The generality of persons are not aware to what extent a determined kicker will carry his propensity.
I have had the toe-board split under my feet. Horses will sometimes kick over the traces (or rather trace); this, though it produces probably a succession of kicking, is not of the consequence it might appear. After a horse has kicked over, his body is directed obliquely from the carriage, so his kicks miss it; probably he kicks back again into his proper place; if not, as a horse is seldom quite up to his collar when kicking, the trace is easily set free by unbuckling it at the tug-buckle. Sometimes they will kick over the pole; this is a far more awkward affair, as in his struggles he will sometimes strike the legs of the break-horse, who, however, is usually cunning enough to avoid such casualty, so far as the traces permit him to do so. Releasing the outside trace sets him free; and, depend upon it, he will take care to get out of the way of blows from the kicking horse. Fortunately, however, when a horse kicks over the pole, the awkwardness of his situation prevents his kicking very violently; and taking out the pole sets him free. Nothing cows a reprobate horse more than finding he has a resolute comrade who is not to be ruffled by any tricks a vicious horse may show, who will lug him along in spite of himself; and, when told to do so, will keep him going, in defiance of his kicking. A horse cannot kick very high or very violently while kept going; he must, to do either, have time to rest his fore legs on the ground; and I have known break-horses, finding the other kick, voluntarily start off in a gallop, and keep the other going at a pace at which he had no time to kick. It might be asked, How has a horse sufficient power to keep a carriage and a resisting horse at such pace? It is readily answered. A break, or any carriage, in quick motion requires little effort to keep it going; and a horse in motion is not like one standing still-his powers of resistance when going are small, as a hand very lightly placed behind a running man would effectually prevent his stopping.
One thing must be invariably observed: after any asualty occurring through the vice of a horse, if he is even obliged to be released from his harness, or the carriage, put him in again directly, that he may not fancy that he has beat you, or that he gets any advantage from his vicious manoeuvres; let him find that it is only when he has ceased from them that he is released. Many horses are wonderfully cunning, so it becomes our interest to show that we are more cunning still; and, if they exhibit brute force, to show them that indomitable determination combined with patience are more than a match for that also.
Let it be borne in mind that when we have once come to direct open and violent contention with a horse we must go through with it, for if he once finds that he can beat us, he will ever do so. It is the case in everything we have to do with the horse, whether he beats us by any particular trick or by violence; for instance, if a racehorse at exercise bolts away with and overpowers the lad riding him, or if he throws him off, it becomes necessary to change the lad for a stronger one or a better horseman.
With horses, therefore, I have ever been very careful not to drive matters to extremity, as in such cases you are often obliged to have recourse to severity that it is unpleasant to inflict, or, if beaten, you confirm the animal in a bad habit or absolute vice.
I have stated previously that a horse planting his legs forward and looking from side to side, yet doggedly standing still, was a pretty sure indication that he meant plunging, when induced or forced to move. It will generally be found to be the case; but few rules or symptoms are without exception. Now, it is very probable that the novelty of finding himself attached to a carriage may occasion a similar proceeding on the part of the horse; and thus, finding himself (in Transatlantic term) "in a fix," he is afraid to move. Again, if he has not, as I recommended, been taught to bear the pressure of the collar on his shoulders, he feels himself held back by a something to which he is unaccustomed, so does not know that he really can move forwards; thus, he may refuse to stir, and yet be the best tempered and disposed of quadrupeds. Teach him that by exertion he can move forwards, notwithstanding the opposition, he will do so; but till he has been taught this we have no cause for wonder, still less for anger or severity, on his refusing to do so. I am now speaking of a good-tempered horse, who calls upon us by every feeling of humanity, judgment, and, indeed, our own interest, to treat him with gentleness and to teach him with discretion.
