlong and 138 yards) in 7 minutes and 30 seconds. The royal mares imported by Charles II, with Place's White Turk, laid the foundation of our thorough-bred stock, and through it of our pre-eminence as horsemen and horse-breeders. From that time the descent of our best horses has to be recorded from the Byerley Turk through Herod ; from the Godolphin Arabian through Matchcm ; and from the Parley Arabian through Eclipse. In this blood, or strain, is to be found that of all the great horses of this country, and, consequently, from them are descended, by provincial sires, the ordinary classes of hacks, hunters, and harness horses, which do not claim to be pure descendants from other Eastern, Western, or Continental breeds.
The Scotch Galloway was by some writers supposed to be indigenous to Scotland. He has existed there as long as we have any records of the horse in the British Isles at all. Those who refer him to Spanish origin can have no knowledge of the Spanish horse. Ile is now seldom to be met with, though a clever useful sort of pony.
The Shetland, or Sheltie, of which we give an engraving, is very small, but very handsome ; short on the leg, muscular, active, and intelligent. Horses of this breed have small heads, very long manes and tails ; are tractable and courageous. They were formerly to be met with frequently at country fairs. We have seen them sold for £3 and for £40. Another sort, called the Highland pony, is mentioned ; but he differs little from the Shetlander. He is rather taller, but not stronger. As he is a clever jumper and creeper, he is valuable for the moors and the stubbles.
The New Forest Pony, and the Exmoor or Devonshire Pony, are both good in their way—the latter is especially esteemed in his own county—but they are too small for general riding, excepting by very short men, or children. They are docile, and the latter is fast under a heavy weight.
The Welshman is the most useful of all these little horses He is usually from thirteen to fourteen hands [-299-] high, and we have known them to grow, by good keep, nearly a hand higher. They are well made and active, and make excellent hunters for boys and light weights, and we may say more about them when we come to the details of horse-dealing.
For the present we have said enough of the different breeds to give our readers a fair amount of information on a subject which is almost inexhaustible. We shall next consider the various classes (not breeds) of English horses, with their adaptability to our service.
HAVING noticed, in our previous article, those breeds from which the English
horse appears to be derived, we come next to the consideration of species into
which the genus is divided, and to show the great adaptability of the English
horse particularly, for the duties which he has to perform. There are many kinds
of horses in this country, not only suited to us, but unsuited to others,
inasmuch as there is nowhere else exactly the same call for his services. And
this adaptation of the animal to peculiar wants and necessities proves the
capability of the horse, his dependence
upon structure and breeding
for his powers, and the care
and consideration which
have been given to the
subject in England.
The Cart-horse.—In the Introduction we hardly mentioned the agricultural horse with the honour which belongs to him, for we ought to have informed the reader, when speaking of indigenous breeds, that one of the earliest known kinds—known before any proper records of the horse exist—is our English cart-horse. He was no beauty; there was but little external grace to recommend him ; but, like• other ill-favoured animals, he had some sterling qualities in his favour. So we crossed him with the Flemish, and even with something in Suffolk which produced what we call the Suffolk Punch. An improved sort from the original arose later, and we believe rather repudiates all connection with the drooping quarters and fiddle-case head of the English cart-horse.
The Lincolnshire and Clydesdale are also two kinds, one of which is known, or was known, to us as the London Dray Horse, and the other as the handsome, active, and powerful cart-horse used in the lowlands of Scotland. It does not clearly appear from any writer what are the absolute crosses which go to furnish these remarkably fine specimens of the agricultural horse, but it is always admitted that the Norman blood is the great ingredient which, combining with the Flemish and English, produced the antitype of those magnificent horses for which Suffolk, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire have made us famous. There is indeed another class, called the Cleveland, equally doubtful in origin, which is of a lighter kind, resembling a powerful coach-horse. If this has been crossed, as doubtless it has, with the heavier cart-horse, the result would be a combination of power and activity of considerable value to the farmer.
Lighter Horses, and their Adaptability to our Pursuits. —We have said that the adaptability of the English horse to our various uses was somewhat remarkable. Until lately, the racehorse has been wanted nowhere else but in this country. Our taste for him has become catching, as contagious as the scarlet fever, and perhaps equally dangerous. When our talents produced him, it was because our necessities called aloud for the propagation of qualities somewhat meet to be combined with our own.
The Racehorse, all over the world, is an English horse now, for it is doubtful whether the best Arabs can compete with him ; and France, Germany, America, and Australia have bought and borrowed him from us.
The High-class Hunter is bred nowhere but in this country, save by accident, because his qualities, as we shall learn by-and-by, are fitted only for that especial purpose ; while The Poor Man's Hunter would be despised anywhere but in merry England, where he provides health and cheerful and innocent amusement for a very large class of people.
