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NECESSARY, IF NOT QUITE JUST. 107
namely, having horses kept on a tight gagging or bearing rein till their necks ache to that degree that they are fain to throw their heads up to gain a temporary relief from an unnatural and consequently painful position. This habit having been attained, no matter from what cause, we must endeavour to cure him of it, which it will require a little justifiable severity to effect. The rearing-bit will do this in a very few days; first of course taking off or easing the bearing-rein, then put on the rearing-bit, but loose, so as in no way to restrain or inconvenience him so long as he carries his head at any reasonable or allowable height. But the moment he tosses it up, he gets a rap on his jaw; and this occurring as often as he repeats the offence, a few hints will suffice. This is better than constantly using a nose martingal, even in harness. I may be asked why I so decidedly object to the nose-martingal for general use in riding, while, as will be shortly seen, I as strongly advocate the use of the racing-martingal when it is in the slightest degree required 2 My objection to the nose-martingal then is this: if a horse makes a blunder, whether a trifling one, or one likely to end in a pair of broken knees, up goes his head; now, though this is by no means necessary to enable him to recover himself, but on the contrary prevents the rider helping him to do so, still, from the very sudden violence with which he generally chucks his head up, the nose-band gives him virtually a sharp blow on his nose. It would be rather a curious experiment, if we saw a horse falling, to give him a blow with a stick on the front of his nose to induce him to exert himself to raise his foreQuarters. I should say it would rather help him to fall
108 BAD HABITS SHOULD BE ALTERED FOR LADIES.
plump on his knees; yet the nose-martingal in a limited sense positively does this: should he recover himself (in spite of this), the next time he commits a similar fauw pas, he remembers the blow he got the last time, and is afraid to exert himself, dreading a similar return for his exertion; for the rider cannot of course in any way cause the fived martingal to relax one inch of its tension, which with all other martingals except the rearing-bit he can do. For ladies (who more frequently use the nose-martingal than men) I hold it in utter dread and abhorrence, unless put on so very long as merely to act if the horse tosses his head so high as to greatly annoy them. Even in this case I should say, cure him of the habit, then he will not want any martingal at all. But if he is so incorrigible as to render the nose-martingal necessary, he will never be fit to carry a woman: get rid of him at once, unless you want a chance of getting rid of the lady. This common courtesy obliges us to consider as an impossibility even among married men.
Having now vented my spleen on all and every fixed martingal, except on very particular occasions — and which I trust will occur to my Readers about as often as angels' visits, or those of real friends—I will venture my opinion on the use of the simple racing or hunting martingal, to which I never found but one objection during twenty-five years of hunting experience. Without a little attention, it will sometimes, when you are opening a gate, catch the upright bar; and in very thick strong coverts it sometimes is caught by a straggling bough. This little occasional inconvenience is, however, counterbalanced a hundred-fold by its general utility. I do not of course mean that it is useful on a horse who does all you wish, and no
thing that you do not wish, without one. If his head and neck are so formed by nature that he carries them both in a proper place, we cannot improve on nature: but unless this is decidedly the case, practical expericnce has taught me that a martingal can alone insure our comfort and safety, and enable us to render our horse obedient to the rein, which we never can make him if his head is in an improper degree of elevation. We will suppose, that from carelessness, the pole-pin of a carriage has not been properly put in, or put in at all; we probably find no inconvenience arise from it so long as we go on a level road or up hill: but suppose, on beginning to descend the hill, we find the end of the pole on a level with our horses' ears, I can make a quotation tolerably apt to our situation—facilis descensus Averni. I think we should wish there had been such a thing invented as a pole martingal. A horse getting his head up is not perhaps likely to lead to so serious a catastrophe; but whenever he does get it proportionably above the proper level, we have no more command of him than of the carriage. I believe every riding man (I mean horseman) will allow that all our command over a horse while riding him both begins and ends in our command over his mouth. This I shall consider as a point given. I have thus endeavoured to prove getting his head up loses us this command: if this point is also ceded to me, I think we may fairly come to the conclusion, that whatever prevents his doing that by which we do lose our command of him is a resource never to be dispensed with where we run the slightest chance of wanting it, and this resource is of course the martingal. I do not know whether race-horses were better tem
110 YOUNG IIEADS AND OLD HANDS.
pered a hundred years ago than they are now, whether they had better mouths, or jockeys had better hands (I should think none of these suppositions likely to have been the fact); but certainly long since that period martingals were but rarely used in races; now we as rarely see a race ridden without one. This may probably arise from more two-year-olds being brought to the Post than there were in the time of our forefathers. These young ones at times take to all sorts of freaks and gambols; and, let me ask, what could any man do with these without being able to command their mouths? Of course, nothing. They would be all over the course, or perhaps out of it, just as their fancies led them; nor could all the Chifneys, Scotts, or Days in England get them together at the Post. The martingal has been found to steady the heads of such horses, and to enable the jockey to keep them in command while running. This has probably led to its general use on almost all race-horses: if therefore a perfect command of a horse's mouth has been found necessary on a level race-course, it must be also necessary when we ride over all descriptions of ground and all descriptions of fences. I have heard many persons express a fear that in hunting a martingal would confine a horse, and perhaps prevent his rising at his leaps. I have heard others at once assert that it did, yet allowing at the same time that they had never tried one. I cannot but think the latter gentlemen rather too fast. Now, as I have before stated, I have not only tried them, but constantly used them on every horse I ever rode that in the slightest degree wanted one; and I have universally found it to be the case, that whenever he does want a martingal, he will be made to rise better
THE POLES MAY MEET. 111
at his fences with one than without one. In illustration of this, I must again allude to the demi-perpendicular pole. We will suppose that we wanted the fore-wheels of the carriage to rise so as to get over any obstacle on the road, would the pole rising up in the manner I have described in the remotest way contribute to raise the wheels? Not at all: the pole only would rise, the wheels would remain dead on the ground. We will say by way of hypothesis that the carriage is a living object: the four wheels correspond to the legs of a horse, the body to his body, and the pole to his head and neck: the driving seat is the fulcrum from which we act. If we wished to induce the carriage to elevate its forepart, should we take out the pole-pin, when by so doing we could affect nothing but the pole itself? I humbly conceive we should rather take care that the pole was retained in its proper place; than, by acting on its extremity, the carriage, finding it could not lift up its pole alone, would lift up its foreparts altogether. Now I consider we act in a very similar manner on a horse, and that a loose-necked one, with or without a martingal, bears a close affinity to a carriage with or without a pole-pin. In fact, if I may use the expression without having a pun added to my other sins, our great object is to keep both their poles in their proper places. I have attempted giving something like an ocular demonstration of what I mean, by scratching with my pen in a rough way the parts of three horses, which from the downward inclination of their bodies, may be supposed to be either coming over a drop-leap, descending a steep declivity, or tumbling on their knees, whichever the Reader pleases to imagine, for