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NE SUTOR ULTRA CREPIDAM.
mounting a friend, a dozen or fifteen hunters are to be made use of.
A friend of mine – a capital sportsman, but, in Leicestershire phrase, a snob— some years since had a mind to see Melton, and sent down five excellent hunters and two hacks, who could, on occasion, “go a bit” with hounds. He considered he could hunt every day in the week with these—so he had done, and could continue to do in Gloucestershire: but, in little more than two months, in Leicestershire, he brought them back all skeletons, four of them screwed up for that season, and his best horse with inflammation on the lungs, from which he never recovered. The fact was, my friend rode heavy, and as bold as ever man rode ; his horses were in good condition on going to Melton, that is, good general fox-hunting condition, but not in racing condition, and in this state they had to go with horses that were. They did for a time, because they were very superior nags, but the consequence was what I have stated, — each horse was required to come so often that he was forced to be all but rested from one hunting day to the next. After a horse has been indulged we will say three days, it requires four or five of proper exercise and work to screw him up again to proper concert pitch; this these horses had not: they were not properly wound up, so, like a watch in the same situation, could not go.
On my friend's return after his disastrous Melton campaign, his horses were, of course, unfit for service. I had long borne his gibes and jeers on my “leatherflapping" system, as he used to call the way I treated my horses, but he now most gratefully accepted an occasional mount on the “ leather-flappers.” He al
BANYAN DAYS. lowed himself astonished that they could carry his weight better, faster, and longer than his own. I was not ; they had wind for me, and a puff or two left for even his four-stone extra weight. The presence of weight tells awfully no doubt, but the absence of wind is a regular stopper.
Without arrogating to myself the province of adviser to any one, I may, perhaps, be permitted to state where I think some people act injudiciously in regard to the treatment of hunters on and about hunting days, so far as regards fasting them. It is quite true that we want the hunter in as good wind as the racer, and neither are fit for their purpose with anything bordering on a full stomach : there is this difference, however, between what we require of the two horses. The race-horse is only called on for exertion on an average of, perhaps, four or five minutes, but the hunter has as many hours' work before him, and must have something in him to support that exertion, and fasting horses as long as some grooms do is not likely to afford this support. A bucket of water and a rack of hay are not quite what we would wish to give a horse on a hunting morning. Nor would a pot of porter and a large beef-steak be just the sort of breakfast for a man intending to run four miles. But if the man had a walk of two hours and a half to go before running, and his run was not to commence before eleven o'clock, a inoderate breakfast of a chop and a bit of stale bread, or a couple of biscuits at six, would not make him run a bit the worse, on the contrary, the better for it. If he had only one hundred yards to go this support would not be necessary. With dogs the case is different: their digestion is slower, they
eat considerably more at a meal than they can properly digest for some hours afterwards. But the horse who has eaten the last lot of hay allowed him by six o'clock the evening before hunting is in a very different situation: that (say) six pounds of hay is very shortly digested; and though a loaded stomach is bad, if there is not sufficient left on it to prevent its craving for food, sickness and debility follow. It is the same with water: absolute thirst should never be allowed; a mere inclination to drink is another thing; I always had my hunters watered four times a-day upon this principle; they were consequently never what could be called absolutely thirsty, and greedy horses were more content to have the quantum reduced each time the day before hunting, than they would have been if watered less frequently. I always with animals acted as nearly as I could on the same principle I would with myself: if for any purpose I wished to diminish the ordinary quantity of liquid I take during the twentyfour hours, a slight diminution at each meal would not inconvenience me; but if I was told I must not take a single cup of tea or a glass of wine and water or any thing else at supper, still less any liquid at breakfast, I am quite satisfied I should feel any thing but comfortable, or very kind in disposition during the day. My horses should neither get more food nor water from six o'clock on one morning until ten the next than other persons; but I do not like the aut Cæsar aut nullus system of many grooms. I would diminish the quantity taken as much as them, but begin diminishing the quantum at six on the preceding morning: I should then owe my horse a handful of hay and a few go-downs of water
IIEIRS AND HUNTERS. at six the next, and he should have it, always had, and I never found any perceptible remains of it at eleven. Let it be observed when I say a handful I mean it. Every medical man will say never fast from breakfast to dinner, " take a biscuit, or even half of one, or your stomach will probably be too weak to relish your dinner." I am quite sure many hunters cannot feed on their return home, from the powers of the stomach being exhausted by too long fasting. Half the ordinary run of grooms, if they intend to give two horses half their allowance of water, fill a bucket, and, when the first horse has taken his half, may be seen hallooing at him, and, figuratively speaking, hammering him about the head to get him to take it from the bucket: when done, the dissatisfied animal keeps knuckering and fidgeting about all the time the other is enjoying the draught the first considered as destined for him. “Fill what you take, but drink what you fill," is commonly said by a host: the spirit of this should invariably be acted on in a stable.
The youngster in his nurse's lap, if he promises to become a fox-hunter, and consequently has some d— l in him, will roar like an embryo bull if the cup is taken from him before it is empty; nay, will hold on to it like a Trojan: put in the cup what is proper, and let him finish it, he gives a grunt and a "hah” of satisfaction and feels himself happy; why not (where we can advantageously do so) gratify the feelings of a hunter as much as those of the heir to an estate ?
If the race-horse had nothing to do but come out and run his race once a month for six months in the year, he would have a very gentlemanly idle sort of
life of it. Who would not then be a race-horse ? But the race is comparatively the play part of his life : so if the hunter had but to make his appearance once in ten days, and then be moderately rode, his occupation would be pleasant enough also; but he has had plenty on his hands (perhaps I should say legs) to do during the time. Some persons might think he was enjoying himself; in short, a hunter to be right is always at work. Rest, in fact, would be cruelty to him, that is, if we want him to go again with hounds.
How far the present system of hunting is to be advocated is not for me to say. I by no means think it impossible that, like most things that have come to their fastest, it will probably, in some measure, “hark back” to the old plan of hunting a fox ; but till it does, train hunters we must, or stay at home.
Cordials have been recommended, and are of very frequent use in hunting stables, more so formerly I believe than now; in fact, they were then more wanted. Horses were out many more hours and chases lasted longer, consequently the animal spirits more frequently needed such stimulants; now a very brief space of time either brings the nag home or leaves him a dead one, as the case may be. Broken backs, broken limbs, and broken hearts are, I am sorry to say, not very uncommon now; and as in such cases cordial balls are not particularly efficacious, they are not in the request they were, when I am told it was a common thing to see a gentleman under a hedge popping one down his horse's throat. There can be no doubt of their great utility, and knowing this, I always adopted the plan of teaching every