We will suppose such a horse to be put for the first time in double-harness, with a break-horse at his side, ready and willing to act as circumstances may require or the breaksman direct. It is in no way to be expected that a horse thus circumstanced will for some little time face his collar, unless from vice he plunged, or tried, from that or fright, to run away; but the animal we are speaking of, we suppose to be perfectly good-tempered, but as perfectly ignorant of the business required of him-such a horse calls for the greatest care, that he may not become alarmed. Even the break-horse must not be allowed to move on suddenly; for if he does, he will cause the pole-piece of his companion to give a sudden snatch on his neck, which would very possibly produce resistance. Let the novice in harness be encouraged and patted. On the least indication that he is willing to advance, let the break-horse quietly take off the break, and let him alone keep it in motion without any attempt on the part of the driver or the man running at the side to make the other tighten his traces. It is quite enough if he moves on without alarm or resistance; probably he will shortly touch the collar, and it is quite as probable that he will recoil from such touch. Some horses, of course, will come to taking a share in the draught of the carriage sooner than others; but be the time longer or shorter, if good-tempered, the utmost caution must be observed to use any means but those of violence to induce him to do this. If he will go, he will draw; it may require some patience to bring this about, but finis coronat opus.
We have above supposed we have only had ignorance to contend with in a horse; but there are others where we have sulkiness, wilfulness, or vice as opponents: even in such case patience, artifice, and, as it may be termed, beating a horse at his own game, will usually succeed. Failing these, there is but one course left-we must, figuratively speaking, break him to harness, or break his neck.
I will here venture to obtrude a little bit of opinion-not to say advice-and an observation or two bearing on the subject in hand, and what I have said four or five lines back.
If a horse exhibits such evident aversion or vice when put to harness as to render extreme measures indispensable, would it not be more consistent with good feeling and good judgment not to persevere with him? If, indeed, as in the case of the carthorse, we can use him for no other purpose than that of draught, draw he must, be the consequences of making him do so what they may; for, if determinedly vicious, we might as well break his neck as leave him a useless incumbrance to the earth. But, with a horse that can be used for other purposes, the wisest plan would be to use him for those, or sell him to some one who would.
I have said a good deal as regards coaxing and patting a horse. Some persons may think, or say, they could produce desired results quicker by other means: let them try. I go on what hundreds of cases have taught me, which is, to never have re course to the fortitur till the suaviter has failed. The effect produced by patting a horse is not the mere encouragement, but it diverts his attention, while many necessary things are being done. If a horse is playfully inclined, while he is thinking of snapping at the man tickling him on the chest or under the arm, he is not thinking of kicking. If a horse will play, depend on it in nine cases in ten he will go. If he shows himself sensible to caresses, he is mostly inaccessible to vice.
Some horses will, from sulkiness, pertinaciously refuse to move. When we are convinced their conduct arises from such cause, we have but one recourse: get a couple of men to the hind-wheels of the break, speak to the break-horse in terms he will understand, and let him pull the other off, in common phrase, "neck and heels." This will in many, perhaps, cause resistance, more or less; he will perhaps struggle against it-at all events, while so struggling he cannot kick, or at least rarely does so. After a good tugging along with the collar on his neck, he mostly feels it pleasanter to go than to struggle.
Some will lie down and refuse to rise. In a general way, it is a bad plan, in such cases, to release him by undoing the pole-piece and traces; if you do, and he is a determined sulky one, he will lay down again when he thinks proper. Let the break-horse drag him by the collar. If you wish to render the doing so certain, pass a strong rope with a noose (that will not tighten by the draft) round his neck, just beyond his head; fasten this to the pole-hook; let the break move at a very slow walk, so as to give the culprit the opportunity of at least attempting to get on his legs; so soon as he shows inclination to rise, stop the break, and let him be assisted; but let him find the only result of lying down is the being dragged by the neck while in such a situation. I rarely found a horse, however sulky, repeat the maoeuvre. Of course, such measures are only to be resorted to in extreme cases.
Running away, or at least attempting to do so, is another exploit sometimes put in practice by horses in being broke to harness. If they take a breaksman by surprise in single harness this is sometimes a somewhat serious affair, inasmuch as the probability is he has his driving reins to the cheek of the bit the first time of putting a horse in; but a practised breaksman so watches the movements of a horse under such circumstances, that he checks him before he has time to carry matters to this extremity. In double harness it matters little; the break-horse, aided by the driver, will hold him, and he will soon find that the united efforts of both, to which is added the weight of the break, render the running away a serious exertion, of which he will soon tire. Should he attempt it a second time, skid or tie up one of the hind wheels, and let him run as fast as he pleases or can, and when disposed to relax his efforts, as he has, perhaps, ran half a mile to please himself, make him go another to please the breaks-man. This shows him that running away is not to be practised with impunity.