I have been frequently asked (as it will be inferred by persons totally unacquainted with such matters) how long it usually takes to bring out a racehorse fit to run. Now, no man alive-no, not John Scott himself-could give a direct answer to such a question. He must, prior to giving such, make the queries of-What is his age? How has he been treated (if he be a young one)? How far has he been broke? What distance will he have to run? What sort of constitution has he? Then, when he has given a crude reply as to the time he considers a horse, under the circumstances represented, would on an average require to bring him to the post in fit form-even then, temper, capability of enduring work, and consequently how far he may train on, or the reverse, and again, how far his soundness may stand training, will all frequently set at naught the most honest answer judgment and experience may have led a man to make as regards time, and the trouble a horse may give in training.
The question asked is, however, one of far less difficulty to answer. In the first place, it is but reasonable to infer that the gentleman proposing to prepare himself for his race has so lived that his constitution and stamina are good; so he will not have, as is sometimes the case with young racehorses, to get that up to the mark, so as to enable them to be put into training-he may set about his preparation at once. I am neither acquainted with his age, habits, or present form, but we will suppose that he has youth on his side; and from the feat he proposes to perform, we will infer his usual habits have been active, and that his form is such as bodes no impediment to his training or preparation.
It must strike every one that, with man as well as horse, the preparation required must vary in accordance with the exertion and energies that will be called upon to be surmounted in the race. A two-year-old may come out in far fuller form than the horse engaged to run in stakes where the distances are long. In the first place there is a thing to be dreaded, which persons unused to training have little idea of-that is, in technical terms, "fat inside." Now this does not materially affect the wind in a very short spurt; but neither man nor horse can run a distance if under its influence. When fat remains on the inside, the lungs cannot sustain the work they are called on to perform in such a case; besides which, the specific gravity of the body calls on the sustaining and propelling powers to perform a duty that they are unable to sustain for long distances.
Thus far the training of man and horse are analogous in many particulars; but the person who undertakes the preparation of a man to run, has a wonderfully easier task than the trainer who undertakes the preparation of a horse to race. The latter has only his judgment on appearances as his guide; the first can ascertain the feelings of the man in training from his own mouth, though the truth is sometimes a little twisted and turned about to procure relaxation where a man has to undergo severe preparation; and I do not hesitate in saying that no man, at least very few, would have resolution to go through the necessary ordeal of preparing themselves for a long and severe race, if left to themselves, be it against time or another man. The advantage of a time-race is, that a man may so previously try himself that he can (barring illness or accident) reduce it to an almost certainty, whether or not he can accomplish what he undertakes. If he undertakes running a given distance against an opponent, he can only judge of the chances for or against his success by knowing the men against whom his opponent has run, and whether he has beaten, or been beaten by, those. If a man knows this, and particularly if he has run with any of those men himself, he may form a moderately accurate estimate of his own pretensions; but let him bear in mind, none of those races against opponents authorise him to feel secure. Men vary a good deal in their performances, and frequently in the time of doing them; and let him recollect, a real runner can go a long way in two seconds.
For a short race (or, indeed, any race) the first thing usually necessary is a mild aperient. I am alluding to a man supposed to be in quite a fit state to go into preparation. Living as the generality of men do, an almost total change of habits as to food becomes necessary; not that he is required, like the wasting jockey, to abstain from what any reasonable man would be quite satisfied with-we do not want to waste the runner, unless he happens unfortunately to be given to obesity, and even then sweats and additional exercise are the means to be employed to bring him into form. By change of food I mean an avoidance of all that may merely fill the stomach without nourishing or invigorating the frame. Conceive, for instance, a man in training indulging in what he might term "a nice little white - heart cabbage," or even "a nice mealy potato." Soup should be avoided, not that it would probably do any direct harm, but it would not do good to make amends for the space it would occupy in the stomach; fish is bad for the same reason; all pastry and puddings should, pro tempore, be banished; a man in preparation attempting, for instance, a rhubarb tart, would deserve to be punished, as such things sometimes affect us. Fruit should be taken with great circumspection and in great moderation; there can be no objection to a thoroughly ripe orange or a slice of good pine, if his aristocratic taste leads to it, but all common fruit must be banished. We cannot hear of beer of any sort, or in a general way ardent spirits; a little cold brandy and water is perfectly admissible-in fact, some subjects require it; but in a general way, good sound port or sherry must be the staple drink during the preparation to run: a glass or two more or less need not be objected to, but three or four glasses is all that is required for breath or stamina.
I see I have objected to certain articles of food. I will now state what I consider the best. Mutton and game I hold to rank the highest, but beef, poultry, veal, or even pork, by way of variety, may be taken with impunity by some stomachs. In mentioning poultry, I include only chickens and fowls; but I should strenuously recommend all but mutton, beef, or game being abstained from when the man under training comes near his time of performance, for then any little emeute in the internal regions is to be strictly guarded against.
Now as to the time required to prepare a man to run, I will answer as categorically as the subject admits of doing, and should say, under ordinary circumstances, with a man of active habits, and comparatively in good wind, three weeks will suffice to prepare him for a short race, which it appears a gentleman who has addressed me on the subject intends running. But let him not deceive himself: it appears he intends running a hundred yards, and a quarter of a mile. Now it may be he may prove very good as to the one distance, yet very mediocre as to the other; but as some guide to him, to test his qualities, I will state that, ten or eleven seconds are first-rate time for the one; a minute or a little more equally good for the longer distance. Let him commence by a gentle run, in the morning, and during the day, taking care that he is neither indolent nor taxes his powers so as to bring on distress: a little fatigue must be encountered, but when absolute distress comes on, the exercise has been too much for man or horse. To fill up the time between his exercise, cricket, tennis, or racquets, or a stroll with his gun, may be advantageously made use of.