A huntsman's argument that he sat on the strongest part of his horse when riding as it were on his shoulders, might have some plausibility in it when he mounted him before daybreak, and continued on his back till the afternoon; but he would find his system, anything but a good one in a twenty-five minutes' burst with hounds of the present day over a flying country. I can only say that personally I would not accept a present of a horse to ride that carried his saddle in a bad place, if the failing was irremediable.
There is another cause for a horse having this failing, irrespective of the want of muscle in the right place. This is from faulty form, the not carrying or keeping his girths in the proper place. I have seen horses whose girths were always close to the back of their fore legs. This arises sometimes from the fore legs being placed too far under the body, at others from the fault of the horse having, comparatively speaking, no brisket to keep them in the right place. This is to be palliated to a certain degree, which I will mention in my next article.
Thus I have shown that, though I admit they do "go in all forms," there are certain forms with which they cannot go pleasantly.
I have already stated two of the causes that make some horses carry their saddle "on their shoulders." First, the want of resisting muscle in the right place. Where this is the case, the only remedy that I know of is one of the patent pad cloths: this consists of a small saddle-cloth, so cut as to be kept in its place by the wither, and a girth attached to them. The upper side (on which the saddle is placed) is covered either with some very coarse adhesive plaster, or a substance composed of wire, something like the cards used for carding wool or cloth; this being brought in contact with the pommel of the saddle, or rather the lining of it, from the substance with which it is made, holds the saddle in its place, and the resisting pad cannot itself get forward, being stopped by the wither above and the girths beneath. This will succeed with most horses, and I have frequently seen them used; but, personally, I never was unfortunate enough to purchase or own a horse that wanted one.
The only remedy that I know of for a horse's saddle getting forward from the want of brisket to keep the girths in their proper place, is having the girth-strap-on which you chiefly rely for keeping the saddle in the best place in which, under such circumstances, it will remain-fixed under the points of the saddle. You can by no art or contrivance keep the girths in their place beneath, they will get close to the back of the horse's legs; all that can be done is, therefore, to prevent their going from the saddle obliquely forward, and thus having a tendency to draw it after them. By fixing one girth-strap on so forward a part of the saddle as the point, you gain several inches, and cause the girth to act horizontally; this will to a certain degree remedy the evil; but, as I said before, why keep a brute that is a continual annoyance? I have heard persons say, when speaking of a horse with radical faults or infirmities, "Oh, he's a favourite." It is, perhaps, lucky for the animal that he is so. But I should ask, How came he a favourite? An infirmity may come against a good horse; in such case, I "applaud with both hands' the kind and feeling master who bears with such failing rather than sell a favourite animal on the chance of his being ill-treated. But a horse with a radical objection, such as I have named, becoming a favourite, is to me a perfect anomaly. The only way in which I can reasonably account for such a proceeding is, that the owner did not know his horse possessed it, till, in the words of the play, "some d-d good-natured friend" told him of it. It might not have been any great objection to the owner, who, probably (provided he sat somewhere between the head and tail of the beast), was indifferent where; and the animal having never shied, refused to go in the direction wanted, or tumbled on his nose, he might, with such an owner, have become a favourite.
Now if a horse could be found that in point of speed very far eclipsed Flying Childers, or the Flying Dutchman, could with perfect ease and certainty take timber seven feet high, and water thirty feet wide, so very uncommon and extraordinary an animal might well become a favourite, and might have many natural or acquired faults, that any man appreciating extraordinary performance would cheerfully put up with; but a mere common-place good horse, whether hunter or used for other purposes, having any objectionable faults, I should, in dealer's phrase, "ship him" as soon as possible. There are many failings that a horse may have, that a man with a tolerable temper, and, above all, command of it, may be quite willing to put up with in one possessing in other respects very desirable attributes -for instance, pulling harder than is pleasant with hounds; being, as some are, impetuous when hounds first go off; being hasty at his fences, or, what to me is ten times worse, a little sluggish at them; being inclined to be a little vicious in the stable and out; all these faults may be borne if they cannot be remedied; but a naturally bad goer, a slow brute, or one, as I have said, carrying his saddle badly, I not only should not . be surprised at any man's not bearing with, but should be astonished if he did. But, above all things, an uncertain-tempered horse is the worst-he is like an uncertain-tempered man, you are never safe with him; the first may, in one of his ill-humours, break your neck, the other may in the same case so conduct himself that you must quarrel with him. As I said before, I have not so much dread of a horse a little impetuous at his fences as many persons. I have had very few falls from such horses, but from your phlegmatic gentlemen I have had many. With horses who are sometimes the one and sometimes the other, the only safe way I found out to ride such uncertain ones was always to ride them at their fences as if you expected them to be in one of their phlegmatic moods.
But I have been led away from my subject. I should think it must be a matter of surprise to every one, as it is to me, to see the numbers of persons we do, using horses for purposes to which they are neither by their shape or make, action, or other attributes, at all fitted. For instance, a horse carrying a saddle badly from formation, and partly from the same formation being inclined to lean forwards and downward in going, may have still good knee action. In this case his propensity to lean forward is a recommendation to him for harness; it draws the carriage after him. It is a well-known fact that a carthorse, unable to move a load, will often, if a couple of men get on him and sit pretty close to his shoulders, move it directly. It is something like this with a horse leaning on the bit if ridden, and inclined (from make) to lean forward altogether. Such animal can by no possibility be pleasant to ride, but may be capital in harness, to which he should be kept. Now a horse "well on his haunches" is diametrically the reverse. He will, in a general way, be extremely pleasant to ride. But this will not be found advantageous to him in harness, but the reverse.
The being thus thrown on his haunches would affect him something like the two men I have instanced as sitting on the carthorse's back would affect him. If, instead of sitting as much as possible on his shoulders, they were to sit close to his tail, they would thus act prejudicially, rather than otherwise, to his efforts; they would weigh down his haunches, thus inclining his foreparts to elevate themselves. This is something similar to a horse being well on his haunches, and, consequently, anything but advantageous to his draught. It used to be a universal complaint that putting horses in harness spoiled them for saddle-horses, giving them an inclination to lean forwards, as if still leaning on the collar. The objection was a correct one. In those days the roads were heavy, and if mended, were mended with loose gravel, that took a long time before it would bind and get to anything like a firm state; consequently, horses were obliged to thus lean forwards to get the load along.
Now, when coaching was in vogue, old riding-horses and hunters were constantly seen in coaches. Such horses did very well over light, flat, galloping ground; here their breed and blood told. But on hilly, heavy stages a very different animal was used and required; here a thick-shouldered, close-knit horse was necessary, one that would stick to his collar, lean to his work, and thus lug a coach up hill or through heavy ground.
Thus from what I have said I trust I have not shown, that I am so fastidious as to object to all horses that are not symmetrically made; I merely wish a horse to be so made, have such action and attributes, as fit him for the purpose for which he is intended.