We must all agree that a neat, light, deer-like head is a beauty in the horse, indicative, to a certain degree, that he will ride pleasantly and light in hand. Some persons go so far as to consider it almost borders on insuring goodness. "A good head" is one thing: a merely small head is quite another. No horses of their size have smaller heads than those superlative brutes of brutes we see in mourning coaches. Who the breeders can be, or why such ill-shaped masses of animated flesh should be bred at all, is only to be accounted for by concluding the numbers employed in their particular vocation in this large metropolis, carries off all that (let us hope) are bred. The Belgian cart-horses have remarkably small heads comparatively with those indigenous to England, and smaller still comparatively with their enormous bodies. Most of the French post and diligence horses have smaller heads than ours; but they, though good horses, are by no means better, or I might say so good as our own. Small ears, and those somewhat pricked (that is, very close together) at the points, are a marked feature in German horses. I do not remember that in my life I ever met with a very pricked-eared horse a good one; certainly not a racehorse or hunter.
Persons are apt to imagine a small head shows breeding, as indicative of an approach-or rather, in technical phrase, "a hark back"-to the Arabian blood from which thorough-bred horses usually spring. This is all quite correct, but it must be borne in mind that horses have a dam as well as a sire. The dam, granddam, or great granddam, go back as far as you like, was, in ninety-nine cases in a hundred, purely English. From her the horse derives his peculiarities, as well as from the sire; consequently suppose the dam happens to have a large head, and the sire one peculiarly Arab-like, the progeny is quite likely to show nothing in point of head of the ancestry from which he sprang. Therefore, though a deer-like head is taking, and even biasses opinion and predilection, a large head in no way indicates any want of breeding. We will instance the Belzonis: they were all remarkable for large heads. Here a large head was a proof of a horse being well bred, for it characterised him as being a Belzoni. No horse's stock was in greater demand or repute as hunters than were Belzoni's. We must admit this sire was not pre-eminent in his racing career. This says nothing; he was well-bred enough to have been so, in spite of his big head.
Persons on seeing a horse with a large head are sometimes led to remark (if he is a riding horse), "I should not like to carry that big head of his at the end of my bridle." No one would; but it by no means follows you would be required to do so, for probably he would carry it himself, and that just as lightly and pleasantly to the rider as the smallest head that could be seen. A horse carrying his head as we wish, depends chiefly on three things-that head well put on, a nice yielding neck, and a good mouth. Let a horse have these recommendations, and be his head, in burlesque language, as big as a coal-scuttle, he will carry it with satisfaction to his rider; whereas, on the contrary, I have seen many horses with a beautiful small head and a nose that, technically speaking, you could "putin a quart pot," that had no more mouth than the ordinary run of asses, and, moreover, could pull like a locomotive. Jockies will bear me out in this assertion.
I am quite free to admit a large head is a distaste ful and unfortunate addition to the anatomy of the horse; so it is to that of the man; but it would be injudicious to irrevocably reject the one, as it would be illiberal to take a confirmed dislike to the other. Now countenance is a very different affair, in man or beast; but I am compelled to candidly confess that I never saw a countenance in man or horse that said, as plain as countenance can speak, "I mean harm," but I always found its owner keep his word. Let not the reader think me wild or visionary in my ideas as to countenance; I am quite assured he will find me right, in a general way. There is something in a good head and good countenance in a horse that speaks volumes. A fine clear eye that looks directly at you, an indescribable goodness in the head, altogether very different from the suspicious and sinister look we see in some horses (and eke in some men), that puts you on your guard against them.
A very marked feature in some horses (I have observed it particularly in those of Ireland, who are not signalised for good temper) is a very flat forehead between the eyes. Nothing gives a more forbidding appearance to the countenance. I know not why it is, but such horses have usually small sinister-looking eyes, with contracted brows; while, on the other hand, horses with full or projecting foreheads will be mostly found to have a generous, full, and fear -less eye, that seems to court rather than evade scrutiny. Such should be the eye of man, seeming to say, "Look into the recesses of my mind, you will find nothing there I am ashamed of." I love such a man, and I carry my predilection towards such a horse; though we must not infer in such case the mind has much or anything to do with the circumstance; but I cannot but feel assured the disposition has. Both were born with the animal. Kindness, determination, and treatment, will go a long way to correct bad disposition and propensities in the animal. I fear, though we may correct or counteract bad habits in the man, we must not be so sanguine as to disposition.
Some horses have wicked, roguish eyes, that say plainly, "I will play some roguish trick if I get a chance." We have only to guard against any pranks such animals may attempt to perform; these may be troublesome, or sometimes dangerous, but far different to those of the radically bad-disposed animal, who, when we least expect it, makes serious reprisals for the period in which he has gained our confidence, in a disposition in which no confidence can with safety be placed.
I had one of these forbidding-countenanced ones. Had he been a man, and a murder had been committed, you would have been tempted to say, "That is the man who did it; or, at all events, his countenance indicates him capable of the act." So by this horse. I was tempted by his general good looks and action; but I did not like his countenance. I asked if he was good-tempered. His owner (I dare say with truth) said he had never seen anything to the contrary. I got him home, and for many weeks saw nothing I could find fault with. Still I remarked he always kept his eye, as it were, surreptitiously on the man attending him, as if making sure of his point ere he attempted mischief. I was quite sure he was at heart a savage. Some time after, when hunting, he put his two forefeet in a stone hole on the top of a bank. As he had come a good pace to the leap, the consequence was we both rolled over into the next field. He was up a second or so before me, and rushed at me open-mouthed; but, on my getting on my legs, he stopped. No doubt, had I remained prostrate, he would have savaged me. I never liked a bad countenance before this, but I then resolved I would never buy another; and I have kept my word.