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122 A PROMISING BARGAIN.
to? why, he will have no chance with any thing but a road waggon when brought out to run. There can be no doubt but many valuable race. horses are lost by the obstinacy and prejudice of trainers: they take a dislike to a colt; fancy he can't be good: what is the consequence? The owner of course wishes him to be tried. Now a horse requires to be pretty much in the same condition to be fairly tried as he does to race. This unfortunate colt will not be got into this condition; takes his trial, and of course is beaten by the more favoured ones “as they like:” the trainer's prognostic is fulfilled (nobody could doubt that), the bill is paid, the colt is sold by Messrs. Tattersall, and “so much for Buckingham.” It is quite certain that the best trainers and the most enlightened men in their business are the best men to send a horse to ; that is, if they will exert their knowledge and abilities in his favour: but if they will not, though they may have a head, their not using it is as fatal to the horse and his owner as if they had no head at all. I can exemplify a little of the effects of trainers' disliking a horse by a case in point. I bought a horse which had been in a public training establishment; he was a bad one at best, and, what was worse, a nervous, fretful, and at all times a very difficult and vicious one to dress. He had run several times, and never won, nor had a chance of winning any thing. When I bought him, he had not an ounce of flesh or muscle on his bones, and looked as blooming in his coat as a singed cat, and she with the hair turned the wrong way: in fact, I took him in exchange for an unpromising yearling, or I should never have got him. Now it required no great share of head to see
AN IMPROVING PUPIL. 123
that something in his treatment had been wrong, and that, bad as he was, he had been made worse. What that wrong was forty-eight hours were sufficient to show : he looked frightened to death, and in the stable was ready with his heels the moment any one went near him, as if he expected that whoever did intended him some grievous bodily harm; in short, he had been over-worked, got frightened at his work, and equally frightened in the stable. The latter part of the story I found out before he had been in the box half an hour, from hearing the boy who brought him, and was attempting to dress him, bullying him all the time he was doing so. Thinks I to myself, if you lived with me, I need not wish (for I know) you would get it. I threw the horse totally out of work, and gave him long walking exercise by himself, with a particularly placid good-tempered boy on his back, till he came to his appetite, and made the boy during this time invariably give him his oats out of a bowl from his hand. This brought them on good terms with each other, and in one month this boy could do any thing he pleased with him. I then put him gradually to work, gave him but two sweats where in his former hands he would have had a dozen. He gained confidence in himself and with people; I ran him five times, taking care to put him where he would only meet his own sort of company. He won four times, and the fifth ran second, the good stewards allowing a horse to start which had no business there: but though he was proved disqualified, I was chiseled out of the stakes; at all events I never got, them. Now there was no ingenuity required about this horse; but it shows that if the head had been a. little more employed about him in his former training,
124 RIGHT AT LAST.
and the heels much less in his races, he would always have done better. I could instance, however, several horses which have always been trained by the same men, those not by any means men of superior intellect, yet they have brought these horses out in good form, and have been very successful with them. This, however, in no way militates against my axiom, that the more mind a man possesses the better trainer he is likely to be, provided he uses that mind. Such men as I have alluded to have probably lost their horses many races during the first season they had them under their care, from not discovering for some time how to treat them, so as to bring them out in their best form: like a botch of a watchmaker, who, attempting to regulate your watch, moves the regulator a mile too far to the right, by which he converts it into a locomotive under high pressure; he then moves it as much too far to the left, so when you wish to get up at nine and look at your watch, you find it pointing to a quarter to four. He blunders at last on the right medium; so do such trainers: from finding what does not succeed, they at last find out what does, and then wisely keep to it; whereas a man with more head would have found out in one month what it took them twelve to discover. Still I would rather send an inferior horse where I might suspect he would suffer in a temporary way from want of ability in his trainer, than to where I should be nearly certain he would permanently suffer from want of attention. I should as soon think of asking William Scott to ride a pony for a bridle and saddle, as I should of sending a leatherplater to John to train. People who know little of horse affairs really consider that any stupid blockhead
PAR NOBILE FRATRUM. 125
is equal to the management of them. This is how. ever quite a mistake; he would be no such thing. I have no doubt the most blundering thick-headed attorney that ever commenced the commonest action at law would think himself much degraded by any comparison being made between his abilities and those of Scott, and would fancy, though twenty years had failed to beat law into his thick skull, that as many weeks would make a trainer, however obtuse his faculties might be. So they might make as good a trainer as he a lawyer. Preserve me from the hands of the one, and my horse from those of the other! I think we might anticipate the action being spoiled in both cases. Nothing looks prettier or more easy to do, when we see a jockey give his horse the preparatory canter before a race: I scarcely know any ordinary situation that sets a man off to greater advantage; and certainly, with a tolerably good seat and hands, the head is not much in this case called in question. But this is only the manual, and, if I may use the expression, the handicraft part of the business. This is not riding THE RACE. We will not, however, as yet look quite so high as the jockey, but shall find some head is required even by a very subordinate little personage —the ordinary riding-lad, who rides the horse in his exercise work, and most probably sweats. He, little as we may think of him, will never be worth his keep if he is a stupid fellow. Some boys never can be taught to know what they are about, never can be taught what many persons would think very easy to learn—the pace you wish them to take their horse along, or in fact the pace they are going when they are on him. Others with clearer heads and more observation learn this very shortly: when they have
126 A DIVINE RIDING-BOY.
learnt it, they become very valuable to a trainer. Such a boy will take directions, and implicitly obey them: so would the other if he could; but he could not, because he would not be a judge of whether he was obeying them or not. Such a lad would never be fit to lead a gallop if he lived to the age of old Parr. I remember once seeing a trainer in (I think) one of the most frantic passions I ever saw a man, and with good reason. He had put a lad on a fidgety flighty horse to get very gentle exercise. This lad was notorious for two qualities; stupidity was one, but perfect steadiness was the other. I heard the trainer give this boy these simple directions:– “When you get to the Turn-of-the-lands, turn about, let your horse come away of himself; sit still, and keep him at a quite gentle half gallop.” The first part the boy obeyed; but he soon allowed his horse to steal away with him, and the trainer saw he was extending his stride every stroke he took. As soon as he got within hail, he held up his hat: the boy took the hint, but instead of getting his horse by degrees off his speed he pulled him off his stride altogether into a canter of six miles an hour. The hat was off again, and gently waved to come on; and on he did come with a vengeance, at a Leger pace. Up went the hat again, and if ever a man was mad in a temporary way, that trainer was the man. The boy was now near enough to see his master's gesticulations, and stopped his horse the moment he could, and walked him up to us. I saved the poor fellow a thrashing, but he was turned off that evening as incorrigible. He was hired by a clergyman, and made an excellent servant: no power on earth ever could have made him worth a penny in a racing-stable.