HORSE. " The most noble conquest ever obtained by man," says M. de Buffon," was over this proud and spirited animal, which shares with him the fatigues of war and the glories of battle. Even in a domestic state, the horse is bold and fiery: not less intrepid than his master, he faces danger and defies it; he delights in the din of arms, and is animated with an ardour equal to that of man; on the course and in the chase, his eyes sparkle with emulation. Though bold and intrepid, he is docile and tractable: he knows how to govern and check the natural vivacity and fire of his temper. He not only yields to the hand, but seems to consult the inclination, of his rider. Constantly obedient to the impression he receives, bis motions are entirely regulated by the will of his master. He, in some measure, resigns his very existence to the pleasure of man. He delivers up his whole powers ; he reserves nothing ; he will rather die than disobey. Who could endure to see a character so noble abused? Who could be guilty of such gross cruelty 1 Yet this character, though natural to the animal, is in some measure the effect of education, which commences with the loss of liberty, and is finished by constraint."
The motions of the horse are chiefly regulated by the bit and the spur; the bit informs him how to direct his course, and the spur quickens his pace. The mouth of the horse is endowed with an amazing sensibility; the slightest motion or pressure of the bit gives him warning, and instantly determines bis course.
The horse has not only a grandeur in his general appearance, but there is the greatest symmetry and proportion in the different parts of his body. The regularity and proportion of the different parts of the head give him an air of lightness, which is well supported by the strength and beauty of his chest. He erects his head as if willing to exalt himself above the condition of other quadrupeds: his eyes are open and lively ; his ears are handsome and of a proper height; his mane adorns his neck, and gives him the appearance of strength and boldness.
The shape of the horse, unquestionably, surpasses that of all other domestic animals. The head should be small, and rather lean than fleshy: the ears small, erect, sprightly, thin, and pointed: the forehead, or brow, neither too broad nor too flat, and have a star or snip upon it: the nose should rise a little, and the nostrils be wide, that he may breathe more freely : the muzzle small, and the mouth neither too deep nor too shallow: the jaws thin, and not approach too near together at the throat, or too high upwards towards the onset, that the horse may have sufficient room to carry his head in an easy graceful posture. The eyes should be of a middle size, bright, lively, and full of fire : the tongue small, that it may not be too much pressed by the bit; and it is a good sign when his mouth is full of white froth, for it shows a wholesome moisture.
The neck should be arched towards the middle, growing smaller by degrees from the breast and shoulders to the head: the hair of the mane long, small, and fine; and if it be a little frizzled so much the better: the shoulders pretty long; the withers thin,and enlarged gradually from thence downwards, but so as to render his breast neither too narrow nor too gross. A thick-shouldered horse soon tires, and trips and stumbles every minute, especially if he has a thick large neck at the same time. When the breast is so narrow that the fore thighs almost touch, they are never good for much. A horse of a middle size should have the distance of five or six inches between his fore thighs, and there should be less distance between his feet and his thighs near the shoulders when he stands upright.
The body or carcase of a horse should be of a middling size in proportion to his bulk, and the back should sink a little below the withers ; but the other parts should be straight, and no higher behind than before. He should also be home-ribbed; but the short ribs should not approach too near the haunches, and then he will have room to fetch his breath. When a horse's back is short in proportion to his bulk, and yet otherwise welllimbed, he will hold out a journey, though he will travel slow. When he is tall, at the same time with very long legs, he is of little value.
The breed of horses in Britain is as mixed as that of its inhabitants : the frequent introduction of foreign horses has given us a variety that no single country can boast of: most other countries produce only one kind; while we, by a judicious mixture of the several species, by the happy difference of our soils, and by our superior skill in management, may triumph over the rest of Europe in having brought each quality of this noble animal to the highest perfection.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835
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