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Selection Of The Horse
Conformation Of Horses
Disposition Of Horses
Saddlery And Equipment For Horses
Care Of Saddlery And Leather
Feeds And Bedding For Horses
Care Of Horse Feet And Shoeing
In Or Out Of The Stable
Basic Physiology Of Horses
Genetic Considerations Of Horses
( Originally Published 1954 )
A good many volumes have been written on the method of selecting a horse and it would seem that there could be little left to say. Unfortunately, most writers concern them-selves with the ideal and do not sufficiently consider the fact that the average owner must content himself with some-thing less than perfection. A horse may have numerous faults of conformation and still provide many years of pleas-ant riding. There are other defects, however, which are vitally important and no mount will be ultimately satisfactory if they are present in a marked degree. It will be my endeavor to point out the factors which are essential and those which may be overlooked.
The first thing that the prospective owner must decide for himself is the sum that he can afford for a new mount. This is an intensely personal matter and a great deal depends upon how important horses are in your own way of life. It is not uncommon for a man to have a large home, sterling silver, Oriental rugs, and the finest car available while he seems quite content to hack around on a worthless nag that is a candidate for the glue factory. On the other hand, there is the owner who regards a good horse as the supreme, joy of his existence and he will deprive himself of every other luxury, and sometimes even the necessities in order to mount himself in a way which makes him proud.
Some of this feeling is a survival of the days when a good horse was the prime essential in the life of the community, particularly in the pioneering days.
We can paraphrase Hamlet and say, Costly thy horse as thy purse affords, but before we decide just how much that may be, perhaps we should investigate the investment over a period of years. If we buy a young and sound horse it is fair to assume that he will have about ten years of useful life. He reaches his physical prime about the age of five, and barring accident or disease he should still be doing his job until the age of fourteen or fifteen. Many will continue another five years or longer and I have seen many top per-formers on the polo team or in the hunting field who were almost old enough to vote. So when we consider the purchase price we should divide it over the period of use just as we would that of an automobile or an item for the house-hold.
In another chapter the problem of maintenance costs will be more completely considered but for the moment we will limit the discussion to a rough estimate of feeding expenses. In an average year each horse will require three to three and a half tons of hay and about half that weight of grain, not to mention bedding and miscellaneous items. When that is priced at the current quotation and multiplied by ten it is at once apparent that maintenance will be very considerable for the life span. It is patently foolish to save fifty or a hundred dollars, or even two or three times that figure for that matter, when it will mean but a dollar or two a month in the long run. A poor horse eats just as much as the very best and he will never pay his way either in personal satisfaction or in picking up a little prize money in the shows. This still leaves us without a specific figure and I offer the two following as reasonable ways to reach a price. 1. It is not wise to buy a horse whose true value is less than the cost of the feed he will consume in three years. 2. If you really want to derive the greatest part of your pleasure from riding you are not extravagant to spend the equivalent of one month's income for your purchase.
The greatest difficulty in arriving at a purchase price lies in the fact that the value of horses is subject to more fluctuations than anything found on the open market. Anyone can appraise a house or a used car with little difficulty, but a horse may be worth a fortune in one community and go begging in another part of the country. During the depression year of 1930 I stood at the auction ring in St. Louis and watched hundreds of the finest young American saddle bred prospects go under the hammer. Nobody was buying, and there were tears in the eyes of the breeders as the auctioneer begged for just a few more dollars for animals going for a fraction of the cost of raising them. A beautiful young stallion with his whole show career before him was knocked down for four hundred dollars, in spite of the fact he was a full brother to Chief of Longview, one of the greatest his breed has ever known, and who had sold for a sum in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars! It was quite a different story at the auction of Thoroughbred yearlings in Lexington in 1945. Here again they were offering the cream of the crop, but the auctioneer did little urging as the frantic bidders ran them through the ring at an average of three minutes each and for a figure that approximated nine thousand dollars per yearling. Of course, these animals were destined for the big race tracks and the prizes that they offer, but during the war the same quality of yearling sold for about a tenth of that amount.
In order to stay in business a breeder must make a little profit on the horses that he has to sell. If he makes an investment in pedigreed stock and gives them hay and grain until they reach maturity he will have a sizable investment by the time they are broken and ready for use. In the far West many ranchers run horses much as they do cattle and they cost much less to raise, since they eke their own living from the land. It takes them longer to develop and many never attain their optimum size; but a lot of mighty fine stock has come to the market in this manner. In the days when the U. S. Army was still buying horses they were nearly always limited to about a hundred and eighty dollars a head. That set more or less of a standard for a sound untrained youngster in the Western states. Except in times of depression the ranchers were inclined to hold their choice offerings for a little more. It became a smart move to go to these places after the Remount had had its turn and pick out the more valued animals for a bid of fifty or a hundred dollars more than the government figure.
