Having decided on the above points, the horse should be walked with a loose rein away from the purchaser. Some horses go close at a walk and wide at a trot; others vice-versa, but a good horse should always walk well. Then have him trotted. It is a good plan to have the horse either taken into a street or road for this, as the inn-yards are usually covered with straw, and no true idea can be formed of a horse's action on straw. As a rule, he goes higher and steps better on straw than on the road; it is also to be noted that a slight lameness which would be imperceptible on straw or on soft ground, is very apparent on the hard road. The horse should have a snaffle bridle on, and the man ought to take the rein over the horse's head, and hold it about eighteen inches from the bit. The animal should be run at a slow trot; if there is a slight lameness, the dealer will do all he can to make him go fast and step high, and if there is a door convenient to him, he will be kicking it with his feet to make a noise, or rattling his stick in his hat with the same object, and one or two of his satellites will be giving him a little assistance in this manoeuvre. Whether a horse is sound or unsound, there is always the very greatest difficulty to have him run at a slow trot, and it is best to refuse to have anything more to do with him unless he is made to go at the pace required.
Having seen the horse at a walk and at a trot, have the saddle put on in order to ascertain how he carries it. He should then be again walked and trotted from and towards the purchaser, with a man on his back. Some horses go lame with weight on their backs, and sound without. It is well to get the horse out of the town, on to a quiet road, and either have him ridden at a gallop, or the purchaser should ride the animal himself. The latter is much more satisfactory - as the rider can then judge whether the horse is rough or not in his gallop, what sort of mouth he has (the latter being a most important consideration), and he also can "try his wind;" as a rule, however, there are very few hunters brought to fairs with any defect or impediment in their respiratory organs. The dealers know their horses are always galloped, so there is not much chance of their getting rid of such horses; occasionally they may try to push a slight "whistler" through a deal, but it is not often.
The more frequent cause of lameness in hunters is navicular disease; that is to be observed both in and out of the stable. A horse may be so slightly lame that it is scarcely discernible; but a good sharp gallop on the hard road may render it a little more perceptible, provided the horse is put in the stable and has time to cool down before being brought out again. The purchaser should go quietly into the stable before he is brought out, and watch the horse carefully, so as to note whether he "points" or not. Pointing is standing with the lame leg flexed. Horses with very slight lameness will occasionally "point."
Any sign of "windsucking" or "crib biting" can be seen at the same time. However, the latter is rare among horses of that class, or, to speak more properly, dealers so seldom own horses having that vice that the "cribbers" are generally shown in the street; and when you ask the seller to put the horse into a stable for a short time, and provided he is all right you will pay for him afterwards, that individual generally has a great aversion to adopting this course or lodging the horse in a stable at all. "What can you want him in a stable for?" he asks; "here 's the horse, you can have any trial you like with him; what more do you want?" The purchaser says he always likes to see a horse in a stable, and the seller then pleads that he might miss another customer.
However, it generally ends in the seller keeping his horse, as nothing will induce him to put him in a stable. Occasionally a local man, for some reason or other, is afraid to stable his horse. A very fine horse, belonging to a farmer, was seen at a fair in Oxfordshire, and the bargain was concluded, but before he was paid for, it was requested that the horse might be put in a stable. Nothing would induce the seller to accede to this request, and he took the horse away. However, as the horse was very much liked, he was followed, and at last the reason for refusal was given by the farmer. He was afraid some one might take the horse away while he was waiting at the inn to be paid for him. So that in these cases, it is necessary to find out as much as possible of the character of the man you are buying the horse from, and form an opinion accordingly. In the above case the horse, when lodged in the stable, was found to be all right.
Laminitis, or the result of it, in the shape of flat feet, is a frequent cause of unsoundness. Some horses have naturally flat feet, and therefore it is very necessary to decide between what is natural and what is the result of disease. In a busy fair there is not time to take off a horse's shoes, and in the next place, probably the dealers might object to this, as they do not like their horses' feet mutilated by village farriers. In lameness from this cause, and also from navicular disease, notice should be carefully taken as to the manner in which the horse goes when he is pulled up, as at that time an animal may often show slight lameness, but travel all right when going straight. More weight is put on his legs and feet when pulling up than at any other time.
A horse lame from flat feet generally has a tendency to go on his heels in front; while in navicular disease he will dig his toes into the ground. As said before, there is a good deal of risk at fairs with regard to the state of the foot: "corns" and "seedy toe" are common causes of lameness in hunters, hacks, and all well-bred horses. Side-bones are rarely seen among hunters at fairs, owing to most of the horses being young (generally from 3 to 6 years old).
Round joints, accompanied by "wind galls," are sometimes seen in young horses with upright fore legs, especially in those which have been used a little. However, this is a condition more or less dependent on defective conformation.