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351 does not affect all horses alike : some may suffer but little from such circumstances, whereas, with others, it puts even their chance out. But worse than this, suppose a horse gets amiss in himself, or a leg begins to tell tales, here the odds increase wonderfully against him, for his exercise or work must be partially or totally stopped for a time, so he will be going back in form, while others are improving; and even supposing the horse is got right again, race-horses cannot be made to work “ double tides” to fetch up lost time (at least not in a general way). Condition is never to be hurried into them, though it is sometimes hurried out of them. As they are generally made to do as much as their constitutions, legs, and stamina (at the time) will allow, they of course cannot, or ought not be made to do more.
Something like this was the opinion of a farmer in my neighbourhood respecting his men. They had asked leave for a few hours to go to a review, promising during that afternoon to make up for lost time by increased labour. “Why,” said the farmer, " that is all very well to say ; but whenever I have found fault with a day's work, you have told me you
always work as hard as you can. Now, if you always work as hard as you can, I should like to know how you are to work any harder; tell me that, and then you may go.”
I have never seen a race-horse made harder by more than proper work, but I have seen a good many made softer by it.
Judging by his appearance, feel, feeding, wind, and vigour, whether a horse is improving or going back in his work and sweats, is the great point in which the judgment of a trainer is shown. This is 352 LOOKING VERY MUCH LIKE THE THING. easily detected by the experienced man; and such symptoms are the only true ones to tell him whether or not he is treating his horse judiciously. He may know that he is treating him judiciously as a race-horse; but the horse, by the symptoms I have mentioned, will best tell him whether he is being treated (as a particular horse) judiciously or otherwise; and this, nothing but experience in the alterations of that particular horse can teach the trainer.
A trainer, or any man accustomed to horses in training, may form a pretty correct opinion as to whether a horse is fit to go, if he is permitted to see him in the stable and doing his work; he could, however, only do this to a certain extent. If he saw the horse looked in good form, that his crest and muscles felt firm and springy, his legs clear and cool, his feet good, his eyes and pulse indicating neither debility nor too great a fulness of internal habit, and that he appeared cheerful, but calm and collected, he would be justified in saying, that so far as appearances went, the horse was up to the mark; and if he saw the horse go willingly, collectedly, sound, and stoutly at his work, pulled up sound, showed no alarm, and blew his trumpet, as much as to say there is plenty of puff in the bellows left, he might fairly pronounce, that if such a horse should be well on the day of running, he would be there, or thereabout, if he went with horses of his class; and barring accidents or roguery, he would most probably be right.
This opinion, however correct it might turn out, or however well it might be founded, as connected with horses in a general way, goes no further than to assume that the horse is fit to run ; but it is not a
“ FEELING IS" (NOT ALWAYS) THE NAKED TRUTH.
proof that the horse is at his best, or that he might not be better; the trainer of him can only judge of that.
We will take the thing in another point of view; and suppose we were shown a horse under the same circumstances as the one lately alluded to, and we found him with scarcely a bit on him, a staring coat, and feeling soft and loose, we might safely say he did not meet our wishes, or, in fact, look or feel like a horse fit to come to the post; we should, however, be extremely premature in our opinion if we pronounced he was not so. Most horses are to be got to be well, and look well, by change of treatment till they are so; but not all horses. There are some that by no treatment ever yet adopted can be made to feel or look well, but may still be at their best, and fit to run. I can never consider a horse, in such a state, as fit as he would be if he both felt and looked better; but if, when only doing such work as is necessary to bring him sufficiently stout and clear in his wind to race, he will look like a hunted devil, so he must look; and if he is found to run like one, it will show that the trainer had done his duty by him.
There are other horses that will keep high in flesh, let a trainer do all he can judiciously do to get it off : it would be as improper to pronounce such a horse as not in his best form, as in the case of the scarecrowlooking one. This seemingly fat horse (as we will call him) may be as clear as a bell in his wind, and may have no more fat in his inside than an Indiarubber bottle ; in fact, if he had, he could not be clear in his wind. What may to the eye look like fat with a horse in this state, if he feels well, is pure muscle. To reduce which, so as to bring him to the VOL. II.
ROYAL SAUCE. form of, perhaps, the generality of horses, he would have to be worked and sweated to an extreme that would render him stale on his legs, stale in himself, weakened in powers, and dispirited and debilitated in constitution. It would, no doubt, with such a horse be very desirable, for the sake of his legs alone, to get fifty pounds' weight of flesh off ; but if this were done at an expense of the loss of a hundred in point of stamina or soundness, the change would be fatal. How far to go, and no farther, is the nice point; as Peter Harvey said of his sauce.
I remember the following trait of the above worthy host of the Black Dog, at Bedfont, though I was a mere child at the time He had brought in a dish of his Maintenon cutlets. A gentleman at table took up a bottle of the Harvey's sauce; mine host rushed across the room and absolutely snatched the bottle from the guest's hand. "Pardon me, Sir," said Harvey. “His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales (whose refined taste no one doubts) once said that
my Maintenon cutlets, with my sauce, added by myself, were fit for the gods.' But so exquisite is its flavour, that a single drop too much or too little would spoil its effects.” Of course, Mr. Harvey was allowed to officiate for both of us; so I conclude that for once in my life I partook of the veritable ambrosia.
The man who can apportion the work of a racehorse with the precision Mr. Harvey did his sauce, is the ne plus ultra of a trainer. A good many, I suspect, do not cook their horses quite so well.
There are different opinions as to the advantages and disadvantages of sending horses to public training stables. I will not venture an opinion on a
355 matter so difficult to decide. Circumstances sometimes render them preferable to private training; and sometimes, as an Irishman says, to avoid giving the lie direct, “the reverse of that is the truth." This, of course, the public trainer will never allow. They will tell you, no horse can be properly trained out of a public professional trainer's hands. “Je m'en doute,” that is, if the person who undertakes to train a horse knows what he is about; but let a horse be brought out fit to run for a kingdom, nay let him win it, all the professional trainer would allow would be, “He was brought to post very well for home training.” I rather think Coronation was brought out pretty well from home training: I suppose I must also say FOR home training; at all events, he was brought out too well for a good many horses, and people too.
One thing is pretty certain, in sending a horse to a public training stable, figuratively speaking, every body will know more about the horse than his owner
- a circumstance, by the by, not very uncommon in private stables unless the owner (or some one for him) keeps as close a watch on the horse as other persons will do when the owner does not.
To attempt even an insinuation that any of our best public trainers could, in the remotest degree, err in any point of their treatment of horses would, I believe, be a crime much greater in some people's eyes than sacrilege itself. We must then, I suppose, set it down that they are always right. But as there are a good many indifferent trainers, and (I merely suppose it possible) some very ignorant and cousequently very obstinate ones, a man may presume far enough to venture an opinion on some part of the