Sentiment is another incalculable factor and it is not unusual for an owner to sacrifice price in order to secure a suitable home for his favorite. One of my horses came to me at a figure so low that it was practically a gift. Her owner was a wealthy sportsman who was unwilling to see her end up in cheap claiming races. A horse may be of great value as long as he can win on the track or the show ring, but his value will toboggan downward when he can no longer pay his way in competition.
After we have a fair approximation of the amount we wish to spend we are ready for the great adventure of finding the horse who is to be our friend and companion for a long time. Since we expect it to be permanent the first thing to do is relax and not be in a hurry to grab the only thing that is an approximation of our desires. Learn to say no. Say it kindly and politely, but firmly withal.
Do not be discouraged or restless if several weeks, or even several months go by without running across something to fill your desires. Be prepared to go out and look again and again. It will be a lot more pleasant if you take your trips in the spirit of a game like a treasure hunt. Run down every lead even though it may seem futile, for then the trips will not be just a waste of time. You will see quite a bit of your country that you never knew before, and will meet a lot of interesting people. In the least likely place you may come upon some unappreciated animal who fits you to a "tee."
There may be a riding academy in your vicinity and it will do no harm to drop in, but this is a case in which you should be particularly on sour guard. Most of these little stables count upon augmenting their income by doing a bit of horse trading and usually they have a few animals that have proved to be unsatisfactory and must be moved out before they eat up all the profits. A more important fact is that owners are usually familiar with the market in general and may, for a consideration, help you in locating a prospect. As a stranger you may find yourself fair game for any sort of racket, but if you are a regular patron of an established and reputable establishment it is quite another matter. The owner realizes that his ultimate success will be influenced by the satisfaction that he renders sou and your friends. Not only will he profit by the sale itself but he will win new friends for both his stables and for the riding game in the community. The greatest advantage to you lies in the fact that you can try the horse repeatedly and under all sorts of conditions. If you find something you think you might like you can rent a number of times and not even bring up the question of buying until you are sure in your own mind that everything is satisfactory.
Perhaps you have a friend who wishes to sell. Here is another case where you can have ample chance to have a trial, but before we go any further the matter of veterinary inspections should be brought up. This is a vital matter regardless of where you make your purchase, but is doubly important when friendship is involved. If an unsoundness is found after the sale the buyer will often suspect that the seller knew it all the time, while the latter will argue that the damage did not exist until the horse changed hands. The upshot of the whole business is that a perfectly good friendship is ruined forever. If you consider yourself an expert in judging horses you may be tempted to omit the formal inspection and you may be quite justified if you are dealing with an outsider, but when personal relations are involved I strongly urge that you do not depend entirely upon yourself.
Reputable dealers never object when you ask for a vet, and many of them will invite the examination before you suggest it. If a man knows his horse is sound he is happy to have an unbiased corroboration of his statement. When-ever you run into a dealer who tries to make any objection or put any obstacle in the way of such a test you will be wise to drop negotiations with him at once.
If you live in a section where ranchers or farmers are raising horses, by all means drive out and look things over. In general they will have young stock which has not been improperly handled, and not infrequently you will see the progenitors as well as the brothers and sisters of the horse to be examined. Perhaps there will be nothing suitable, but often there is a promising yearling or two-year-old that will bear watching in the future.
If you are unable to do your own scouting around, the next choice is to go to a regular dealer. For generations the "horse trader" has been reviled in song and story. One would think, to hear it told, that they are a race apart, and not subject to the morals of other people. Let me assure you that this is far from the case. Of course, there are shady characters in the horse game, but the ethics of horsemen in general are no better, and no worse, than those of the people who sell you automobiles, jewelry, or haberdashery. When a man or woman has stayed in the same community for a number of years and built a successful sales stables, you may assume that the business has been built on the same principles of honest representation that one finds in all fields of endeavor.
Many persons avoid dealers because they feel that they will be overcharged. This is usually unjust, for the dealer has travelled many weary miles to assemble his offering, and he has to take his chances on the state of the market, the possibility that he will find a buyer who wants just what he has, and the losses of disease and accident. In addition he frequently provides conditioning, training and the opportunity and facilities for a tryout. Last but not least he has merchandise which requires daily food and care. The watch you buy from the jeweler cost him in the neighborhood of half the sum he demands of you, and about a third of the money you pay for a suit, a radio, or tube of toothpaste rep-resents gross profit. Why should we expect a lesser margin when dealing in horseflesh? If a dealer supplies you with what you want and at a price within your purse, he has done a service which you couldn't duplicate for much less, even if you had the available time and the necessary skill. I think the greatest reason for criticism of dealers lies in the fact that a lot of people think that they can outsmart a horse trader and then they howl pitifully when they lose in a game in which they are rank amateurs. I am reminded of a bunch of lads who thought they were very smart when they unloaded a lot of broken down polo ponies upon a woman dealer. She took them without a murmur, but what they got in exchange made them hold their heads and weep. The moral of this is to pick a dealer of unquestioned reputation, tell him your needs and your price limits and then allow him to help you. If the new purchase fails to work out right an adjustment or trade is usually arranged.
