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WEIGHT MADE LIGHT OF. be surprised at anything that took place on the trial day; for queer things do take place on such occasions even among friends. I think I have at all events shown there are those to be found not very particular as to weight.
I have mentioned the foregoing as one out of scores of instances I have seen of how little the subject of weight occupies the attention of many men who are daily using horses even for sporting purposes. By many it is not considered at all. Most of my hunting friends must, I am sure, recall to their recollections how often they have seen two men with hounds on a bit of galloping ground racing at each other on horses of equal pretensions, equal in size and strength, but carrying perhaps the difference of 3st. in weight; and if the lighter weight keeps the lead, he goes home fully impressed with the idea that he possesses the fastest horse. I have even seen good sportsmen commit this folly. It descends to the very butchers, who will have a trot at each other, though the one be a boy of 8st., the other a man of 12st. I suppose all these think, like the dealer, that "it does not signify."
Singular as may appear the assertion, it is nevertheless a correct one, that I have rarely met a regular country gentleman, whose only pursuit (so far as his horses are concerned) is hunting, who possessed the niceties of judgment in horses. I rarely met such a man even knowing whether a horse is sound or unsonnd : and again, as far as relates to condition, their horses are seldom up to the mark and fit to go till about January. During October they are seen scraping the lather from their horse with their whip, and deluging their cambric or Bandana with the exudation from their own brows. Now, by country gen
37 tlemen, I beg to be understood as meaning the fine old or young English Gentleman keeping three or four hunters at the most. Such men as I have mentioned crossing Leicestershire are another guess matter : they are in a different condition (in life), and faith, so are their nags. Many of these really fine fellows, I regret to say, I know are not in condition to go the pace they do; but I must pay them the compliment of saying their horses are.
Such country. gentlemen as I allude to, while (as they call it) “sticking to the port,” d— all racing and the income tax, both from what they consider a sufficient reason ; namely, they don't like either; in which the correctness of their judgment is shown in about the same light as in regard to their horses. They happen to overlook the fact, that to racing we are indebted for the splendid breed of horses we see at the covert side : to racing we principally owe our present knowledge of that magical word condition : to
racing we owe that consideration of weight that induces · us to mount ourselves in accordance with it, a kind of handicapping, without which our field of sportsmen would very shortly be like the Irish miles —"if they're very long they're very narrow.” Our country gentleman forgets this; and now, though no dabbler in politics, it strikes me that in d-g the income tax, he forgets that if he has 501. a-year less income, he has quite an equal pull on the other side in the price of what he wants to buy, from which thousands of our suffering poorer brethren are now reaping the comfort. So, in my conception, he is anathematising a sport that has brought our horse pursuits to the highest state of perfection, and an Act, that, with its accompaniments, must be considered one of the most just, con
38 " TO THIS COMPLEXION WE MUST COME,” ETC. siderate, and humane ideas that ever emanated from the brain of a great statesman.
Having in the last few lines got a long way out of my line of country, the best thing I can do is, not exactly to run heel, but still to get back as fast as possible to where I may at all events have some chance; for while in Politic Gorse a challenge from any throat would sound like a woo-whoop at once for me.
It may be said, if racing can be supposed to have produced such improvement in our judgment and management of our hunting establishments, that the same field for information has ever been open to us since racing was first practised. Doubtless it has; but the necessity for putting such information into practice was not called for. Things would have been better done if our ancestors had attended to such ; but as their horses in those days carried them well enough for the pace they wanted them to go, anything bordering on training of hunters was never thought of: so the horse worked himself into condition WITH hounds, instead of being worked into it in order to meet them. In those days, speaking comparatively, weight did not signify much, any more than condition; but when we came to breed hounds that could run over the Beacon Course in about the same time that Hambletonian and Diamond and others have done it (which hounds have done), it became quite time not only to look out for a different description of horse to follow them, but also to put them in a different sort of condition. We hear nothing now of the cry of our fathers that no runs are to be expected till after Christmas. When the flesh was to be got off and the wind got into hounds and horses in the hunting field, doubtless our venerated fathers were seldom disap' ' LIKE A COMET,” THEY ARE “ WONDERED AT.”
pointed in their expectations of foxes beating them in the early part of the season: but now our horses are nearly as fit to go a clipper at one time as another. We may not, perhaps, in racing phrase, “ have got as long a length " into them; but so far as a burst of four miles goes, the nags are quite up to the mark. The pace kills often now-a-days, and always will ; but to horses in the condition they must have been fifty years since, it would have been battle, murder, and sudden death. Hunting men of 1745 would be as much astonished as we were at first by the railroads, if they could walk round the stables at Melton and see the size of the horses selected by a 12st. man to carry him: I grant 12st. is not a great weight; but I have personally found less sometimes quite enough and to spare, and I always rode big ones too. People say, and with great truth, there are more good little ones than good big ones. It is very likely there should be, for there are ten times as many little hunting-like horses to pick from as there are of big ones. Some very little horses are no doubt wonders, and can go with any thing and any where; but if it was found, in selecting two hundred horses all of the same shape, make, and breeding, the one hundred small, the other large, that the small horses could do what the larger can, the little horses would no longer be wonders. I therefore must think, that though there being more good little than big horses may really be taken au pied de la lettre, there being actually more of them, if there were as many large horses of the same quality to be got, the saying would be discontinued. We very properly expect less of a little horse than a large one, and are therefore surprised when we find him crossing
40 SMART'S DEFINITION OF A HORSE. the same fences and the same country at the same pace as one from whom we have a right to expect great performances. When I speak of big horses, I use the term in preference to large ; for a horse may, I conceive, be a large horse, and yet not be what I mean by a big one. By bigness I allude to big muscle, big loins, big joints, thighs, and sinews. Now a horse may very properly be termed a large one wanting all these. I have often seen what I in horse language term a big little one, or, as Smart says, “as long and as big as a boat.” If he was not this, I never saw a little one a wonder. Quite against my judgment, but from long habit, I prefer riding horses 16 to 15} hands, though I am satisfied for any riding purpose the latter is high enough if he is good enough ; but then he should be one of Smart's boats. Every man has his prejudices, and where they are harmless ones, right or wrong, he does no harm in entertaining them. I, like others, have mine against many things in horses, but there are three things in a horse that I never bought one possessing— narrow loins, narrow before the saddle, or calf-like knees. I never saw one that could carry weight thus made. I allow they go in all shapes (figuratively speaking), but I never saw one go long thus shaped. I do not of course mean that every horse for 12st. men must show strength to carry 17st. It is not necessary every fighting man should be as big as Ben Caunt. Doubtless there are many 13st. men that could beat him if they tried; but depend on it that for 13st. they must be big ones, and I am quite certain that of men of that weight he would probably beat five out of six. Johnny Broome is a nonpareil at anything like his own weight; but he would of course allow