Nearly all the ailments of horses are due not so much to bad breeding as to faulty training, ignorant, brutal driving, overwork, carelessness in feeding and watering, and thoughtlessness and ignorance with regard to the kind and amount of work which should be demanded of a horse under given circumstances. This being the case, the subject of driving, feeding and management is set forth in this and the following chapter with painstaking minuteness.
The colt, it will be remembered, was taught, while yet with its dam, to obey simple commands and to acquire confidence in its master and in the myriad of frightful objects of the new world in which it first found itself a timid, ignorant stranger. It has had a happy, unrestrained life so far, and has learned much of men and things during its three years of growing, joyous, bounding life. Its freedom has given it power and courage, - both of which we shall discover when an attempt is made to get dominion over it. Without this bounding energy and courage, it would be a disappointment - simply an ass.
The modern colt is easily educated, for, through many generations of domestication, it has inherited the capacity to acquire an education readily. On the plains, it was once necessary to "break" and tame colts as we do lions, by harsh methods, and in a few cases it is still so.
With rare exceptions, the colt on the farm is made usable if, for a few hours each day for a week, he is subjected to the restraints of a bitting harness in the open paddock. (Fig. 79.) The check- and side-rein should be left slack at first. Gradually, from day to day, the reins may be shortened; provided, however, they are never made so short as to place the head in an uncomfortable position or draw the bit so tightly into the corners of his mouth as to make them sore. After the bitting, the colt may wear the harness and be driven with lines in the open field, without being attached to a vehicle. The next step is to drive him for a few hours each day, by the side of a good-sized, staid, mature horse attached to a farm-wagon, which should be furnished with a brake, first in the open field, until he learns what is wanted of him. The colt is now ready for light work. The education should be continuous, not spasmodic, and the after work should be continuous but light. The way not to train a colt is to give him one lesson a week or a month, which he forgets before he receives his second lesson, and then the first lesson has to be relearned. As the colt is put to light work, the grain ration should be increased, governed, however, by the exhaustiveness of the service. If the work is light and the grain ration liberal, the colt is likely to attempt to play in the harness, get into trouble and become frightened. It is, therefore, not wise to keep the colt in too high spirits until he acquires staid horse-sense. On the other hand, his spirit should not be broken, or he may be a dullard all the rest of his life.
Fig. 79. Receiving their first lesson.
All of this preliminary education is not always necessary. Colts of the draft-breeds are not so sensitive as are those of the warm-blooded breeds. Since the colt receives his education largely through the sense of touch, and since this sense varies widely in individuals and breeds, no hard-and-fast rule can be given for the training of colts. Only occasionally is it difficult to get the colt to receive his lessons kindly.
Fig. 80. Ready for the second lesson.
When these exceptional eases are met with, I know of no better way to get dominion over him than to throw the colt, "Rarry him." The bitting rig serves well for this purpose. Horse ready, Fig. 80. The right fore foot is strapped up, and a strap is also attached to the left fore foot below the fetlock. Standing on the left side, the colt's neck is turned sharply to the right side and he is made to take a step with his free foot. As he raises it, the operator brings it sharply up to the body. This results in bringing the colt to his knees. Fig. 81. If the neck is kept well bent, as it should be, the colt can make but feeble efforts to rise, although he may do some plunging. The operator remains close to the colt's side, with one elbow over his back. This is a most humiliating and uncomfortable position for the colt. He soon yields and lies down, usually on the left side. This brings his feet away from the operator. If the front legs are kept up to the body and the neck slightly bent to the right, the animal cannot rise. (Fig. 82.) Now almost anything, such as opening and closing an umbrella, jingling bells, etc., may be done. The colt quickly learns that these do not harm him. If he be laid down several times and afterwards be driven with lines, with one leg tied up and the other ready to be taken up at the slightest indication of self-assertion, much will have been accomplished to convince a vicious colt that the intellect of man is superior to the intellect of a colt, even though associated with powerful muscles.
Fig. 81. The work half done.
Fig. 82. Brains versus brute force.