Many horses are sold at public auction and in the better ones the horses are sold as sound or their faults declared. The main trouble with auctions is that the opportunity for an extended trial is not available, and even though they are exactly as represented, the temperament, gaits, and abilities may not be to your liking. The human mind is inclined to believe that the words auction and bargain are synonymous. Actually horses sell for just. about what they are worth unless a major economic catastrophe has shot the market to pieces. There are skilled professional buyers in the audience and they are not going to let you get anything for three hundred when they can top you by a hundred and have something that they can make and sell at a profit. If the experts decline to bid on an offering there must be something that the seasoned eye detects, and you had best be guided accordingly.
If you are looking for Thoroughbreds only you can try the race tracks, particularly the smaller ones where the purses are small. Many of the small racing stables operate on a very frayed shoestring, and toward the end of the meeting some of them will not have enough to get out from under the feed bill and ship to the ,next track. This is a time that calls for the finest and most expert judgment. A horse who can't win may be a total loss to the owner and his price will drop accordingly. Once in a blue moon there is a big stout, good-natured youngster who simply isn't interested in running at top speed, and nothing they do will make him explode out of a starting gate and run himself into exhaustion in six furlongs. If that is the case you have the find of a lifetime; but for every one of these there are fifty who are for sale because their legs are unsound, their dispositions ruined, or for other less easily detected signs and symptoms of disintegration. I have gone to races in many places and my greatest fun is in looking at the horses and judging them as something I would like to own and ride.
A few more basic generalities are offered before going into specific conformation. Never buy a horse unless you are satisfied fully. It is best to have others aid you in pointing out faults and an expert may often save you from an unfortunate purchase; but no matter how much your adviser favors an animal do not conclude the deal on his approval alone. Any sort of an automobile will suffice, and you can make the best of an unwise buy in clothing or real estate, but never let anyone else have the final say in selecting your occupation, your wife, or your horse.
It is rare that a deal must be made on the spot, so look at all the prospects. Compare their merits and go home and think it over. Arrange to ride the horses if possible and, even better, try them across country in a job similar to the one you wish them to perform. Some years ago a young lady consulted me about the purchase of a certain horse and after he had been ridden and examined I told her, "Go home and try to sleep tonight. If you want him so much that you stay awake most of the night come back in the morning and close the deal." As I reflect upon this admonition I still believe it to be sound.
In the matter of sex, geldings seem to find the greatest favor. They are by far the most dependable and quiet. Ranchers of the West seldom ride anything else, and the racing and show stables have learned to count upon them when schedules must be met by top performance. The only objection to an unsexed animal is the fact that his usefulness and value drop to zero the minute accident, illness or age renders him unfit to perform his task under saddle.
Mares are by nature far more uncertain and this is particularly true in the spring and early summer. At times they will be flighty and irritable and they are distinctly less trust-worthy, although a limited few will be absolutely tops in courage and intelligence. From time immemorial the Arabs have preferred mares. This is chiefly based upon the fact that Arab horses were never gelded in their native country and mares were quieter and more easily handled than stallions, particularly in military formations. A mare's usefulness is far from ended when she becomes lame or begins to slow up with later years. She still can reproduce her kind for you or for another owner. In general it is wise to have at least one mare in your stable if you maintain two or more horses. Since mares are less in demand they usually are considerably cheaper, except in the case of extremely well bred registered stock of fashionable blood lines. In most cases it is probably not sound economy to raise colts on a limited acreage, but it is a lot of fun and nothing gives one greater pleasure than to have a successful horse that has been in your hands all of its life and is the produce of an old mare who has served you in the years gone by.
Stallions are distinctly for the expert and nothing is worse than an unruly and ill bred entire-horse in the hands of a novice. I would advise that you avoid them until you have reached a rather advanced stage of experience and ability. A stallion must be a registered animal and should be an outstanding specimen of his breed. In some states it is for-bidden by law to stand an unregistered animal at public stud. Of all the horse family none is more unhappy than the unwanted stallion who is not allowed to fulfill his normal functions. If you finally do buy a stallion be sure that he is one that you can show with pride, as well as one who will find favor with the owners in your vicinity. Now that the Army Remount Service is a thing of the past there are many communities that lack suitable stallions that are available at the modest fee possible when horses are raised primarily for pleasure riding. One of the best ways to meet this situation is for a group to band together and buy a horse on shares. If he is a success he will pay his way, as well as pro-vide service for the mares of the owners, and in any case the cost and risk will be so spread that nobody will stand much out of pocket. A group of us in this area have done that very thing and we have selected a strapping big Thoroughbred whose days of usefulness were over at the track. His conformation and blood lines were all that we could desire and his disposition is kindly and gentle, in spite of all the rough treatment he received over years of hard racing.
