« السابقةمتابعة »
A B C DIFFICULT TO LEARN.
The learning to be a good judge of pace is really very difficult. The walk, the trot, and top speed are all distinct definite paces that every ploughboy knows: but the intermediate paces that a race-horse at exercise and in strong work has to go become distinct to the rider only by practice and observation : the different style of going and action in different horses deceive very much. Some feel to be going much faster under you than others, though they really are not, and vice versa. A lad to lead a gallop to-day on a smooth-going long-striding horse, and to lead one the next on a compact quick striking one, and make the pace exactly the same on both, requires no small share of discrimination and judgment. A boy may be told, on a horse in strong work, to “bring him away the first mile at his usual pace, to hustle him along a bit the next mile and a half, and to come along the next half mile at a good telling pace.” This is all A B C to a clever and practised lad, and he would do it to a nicety. But to begin, what is the “usual pace” he is told to go ? Now many boys, though they had followed half a dozen horses for a fortnight up the same gallop at a given pace, send them by themselves, would no more go the same pace than they would fly, or know more of the pace they were going than they or I should how many knots an hour a ship was going. Allowing me a little latitude of idea, I will compare the learning all this to learning music and to sing. Tell a man to strike F natural on the pianoforte; there it is defined : so is the walk, trot, and gallop. Tell the same man to sound F natural on his own voice: this is “ bien autre chose :” nothing but practice, judgment, and ear will teach him to do this ; so will nothing but
128 “JOCKEY OF NORFOLK, BE NOT TOO BOLD.” practice, judgment, and observation teach a lad to judge of pace, easy as people may think it.
I hope by what I have said I may have induced those unacquainted with these matters to raise the qualifications of my little friends (riding lads) a line or two in the scale of their estimation, and to believe that not only a head, but a tolerably good one, is required for them to be worth any thing.
We will now ascend the ladder of pre-eminence, and get to the top, where the jockey and trainer have been stationed while we have been alluding to the lads, who have taken their stations on its different steps, according to their pretensions. We now come in contact with the jockey, to whom I have much pleasure in introducing my country cousins. The jock to whom I introduce them is not quite that sort of animal they have been accustomed to see, with a red pocket-handkerchief round his neck, a redder face, and red or white glazed calico jacket, corduroys and mahoganies, a whip weighing half a pound, and spurs drooping on his heels. No, no, my jockey in his common, or jockey dress is a shade different from him: his boots are beautifully made; his trousers cut as riding trousers should be cut, well strapped down and fitting well to the foot; his waistcoat rather long (as a sporting man); his coat a single-breasted riding coat; his cravat well put on, an aristocratic hat, and doe-skin gloves (quite clean): this is his dress. In looks, he is rather pale, a reflecting-looking face, a keen eye, head well put on, and all but gentlemanlike ; no thick muscle at the back of it (I hate a man who has), with a modest respectful manner and carriage, but with just enough confidence to show that he feels himself a respectable, “ NOW, GALLANT SAXON, HOLD THINE OWN.” 129 and is known to be a clever man in his profes. sion (or calling). This, ladies and gentlemen, is my jockey in mufti. When dressed to ride, everything is well made, put on in good taste, and he is neatness personified. He is now, we will suppose, on his horse, and giving him a canter. Here many a young aspirant for fame wishes himself in his place, and no doubt thinks nothing could be more delightful or easy. How he would like to show off before the ladies ! and so he might on some horses. But our jockey happens to be on one who sometimes would give a man something else to think about, and who, quietly as he goes now (ridden as he is), would, if our young aspirant was on him, in all probability gratify his heart's desire, and show him OFF to the ladies. Our jockey is, we will say, on Bay Middleton: how still he sits on him; his hands in the right place, motionless, but just feeling his horse's mouth. And now he is pulling him up: how gradually he does this, as if he fancied his reins made of a silken thread, and a rude pull would break them. It is not so, however: he knows no rude pull would break them, but it might his horse's temper. We will now suppose him running: could our would-be jock be by his side, he would see that the Bay Middleton he had seen taking his canter had become a very different animal when extended with from 15 to 20 horses running with him, and some perhaps at him. He would find, if on his back, it was not exactly like riding up Rotten Row; and I fear that what his ladye-love might think of him would engross less of his thoughts than what his horse might do with him,
This, however, is still only the manual, and, though difficult, is by far the least difficult part of the
jockey's business. He thinks little about how he is to manage his horse, but he must think a great deal about how he is to manage the race: that is, not how he is to keep his horse in the place he wishes him to be, but where that place should be for the best. Many things have to be considered before he can determine on this. Here the head goes to work, and has been long before the day of running. Doubtless the trainer, the jockey, and the owner (if he interferes in the matter) know perfectly well the kind of race that would suit their own horse best; but they will not be allowed to run the race as they like, for others will make a pretty shrewd guess at the kind of race our jockey would wish for his horse, and will therefore (if they consider him dangerous) take care it shall be run in a diametrically opposite way. And could a man even command a race to be run as he wishes, a good deal would have to be considered when this was accorded to him: for possibly the very kind of race that suits his horse would also suit two or three others that he is afraid of; so, all he could insure even by this would be beating sixteen out of twenty. This is in no way insuring winning the race. He may have, and probably has considered, as far as human foresight will go, how such horses as he is afraid of are likely to run in the race, and has made up his mind how to act under every circumstance. We will say he has done so, and feels he has them beaten; but he finds others a good deal better than he thought. He has then to think again; for here is a new feature in the race: but, worse than all, he may find some unthought-of devil show in front full of running: he may have patience to wait, hoping this new customer may shut up: but suppose he finds
he does not, he must not let this new comet run in shaking his tail at him without a struggle for it. He knows if he calls upon his own horse before he gets within the length he can live at at his best, he will beat him ; and if he lies too far out of his ground, we have been taught lately that a few strides will not always take a race away from another horse, though he may be on a flyer. What is he to do now? He can do but one thing: he knows his horse's speed; he must judge how he feels under him, what powers are left in him, and time it to such a nicety, that when he does set-to with him, those powers shall last just to the winning. post, but would fail in three strides beyond it. And to this nicety will a perfect jockey ride his horse.
Does this, let me ask, require no head? Is this a mere mechanical business that any blockhead is equal to ? He may ride, and even make a fair horseman; but before he can be a jockey he must be taught to think : and what must be the quickness of observation and decision required where a man has only perhaps three minutes given him to observe, decide, and act!
I have only represented a supposed circumstance or two to show the difficulties a jockey has to contend with, when in fact they are innumerable. It is not merely that he may ride four or five different horses on the same day, all of which may require to be differently ridden; but under different circumstances the same horse requires it also. Horses under the best training will sometimes (mares frequently) go back a little, and not be quite up to their usual mark on the day of running: he may be running under higher weight than he has been carrying, or the reverse: all this the jockey must consider, not merely as it will