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النشر الإلكتروني

126

LOSING EQUILIBRIUM.

declivity (I mean such rises as we meet on ordinary roads), it would make little difference. A horse has as much dread of falling as we have that he should do so: therefore he would avoid or lift his legs over any large and visible obstruction, however near he might go to the ground in his general action : I mean if he met such obstacles as required lofty action to get over. It is only when his action is so very low, or his sluggishness so great, that he does not lift the foot high enough to clear the ordinary inequalities that he meets, that he becomes unsafe : quick action, and putting the foot properly on the ground, are two of the great desiderata in a hack.

There is one thing that constitutes much greater danger than any bad action as to going too near the ground. This is what I have specified as malformation; of course I allude to the fore-quarters. I care not, however faultless, high, or grand may be the action of a horse, if his fore-legs are not put on in their proper place he never can be fit to ride. I mean by this, if his legs stand under him, all the high action in the world cannot save such a horse if ridden — at the slightest mistake down he must comehe is out of the perpendicular, in fact overbalanced. We know of many leaning towers, some inclining more than others; still they are safe in their present state of declension: but let that declension be increased perhaps one foot, down must come the whole fabric. So with the horse: he would go safely enough so long as his present inclination was sustained; but let him make a false step, so as to throw his fore-parts forward, down he must come also. In riding some horses a rider will find they bring the fore-arm on a level with his toe: I do not say, get off

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such a horse; but I should strongly recommend the rider to take him home, and never get on him again. Such horses make as good harness-horses as any, and are generally strong horses at such work; for a harness-horse should not, like the saddle-horse, be on his haunches : horses that are seldom can get along in harness with heavy weights behind them, particularly up hills. We will suppose we could balance a horse, as we can a stick, on the finger: for a saddle-horse the balance should be such as that the fore-parts have always an inclination to rise : for a harness-horse, it should be the reverse, as a horse may have magnificent action in his trot without being on his haunches. Heavy men should most unquestionably never ride horses with high action ; and yet in a general way they are anxious to get them, from the mistaken idea of their being safer than others, forgetting time is lost by high action, and with 18st. on him a horse wants to bring one leg to the support of the other as quickly as possible. High action tires; and horses having it are, with such a weight on them, very likely when tired to hit their legs: nothing can be more awful than such a horse with such a weight cutting speedy, or indeed cutting anywhere.

Sluggishness is another great cause of unsafety, but more particularly in the hack. I hate it in any horse; I am not fond of your thorough steady goers: I never knew any of them, in horse or man, good for much. Of all horses, a hack or buggy-horse should be at least a merry one. We often use them where there is no excitement for them, nothing to cheer them but their own spirits : these should be at least equal to proof, for they often get a good deal of diluting. Personally I would never wish for a very

128

HEAVY WEIGHTS WANT LIGHT HEARTS.

steady one for any purpose but a shooting pony, and as I never shoot, I never wanted one. A very hot horse in hot weather is certainly anything but pleasant; but of the two I had rather be kept in a comfortable warm perspiration by a hasty horse than in a cold one by a sluggish brute. Of all men, heavy weights require a cheerful light-hearted hack. Such horses are very seldom unsafe. If they make a mistake, they are all alive and right in a moment. The slug, if he does the same thing, I suppose considers it as a dispensation of Providence that he is to go down, and that it would be sinful to resist it; so down he goes, carrying the marks of his piety through life. Est modus in rebus applies as well to horses as it does to things in general. I may like horses with a little more of the curry-powder in their composition than the generality of persons do : I hold it a great improvement to most dishes; so I think it to most horses; and so far as temper goes, I am quite clear the light-hearted horse is less to be feared from his volatility than the other is from his sluggishness; for the latter, being made to do that against his inclination which the other does willingly, is sure to be put out of temper; and then such a gentleman can be as alert as any of them, and is only so when he means mischief. To an infirm person, a nag that will stand at a door for an hour without being held, stand like a post on being mounted, and go something like one afterwards, may be a desirable acquisition — this is “a Cob."

The appellation of light-hearted horses reminds me of once driving a friend in my buggy with a fastish one I then had, and one, which, though I never tried him, would I am quite clear not stand at doors with

DIFFERENT OPINIONS OF A BUGGY-HORSE. 129. out being held: he could rate eighteen miles an hour, I mean go at that rate : we were, perhaps, going at thirteen. My friend, seeing the horse pulling a little, asked if he would run away ? to his horror I replied, that “he was very well disposed to do so if I would let him.” Had I been going six miles an hour, out my friend would have bolted : as it was, he looked very wistfully at the road. I, mischievously enough, determined to give him the power of saying he had once sat behind a fast one: a turn of the wrist was enough ; no word or other signal was wanted. I looked at my friend - did he call out? no: he could not speak: he held fast by the side of the buggy. I pulled up into the old pace. “Let me out,” were the first words he said, in so beseeching a tone that I laughed outright. On my faithfully promising not to exceed seven miles an hour, if, as he called my favourite horse, that devil incarnate would go at that pace, he sat still, and I drove him home. After dinner he asked “how I could drive such a runaway beast ? ” — “Did he run away?" asked I. — “No,” said he, “but you owned he would if you would let him.”—“My good friend," said I, “in saying he would run away, I was wrong, for I never knew him attempt it, and he has a good mouth; but I will tell you what to a certainty he would do at any moment if not prevented: he would go faster and faster in his trot, break into a gallop, and then would most assuredly go as hard as he could lay his legs to the ground, which is a pretty good pace I can tell you.” My friend assured me, from what I said, he would not take a horse disposed to do this as a present: “Nor would I,” said I, “one that would not, though I should no more like a runaway in single-harness than yourself.” Now the difference of

VOL. II.

130

COB THE WATER-CARRIER.

ourestimation of the qualities of a buggy-horse is simply this: he likes one that always wishes to go slow; I like one that always wishes to go fast; and so long as there are such things as reins to be had, and a horse will answer to them, such horses as I describe are the horses for me. If the time should come when I can no longer drive such, I will get a stand-at-the-door cob; but then, please St. George, some one shall drive, for I won't.

I hope I have sense enough and liberality of feeling enough not to dislike a member of any class of men if I find him an exception of the right sort to the generality of his class : nor do I even dislike a cob if he is as unlike cobs in general as I would wish him to be; in which case some persons might say he was no cob at all. If a cob is to be that sort of punchy, bloated piece of inanimation I daily see, that would never, if he could help it, go faster than a walk during the term of his natural life, and only perform this feat when not permitted to stand still, indeed I do most wickedly hate, detest, and abominate each and every cob whenever and wherever he may be found, living or dead, with the exception of finding him defunct and at the kennel door: there my animosity in common charity would cease; so no one can say I have any objection to a cob in his proper place! I should be induced to give the man, whoever he was, that first introduced the name of cob for these sort of animals, credit for very properly appreciating their qualifications. Doubtless he took it from Cob, the watercarrier of old; and a very proper kind of service he thus pointed out for cobs of the present day; and very useful animals they would be if we would only employ them in some such occupations instead of riding them.

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