The best age for a prospect is between four and eight. A horse reaches his physical prime at about five years, and will usually keep his top form until twelve or fourteen. A horse who is over four is ready to go on into a full schedule of work, and most of them have had at least general breaking by the time they are five. Horses over that age are frequently quite difficult to break if they have had no handling in their earlier years. If you have not yet developed skill as a trainer, it is best to select a well schooled horse, and frequently a horse of nine or ten may be a wise and economical choice. If he is still sound at that time there is a good chance that he will remain so, and you can look forward to five or more years of pleasure while you are developing your horsemanship.
If you prefer to do your own schooling a well developed three-year-old may be a good idea, for you can start him at the beginning and mold him to your own standards. Since training constitutes a large share of the expense of pre-paring a horse for sale, one can usually make a big saving by buying before that sum has been added to the total. Those under the age of three usually turn out to be an expensive gamble. At that age training must be very limited and by the time they are ready to do any real work the saving in initial outlay will be more than consumed in hay and grain. It is given to but few to have the instinct to look at a yearling and project the outcome of the next two years. Some that look the best will end up as runts, or develop major defects of conformation, and your time and money will go for nothing. It is far better to start from, scratch when you have the opportunity to select the sire and dam, and then go all the way yourself rather than jump into the middle of an unpredictable venture.
Many novices are tempted to give too much weight to color when they go horse buying. Unlimited money has been wasted on fads and fashions. The old proverb says "A good horse cannot be a bad color," and with that I must agree; but if you look at all the old, established saddle breeds you will find that a good, bright, solid color is practically universal. There is little to choose between a good bay with dark points, a brown, black, chestnut or gray. An off-color is strong evidence of a strain of poor blood in the background. Unless it is necessary for you to match a pair or a team I suggest that you start your search without any preformed ideas on the subject of color. In my own stables it has just happened that none of my horses ever matched, for each was picked for his own qualities without regard to an arbitrary pattern.
In recent years there has been quite a vogue for albinos, spotted horses of every kind, and the palomino. In spite of repeated attempts to establish some of these as breeds, they are really only color types of various heritages, and many of them will not breed true even when the attempt is made. There have been some high class horses" among them, but as an average they have been far below their less gaudily hued brothers. The palomino fanciers have been the worst offenders in the past, although at last they are trying to obtain quality as well as coat. I have seen rings full of these golden horses when at least half were hardly fit to be called true saddle type, and I recall one constant winner who should never have been permitted to appear without a milk wagon. Because of this fad any sort of a palomino finds a ready market, and a really handsome one will be priced at three or four times as much as an equally good bay or brown. Before you yield to the temptation to put out your all for one of these eye catchers, just sit back and with half closed eyes imagine that he has been completely covered with a dull coating of wet mud. Does he still stand out as the type you want, and does the dull outline still show the fine head, the long neck, the good withers and the clean, well balanced legs that make the basis for pleasant hours across country?
Reams of nonsense have been written about size and in much thinking the idea of the bigger the better has taken a firm hold. Nothing could be further from the truth. First get rid of the notion that height or weight per se is any indication of speed, stamina, or weight carrying ability. True power comes from blood, Thoroughbred blood, and the ruggedness of tissue and courage that has been handed down through generations of the running horse and his Arab forebears. Grove Cullum in his book on polo ponies points out that the short-legged, sturdy little horses usually outplay their leggier rivals. The working stockmen of the western ranches generally avoid big horses, except in the few cases in rodeo and snubbing jobs where the horse acts more as an animated hitching post than as a mode of transportation.
The U. S. Cavalry, with its many years of experience under all kinds of riding and riders, usually, selected horses standing between fifteen and a half and sixteen hands as the most durable and efficient. In seeking a hunter, a full sixteen hands or up to sixteen and a half, may be desirable particularly if the rider is large. Unless this extra size and power are needed for long and hard hunting it will be a need-less expense, for well bred big horses are both rare and valuable. While I personally like a fair sized horse because of his scope and stride, I have found that my smaller ones have carried me just as well. The jumps may look smaller from way up high, but that is no proof that they will be cleared more easily. Battleship, the great horse who left our shores to win the Grand National in England, stood but fifteen and one-tenth. In comparing the Military Teams at the National Horse Show in New York I noted that the Irish rode large horses, the French medium sized ones (as did the late lamented team of our own Army), while the Mexicans rode quite small mounts. It appeared to me that size had absolutely nothing to do with the end result, and the winning was based entirely on the spring and courage of the horse and the skill of the rider.
