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The idea of training hunters, that is bringing them into something like the state of the race-horse in moderate work, would a century since have been considered so unnecessary, so absurd, and in fact so monstrous, that any one writing on such a subject would only have been considered as somewhat less insane than he who would put such a system in practice, and, in good truth, our worthy ancestors would have had some reason on their side in forming such an opinion.
There are comparatively but few things which we do that are absolutely absurd in themselves, what renders them so is either their being in some way prejudicial, unnecessary, or inefficient to their intended purpose.
We should hold it as ridiculous, and worse than time and labour thrown away, if we were now to give a cart-horse a two-mile canter every morning, - and it would be so, because the purposes to which he is applied are of a description that render such exercise uncalled for, although a little acceleration of the general motions of this unwieldy gentleman would, if accompanied by proper treatment in other respects, not only be highly advantageous to him but much more so to his master; still, in a general way, the idea of urging Smiler beyond a walk would be held as preposterous : he therefore still continues the s6 even tenour of his way."
TEMPUS MUTAT OMNES.
At the period to which I allude, sweats, sweaters, and setting, were as unknown in the hunter's stable as a trot in that of the cart horse.
The sportsman of those good olden times of course then upheld the opinions entertained by others, and adhered to the practices of others of his day; nor is he to be considered as one knowing little of his pursuit at that time, or vacillating in his opinions or conduct because ere this he would have changed his opinions and altered his conduct in the same pursuit. He may now adopt a diametrically opposite mode of following that pursuit. This in no way proves he was wrong formerly, but that, from the change of things, his former mode, though right then, would be wrong now. Nevertheless persons pique themselves very much on what they term their steadiness of purpose, fixed principles, and persevering efforts, when in point of fact they often only deserve reprobation for their obstinacy, and ridicule for persevering in attempting that which it is next to impossible to achieve, and would be useless if accomplished.
If such perseverance could be held commendable, I know of no more commendable gentleman than a pig. Let this said persevering gentleman form a wish to get through a gate, and supposing that gate opens towards him and he gets his snout between it and the gate port, of course the harder he shoves the closer the gate jams in his snout; he never attempts to throw it open, but there he will stand, increasing his efforts to shove through, and increasing his screaming as his nose gets pinched: this generally ends in Hodge coming with a good wattle in his hand, by the sound application of which to the persevering gentleman's ribs, he induces him to draw back, which puts an end to the 66 THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN." 363 further illustration of steadiness of purpose and fixed principles altogether.
Thus the sportsman of 1746, though he perfectly well knew how to get a hunter into that state, for I will not say condition, that enabled the horse to do such work as those days required of him, would be little better than the pig of fixed principles, if he allowed his estimation of condition to be fixed on the estimate of what condition formerly was, or rather on what was then called condition. What we now call condition was then only known in racing stables. This did not come from our ancestors knowing less about the horse than we do; nor was the knowledge of condition perhaps less understood than it is now where it was wanted. But why the condition of hunters was not understood was, mainly because our present condition was not then as it is now, indispensible for hunters; consequently, training hunters was unthought of.
There can be no doubt but the training, now so indispensable to the hunter who is to go a burst over Leicestershire, would, if we only wanted him to take a ring with harriers, enable him to do this with much greater ease to himself than a better horse who was only in common hare-hunting, condition could do the same thing, and that if our ancestors' horses had been in the condition that ours are now, the pace hounds then went would have been merely play to them; but we must not on that account set down sportsmen of days gone bye as boobies in respect of stable management: we merely do what in fact they did ; we get horses into that state that answers our purpose. And though I always held it as a maxim that a hunter should very much approach the
364 “WHEN AT ROME,” ETC. ETC. race-horse in condition, it is only because since I first hunted hounds have always gone the pace they now go, or very nearly so, that I hold such condition necessary.
If a man was obliged to confine himself to hunt with harriers in a cold bleak country, I should tremble for his horse if he was in tip-top Leicestershire condition : not from thinking a horse in such condition more likely to contract a cold than any other if properly used, (that is,) used for such purposes as require such condition ; nor is a short coat that dries quickly so likely to produce such a calamity as a long one that is tantamount to a wet blanket on a horse: but that the general atmosphere in which such a horse must be continually kept renders him unfit to withstand the cold, slow work, and, what is worse, the alternate heats and chills to which the hunter with harriers is subjected. A clipped horse thus exposed would be as much to be pitied as a lady in a ball dress joining the throng witnessing the skaters in Hyde Park. Condition, so far as high feeding, and consequent high health, goes, is a preventive of colds, and in no place are colds less frequent than in a Melton stable. So as we say of Rome, when we are at Melton, we must do as they do at Melton, at least with Melton horses.
Hunters formerly never galloped between the days of hunting, nor was it then necessary; they were then able to come so often that any thing like a sweat between the days was not wanted. Two horses then would enable a man (barring accidents) to hunt three days a-week with fox-hounds, and get also a day with harriers with that horse whose turn it was to get but one day in that week with fox-hounds,
with that horses and get also
: but one
TAKING A HINT.
365 But times are strangely altered since those days: men's opinions are altered, consequently hounds are altered; horses are equally altered, so far as their breeding goes, and condition is altered in more than a corresponding degree; and I make no doubt even foxes are altered also in a great degree; for where hounds hunt five and six days a-week in lieu of three (and formerly with some packs only two), foxes are much more disturbed, and become, like a well-bred man, quickly sensible to a hint. The tongue of a fox-hound, when frequently heard, becomes a very palpable hint to Pug ; who, if he has had a chevy or two with one of our flying packs at his brush, knows it is a hint neither to be misunderstood nor tampered with: such a fox, as we say in coaching phrase of a free horse, “ does not want telling twice.” Pug has, from experience of the performance that generally follows, contracted a great dislike to an overture of what we call music, for what may be harmony to our ears, he well knows bodes any thing but harmony to him; he is about in the situation a Scotchman conceived a Frenchman to be who objected to the pipes.
An itinerant Highland piper, thinking he could gratify a party of gentlemen at dinner, began playing some of his national martial airs at the window: it, however, happened Sandy had been most unfortunate in his selection of listeners, for one of them, a Frenchman, rushed to the window, threw it open, and exclaimed, Allez, cochon, otez cette pipe infernale, “ go you away with your dam noise!”
“Eh!” says Sandy, "you might keep a civil tongue in your head, and I'd gang my ways without your fashing yoursel at that gate; but I just ken the matter at once, perhaps you're one of those who
yoursel at 1 gang my walep a civil tonom