There is nothing more satisfying to a breeder of horses than to breed a good one. To win a race over a course, or a prize in a show-ring, affords a certain amount of pleasure, and maybe some profit. While allowing that to bring a horse into a condition to accomplish either of these feats entails a certain amount of intelligence and skill, it falls far short of yielding that substantial and abiding gratification which is afforded by having overcome the far more difficult task of producing the animal by which the one or the other is accomplished.
To breed a winner of a classic race or a champion of the first class is unquestionably the end to be aimed at. That success in these respects seldom comes, even to the most patient and painstaking, should be rather an encouragement than a deterrent, for the more difficult the task the greater the honour.
We could point to many men who, with control of large studs, have spent a lifetime in honest endeavour to realize these higher ambitions without attaining success; but they have done the next best thing, they have produced stock of a high standard of excellence which has brought a remunerative average; and, after all, that is what the general breeder-desires and what the country requires - a grading up as near to the highest attainable point as can be reached.
In breeding operations a certain percentage of the produce of the stud are sure to fall below mediocrity in conformation and character, and others, for various reasons, will fail to prove remunerative. To guard against these adverse influences is the great problem which the breeder should strive to solve, and upon which his highest success will depend.
A plentiful supply of common horse stock is assured to this country by our colonies and the Continent; and if it is to hold its position as a centre to which all nations will continue to look for the best and most impressive specimens of the several varieties, those principles of breeding which experience has dictated must be more rigidly followed.
At the present time a large proportion of our Society carriages are horsed with foreign-bred animals, and whatever adverse criticism they have deserved in the past, the unprejudiced judge will not now fail to recognize the high excellence to which they have in recent years attained.
In days gone by, the " foreigner " could be identified by his ill-make and shape at a street's length. He was a leggy, cow-hocked, " narrow-gutted", light-chested, heavy-crested brute, with a back that made the most daring-fear to put anything on to it; besides which, his pluck and endurance were proverbially of the worst. All that is altered now. The importation of our best mares and most promising sires into the horse-breeding provinces of France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and other parts of the western continent, which has been going on for over half a century, has now so anglicized the breed in those places as to enable us not only to procure English horses from abroad, but animals of such a uniform and useful type as to compare favourably with the best of our own.
Bred with the strictest regard' to the requirements of our market, in colour, size, action, quality, and soundness, they are now able to compete on equal terms with our home-bred stock, and to fill a void which could not have occurred but for the unreasonable encouragement which has been given to the production of small unmarketable animals by the management of our horse shows and agricultural societies.