From the standpoint of economy you will get a lot more for your money in a horse of small or average size. So buy quality first, and with it as much size as your weight requires and your purse permits.
The great majority of all the horses throughout the country are half breds, that is to say that they are not registered as pure by any one of the special stud book records kept for each breed. Considerable confusion has arisen as to the use of the word "Thoroughbred," and today many apply the term to anything fine and of pure lineage, whether it be a dog, a bull, or a human. In the strict sense a Thorough-bred is a running horse, a direct and registered descendant of one of the three oriental horses who founded the breed in England in the early part of the eighteenth century. All other registered animals are properly designated as "pure bred."
Basically horses come from two sources: "Hot Blood" de-rived from the oriental, middle eastern, and North African strains; and "Cold Blood" which is the draft or working stock. Recent research has shown that these two lines are much further apart in their origins than has generally been supposed.
In an attempt to increase size it has been the practice to cross the saddle horse strains with the draft varieties. The results have not been universally gratifying. We hear from many people who insist that a "dash of cold blood" is required to give size, stamina and disposition. It has unquestionably done the first, but the rest is debatable. In the Mountain States, the Prairies and the Northwest a great many cold blooded sires and dams were introduced. These were crossed with the wild stock already present when the pioneers arrived. The end result has been a lot of work stock, a few fair riding animals, but a great many have in the past, and still are finding their way to the packing plants. In the Southwest the need was primarily for a riding horse and an animal to work cattle. With this in mind the pioneers brought with them good saddle stock of fine blood and thus a gradual improvement of riding qualities was evolved.
Contrary to general belief, there were no horses in North America in the times before the Spanish conquests. The prehistoric progenitors of our present day animals were extinct many thousands of years before, and only their traces are to be found in geologic formations. The first explorers brought their horses with them into Mexico and the south. Deserted, escaped and captured animals found a home on the vast grasslands and from them arose all the mustangs and other "wild horses" that the English found both on the plains and in the hands of the Indians. The Spaniards were proud horsemen and their mounts were of the best Arab, Barb, and Turkish blood. Most of their mounts were stallions and a few were mares. When these found themselves alone in the new country they multiplied rapidly and it is easy to understand why the little cow pony is so tough and durable. Even though they suffered from neglect, privation, and inbreeding, they still carried in their veins the blood of the aristocracy.
Most beginners, and many advanced riders, will find their greatest satisfaction in horses of mixed lineage. Unless one is intent upon specializing in some sort of equine competition it is not necessary to insist upon a "papered" horse. It is far better to select the desired characteristics regardless of registration. Of late years several "Half Bred" registration stud books have been evolved. These usually show that the animal is by a certain registered stallion and out of an unregistered mare. For all practical purposes such papers are worthless. I have seen horses whose credentials showed that they were sired by a reasonably good Army Remount Stallion, but their dams must have been terrible, for the progeny carried but little of the good of the sire. In the case of half breds the only value of papers is a record in case you intend to do upgrading and breeding with the mares.
When you finally advance to the best in horses you will probably acquire registered animals of the breed you most favor. In this case papers become more important, for not only do they give evidence that the horse is as represented, but they enable you to study and trace various blood lines and their characteristics. As mentioned before, registration is practically a must for a stallion. It is of great advantage if a mare is to be used for breeding, since the value and eligibility of her produce will be much enhanced. In the case of a gelding, papers are of little moment except as a matter of personal satisfaction. Only a few larger shows require registration papers for some of their classes. Of course all race horses running on the regular race tracks are required' to show evidence of registration, but that is of concern only to those who are so engaged.
With the thought that most horses are of composite heritage it is worthwhile to review briefly the various breeds and their characteristics.
The Arab is the oldest of the present day strains and his purity as a type was established before the time of Christ. Stories and legends trace his family tree back to the five war mares of the prophet Mahomet Generations of breeding in the desert established his hardiness, his intelligence, and his suitability as friend and mount for man. From his ancestral home in the Middle East he spread to Egypt, North Africa and finally over most of the civilized world. With the advance of mechanization the Arab has diminished in his birthplace, and the majority of the finest specimens are now to be found in Western Europe, England and America. The Arab is a small horse, standing about fifteen hands and weighing in the neighborhood of nine hundred pounds. This lack of stature is more than compensated by the flinty hardness of his bone, the strength of his tendons, and the courage of his heart. His intelligence and docility are proverbial. He displays a beautiful head, fine eyes, a short back and clean legs. His walk is free and proud, his trot fair, and his canter smooth and easy. His speed is less than that, of the Thoroughbred, and his size limits him as a hunter or steeplechaser. The major difficulty with the Arab is the fact that he is a scarce and expensive animal. There are probably less than four thousand in the entire United States. This scarcity insures careful rearing and excess stock finds. a ready market at good prices.
