An article which appeared in The Field, signed "Boarspear," relative to his hard-pulling mare, is, take it all in all, perhaps as difficult a one to answer in any satisfactory way as could be proposed. For most horses that have disagreeable habits there are remedies to be found, that will either mitigate or cure them; but where their acts are the result of temper or temperament, it becomes next to impossible to find an effectual remedy, as it is virtually the temper we have to deal with, more than the fault; for what might be effectual in stopping the fault might very probably so irritate the temper as to render the animal all but ungovernable, and, what is worse, or as bad, inappeasable.
The observations of "T. S. H." in The Field of May 16, 1857, on the subject of pulling horses, are perfectly correct and judicious. A twisted snaffle and martingale seems the most likely kind of bit for an intemperate animal to be ridden with. He states a "running martingale;" if by that he means merely a martingale through which the reins run from the rider's hand to the bit, I venture the suggestion that with such second rein, if "Boarspear's" mare should get her temper up, he might not be able to control her; but if he were to use a rein fixed to either the girths or saddle-flaps, then running through the rings of the bit, and thus coming to the rider's hand, I can only say I never yet found a horse that could go away with me with such an appui; and, as "T. S. H." most judiciously remarks, such artificial force given to the arms of the rider is far more likely to succeed than "holding on by the curb."
"Boarspear" complains that his mare sometimes will take immense fences cleverly and quietly; the next day "her frightful rushes place my neck in great danger." "T. S. H.," with great good judg ment, recommends practising her over small fences, making her almost walk up to them, and then caressing her when obedient. Nothing can be more judicious than such advice; but he seems oblivious of the circumstance that the mare's habits do not arise from ignorance or want of practice, but from temper; and who can tell on putting her at a fence what temper she may please to be in? For myself, I can only say, with a lady of so uncertain a one, I should trouble myself little whether she rushed or not, not having so great a dread of rushing horses as some persons have, for they seldom fall unless in very cramp countries and at very blind fences; but I should take especial care the lady always exerted herself so as to clear what I put her at. She could but be out of temper, at the worst; and, perhaps, when she found her temper availed her nothing, she might condescend to go with a little more amenity. It is true that accustoming her to walk up to her fences and take them leisurely might induce her to do the like so long as the same system was persevered in; but with hounds this would be impossible.
So, the first time she was ridden freely at a fence, all the previous practice would be set at nought, and she would rush at them as impetuously as ever; for be it remembered, though habit may do a good deal, it will not cure temper.
Her becoming more than ordinarily impatient in windy weather I can in no way account for, never having found or heard of a horse being influenced by such circumstance. I should rather attribute her impatience to some other unnoticed cause, such as, perhaps, in cold, windy weather, her master may ride a little faster than ordinary, and, if in company, the talking a little louder than usual (which windy days may render necessary), I should say, with so irritable or nervous a lady, would be sufficient to affect her temper. This is merely a suggestion; but for a circumstance for which I cannot in any way account, I do not pretend to be able to offer a remedy.
Her pulling and irritability in hot weather, though unusual, is by no means a solitary case. Horses, like ourselves, are differently affected by heat. Some it renders so indolent, they seem hardly to care whether they walk or come down; in fact, some horses continually blunder in hot weather, though not addicted to the habit at other times. Some are so affected by sun and heat as to be subject to attacks of meagrims during such weather, though by no means so in any other. A mare like "Boar-spear's" would be put out of temper and become impatient by the slightest thing that inconveniences her; and when in an irritable mood she pulls, no doubt the heat annoys her, and this produces the pulling. There is another circumstance to account for her irritability, which is the flies. These, in hot weather, will worry the most placid-tempered animal, and frequently render him unpleasant to ride or drive. I had a mare that carried my wife. I have no hesitation in pronouncing her one of the cleverest woman's horses I ever had-or say as a hunter, or on the road; but I was induced to part with her from her impatience (I may almost term it frenzy) when the flies were troublesome. Perhaps a very long price had something to do with my resolve. I told her failing; but the nobleman to whom I sold her purchased her solely to carry a lady with hounds.
Extraneous objects and noises frequently put an irritable horse on the qui vive, when, before they attracted his notice, he was perhaps going placidly and pleasantly. He sees, for instance, three or four horses under some influence galloping about a field by the road-side. We cannot suppose this annoys him, but it disturbs his equanimity, temper, or spirits; whichever it may be are roused by it, he begins to chafe and fret, gets impatient, or, as would be the case with the mare in question, begins to pull. Should the hedge or fence be high enough and thick enough to prevent his seeing the horses, and he only hears them, it usually makes things worse. He hears a noise, but cannot see the cause; consequently, perhaps alarm is added to the category of his excitements, for horses are frequently alarmed, or, at all events, disturbed, by sounds; but so soon as they ascertain from whence they proceed, they become at once reassured and recover their placidity.
Whenever I mention myself any particular horses I may have had, or what I may have done with them, let me beg the reader not to impute it to egotism, but a wish to show that I have something like proof for what I may set forth, suggest, or advise.
I have stated that horses in any way nervous or high-tempered are much affected by sounds and noises, particularly when arising from any object or circumstance they cannot see. I have had two remarkable in this particular, the one a mare. Whether in harness or out, a horse or carriage behind her drove her almost mad; let either come alongside of her, she was quiet directly. When in harness, if she but heard a horse behind her, up went her head and tail, and she would bound something as we have seen a fallow deer do in passing us; and, though at other times possessing a fine mouth, on such occasions it was difficult to hold her. The other horse was a hunter, as placid and steady as a horse could be when alongside hounds in chase; but, while they were finding, or, what was worse, running in cover, the cry of the pack would cause him to tremble with anxiety or some such feeling, and he would burst into a sweat ten times more profuse than any run would call forth. Being both good horses and pleasant, except in these particulars, I was determined to try and palliate them. I had a pair of thick earcaps made for each of them. This I found produced a wonderful alteration for the better; but it struck me these earcaps must heat the horse. Why not try cotton? I did; stuffed their ears well with it when using them; and found no inconvenience from sounds afterwards. In some cases, and with some horses, my friends may find it answer the purpose also.