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COBS AND THEIR MASTERS GOURMANDS.
If by cob (for I would not be prejudiced by a name) a man means a low strong well-put together little horse, with good action, and one that is quite willing to make the most of that action, to such a cob as this I take off my hat with every respect: he is a most useful little gentleman, and just such as I like for a hack. A neat light head, and neck well set on, shoulders well back, loins and ribs like a Madeira cask, with as good stuff inside, gaskins and hocks like a race-horse-his only disqualifications for being one arising from his being too low, too compact, and not being thorough-bred — this is the kind of cob I like, and such a one as I should pick out to carry any man, however heavy; the only difference being, that one of this sort that can carry 18st, is worth a couple of hundred, whereas I could get one to carry me for fifty, but they should both be of the same sort, if each wishes to be carried equally well. Heavy men do get cobs for twenty, that, as they may term it, carry them: they get a beast, and they sit upon him, I know, but they are not carried at all. If they are content with this sort of locomotion, happy are they"a contented mind is a perpetual feast.” Now as such cobs are in most cases perpetually feasted, and as such equestrians perpetually feast themselves, they are both contented : may they never separate, “ for sure such a pair were never seen!” &c. &c.
But if a man who rides heavy really wishes to be carried, allow me to ask what advantages he promises himself in purchasing such a beast ? If he thinks he is stronger than my sort of cob, he most certainly is in error. I do not know whether the first might or might not stand still for a short time under a heavier weight than the latter— that is, if we came to perhaps
RIIINOCEROSSES BAD HACKS.
five-and-thirty stone, or some such weight as is never expected to be seen on a horse; but this I am quite sure of, with any horse-weight, if one cob was even stronger standing still, he would not be so when going, and we conclude a man does intend something like progression when he gets on a horse. A man may say he merely wants something to carry him for a short airing in the Park: if so, he has the less occasion for all the strength he fancies he should get in one of those blubber-and-oil packages. If a man merely rides for health or recreation, I conclude he wishes to be carried pleasantly; if he does, I should not consider a small rhinoceros as likely to carry one very lightly and pleasantly during July and August; and really I have ridden some cobs once, but never twice, whose mouth, activity, and light-heartedness I should consider much about the same. Heavy men may on the other hand say that they sometimes want to go far and fast, to do which they must have strength under them: granted; but they must have breeding too, and action, or fast and far must be estimated by a very moderate scale indeed.
I have owned many horses that some persons might call cobs : so they were as to height and substance, but there the relationship ceased: they were dwarfs, and very deceitful little gentlemen they were. I had one under 14 hands that I once matched against a very fair thoroughbred horse, half a mile, 13st. each. Had I been a betting man, I could have got any odds on the race. Many laid them, but Cobby made them pay for their opinion. His speed was very extraordinary indeed; not but that I am quite aware that at 8st. each he would have been beaten easy; but I bought him of a farmer, who I had often seen ride him
A COB NOT A WATER-CARRIER.
hunting: he stood six-feet-two, and was 16. st. in his saddle. Much as I was accustomed to hunt big horses, I should have certainly hunted this cob, but with hounds he was so hasty and pulled so awfully it was quite slavery to ride him. How this cob was bred I could never get at the truth of: he was purchased by the farmer of the stud-groom of a gentleman who bred race-horses: his head and neck were very likeandas good as Alice Hawthorn's; his body that of a race-horse, with the exception of there being but just room for a saddle on his back; and, as if what was taken from one part was given to another, his bone was enormous. I dare say he was as thoroughbred as Eclipse, but a dwarf; and all cobs should be at least dwarf-hunters, or they are good for nothing to ride or draw either, if we want to exceed five iniles an hour.
It is hardly fair towards those who know what it is to be carried to tell others who do not, that such cobs as I have mentioned are such as they should get if they wish to ride pleasantly and safely; for there are few enough of the right sort to be got, and they ought to be given only to such men as would know how to appreciate their value. Still, in describing what will and what will not carry weight, the truth must come out. If I saw a gentleman riding a kind of guinea-pig pony horse, and he asked my opinion of him, as a matter of courtesy I should say, “He was a very nice cob indeed :" and further, as an act of common prudence and justice, I should strenuously advise him never to part from so desirable an animal, for if he did he might by chance get hold of such a one as I should wish to see in other hands, and which would be thrown away in his. The same thing holds 134 THE CANTER A DISTRESSING PACE. good in a mitigated sense with the road-horse as with the hunter in carrying weight: if they are not pretty well bred, though a kind of ox-like strength may enable them to walk about with a great weight, put them out of that pace, their own want of activity tires them, and their want of courage jades their spirits, and then hold them up if you can. I do not mean to say but that an invalid may be carried very safely and tolerably pleasantly by a stump of a pony; but in speaking of cobs, I allude to them when they are intended really as hacks to carry weight and go along.
Without presuming to advise, I will venture to suggest to heavy men, that on the road a pace they are very much inclined to indulge in is by no means the one most safe for themselves or easy for their horse ; I mean the canter. It is true that a canter of half a mile cannot tire anything; but for a continuance no pace distresses a horse so much with a heavy weight on him ; for the very simple reason, that the exertion is not equally divided between the four legs, the leading leg bearing a very small proportion of weight; consequently the near side or bearing leg is always doing something like double duty. In proof that it is so, if any proof were wanting, put a horse lame on one leg into a canter, you will find in nineteen cases out of twenty he leads off with the lame leg. If we force him to take off with the sound one, before he has gone far he will change it if he can: this clearly shows that he has sense enough to wish to put the infirm leg where there is the least strain on it. If the strain was the same on both legs, he would of course lead with the one as willingly as the other. We teach horses to lead with the off-leg (in a
HORSES' LEGS NOT WHEELBARROW HANDLES. 135 state of nature they use one as readily as the other): this is merely done for the accommodation of the rider. Holding, as we do, our reins in the left hand, most persons, hunting and racing men particularly, get an almost imperceptible twist with the body: this makes the horse, when leading with the off-leg, go in the same direction with the body of the rider. Now a man left-handed would feel his horse go pleasanter if he led with the near-leg. To a soldier, who sits upright, straight on his horse, and down on his saddle, it is a matter of indifference which leg his horse leads with: in fact, his horse must be equally handy with both. We frequently find race-horses while running change their leg. This with a sound horse shows that the bearing leg has become fatigued: if with an unsound one, that he is putting the infirm limb where it can be used with the least distress from bearing the smallest portion of the weight. When that weight comes to be 16st. or 17st., and one continued pace is persevered in for a length of time, how wearied must that limb and those parts of the frame become that take more than their proportion of such weight! If horses put forward their two fore-legs like the handles of a wheelbarrow, and went quite straight in the canter, the weight would fall equally perhaps on both legs; but as they do not go quite in that fashion, this is not the case, and I presume Nature knows what she is about, and orders things for the best. .
Now in a trot, each leg takes its own share of weight and work, and relieves each other in much quicker succession than in a canter. It is for this reason that many horses will go safe enough in a very fast pace that would often come down in a slow one :