The greatest value of the :Arab is as a modifier of the other strains. Centuries of pure breeding have established a genetic prepotency which enables him to stamp his off-spring more surely than will his more nondescript mate. An Arab sire will improve practically any halfbred horse, and crosses with pure breds are usually even more successful. As an all round pleasure horse it is hard to beat a cross of the little fellow with the Thoroughbred, the Saddle-bred, or the Standardbred. The Arab-Thoroughbred cross is called an Anglo-Arab, and for years they have been the mainstay of the French and North African Cavalry. The best of them combine the durability and tractability of the Arab with the size and speed of the running horse.
Next in order of seniority comes the Thoroughbred. In the early seventeen hundreds three great horses were brought to England. They were the Godolphin Arabian, the Darley Arabian and the Byerly Turk. These were mated to the so called native mares, many of whom were largely of the blood of previous oriental imports. From this limited beginning has evolved the running horse, and every Thoroughbred in the world today, whether he runs in the Kentucky Derby, flies the fences at Liverpool or plays polo in Australia, can trace his male descent from one of these three. The pure Thoroughbred is a horse of mixed virtue. Nothing can match the speed of his stride, the beauty of his motion or his ability to do so many things so well. Unfortunately speed has been the single watchword of his breeding in the past century, and with this seeking for that single attribute other factors have been neglected. The result is that only a limited number of them are suitable for pleasure riding and general use. Unsoundness and lack of stamina exact a heavy toll, as does the blinding urge to be first at the finish wire. Certain strains have suffered worse than others, and one of my favorite studies has been the consideration of the inheritance of temperament, of which more anon. The Thoroughbred is definitely not the mount for the tactless, the impatient, and the heavy handed. A cold horse will stand a lot of abuse, but when a Thoroughbred enters the fight he seldom gives up until something snaps in the horse or the rider. But like the Stradivarius violin, he will yield the greatest return for one who knows how to treat him. After you have learned to understand and guide the Thoroughbred you are hopelessly spoiled for the others. His gaits, be they fast or slow, will flow effortlessly for miles over any sort of terrain, and when you ask for a supreme effort the heart and the body will be there to respond. Year after year we see more of the horses "in the book" making a name for themselves in the hunting field, the polo game, and in all the realm of higher equitation. As with the Arab, the blood of the Thoroughbred has spread throughout the horses of the world, improving and fortifying the humble. It is a little too much to expect a fine animal when only half is of pure heritage. A cross of three-quarters Thorough-bred blood will usually do the trick unless the other quarter is hopelessly cold. In the past twenty years the late Army Remount Service placed over a thousand stallions in the field and they have been of incalculable value both to the upgrading of stock and in the education of breeders and riders. The program has now come to an end but most horsemen will never be content to go back to underbred stock.
One of the most important offshoots of the Thoroughbred is the American Standardbred, or trotter. Imported Messenger, brought to this country in 1788 is credited, along with a hackney sire, as founding the trotter through Hambletonian 10. Selective breeding has evolved a horse primarily for speed in harness, and the earlier roughness of the breed has been greatly eliminated in recent years. Since racing is usually conducted in heats, there is a great premium upon stamina and the average Standardbred is still going strong when the colder horses are finished. Disposition is another characteristic which has been cultivated, and in spite of a keen racing instinct these animals are docile and sensible. It is a revelation to go to one of the major trotting tracks and visit the paddock just before the race. In contrast to the general confusion and cutting up that one sees at all other races, the trotters stand quietly in harness while their handlers loaf about and chat. In the show ring they are required to step on at top speed on a tight circular course. The tanbark flies and the crowd screams, but a few seconds later they are all standing motion-less in the center of the ring while their drivers walk away and wait out in front.
The Standardbred is of two types, the trotter with diagonal gait, and the pacer with a lateral gait. In the latter the two legs on the same side are advanced simultaneously in a "side wheeling motion." The latter is seldom a pleasant gait to ride and pure pacers are rarely seen under saddle. When crossed with other breeds the result is often an ambling extra gait that is not without merit. The straight trotter is a pleasant ride and his extra spring and action give him a talent for jumping. He is inclined to be a little more plain headed than his Thoroughbred cousin and his shoulders and withers are not quite as well designed for the saddle. Standardbred blood plays an important part in the improvement of riding types in general and crosses with the Thoroughbred, the Arab, and the Saddlebred or mixtures of the same, result in a high percentage of splendid animals. For rugged cross country riding and jumping, a horse with three-quarters Thoroughbred and one-quarter Standardbred is not far from ideal.
