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192 HE'LL DO IN TIME.
pleasure of making money; and he continues to speculate with success. Hitherto he has done nothing wrong: his horses have all turned out as he represented them. He now, however, happens unfortunately to get a horse not quite what he should be. What is he to do with him 2 Is he to sell him at a loss? A very short time ago he would have done so; but now the itch for making money has taken too firm a hold of him. He enters into a kind of compromise with his conscience, and the horse has really perhaps nothing material the matter with him. He avails himself of his position in society, and sells him, on his word, as a perfectly sound horse. If he prove otherwise, he does not allow he had been guilty of a deception, but pledges his word of honour that he was sound with him and when he sold him. This closes the transaction. Having thus escaped with impunity, instead of taking it as a salutary warning of the danger of such transactions — having once been guilty of a dereliction of honour and integrity, he goes on till he unblushingly (in dealers' phrase) sticks a screw into a friend whenever he can find an opportunity. This is about a fair sample of the usual career of those who commence privately dealing in horses. It is a pursuit that every gentleman should avoid. It is as demoralising in its influence on the mind, and eventually as fatal in its effects as to character, as is the pursuit of the professed gambler and black-leg. “All fair in horse-dealing” is an idea that some persons profess. It is a very erroneous one. It is an idea that no sensible or honourable man can seriously entertain. There is no more excuse for premeditated deception in the sale of a horse than there is in any
AB UNO DISCE OMNES. 193
other transaction. The moment a man can bring himself to think there is, he would pick a pocket. We will now look a little into the character and conduct of the regular horse-dealer. I know of no class of men on whom so great and (what is much more unfair) so indiscriminate a share of odium is thrown as on the horse-dealer. I am free to allow that if we could collect together every person employed, directly and indirectly, openly and covertly, in the sale of horses, we should be able to exhibit to the world a very tolerable (or it may perhaps be said intolerable) mass of iniquity. We must not, however, from this draw the inference that it necessarily follows all horse-dealers are dishonest. Take them from the highest to the lowest, that perhaps nine out of ten are more or less so, I think, is very probably the case. But my humble opinion, that tradesmen in any other line are pretty much the same, and in about the same proportion, is not perhaps absolutely erroneous. The only difference is this: the horse-dealer cheats one man in the day to the tune twenty-five pounds; the other cheats in smaller sums, a hundred in the same time and to the same amount; always especially keeping the fact in our minds, that in addition to his hundred customers, he would be as ready as the dealer to cheat any one man to the amount of the twenty-five pounds if the opportunity offered. There is one circumstance that ought to be taken into consideration, and pleads very much in favour of the fair horse-dealer (supposing our purchase from him does not answer our expectation, or perhaps his representation), that is the nature of the article in which he trades. I know of no one article of trade in which a man is so often WOL. I. O
194 PROBANDUM EST.
deceived, and in which he so often deceives himself, as in the horse. Dealers are often, much oftener than is supposed, deceived themselves. Respectable dealers do take every precaution in their power not to get an unsound horse into their stables. They cannot, however, with all their precaution, at all times prevent this. But they will not in such a case risk their character by selling such a horse to their customers. A horse may be purchased in the country from the breeder apparently sound: he may have hitherto been so; and yet before he may have been at work one week he may be the very reverse. Some hidden internal cause that the most practised eye could not detect may have long existed, the effects of which only become apparent on the animal being put to work. Here no blame can possibly attach to the dealer: he has bought him with every warranty of soundness: has travelled him perhaps a hundred miles home: has had him several days in his stable, and found him all he expected: he has every right to think him a sound horse ; as such he sells him: still such a horse may deceive both the dealer and purchaser when put to the test of work and change of treatment. Vicious as well as unsound propensities in the horse frequently lay dormant for a very considerable time: they also may be only called forth on change of treatment. A really vicious horse in the stable is easily detected and to be avoided; but there are tempers and dispositions in horses, as well as in men, of which we never get the slightest intimation till some hitherto untried provocation calls them forth. This probably never has occurred in the stable of the dealer. If a horse is intended for harness, which is a description of work that more than any other calls forth his vicious
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propensities, if he has any, he is put into a break by the side of a practised break-horse, who knows nearly as well what to do by the side of either a timid or violent companion as the man who drives them could tell him. I could in fact bring forward instances of good temper, patience, sagacity, and, when called for, determination on the part of some of these horses, that would not be credited by those unacquainted with this part of the dealer's business. Instances have been known of the break-horse being provoked to that pitch by a plunging and a kicking horse by his side, that he has caught him by the neck between his teeth, and shook and held him till he became perfectly quiet. The young horse is gradually and carefully brought on till he is perfectly steady with a steady helpmate: he is then matched and driven with another who has gone through the same schooling. The pair are then driven together till both are become quiet and handy. The dealer now considers them—and certainly is justified in putting them into the hands of any customer—as a pair of horses fit to be put to his carriage. Still it might and does sometimes happen that one or both of them may become unruly or set to kicking the first day they are used. This almost invariably arises, when it does occur, from injudicious or at least from inconsiderate treatment. I am quite satisfied that where one young horse does mischief from vice, ten do it from alarm; and there is no telling what a frightened horse will attempt or do; he is a thousand times more difficult to control than the most vicious one. A coachman may have driven his carriage for years in perfect safety in all situations, and may be an excellent coachman; but if he suffers him
196 INDISCRETION NATURAL TO YOUTH.
self to forget he has hold of a pair of young ones, without any other fault on his part, he will be almost certain to get into difficulties and danger, if not worse. A sudden stroke of the whip to a young horse, who has perhaps never before felt it, would set him plunging at once. Going more rapidly down hill than they have been accustomed to do will often alarm young horses. Turning very sharply round a corner brings one or the other horse, according to the turn right or left, suddenly on the pole, and confuses him. That most abominable and uncoachmanlike practice of pulling horses sharp up at a door throws them suddenly on their haunches, causes their feet to slip about in all directions, and unless their mouths are made of cast-iron, severely injures them. Old horses will bear all this, because (like the eels) they are used to it; but depend upon it young ones will not. It may be said they should be driven by the dealer till they are as steady as old horses: so they have been, and in point of docility and temper are disposed to do all that can reasonably be required of them: but we cannot give the experience or staid habits of a man of forty to a lad of sixteen. Boys, it is commonly said, will be boys; so will young horses be young horses. Like youth in mankind, they must have time to gain experience; and till they do gain it, they must be treated accordingly. Horses at best are but brutes; and, as I have before said, no man can tell what their tempers may be when roused. But the tempers of young horses never should be roused if gentle usage will prevent it. They seldom or ever are in the hands of the dealer or man of judgment. It would be rather an extraordinary proceeding on the part of a dealer if he was purposely to frighten or