These are mere instances of that care and talent which produce just what we require for our own use. The Hack, the Harness Horse, the Charger, and the Farmer's Horse, be they of what class they may, are universal necessities. Every country on which the blessings of civilisation or the dangers of war have alighted requires such horses as these, and it has them ; and, as we advance in this important subject, we shall generally see that the genius of the people has achieved a victory over difficulties.
STRUCTURE OF THE HORSE.
No man can know much about the horse, or how to buy him, without studying his
structure or external form, as distinct from his anatomy. Our present object is
to give the reader a general knowledge of the shape of the horse in his best and
most conspicuous points. In speaking of him in detail we shall be
able to state those which are the most essential for each
particular class, and which may be best dispensed with.
It is exceedingly difficult to find them all perfect in one
subject ; and even then he might not come up to our
standard, unless his moral structure, his courage, docility,
and freedom from disease coincided with his physical
His Head should be broad in the forehead, but not large between the eyes ; the proportion of one part to another is, however, of most consequence, and the expression of face, which may be easily caught by practice. The eye should be large and prominent, which is characteristic of high breeding and generosity. The nostril should be large, and after exercise expansive, this is usually a sign of fine wind, though not necessarily so, as the internal structure may be equal to the highest exertion without this conformation. The muzzle should be fine, and the jaws open, or wide, as on this depends the way in which he may be taught to carry his head. We leave the teeth for the present.
The Neck should be of moderate length, and much longer over the crest than below. At a cursory glance, this will give evidence of a well-placed shoulder. Horses with long thin necks are not generally very good-winded, and frequently require to be steadied by a martingale, or some such device, of which we shall speak later. The mane should be thin and fine : curliness and thickness denote want of breeding.
The Shoulders are exceedingly difficult to judge of by sight. High withers—i.e.. the upper point of the [-326-] shoulders where they meet, are not a requisite. They sometimes are caused by the falling away of the muscles —a common fault in old horses: and they are apt to be galled by the saddle. The shoulders must be oblique, running into the back, and should be well clothed with muscle, which will help to carry the saddle well. Without good shoulders no horse can be t really good goer, and they are less able to recover themselves when they make a mistake. It was said formerly that the late Lord Chesierfield was almost the only infallible judge of good shoulders without mounting. Look well to this point ; it is most essential, and requires great practice. When the shoulder is upright instead of oblique, the horse may go high, but he is sure to go short; and he usually puts his foot down on his toe instead of on his heel.
The Chest and the parts behind it are also of great importance, for they contain the organs of respiration. It should be round and of fair proportions ; if it is not so the horse is seldom of a very good constitution. A very broad chest is, however, an obstacle to great pace, and not therefore desirable in horses sought for very fast work, as the racer or high-class hunter. We shall notice the modification of these rules elsewhere. For the general form of the horse, the eye of the person who wishes to judge should accustom itself to a fair capacity of chest as conducive to health and endurance. This should be looked for chiefly in depth of girth, so that standing sidewise the legs shall appear to be short, and the body near the ground.
The Back should be short ; that is to say, there should be room for a good-sized saddle, and not much more, from the withers to within a couple of inches of the hips. The rule which requires shortness above and length below is here again the correct one. It should flow from behind the shoulders with a graceful curve or segment of a circle, and whatever length there may be along the back should be found in the obliquity of the shoulder-blade and the quarters. The shape of the back depends upon the muscles with which it is clothed ; and later we shall endeavour to explain the difference between condition and the want of it, in furnishing the parts of the horse with the roundness the eye so much admires. At present we only desire to give the conformation of a well-shaped horse for general purposes. Although we have given a sketch of the horse having for its basis a perfect square, it will be well to remark that fast horses measure usually a little more in length than they do in height, and that the perfect square is only adapted to the cob-shaped animal.
The Hind-quarters to look at, should be round and muscular; but for work the roundness may be less necessary if the muscularity be well developed. Broad, and what are known as ragged, hips denote freedom and strength, especially if there be plenty of length from them to the outside of the upper thighs. The best way to judge of quarters, if they look well generally, is to stand behind the horse, and see that they come close down together some distance below the root of the tail on the inside of the upper thighs. To be slack here, and devoid of substance or muscle, is to be " split up behind," a common enough expression in horse-dealing, describing a fault never to be overlooked. Your horse should also look broad from this point of view on the outside ; and the muscles, both of the upper and lower thighs, should stand out like the muscles of a blacksmith's arm when in motion. The tail should be set on high, and should be carried handsomely, though we shall show by-and-by that a drooping quarter is frequently characteristic of weight-carrying and jumping, the hocks being then usually well under the horse.