A second product of the United States is the American Saddlebred. Again there is a parent stock of the Thorough-bred. Denmark, foaled in 1839, is usually acknowledged as the foundation Sire of the breed. The Saddle Horse resulted from a cross on "saddlers" or "amblers" brought into Kentucky from Canada and other places. Primarily developed as a general utility riding horse for southern plantations, they have been refined and developed until the present day specimen has taken his place as the outstanding show horse. In addition to the. three natural gaits- of walk, trot, and canter, this breed has the potentialities of two- additional gaits. There is the "slow gait," an animated four beat rhythm, and the spectacular fast rack which is in the nature of a broken. pace. The feet on one side are advanced but the hind strikes before the fore foot. The present day Saddlebred finds various spheres of usefulness. Many of them, particularly in the middle west, are used entirely as pleasure horses. Carrying a natural tail, and a normal length of hoof, thousands of them are seen on the bridle paths and on country lanes. In general they show manners, a tractable. disposition and enjoyable riding qualities. They lack stamina, due to a light, round barrel and inadequate bone. When pushed at the gallop they fall far behind the Thoroughbred in both speed and beauty of stride. As a result of naturally springy action some of them have shown a talent for jumping, provided that they. are not asked to go far and fast.
The outstanding horses are saved for the show ring, and this entails a lifetime of study in itself. It is a pity, as I see it, to permit so many artificial modifications to enter into the picture. The hooves are grown to excessive lengths, and action is further altered by weighted shoes, boots and heaven knows what else. The style of riding, adopted results in a general rigidity of the entire head and neck, and good mouths are the exception rather than the rule. The tail's muscles are cut so that it will stick up, and between shows the position is maintained by a brace. As a final gesture before they prance into the ring they are treated to a rectal massage with a ginger preparation. I admit to no dislike of the animal himself, but I am not in sympathy with his handling.
Again we have a breed that is primarily bred for the saddle and he furnishes another ideal cross for general pleasure mounts. Saddlebred sires mated with pure or grade Thoroughbred mares supply many nice types, as do the produce of Saddlebred mares by Arab, Thoroughbred or Standard-bred stallions.
In recent years there has been a revived and expanded interest in the Quarter Horse. This stocky little animal is primarily a product of the cattle country and is the result of crossing the sprinting type of Thoroughbred with the native cow ponies of the plains. Bred primarily to run only a quarter of a mile, the devotees like to believe that nothing can beat him at this distance. It is a fact, however, that in match races the Quarter Horse has been defeated by the Thoroughbred even under his own terms. The chief advantage of this early speed is that it helps in rounding up cattle where a quick getaway is more essential than the long run. Along with the development of the breed has come some-thing known as cow sense. To those who have not seen the stock horse as a workman the first experience will be a revelation. Many of the shows are adding a cutting horse class and nothing in the entire horse world is more thrilling than the sight of one of these horses handling his cattle without any visible guidance from his rider.
Unfortunately many Quarter Horses are low withered and heavy behind, factors which limit their galloping scope, speed and jumping ability. More and more Thoroughbred blood is being infused into the strain and many of the better ones are taking on the conformation of a good polo pony. For mountain work, and long days on the trail they have few superiors. They are long on brains and accept all sorts of untoward circumstances far better than many other breeds.
A few other breeds have been thrown into the melting pot, but numerically they have been comparatively unimportant. One of the best known is the Morgan, all allegedly descended from the fourteen hand stallion Justin Morgan. In the days of the general utility horse the Morgan found a place, but at present his star is waning except in the eyes of a limited few. He is noted for stamina, and tranquility, but when judged in comparison with the pure saddle breeds he takes a second place in style, gaits, and scope.
A few of the Cleveland Bays have been brought to this country but they have made little headway. Primarily a part Thoroughbred coaching horse, it was believed that a cross with the Thoroughbred would produce heavy weight hunters. I have seen a few of them, and their owners regarded them highly, but I am inclined to go with the majority who prefer to stick to the "blood horse."
Palominos, Pintos, Appaloosas, and the other similar groupings, are hardly to be classed as breeds in the true genetic sense. Most of them are mixtures of the other breeds, both saddle and draft. All of them are to be judged upon their individual merits and very few generalities will apply.
