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TAKING THE AVERAGE.
hands high, with bone in proportion, is unknown here. This is the reason why they esteem small horses, and say large ones cannot carry them; they have not large ones of the right sort, and I am quite certain that any man accustomed to look over Melton studs would agree with me in saying that among a field of Irish hunters, he could scarcely see one that, taking size, strength, breeding, and beauty into consideration, he would call a really fine horse; no, they have good ones, but comparatively speaking they have very few fine horses : here I quite agree with the Irish 'sportsmen that small horses are generally always better proportioned than large ones, and better for their size, but a good big one shall beat a good little one all the world over to carry weight.
Breeding as they do from common mares, they get this little hackney-looking horse that cannot go, or be expected to go the pace: he may suit and be fast for the country he has to go over, and in truth does go over it in a wonderful manner, but this does not make him fit for a better.
Put a field of Irish horses (I speak of them collectively by no means individually) by the side of Coplow: let a fox go away, I will venture to say they (that is the field) would not live with hounds ten minutes, no not across three enclosures; they would (no doubt of them) go on as long as you like, but it would be a wild-goose chase; the farther they went the farther they would be behind: put Tom Smith on one of them, and, unless it happened to be a picked one, I am quite sure he would ask for his night-cap.
I am fearful I am now losing ground in the good graces of my Irish fellow sportsmen; if I am, I am
387 truly sorry for it: I am only giving my opinion, I give it honestly and to the best of my judgment; I respect all fox-hunters, and if I was to find a foxhunting soul in a Brahmin, I would “grapple him to my heart with hooks of steel" instead of iron: so as what I now give as an opinion may meet the eyes of other fox-hunters as well as those of my Irish friends, I give it as impartially as I can.
I have been asked one question by many here that at first sounds like a poser. “If our horses are so slow, why do your English dealers buy up our hunters, and send them into Leicestershire:" my reply has been, and now is: “Our dealers do not buy Irish hunters to send into Leicestershire, nor with the generality of the horses they purchase in this country have they Leicestershire or any other shire in their heads: they buy here at prices that they know the horses will command in England for hackneys or harness horses, and for hunters in some countries. Such men as Biggs, Hewitt, and Hunter, when they hear of a choice one, do purchase him with an eye to his being also a first-rater in England, and when they do find such an one, he is worth five hundred ; but then such an one is a trump card, not only a trump, but the ace, and such horses are among Irish hunters in about the same proportions as the ace to the other cards." So much for the idea of our dealers buying up Irish horses for Leicestershire.
I have also been told that a horse that belonged to a Mr. Somebody here had been taken into Leicestershire, and that large sums had been refused for him there ; doubtless, for among the host of horses sent over from this country, it would be very extraordinary indeed, if some were not “out-and-outers,” even in
A RARE ONE. our best countries; but the talk that is made of such an occurrence shows its rarity, and that such a horse, like a comet, as King Harry said, is a wondered at.” This, however, I will say, was I living in a thickly enclosed country, I certainly would come over to Ireland to buy hunters : for such horses to scramble through dirt I never saw; from what I have heard of Bedfordshire, I should say they would be invaluable there.
In calling the Irish horse slow, I hope it will be understood that I am speaking of him generally, and relatively as to such horses as cross our fast countries; I do not mean he is slow in a heavy one, on the contrary, there he is fast: this and leaping is his forte, and here his peculiar stoutness does wonders. But when we speak of a first burst from a gorse cover in a turf country, we should also speak of racing pace.
Whether what I should term fair hunting is improved by hounds being bred so fast, I leave others to determine: at all events we kill a fox the sooner by it. But this much I know, that I have seen many corne up after a fox had been eaten, and speak in raptures of the pace, and the burst, of which they had seen but little at first, and, towards the end, nothing. Now I must say, that so circumstanced I should be any thing but enraptured ; and should I fear have wished either the hounds or my horse at the d-l.
Thus I wrote some fifteen or sixteen years ago, and many of my sporting friends were pleased to say they considered what I said was tolerably correct. Since that time a very considerable alteration, and, I am most happy to add, very great improvement has been made in breeding in Ireland, both as regards their race-horses and hunters; indeed, the latter is a
THE BEST IN THE WORLD.
natural result of the former, the better the thoroughbred sire of course the better will be his progeny, be they thorough-bred, half-bred, three-fourths, or seveneighths-bred ; and the Irish have lately been showing us that a race-horse, being Irish bred, is any thing but a blot in his escutcheon. In fact when we consider the far greater number of race-horses bred in England to what are produced in Ireland, it will not be found that the preponderance of good ones is very large in our favour.
I am told, and I doubt not it is the case, that the character of the Irish hunter is also fast changing, and the old short cocked-tailed hunter is fast verging into the more blood-like and faster horse : this in fact must be the case, for as they breed their hounds closer in with our English blood, they of course are faster than formerly, consequently they must also improve the pace of their horses; if they can do this, and still keep up their former stoutness, they will unquestionably have the best breed of hunters in the world for any country.
It has been objected to our horses that when taken first into Ireland they tumble into all their fences; doubtless they do this, and unless our fences were made the same as the Irish ones they must do so from being strangers to Irish fences.
Persons who have never been in Ireland always attach the idea of stone walls to Irish fencing, whereas in many hunts there such a thing as a wall is very seldom met with : I doubt whether an Irish horse accustomed only to a wall country would make a better hand of the double ditches of their other countries than one of ours. Riding in parts of Galway, and parts of Meath or Kildare, differs as
much as riding among the fens of Lincolnshire and over the light part of Surrey or Hertfordshire: a safe horse in one country would break his neck in another. If I wanted to break a man's neck, I think I should have a fair chance of doing it by putting him on Peter Simple among the blind ditches in part of the late Lord Petre's country, and ride one of the careful, short, popping, jumpers of that country at a twelve foot brook with a rail on the other side, if he gets safe over I am much mistaken.
There is one peculiar feature in the Irish hunting countries that is quite distinct from ours; their fencing is pretty much all the same thing where they have walls, though these of course vary in height. So soon as a horse has learned to jump one wall well his business is done ; so in their other countries, when he has learned to take a bank with a double or single ditch, his work is done also, for they are all pretty much alike. Here the Irish horse has an advantage as to the cleverness required of him ; but then so far as exertion is concerned, he is called on severely, for there is no picking out an easy place for him; the fence is nearly the same as to height and width from one side of the enclosure to the other, no gaps to make for, no gates that can be opened, no low stiles to jump, no, every fence he comes to is a largish one, and no low or weak parts in it: the only way the Irish horse saves himself is, he never does that at once that can be done at twice, and he “dogs” every thing that will afford him room to put a foot upon; if there is not foot hold for four feet, he uses two, and if even there is not room for two, he will clar one on, and this he will do only give him the space of a dinner plate; even five feet is a highish bank for a horse to