Fore Legs.—The value must be known to be appreciated. Beginning: from the chest they should appear to be placed forward enough to give substantial firmness to the body when mounted. If they spring from the back part of the shoulder, the horse is liable to fall. The part of the leg called the " elbow" is that which is nearest to the girth ; and if that bone be turned inwards so as to leave little or no room between it and the fore-ribs, it will interfere with the action. This may be discovered at first sight by the toes turning out. The opposite conformation of course turns them in. The fore-arm (i.e., from the elbow to the knee) should be long and muscular; • the knee large and flat, but not receding—a form which has received the name of " calf-kneed," from its similarity to that of the calf. The bone which descends from the knee to the fetlock, is called the cannon-bone ; it should be flat, free from wounds and lumps, and the sinews, the largest of which is called the "suspensory ligament," must be clean and separately sensible to the touch, like strong cat-gut or wire. The fetlock itself should be clean and of moderate size, and the pastern which extend to the foot, should not be upright, as the action will then want elasticity ; whereas, on the other hand, should it be too slanting or oblique, there will be a corresponding liability to weakness. This is rarely the case with half-bred horses.
The Foot is of so much importance, that when we come to speak of shoeing we shall have occasion to go further into this than would be consonant with our present cursory view of external form. Almost every writer of note has his views on the subject ; and the best authorities are Mr. Mills and Professor Spooner. No amateur can detect disease at sight, unless the case be a very glaring one. When any suspicion exists, we recommend professional assistance for that- member (as well as for the eye) ; it should stand out from the pastern straight, and both feet should appear to the eye equal ; in measurement they should be so ; it is said the foot should stand at half a right angle with the base, in this case, the sole. The sole of the foot should be slightly concave. The names of the parts most commonly alluded to are the toes ; the heels ; the quarters, which are the parts between the toe and the heel ; the bars, which meet in an angle on the sole, having the heel for their base ; and the frog, a ragged and elastic substance between the heels. These have all their uses, which will be explained at the proper place. At present, sufficient has been said for an unprofessional inspection ; "No foot, no horse," is the horseman's proverb.
Hind Legs.—What we have to say here is soon said. We have already mentioned the necessity of muscular power in the thighs. They should also have considerable length, which is described in horse-dealer's language as " hocks down to the ground." The hocks themselves are most important, as the propellers of the body. They should be broad to look at sidewise, but narrow and clean to stand behind, like a couple of boards. They are the seat of disease and infirmity which will be explained hereafter. The hind cannon-bone is subject to the same remarks as the fore ; and is more frequently passed by with less examination, because it is presumed to be less liable to damage. The belly meets the stifle at the bottom of the back ribs, which should be long, and tolerably close up to the hips and quarters, especially in horses required to carry weight.
Height, Colour, and Age. —We are now to give you the average height of the horse, which we may put for general utility at fifteen hands two inches, equalling sixty-two inches, or five feet two inches. The ordinary height of horses is below this ; but they are called small by the dealers, and would not meet the demand for saddle, harness, or hunting, so generally. Most racehorses, as well as hunters, are above it ; carriage-horses much in excess of it ; and hacks considerably below it. For comfort in the latter capacity commend us to fourteen hands two inches; while for a hunter in such a county as Northamptonshire, where the fences want looking over, we prefer, at [-327-] least, an inch or two more. But we like the height to be in the body and not in the legs.
"A good horse," says somebody, "can never be of bad colour." We differ from this gentleman, whoever he may be, and so does our groom. Some colours are proverbially hardy, others soft ; and unless a white or light grey be very cleanly in his person he gives a great deal of trouble in the stable.
Bay horses with black legs or points—as they are sometimes called—are generally good, and when bright, very handsome.
A good brown with a tan muzzle is regarded as characteristic of constitution ; and a dark rich chestnut is the handsomest of alL A golden chestnut is a good colour, indicative, some say, of pace ; but they are frequently hot and skittish ; and a pale, washy chestnut is said to show want of stamina. Of greys, the flea-bitten and the mottled are the handsomest, and usually considered the best ; as they approach white they are apt to stain in the dirt of the stable, and require much soft soap and water and what is commonly known as "elbow grease" to keep them clean. Iron-grey is less common, and we have known one or two hardy horses of that colour; and blacks, excepting as chargers, cavalry horses, or in mourning coaches, are not popular.
Roans are considered to be as a rule very hardy; we have seldom seen a bad one, but they are not usually remarkable for breeding or quality. The texture of the skin is a more valuable test than colour ; it should he soft, smooth, silky, and is indicative of health and condition. The swelling of the veins in exercise is another sign of the same thing, and, moreover, furnishes some proof of a ready circulation.
Having given these instructions for an investigation of the general appearance of the horse, we add a sketch on the basis of the square as we proposed doing. (See page 325.)
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