VICE And Vicious Propensities
VICE And Vicious Propensities. Almost every bad habit to which a horse becomes addicted is the result of idleness; to remedy which there is nothing but exercise and bitting effective. The latter is but an auxiliary, but still it is a most important one, and the only succedaneum when plenty of exercise is not to be procured. It has also this advantage, that it can scarcely be made an instrument of excessive cruelty or torture to the animal.
Nothing is more common than for a restive horse, more especially a young one, to stop still; nor can any effort of his rider move him. This may arise from fear, or from some other cause operating more strongly than the efforts of his rider. The obvious way to remove this is, not by beating or spurring: if it arises from fear, patience will be most effective; the horse will become accustomed to the sight, and learn not to fear it: if it be the effect of caprice, your patience must outlast his obstinacy, and he will soon be tired of standing still, and move on. If he attempts to retrograde, he should be attacked vigorously though firmly ; but the spur or whip should no longer be used than as a preventive, never as a corrective : to force an animal upon an object that alarms him is the grossest folly, if not cruelty. Your purpose is gained when you can induce him to face whatever he conceives to be dangerous; and patience to accustom him to such objects, and courage to hinder his retreating from them, will be found to answer every end.
Some horses have the habit of kicking in the stable ; others under the saddle. The first arises from idleness or imitation, for which nothing more is necessary than plenty of exercise, even to fatigue, as rest will then be necessary to nature. The habit arises generally from want of exercise ; and the horse not unfrequently amuses himself by the noise kicking affords him as a substitute for that which employment in the open air would render unnecessary. Covering the part he kicks at with a piece of hop sack stuffed with shavings will prevent the noise, and his penchant will cease.
Kicking in the stall is seldom met with out of a gentleman's stable. The racer and hunter in full condition, or the pampered coach-horse, are those which are generally afflicted with this vice, which is very rarely to be found in the stable of the coachmaster, hackneyman, or the active owner of a single horse. Kicking under the saddle is either the effect of bad breaking, or mischievous teaching, a practice that many a one has had cause to remember the day of the month they began it. Nothing but patience and giving the horse confidence in his rider, combined with plenty of exercise, will be of any avail to correct this habit Sometimes this vice is caused by uneasiness of the saddle, in which case strict attention should be immediately paid to rectify it.
When a horse kicks or rears at starting in harness, the voice of his driver should be used soothingly and encouragingly: he should be led for some distance at a walk by an attendant, and should never be permitted to start unless he does so quietly. Start him in a walk, and never permit him to proceed until he is quiet; but care must be taken not to fidget or make him uneasy. Encourage him with good words, and by patting him, and he will then retain his temper and start quietly.
A horse is but a lever, and cannot elevate his heels without depressing his head ; and if he be in the habit of kicking whilst in the act of progressing, he must be vigorously rallied, both by voice and whip. This will leave him no time for playing pranks; and he will get the habit of being quiet, when he finds that indulgence in kicking is always followed by that which not only increases his exertions, but is attended with commensurate pain.
When a horse kicks or shies in passing an object, patience, firmness, and good horsemanship will break him of bis vice. The same plan should be adopted to make him pass carriages standing still, or coming to him, or passing him, always, however, combining encouragement with firmness, and allowing him sufficient room to pass.
The windsucker (as Mr. Bracy Clark describes the crib-biter) will generally be found to be of an irritable nervous temperament, and may be known by a staring coat, an anxious countenance, and an attenuated frame. Windsucking is practised not only when standing or lying, but sometimes even in walking exercise—producing in either case the same consequences as crib-biting; namely, flatulence, cholic, indigestion, debility, and an impaired stamina : and though he may be used, and useful, for the common purposes to which horseflesh is put, yet he will always be found to fail when increased exertion is required.
As a remedy for this vice, commence by increasing his morning exercise, and if he sucks his wind in his walking exercise, ride him with a stable bit, with a small piece of list stitched on each side of the players, which is not to be taken out of his mouth, either in or out of the stable, except when feeding.
The slight annoyance caused by this simple plan when in the stable, turns all the animal's attention into another channel, and windsucking, which formed his sole amusement at other times, is neglected, and he ceases to inhale the air. In the afternoon, exercise again for three or four hours as before; and when the bit is removed for the purpose of feeding, wash it well in cold water previously to replacing it. After the first fortnight, remove the list from the hit, but not before; as by increasing the substance it increases his annoyance, and at the same time, being soft, does no injury to the general structure of the mouth. When the list is removed, retain the bit night and day until the animal is accustomed to and sutlers no inconvenience from it; and when he stands perfectly quiet, remove it altogether. The time the bit may be left off varies according to the temper of the animal j but generally from one to two months is the average time to effect a cure.
During the whole of this treatment every care must be paid to the general health of the animal, and extra exercise must never be neglected. In the course of a few days —however mean the condition and appearance of the horse may be— the groom will be agreeably surprised by the rapid improvement this mode of treatment imparts to the condition and health of his charge.
The same course of treatment may be applied successfully to most other habits arising from nervous irritability, including weaving: a horse is said to weave when he is continually moving his bead from one side of the stall to the other, at the same time spreading his fore legs widely, shifting the weight of his body first on one, then on the other. This movement, which resembles that of a shuttle in a loom, gives rise to the term weaving, and it is a most appropriate one.
Many horses, especially hunters and those which are highly fed, will begin to weave immediately they see a saddle or bridle put upon another horse, evincing by their motions an anxiety for exercise themselves. Tired horses never weave; and those who get exertion enough in a legitimate way are glad to seek rest in their stable, rather than increase their fatigue by continual motion.
The best way to subdue this propensity is to create a counter irritant by the employment of the bit, as in the cases of windsucking. The moment a horse, either from long continuance in the stable, or from any other cause, begins to exhibit symptoms of weaving, one of these bits should be buckled to the headstall, and remain for seven or eight hours a day, except when feeding. This being in itself a sort of exercise will prevent him from following the propensity. Independently of this, the effect it has on digestion is absolutely surprising. A horse of tender and delicate appetite, or one who has been pampered by overindulgence till he has become nice in his food, will eat heartily and with increased enjoyment after having been on the bit three or four hours; and it is such horses as these that generally imbibe those practices and vices which are among the numerous " curses of good horseflesh."
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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