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A CLOSE THING.
But, without defining things so closely as this, we
107 will allow that a winner generally does go over the same length of ground in less time than a loser. When he does it, it all arises from stroke. It matters not whether from the extraordinary length of it, or the extraordinary quick repetition of it, or both in a more moderate degree, it is still the stroke: the thing to be ascertained, therefore, is how far we may use a horse to make amends for shortening his strides by the more frequent repetition of them. A person may say such a horse lost such a race from any cause they please : he did not run kindly, or sulked all the way, or a part of it. His sulking, we will say, caused him to lose his race; that is, it was the primary cause ; but it was the effect of his sulkiness that really lost the race, and that effect was, he would not stride far enough, or would not strike quick enough to win it. In another case, it may be said the ground was too hard for him : here the effect was precisely the same, only in this case fear or infirmity produced what sulkiness did in the other.
We may say, “the hill beat him.” — “Why ?" Because it diminished his stride in length or rapidity. : “ The weight was too much for him:" the conse
quence of which was, it produced the same effect as the hill.
In short, whether the cause be temper, hard or soft ground, hilly ground, weight, or fatigue, it all merges into the same thing: the want of length or rapidity, or both, of stroke loses the race. If I am right in this, it certainly follows that next to condition the great thing to be attended to in a race horse is his style of going. A horse may not carry himself so as to please the eye, yet be a very good goer: he may be like some dancing masters, not graceful or pleasing 108 RACE HORSES GOING TO BE IMPROVED. in their general deportment, but capital goers with their legs. This is not pleasing in a dancing master, is execrable in a gentleman, but will do quite well in a race-horse. Many race-horses are bad goers in their slow paces; Harkaway was one; but no finer goer lives when extended. I could mention many others, but I do not remember ever having seen a bad goer (when at speed) who was any great things as a racehorse. Some are much more true and graceful in their action than others at all times; and I should say a true and graceful goer is mostly a good goer, though he may not be a good horse. With the generality of horses, whether as hunters, hacks, or harness horses, great pains are taken to improve their action ; yet with the race-horse, on whom thousands are likely to depend, I consider less pains are taken in this particular than with any other: and I feel quite satisfied their style of going, if bad, is to be as much improved as that of any other horse. A trainer, or any other person, may say, if a race-horse can go fast and long, it matters little how he goes : granted, if he can; but if he goes badly, I maintain he cannot go, at all events so well, so fast or so long, as if he went better.
We will suppose a colt to be naturally an indifferent goer; the first thing done is to put him to training exercise, and then to strong work; this with a boy on his back, who, provided he keeps him straight, lets him go just as he pleases ; if he improves in his style of going, it is well; if he does not, it is not so well ; and if he gets to go worse, it is bad, “but cannot be helped.” Now I am not quite so clear about this not being to be helped. It could not be helped by the boy who was put on him I allow, nor while he was
IMPROVING ACTION PRIOR TO TRAINING.
in training perhaps ; but if a colt has naturally a bad way of going — by bad, I mean a way that militates against his going fast or long — would it not be wise to try, before he went into actual training, whether he might not be taught to go better? If we wanted a ploughman or a countryman to dance, we should not send him to Dehayes to commence with learning a gavotte : while his heavy louging gait remained, he never could have the ability to do it. Surely the first thing would be to teach him to walk, and run, and to give him that gait and carriage that would render it possible for him to perform these saltatory feats; for while he retained his former habits he could not be made to perform them. The same thing holds good with the colt: if he goes in that way that we may consider renders it almost impossible for him do what we want, he must be made to go better somehow ; and I do not think that simple ordinary exercise training is the surest way of bringing this about. If he goes badly from any natural infirmity or malfor. mation, we can do no good with him, and certainly could get no good by putting him in training: but if it is only a naturally bad style of going, I am quite sure in nine cases in ten it is to be much improved. If before going into training he could be made a good goer, he should be made one: if not (and he belonged to me) some one else might train him if he liked, but I would not. If with good goers we get a race-horse out of half-a-dozen colts, we may consider ourselves fortunate; but with bad ones it is really training at higher odds against one than I should like to train under.
In seeing a string of horses go at exercise, we naturally look at the style of going of each; and supposing
110 RENDERING BAD ACTION WORSE. the spectator to be a good judge, he remarks, that some go beautifully, others moderately well: one goes too high; another fights in his gallop; another goes too round; another does not go like lasting, and so forth. Now I think I may venture to predict, that if inquiry was made, it would be found that those which went well went so by nature, no thanks to the breaker or trainer; but of those whose going was faulty, not one had ever had any pains taken with him before being put into training, or most likely while at it, to make him go better. They had all been properly treated by the trainer according to the prescribed rules of training, which, like the hot or cold water cure, is expected to agree with all patients. But patients do, so far from improving, sometimes die ; and race-horses do, so far from improving, sometimes train off; both I rather imagine from about the same cause— the treatment did not agree with them. Neither hot nor cold water alone would cure every defect of the system ; nor will training alone cure every defect of going : yet in the latter case people seem to consider that it will ; for whatever may be the defect in the racing colt's style of going, with all his imperfections on his head into training he goes, and possibly the defect in his way of going is of that description that the way in which he will be ridden will render his defect more defective still.
We will suppose a colt to have that most abominable of all styles of action, a long lounging dwelling stride, throwing the greater part of his weight on his fore legs, and no inconsiderable part of it on his rider's hand. A light boy, possibly a mere child, is put on to ride him at exercise: what is the consequence ? The boy can do nothing but set his feet against his stirrups,