In America yearlings are raced (of course trotting is referred to), and as the foals are usually dropped about May, it is necessary to commence their education at a very early age. They are, therefore, usually wearied by the New Year, having been haltered when only about a fortnight old, and frequently handled whilst at the foot of their dams. As soon as their education commences they should be gently and tenderly led by the halter on a straight, level, and well-secluded road or track, a bit having been previously placed in their mouths; but this should not be attached to the head-stall, or used in any way, being merely put there to familiarize them with the feel of it. After the colt leads quietly, a surcingle with side-straps may be added, but the side reins should be at first quite long, so that he cannot injure his mouth. After a day or two they should be gradually taken up, whilst, as before, he should be led by the halter and not by the bit. When he goes steady, have him shod with tips, and accustom him to the use of the crupper.
After about two months of this sort of work the regular breaking harness may be put on the yearling, care being taken to fasten up the traces and tugs in such a manner that they cannot flap about or trail on the ground, and so frighten the youngster. Do not put him into a vehicle of any kind until he has become quite accustomed to the harness, but exercise him steadily in long reins, and encourage him to reach out when set going. After he is quite handy in leather, introduce him to the breaking-cart, letting him examine it well before placing him between the shafts, and taking care not to disgust him with the conveyance by jerking at his mouth or treating him roughly if he gives trouble at first. When the colt is steady in the breaking-cart he may be put in the sulky, being by this time probably about a twelvemonth old. Have him shod lightly, but on no account hurry him - in fact, commence to drive him on the track rather slowly at first, permitting him to indulge in a fast spurt only now and then. Never let the youngster go more than a quarter of a mile at his top speed during the earlier period of his education in a sulky; and if he can do this distance a few seconds inside the minute it will be a satisfactory, though not a remarkable, performance.
About the end of June he must be sent along faster in company with an old horse to lead him, and should be taught the art of starting and getting away smartly. Teach him also to quicken up when called upon, and encourage him to obey such admonitions to go faster at every part of the track, upon which he should always be driven now, so that he may become accustomed to the turns. The distance travelled each day must entirely depend upon the colt, as some animals require an amount of work to keep them fit which would knock up others. Finally, the yearlings should be tried about the last week in July or the beginning of August.
Plate LXI. MR. WALTER WINANS' TROTTER, JOE W.
Plate LXI. MR. WALTER WINANS' TROTTERS, LYRIC AND SAMOS.
The training of the made trotter resembles the final stage of the yearling's preparation, so far as the daily exercise goes, as this must necessarily vary in the case of different horses. Trainers, moreover, are not all of one mind upon the subject of walking and jogging exercise Mr. John Splan is of the opinion that a horse can have too much of it; and consequently he favours plenty of slow heats, adding to this piece of advice the information that " if he " - the horse - " is any good when he gets into condition, he will show you the speed". It, moreover, stands to reason that the speed of any horse will be prejudicially affected if he is being continually sent along at full speed. He should, therefore, not be driven as fast as he will go; and occasionally, if not always, he should be exercised in good company, the trainer taking care to use his best endeavours to make the horse obedient to his voice. Should he break, take hold of his mouth gently and talk to him, the use of the whip under such circumstances being greatly to be deprecated. It is desirable, too, to have two sets of sulkies, a heavy one for road work, and one of a lighter build for use upon the track; and the greatest attention should be paid to the question of shoes, as no two animals require these of identical weight and make. Boots should also be worn, and especially skin boots on the hind-legs, the limbs being carefully examined every time the horse comes in; and if there are any signs of a bruise, or if there appears to be any prospect of the horse hitting himself at any point, that particular part should be carefully protected and the shoes examined, and, if necessary, removed, altered, and readjusted.
Always endeavour to avoid over-exercising a trotter, and never permit him to extend himself on muddy or very hard ground. The latter, sooner' or later, is certain to produce concussion or bruises, and to obviate it many trainers shoe their horses with a strip of sponge an inch thick inserted between the iron and the hoof at the quarters of the foot. A poultice of boiled turnips is also recommended for bruises, in order to reduce the inflammation; but whatever course of treatment is pursued, the earliest possible attention should be paid to any injuries to the feet and limbs, not only of the trotter, but of all horses which are being schooled.
The autumn and winter treatment of adult horses which have had a hard season's work will depend a good deal upon the condition in which the animal concludes his trotting for the year. Should he finish up fresh and well, he may be kept in easy work, and only require attention lest he lay on superfluous flesh, which will take trouble to get off when he comes to work again in the spring. On the other hand, if the legs are stale, as they probably will be, the horse may be put up in a loose-box with a yard attached to it, his clothing being gradually removed until all has been taken off, his winter coat being quite sufficient protection. He should be shod with tips only, so that his heels will let down and expand, and if left ungroomed he will take no harm. It is not desirable to turn him out, as the exposure may injure his constitution, and the absence of regular feeding will do him no good; added to which, he may injure his feet on the hard ground when frosts come. Should blistering be necessary, keep him in the stable on cooling food, in the company of other horses, during the ordeal; and, when convalescent, place him in a loose-box, as recommended above, keeping him on a moderately low diet, unless he has early spring engagements ahead. Many trainers permit the horse to have a few hours in a meadow on fine days, and this is no doubt beneficial in many cases.
When the time comes for training again, it is advisable to proceed slowly. A mild dose or two of physic should precede the course, but no attempt should be made to get flesh off in a hurry, and therefore sweating and strong medicine should be avoided. Neither should the internal organs and legs be overtaxed by overfeeding and hard work at the commencement. Some people consider it desirable that the winter coat should be clipped now, whilst others are of the opinion that it should be allowed to come off naturally, the process not being hastened by any artificial means. Perhaps a medium course is the best of all, however, and the coat may be allowed to remain on until strong work commences. After about ten days' slow work the horse may be permitted to slip along, and when he comes in sweating he should first of all be well scraped. Then he must be blanketed and walked about gently to cool, after which he may be taken into the stable, given a little gruel or chilled water, washed, dried, and bandaged.
A week after his first sweat he may be tried to see if he retains his speed; but it is a bad thing to overtax him the first time, and too frequently repeated trials are sure to ruin. The animal must, therefore, be watched, and his trials and work regulated by the progress he makes.
References have already been made to feeding in the chapter on General Training, but about 10 lbs. of oats a day will be found the daily average consumed by the trotter. Some horses, however, require far more than this amount, and such was the great Rarus, which, Mr. Splan writes, required a full 15-lb. allowance when in hard work.