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376 THEY TAKE IT “ GALORE.”
horse I had to drink ale if offered him: they will all take to it; some refuse it for some time, but I never knew one who, after taking it once or twice, but was quite as ready for it as the groom would be if he could get it: if a horse does not quite like his first taste, a spoonful or two of brown sugar is sure to give him the gusto for it, and when he has once got that, he would, if permitted, get himself into a very lordly state of inebriation; the advantage of this is it acts sooner on the spirits than a ball, and any public-house produces it. I rarely found a horse refuse to feed when a quart of good sound ale had restored the tone of the stomach, nor will the aledrinking nag refuse his beverage should a glass of gin be put in it, which I have often done if I found the extremities feel cold. Let me recommend the master to administer the medicine for very obvious TeaSODS. In Ireland, where heats are often run in steeple races, I have many times seen a glass of whisky in a pint of water given between the heats to a horse, the rider often showing him how beneficial it was by taking an allowance himself. “It’s a way they have,” and not a bad one either.
ENGLISH AND IRISH HORSES COMPARED.
THERE was a time when, if we had spoken to an Irishman of the capabilities of an English horse as a leaper, he would, if comparing with the Irish horse, have held him in about the same estimation any sportsman would one of those long-tailed blacks who take us our last journey in this world; and, in good truth, some twenty or twenty-five years since, the fencing qualifications of the ordinary run of our hunters could bear no comparison with those of the Irish hunter. That this did not arise from any want of power in our horses is quite evident, as it is now seen that they can cover quite as large fences as their Irish neighbours; and Liverpool, Leamington, Cheltenham, Aylesbury, and many other Steeple races, have quite rescued the English horse from the disgrace of inferiority as to leaping qualifications. It has always been considered, that the Irish horse could decidedly beat the English one at leaping height: no one will attempt to deny that the generality of them can do so; this merely proceeds from their being more accustomed to such jumps, particularly in their wall countries; they must leap high there, or they could not get along at all, consequently they are from colts trained to this particular qualification, and therefore excel in it. Now though the English horse is not seen taking a six-foot wall, for the simple reason that we have no six-feet walls that we want him to take, it is not to
378 DOING AWAY OLD PREJUDICES.
be inferred that he cannot or does not often jump quite as high, (though not at walls); he jumps very often a height for which he gets no credit, and in taking a fence with a rail or a plashed hedge on the top of it (and that sometimes with a rise to it), I am quite satisfied our horses often take six feet when we are not aware of it: a wall or a paling of six feet is an awful thing to face; now a sloping bank with a fence on its top of the same height would not look as high by a foot at least, and such in grazing countries our horses frequently get over. We must certainly allow that our neighbours, the Irish, were in a general way very far before us in finding out the capabilities of horses as to jumping, and but for the introduction of steeple chases we should probably have still remained in the second place, but that is all done away with now. Time was also when the Irish thought us far behind them as horsemen: take the average of the two nations as riders, it is quite fair, and but just, to allow that formerly the Irish were by far the boldest riders; their country obliged them to be so; but now every unprejudiced Irishman will allow we have as bold riders here, when boldness becomes necessary, as they have on the other side of the Channel. There is still one feature in the Irish horse that, speaking in a general way, we do not see in English ones; the Irish horses all leap, from the hunter to the common car-horse. I will now refer to some letters I sent home many years ago from Ireland, wherein I gave the impressions made on me at that time. I was then, as it will be seen, much more convinced of the superior qualifications of every Irish horse as a leaper than I am now, though I still give
“THERE's Not IN THE wide world,” ETC. 379
them full credit for their great powers in this particular. At the time I wrote what follows, I was on duty in Ireland, and resided in it six years afterwards: never will the joyous hours I have passed in that neglected, but fertile land be obliterated from my memory: my recollections of the kindness, hospitality, and truly disinterested friendship and attentions I ever received from her joyous, open-hearted sons, and the happy hours I have spent among them, are as fresh and green in my memory, as the fields that characterise the Emerald Isle. I wrote thus, or to this effect. My friends on the other side of the water are kind enough not to forget me: whenever anything brilliant (in the sporting way) takes place, I hear of it, and thus (at least on paper) again cross countries that have been the scenes of many exciting moments. Thus the link so dear to me is not broken : in return I have been often requested to send over my ideas of the comparative merits of English and Irish hunters; this is perhaps as high a compliment as my English friends could pay to my judgment as a sportsman. The Irish horse possesses in an eminent degree three most essential points in a hunter, great physical strength (for his size), astonishing bottom, and is by nature a leaper: he is usually a compact, deep-ribbed but cross-made horse, with famous legs, and plenty of bone and sinew. I have remarked, and my opinion has been backed by the best judges, that among a field of Irish hunters, you will scarcely see one that is not clean on his legs: if they would but give their horses fair play this would be still more the case, but
380 HARD FARE AND NOT FAIR.
the Irish horse is constantly hunted at five, even sometimes at four, and has before this generally done a couple of years work in some other way: most of the breeders are too poor to allow their colts to remain idle, so the Irish horse that may be a high prized hunter in England was probably four years before dragging a harrow in his native country. We should consider this a strange school for a young horse intended for a hunter: it is nevertheless done in Ireland, and many colts got by thoroughbred horses out of hunting mares are constantly so employed, nor are they at this age fed as they ought to be. This I consider is one great reason why the Irish horse seldom grows up the size of ours: he is in short stinted in his growth, and drawn out of shape; it is remarked that these horses are generally done up at eight or nine years old, while we have good hunters at fourteen, many much older. The reason is obvious: the Irish horse has worked as many years at nine as ours have at twelve, worked much harder, and part of that work, at an age when he was unfit for any labour; nothing but his naturally good stamina could have enabled him to have done it. Put one of our high-bred horses to plough at two years old, and see if he would be a hunter at five. It has of late years been the fashion to ride very large horses as hunters. I did the same, and so well was this known that no horse was ever shown me in England under sixteen hands; in fact, that was the lowest standard height in my stables. What, then, was my astonishment at seeing horses here of from fourteen and a half to fifteen hands carrying fourteen or fifteen stone through the deepest part of this country, not merely over monstrous high and wide fences,