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236

CLOSE-FITTING SURTOUTS.

however, always gravely asserted, that but for being crooked she was the finest woman in England. This possibly was the case : the gentleman ought to have been the best judge, and the quantum of attraction the lady possessed was much in favour of his being and remaining so. She stood, however, very high in his estimation, and so in truth she did in that of every other person; for if one could have straightened her out she would have been about six feet two in her shoes, the sight of which, had the little gentleman been of a reflective turn of mind, would have been enough to have damped his ardour, for they looked uncommonly like two coffins ready for his use, and a capital fit.

Now, though the last gentleman I allude to did not object to the crooked legs of the lady, my friend did object very much to the straight ones of the horse, so much so that he offered him to me at any price I chose to name. I, more in joke than anything else, said ten pounds. “Done!” said my friend, and Straightlegs was mine. I now resolved to try my hand with him. He had been in the riding school with good riders on him, and I understood they had done him some good, but could make little of him: he seemed to have no joint in his knee. I was neither vain enough nor foolish enough to fancy I could do him any good by riding, so I did not attempt it. That the knee was formed to bend like every other knee, lifting up the leg ascertained : it was then only wanted to be found whether the animal could bend it himself. This I found out in a few minutes. I led him to where some timber had been felled, and made him begin by walking over a small tree about a foot in diameter. This he did some twenty times with ONE OF THE ROUGH PATHS OF LIFE. 237 ease. I then got him to a larger; and by preventing him jumping over it, which he attempted to do, I got him to lift his legs as high as the most lofty action in a trot would require. It was now clear he had the power of lifting his legs. The desideratum then was to make him do so in his paces: this I determined he should do if patience and perseverance could make him.

Near my house was a common on which the ants had at some time thrown up hills from six to eighteen inches high: they were grown over by the grass, and become so tough that breaking them was out of the question : they were moreover so thick in places that there was merely room for a horse's foot between them: in short, parts of the plain were like a green cloth table with inverted tea-cups all over the surface, with an inch between them: the turf was soft as velvet, so there was no fear of broken knees; and this I fixed on as the school in which Master Straightlegs' education as to action should begin. I put on a cavesson, and led him in every direction among the hills : he was on his nose certainly twenty times in the first hour : I perceived, however, he began getting more careful, and after all this tumbling about, and seeing him from fright and exertion in a profuse sweat, I concluded lesson the first.

In this way he was taken out twice and three times a day for six weeks, daily improving, till at the end of that time he marched like a soldier. During the whole of this tutorage he had only been walked, and no one on his back. I now mounted, and found, during an hour's ride on the high road, he maintained his newly acquired style of walk during the whole ride.

238

EFFECT OF PRACTICAL SCHOOLING.
I now adopted the same mode with him in his trot.
In this påce he blundered about at first as he had
done in the walk, but in one month his trotting action
was so high that I thought it unnecessary to proceed
further with him: he was, in fact, perfect. A Lon-
don dealer bought him of me, and sold him at a long
price to carry a nobleman.

Though this was not the first time by many that I
had altered a horse's action - whether the same mode
would succeed with all horses I am not prepared to
say; but I infer it would, and for this reason. Placed
in a similar situation to that in which this horse was
placed, they, like him, must either stand still or lift
their legs over the obstructions in their way, and
being made to proceed, they would have no alternative
but to do as he did. I do not mean to say this horse
on the road lifted his knee as high as he did among
the ant-hills; his action would have been ridiculous if
he had : but he had got so much in the habit of going
high during his schooling, that he retained quite
enough of it to make his action as grand as could be
desired. With colts I am quite clear the same effect,
more or less, would invariably be the result of the
same proceeding, or a proceeding on the same prin-
ciple.

In some corroboration of this opinion, I can mention an instance in a friend's horse. He was a favourite, but, though not unsafe to ride, always wore away the toes of his shoes. My friend had occasion to go into Wales for a few months : in those roads the horse really was unsafe, and blundered most continually; added to which the jar occasioned by hitting the ground with his toe was most unpleasant to the rider. I conclude it was so to the horse, who, I suppose, began

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to find his toes were made of softer materials than the roads : at all events, he found out a better way of putting his foot to the ground, and became as safe a horse there and elsewhere as ever was ridden. This horse was ten years old when he went into Wales.

Not to assume to myself any ingenuity for adopting my ant-hill plan with horses, I will mention what first put me on it.

We had an orchard at my father's well stocked with apples, pears, cherries, and one remarkable fine brown greengage tree, to which fruit my mamma was particularly partial : so was I, but I was also very partial to mamma. Now these two partialities suited (in sporting phrase) my book to a nicety, for, God help her! I took care she ran no risk of cholera from the quantity she got of the greengages. Between these and the other produce of the orchard, how I escaped the same complaint I know not: a more worthy scion of the same stock would have died of it. In short, no pastoral poet, no enthusiastic admirer of nature ever felt or feigned more devotion to the Arcadia of his imagination than I did to this said orchard ; so did a large pig we had; and, odd as it may appear till explained, his predilection for fruit gave me a hint as to accustoming a horse to bend his knees. Loud and bitter were my invectives against this pig for poaching on my especial manor: many a race had I after him; many a grip had he from my dogs on that part of his corpus porci that was the nearest to his pursuers; many a touch of whipcord had the same part felt from my hunting-whip; for all which attentions he expressed his proper appreciation by a continued strain of harmony, that, if railroads had then existed, would have made the neighbours look

240

“ CHARGE, CHESTER, CHARGE.”

out for a locomotive. He knew me at last so well, that on my appearance, though the place was surrounded by a thick quickset hedge that would have stopped even the Scotch Greys, he charged it in any part : through he went; the hedge closed up, and he was gone. In short, with me behind him, he would have broke the ranks of every regiment at Waterloo from La Papelotte to Hougoumont. I had not made up my mind whether or not the fun of ejecting piggy was not an equivalent for the fruit he plundered, when it was decided for me, and a yoke was put on him. This opened a new field of sport to me, for piggy, not being as good a judge of the possible and impossible as “ Capability Brown*,” at every step endeavoured to lift his legs over the yoke in the most ridiculous manner possible; while I, on observing he did this the more the faster he went, kept him in pretty strong trotting exercise in order to witness his performance. After the fruit was got in, the yoke was taken off, and piggy set at liberty; and I, finding no more fun was to be got out of him, let him alone to recruit himself for next season. I saw, however, that, though unyoked, he had got so habituated to his high action that he kept it up. This in aftertimes gave me the idea of trying to alter the action of a horse, and, as I have shown, it succeeded.

In educating horses, we have, it is true, instinct to fall back upon; that instinct in some particulars almost amounting to reason we must allow, but it requires a very considerable experience of the attributes of horses to judge accurately when and how far we may trust to their instinct. I will endeavour to show where instinct will, and where it will not, serve the animal.

* A celebrated and eccentric surveyor of the last century.

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