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but where the take-off was fetlock deep. This I particularly remarked in the Kildare country.
I happened to be riding out, and was reconnoitring the country with the eye of a fox-hunter from the top of a hill near Dunlavin when I heard hounds, and, looking towards Baltinglass, saw them coming towards me. They were well on their scent, and a field of, perhaps, fifty, on good terms with them. I viewed the fox within a hundred yards of me, and, on seeing the hounds had come to a check, I gave them a view.
From where I first saw them till they came up to me, I saw, I should say, thirty leaps taken in succession. When come up, I could scarcely believe the little hack-looking animals I saw were the same I had seen at a distance doing what they did. This was the first time I saw a field of hunters in this country.
Having mentioned this instance of their physical strength and bottom, I must make a remark or two on the repetition of work they are capable of.
In England, where we keep a number of horses, provided a hunter carries us brilliantly one day, if, any day during the next week, he can come again, we are quite satisfied; and, in Leicestershire, there are horses, that, though they will do wonders for a burst, are good for nothing with a second fox; still, many such are favourites, and would bring high prices. Not so here: an Irish hunter must come twice a week, and sometimes three times if he is wanted, and they do it.
I have no hesitation in saying that, let them go over the same ground, same pace, and same fences, in point of endurance, two Irish horses will certainly do more than three English ones.
382 " ALTIUS IBUNT QUI AD SUMMA.”
We will now speak of their natural leaping qualities. Here they are, as a nation of horses (if I may use the term) unrivalled ; leaping seems as natural to an Irish horse as swimming to a duck : as I before said, they all leap. I believe it is bred in them.
I had heard a great deal of six-feet walls before I came here, and, never having seen one taken, I used to say ne crede. I now beg to make my “ amende honorable” to my worthy friends here. Such leaps are frequently done, and a horse lately took a wall that I have seen in the neighbourhood of Ballinasloe six feet six inches, one as immovable as stone and mortar could make it; and a friend on whose veracity I can depend saw a horse take a capped stone wall, six feet three inches, under very disadvantageous circumstances; in fact, he half-baulked, and took it almost sideways: he merely knocked a stone off the top. The truth was, the man got frightened, which caused the horse to hesitate at first: he afterwards took it in spite of his rider, who would have been glad had it been refused altogether.
Such things are, of course, not commonly done in hunting, but they show the capability of Irish horses.
Let me now refer again to Leicestershire. There is a certain brook there which, when “a find” happens at Billesden, is often converted into a cold bath. It is often rode over, quite as often rode into, and certainly is rather a teaser: still, I could find many a Galloway in this country who would never make a mistake in it; in some proof of which I commissioned a sporting friend of mine in Essex, to make a bet on my part that I would produce a little Irish horse, not fourteen hands three inches, that should carry me, (eleven stone,) over the Mar Dyke, a thing never at
A NASTY ONE.
383 tempted there. There is a report that one of the Mr. Russells did it, but a relation of his told me it was not the fact. It certainly is a spreader, but quite navigable on a wide jumper. Like many other leaps, its appearance is formidable, but in reality it is nothing; certainly not more than twenty feet from bank to bank, with sound taking off. When I call it nothing, I do not mean that we often meet such with hounds, but I call it nothing with a crack jumper, and he perfectly fresh.
A Galloway here, some time since, not fourteen hands, lame, and old, carried eleven stone and a half over the lock of a canal faced with stone on each side, twenty feet from stone to stone—a frightful leap even to contemplate, much less to ride at, and quite a different affair from the Mar Dyke, where you could only, at worst, get a souse in the water, or a lodgment on a soft bank. Yet the good people of Essex did not listen to my bet, considering it only meant in joke. They would now refuse to take it up for another reason ; steeple-chasing has taught them to think it what I thought it at the time-comparatively nothing. But, though twenty feet under such circumstances is no feat, as with banks a few inches more or less would not matter, the same distance, where three inches would have been destruction, is a somewhat fearful risk of life and limb. A horse of mine, with hounds just going off, out of pure wantonness — for he had no occasion to do it took twenty-three feet at a gate with me in Surrey, at Warlingham Common; but stone copings and canals of twenty feet are quite another affair.
I have heard it said that colts here learn to leap from being turned into pastures either enclosed by
stone walls or wide ditches. This is probably the case, but this is not all that makes them what they are: they have a different mode of jumping to the English horse, and this gives them that general facility of leaping high, that our horses certainly do not so universally possess. See a deer jump; the exertion appears nothing to him. I saw one with the royal hounds take the wall into Cumberland Lodge Garden. It was quite seven feet: he was standing in the shrubbery that surrounds the wall: the hounds ran up to him; he was not ten feet from the wall; he looked at it, took a few steps in a walk, and vaulted over, merely displacing a brick or two.
Now the Irish horse jumps something in the same way. The English horse takes off from his hind legs, and when half over his fence, has himself at nearly full stretch; he then brings his hind legs under him, and alights on his fore ones ; then bringing in the hinder ones. The Irish horse takes off from all fours ; when on the top of his fence, all his legs are tucked under him, and he alights on all four together: this makes him more difficult to sit than ours; the English horse strides over his leap, the Irish horse vaults over it; this is peculiarly favourable to high jumping. I do not think the Irish horse can naturally leap wider than ours, but I most certainly think he can higher.
I am sure that many men in England accustomed to keep horses must have found many that could not or would not leap at all, that have had no idea of the thing, and would allow themselves to be forced into a ditch, or through a fence, without attempting to leap at it: this is never found in the Irish horse; buy what you will, you are sure of a leaper to a
IRISH THOROUGH BREDS.
certain degree, probably a capital one, and to do Pat justice, whether a horse can jump or not, he will try him.
Having said thus much of the leaping qualities of the Irish horse, I have now something to say of their other qualities, for which I cannot in justice award them the same commendations; these are pace and temper; in all I have ever said or written, Ihave ever maintained that speed is the very first desideratum in a horse intended for a hunter; in short, if a horse has not this qualification, it is, to say the least of it, injudicious to take any trouble with him, in order to make him a hunter; he is prevented by nature from ever making a perfect one for all countries, and even where a slow one may do, if he had speed, he certainly would do better.
It is in this particular, where, speaking of him generally and comparatively, the Irish horse fails : the fact is, he wants breeding; that is, that sort of breeding that produces speed. The Irish race-horses have hitherto been, when compared with ours, small; it is therefore impossible to expect from such sires the kind of horse we see in Leicestershire studs; such thorough-bred horses as could carry thirteen or fourteen stone have rarely been bred in Ireland, but in this particular they are yearly improving
Nothing can more strongly prove the little esti mation in which thorough-bred horses are held in Ireland, than the fact that if, in speaking of a horse you might intend to make a hunter of, you were to say he was thorough-bred, the impression would be against him; and why ? if he was an Irish thorough-bred one, they would expect to see a weed only equal to nine or ten stone: a thorough-bred horse sixteen VOL. II.