On account of his inborn qualifications for saddle work, the thoroughbred running-horse is the only animal that is worth considering for a sire. Not only his low elastic action, but his general conformation distinguishes him from all other breeds of horses as the most suitable for horseback riding. He has more intelligence, more courage and more endurance than any other breed of horses. The pure thoroughbreds are of a very nervous temperament, and it often requires a bit of horsemanship to get on with them. The half- or three-quarter-bloods, however, make the best all-round horse that it is possible to produce for hunting, ordinary saddle work, combination saddle and harness, cavalry, light artillery, or farm work, and I might add (barring action) light road work. The grade thoroughbreds have no equals; they can do any one, or all, of these things, and better than any other class, or family, or cross-bred animal that does not include thoroughbred blood. They will do all that any horse of their inches can, and then draw on their almost inexhaustible supply of energy - nerve force - to pull them through. This is my experience after years of breeding, rearing and schooling horses of all sorts. Any man with horsemanship or "horse sense" enough to avoid abusing or fighting with them, will, if his experience is my own, say they have spoiled him forever for having any other horses about - except for heavy work. Of course, they are usually deficient in knee and hock action, which is so desirable in a high-class harness-horse. If they possessed it, however, they would become correspondingly less useful for saddle work.
Fig. 19. Heavy-weight hunter.
Permission F. S. Peer.
I believe it is not too much to say that, as a rule, two good half- or three-quarter-bred horses will do as much as three ordinary horses of equal weight, They are as useful on the farm as they are ornamental in the hunting field, and under saddle; they are as indispensable in a cavalry charge as they are graceful in carrying a lady for a ride in a park. They can pull a harrow or bring back a gun-carriage after all their coldblooded relations have wilted and quit. So much for the blooded horse as a sire of high-class animals with courage and endurance, which qualifications are required in the hunter more than in any other class of horses.
As to selection of suitable dams to breed to a thoroughbred stallion, the mare should be, first of all, sound and free from vices. Defects are usually transmitted through or inherited from the dam. Mares with full and high sloping withers, which keep the saddle well back where it belongs and free of the shoulder blades, are most essential. Low, full withers permit the saddle to turn. A low or only medium up-carriage of the head is desirable. High-headed horses are very objectionable for hunters. A hunter or saddle-horse should carry the head so the eyes are about at the height of the withers. A "park hack" may carry a higher head. A stout, broad loin, but not too short in the back or coupling, is best. A short back for a saddle-horse sounds all right theoretically, but practically it is not altogether desirable. A horse must have length of body, or he cannot stride away. Short middle pieces usually accompany a correspondingly short, choppy gait, which is most uncomfortable for the rider. Hock and knee joints very large, even to coarseness, in the mares is very desirable. The true arm should be rather short and upright - the full sloping withers keep the saddle well back on the upper line, but a short, upright true arm is even more essential, as it places the fore legs of the animal well forward of the saddle girths, which enables the rider to sit back over the horse's center of gravity. A long oblique true arm may bring the fore legs so far back as to move the center of gravity of the rider too far forward, which makes the horse labored in his gait, and increases materially the chances of his falling or even turning a somersault on the landing side of a fence he is jumping.
The mare should have depth of body in the fore-quarters rather than breadth. Horses that are thick or wide through the heart, or with springing ribs, which are so desirable in harness-horses, are most uncomfortable for saddle-work, as they spread the rider's legs too far apart. Again, horses too broad in the breast (fore legs wide apart) are usually rough and rolling in their gait, which is also most objectionable. These are the principal features to be looked for and avoided in mating mares with a thoroughbred horse, for the purpose of getting high-class hunters, saddle-horses or hacks of endurance.
Fig. 20. Ontario. Permission of Rider & Driver.
In undertaking: this kind of breeding, it should be carried on as much as possible in communities, to attract buyers. The Province of Ontario, Canada; West Virginia and some sections of Missouri are the present headquarters for breeding this class of horses in America. Many thousand dollars for horses go annually to these centers from all parts of the eastern states. There is a very promising field for any community of eastern farmers undertaking to breed this class of horses. The great reputation won by Canada in the harness- and saddle-horse markets of the world, and in supplying the very highest class of remounts for the British army, is owing to the extensive use of the "blood" horse in some sections of the Dominion. Within a radius of twenty-five miles of the City of Toronto, for instance, there were reported, in 1895, sixty-odd thoroughbred stallions in service principally, almost entirely, to farm mares.
It is not too much to say that the general use among farmers of thoroughbred sires in Canada has brought to that country the enviable reputation it now enjoys for breeding high-class horses both for saddle and harness, and that it has brought to our cousins across the lakes millions of American dollars that should have remained at home.