The popularity of the Tennessee Walking Horse is greatly on the increase. The origin is quite similar to that of the Saddlebred, but he has been kept up until recently as a working horse rather than a showman. Of medium size, he comes in all colors and is unique in having a running walk that may reach over seven miles per hour. He does this with little fatigue or loss of motion. His head nods and his rider feels as if he were floating along. The trot is practically non-existent, and the canter is smooth, rocking and easy. The walker has a justified favor among those who want their riding to be a relaxing recreation rather than a vigorous sport. Good disposition is seldom missing, and for the timid or elderly rider a better choice can hardly be made. Sustained speed and jumping ability are lacking. The show craze is now engulfing this breed, too, and I hope, although with-out too much faith, that fundamental virtues will not be sacrificed to artificial dicta. Already a number of them are appearing with shoeing that would preclude any work across country, and set tails are no longer a rarity.
According to strict definition a pony is an animal standing less than fourteen and a half hands. In this sense he is a small horse but that is not the end of the story. A pony is of stockier conformation and possessed of a temperament usually quite unlike a horse. There are many in the United States who dislike ponies for children and prefer that the child should be taught on an old, gentle, and well schooled horse. There is considerable justification for this point of view chiefly because of the fact that the proper type of riding ponies have not been extensively produced in the United States except perhaps in the Atlantic Coast States. Many which have been selected for children were not of riding conformation or of suitable disposition. Perhaps an-other reason for the lack of popularity of the pony is that riding academies usually prefer to have large horses which can be offered to anyone who comes along. When one of these old timers becomes too sluggish to be of much interest to the better riders he can be turned over to children who, under the watchful eyes of the instructor, tag along one after the other in a small enclosure. Many children learn to ride well in this way but it is not like having a mount of their own size that they can care for, cherish, and ride around the countryside with their neighbors.
The subject of disposition is discussed rather fully but here I would emphasize that this is the paramount consideration in any pony for a child. The number of purebred ponies is quite limited and most that you will find are mixtures of Shetland and other less well defined strains. It is well to remember that a Shetland was primarily a work pony and not a riding type. They are extremely hardy and able to carry weight out of all proportion to their size but their wide backs and low withers do not suit them for use under saddle. In addition, many of them are inclined to be quite stubborn and a few have inherent meanness. Many of the breeders of Shetlands have been primarily interested in upgrading style and animation in order to have a high class harness pony for the show ring. To achieve these ends they have used crosses of the small hackney which has given the desired results but has done nothing to make the animal more suitable for a child's pleasure.
In England and Ireland there are many strains of ponies which have been bred for the saddle. They come in all col-ors and various types, now so often crossbred that it is difficult to tell one from the other unless you are an expert. The most popular has been the Welsh which in many ways resembles a miniature hunter. Others include the Dartmoor, Exmoor, and New Forest ponies. In order to produce ponies for the older children they have crossed these mares with Arab and small Thoroughbred sires. When the disposition factor was maintained in these cases results have been splendid.
Psychologically the pony offers many advantages. A horse looks very big o an eight-year-old and actually no child can hope to control one unless it is so docile that it requires no guidance. My personal experience with ponies has not been extensive but in general they just have a lot more sense than horses. Since the better breeds of horses have been selected and hand raised in order to obtain such things as animation, speed and brilliance, the hardiness and self-sufficiency that characterize the pony has frequently been lost in the shuffle. The pony has a highly developed instinct of self-preservation and for that reason it is not apt to run itself into exhaustion, frantically fight restraint, or blow up in the face of unexpected circumstances.
The average small child finds great difficulty in putting a saddle and bridle on a big horse but soon finds it easy to do it with light weight equipment for something nearer his own size. The pony size is also a great safety factor since a tumble involves less than half the fall from a larger horse.
Another factor of importance is the economy of the pony. As long as there is riding country adjoining, the simplest little barn and backyard enclosure will suffice. Shoeing is rarely necessary and feed is minimal.
In general, the factors of conformation apply equally to horses and ponies. A pony will be more stocky, rounder of barrel and have less length of neck and height of withers. The best of ponies will not be heavy headed, thick necked, or look like miniature draft horses.
Because ponies are not too numerous their initial cost may seem high but remember that you are paying for your child's safety and that nothing will reimburse you for an accident which could have been avoided by the selection of a safe mount. Of course, the pony will be outgrown in a few years but that generally presents no problem as there is usually a waiting list among your friends when your own child is ready for something larger.
If you have trouble finding a pony in your own neighbor-hood I would suggest that you write to the Maryland Pony Breeders, Inc., Louise Este Hollyday, Secretary, Never Die Farm, Sykesville, Maryland. This valuable organization keeps a roster of pony breeders and also sponsors sales of high class riding ponies.
The Chronicle, a weekly magazine, has a section entitled "Young Entry." They have interesting stories of ponies and articles devoted to their care and training. In addition, a for sale column frequently lists advantageous offers.