« السابقةمتابعة »
THE HEAVY BRIGADE. high condition; yet these horses, from being accustomed to the thing, will walk with a heavy stretcher banging against their hocks, and chains hanging about them in every direction. Nor does this proceed from sluggishness; for the same horses will often jump, squeak, and play in harness if a carriage passes them on the road, and, unless stopped, would set off in a gallop with the waggon behind them. Still, if the backband of the cart should come unhooked, a thing that constantly occurs, the same horse will quietly support the shafts by the hame-chains, though the fore part of the cart rests on his quarters. Why does he bear this ? Simply because he is used to it, and is not alarmed at it. A racing colt might be made just as good tempered (though from his high breeding not probably quite so steady) if taken early enough, and before he had been brought into a state of unnatural excitement by the high feeding, galloping, sweating, consequent scraping, and we may call it teasing, that a horse in training must undergo before we can bring him to the proper state necessary to fit him for his peculiar work.
It seems the general idea among the majority of persons, that all that it is necessary to guard against in horses for harness is vice, when, in point of fact, with nine horses out of ten it is the last thing we need fear, inasmuch as any resistance they may show, or any uneasiness they may evince, very rarely proceeds from any vicious propensity, not even when they do kick or run away. The animal feels a something behind him that alarms or incommodes him: he as naturally sends out his heels to kick it away, as we strike our own face if we feel any insect alight on it. Most persons would do this even
CAUSES AND ACTS.
257 if they thought it was a bee or a wasp. Now the sensible thing to do would be to remain quiet, when, after the insect had taken his promenade over our countenance, he would take himself off. It would be more sensible in the horse not to hurt his heels or hocks against a carriage; but as in both cases neither the man nor horse do act sensibly, the result is, the man gets stung and the horse hurt, which in the latter case probably leads to the passenger being hurt also. The horse, finding he is hurt by something, tries most energetically to knock it away, and, finding that he cannot do this, he then tries to run away from it. All this is set down as vice, when it is only fear. Having been thus hurt by a carriage behind him, the animal, as a matter of course, will kick at or run away from the same object of his hurt and alarm the next and probably every time he finds it behind him. He is then a confirmed kicker, but not a vicious horse: call him a frightened one, and we should be much nearer the truth. Nothing can more show that it is not inherent vice than the fact that many horses will kick in single harness, and go quiet as lambs in double, and sometimes vice versâ. This clearly proves that the animal kicks from having been hurt or alarmed by being placed in one of these situations; for, if it proceeded from vice, he would equally show it in both.
People are frequently led into great difficulty and danger from a circumstance that naturally may induce them to feel confident that they will neither meet with the one nor the other, which is, a horse (as it is termed) taking “kindly to harness." There is no circumstance more likely to lead to danger, and for this reason: if a horse, on being first put in, shows
258 THE “SUAVITER IN MODO” AND “FORTITER IN RE.” evident uneasiness or resistance, he will of course be put into the hands of some one who understands what he is about, and he goes through the regular (though generally very imperfect) routine of breaking; but should the horse (I may say unfortunately, if his owner is not a good coachman) go quietly, he will probably the next day be put into some carriage, and then ten to one something occurs that did not occurthe day before: he gets alarmed, and a inilling match is the consequence. This is not vice : for, if it was, he would have kicked the first time he was put in; but he did not : why? because the placidity of his temper made him willing to do what was asked of him when not alarmed; but his placidity is not proof against his fears. Hence the great stress I lay upon harness-horses being accustomed to every casualty we may expect to occur in harness : when he has by experience found such casualties do not injure him, they will not alarm, but, till he has, they assuredly will.
We should always bear one thing in mind that ought to disarm our anger when horses show what we term vice. When horses kick, plunge, or run away in harness, they do not do so with any intent to hurt us personally: probably they are in no way aware we are behind them; and if, from speaking to them, they became so, how often do we find that (when not too much alarmed or irritated) the soothing voice of one to whom they are accustomed, will calm their irritation, and re-assure their fears.
If any one wished to convince himself how opposite to the nature of the horse it is to injure man unless provoked to do so, or alarmed, he need go no further than to any place where our houshold troops are employed
to keep the multitude in order. These horses, though in high condition and full of spirits, suffer themselves to be surrounded by crowds, and in fact leaned against by men, women, and children, without ever attempting to lift a leg in return. I must mention an act of docility on the part of one of these horses, and of kindness and gallantry on that of one of these fine corps, that did great credit to both.
At one of our public processions, a lady had inadvertently got mixed up with the crowd : being seriously alarmed, she attracted the attention of the soldier, who, as the readiest and only mode of extricating her from the difficulty, desired her to take hold of his horse's tail : she had sense and resolution enough to do this: he rode forward, thus clearing her a passage out, when he left her in safety.
Probably the same docility and goodness of temper might make this horse draw quietly if he was tried ; but it by no means follows that he would do so. He had no fear of a crowd, because he was habituated to be in one; but he might kick violently at a gig to which he was not habituated. This would proceed from alarm, not vice. I think I have read that the Egyptians in some cases made their cattle draw by their tails, and there can be no doubt but that, accustom a horse to do so, he would draw any light carriage as willingly by his tail as by his shoulders. It would be rather a novel, and I conceive a useless exhibition here; but there can be no doubt that if a horse was by degrees accustomed to feel a carriage touching his quarters, instead of such an occurrence being scrupulously prevented, he would be all the safer for it in case by any breakage such a thing did occur. It is true we cannot habituate a horse to 260
ROUGH PLAY. every thing that possibly may occur, but we should do well to teach him to bear without alarm all that probably will at times happen.
People should carry this truth in their minds, that a coachman may be able to manage and drive a restive, resolute, or really vicious horse; but if he is a coachman, he will tell you he cannot engage to manage a frightened one. Nothing can therefore be more erroneous than the idea, that because a horse shows no vice he is safe to put into unskilful or timid hands: he is by no means to be depended on: he will be quiet while all goes on right, but the only truly safe horse is one that will remain quiet when things go wrong
The action of kicking, independently of its arising quite as often from fear as from vice, very frequently arises from playfulness: it is one of the horse's manifestations of high spirits. Turn him loose, he kicks ; does not kick at any particular object, for in the middle of a field there is nothing to kick at : he kicks, as boys run and kick up their heels, from mere wantonness and a sense of liberty. He jumps, squeaks, and kicks if any one passes him suddenly on the road from the same cause. Two horses will gallop and kick at each other: this is not vice; it means no more than two boys or men sparring at or hitting each other in passing: the two horses will probably be seen in ten minutes standing together licking each other.
I have mentioned in another place that I never drive in single harness without a good strong kicking-strap. This I do with horses that I know have no earthly inclination to kick; and for this reason: I like horses in high condition, and horses in such condition are usually in high spirits. A fly stings a horse severely