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When one enters upon the production of any article for sale, he should carefully consider the market, and endeavor to make his production conform to the demand, in price and quality. The farmer who breeds for sale must rear what the public want, and be able to make a profit at the price his animals will command, or he labors in vain. In our horse-breeding, instead of producing elegant horses for the rich man's carriage, or powerful workers for the cart or plough, or quickmaturing, active helpers in the busy traffic of our city life, —something that can be done with certainty and profit, — the chief object of the New-England breeder has been to produce a horse that can be trained to a track-record in his second-best gait. The occasional vast prizes of the trotting world have so dazzled us, that we have overlooked sober prosaic gains; and each man has sought to breed a Lady Thorne or Dexter. The man who endeavors to act intelligently in breeding trotters, and begins by examining the ground to see how he shall best accomplish his purpose, is at once met with the never-ending controversy as to what is the origin of the trotting-power. One powerful party, strong in vested interests, contends that it is proprietary in the family of horses descended from Messenger, — a thoroughbred English horse imported at the close of the last century, whose precious blood, though infinitesimally diluted, still asserts itself, and grows stronger the less there is of it. The Morgans — whose original blood was pure and strong enough to found the best family of horses for general use ever known in this country, but now passed by because quenched in floods of cold puddle — have had enthusiastic volumes written in their praise. One faction asserts that any family of horses trotted for a few generations is liable to produce trotters, because instinct is the sum of acquired habits; and trotting, in their view, is a mental, and not a physical, phenomenon. Collateral branches of the various equine families, that are reckoned as the natural heirs of the family gifts, are eagerly sought as having the powers of transmission. Accidental horses of all sorts of lineage, both high and low, constantly appear to upset these fine-drawn theories. But the larger breeders are usually governed by their proclivity for some especial family; while the occasional breeder, bewildered by the jargon of disputing horsemen, commonly goes it blind, taking his chance for a Goldsmith Maid or a Rarus by breeding his usually worn-out, unsound mare to a horse of a track-record, or often to a horse whose boasted excellence is in his relation to a horse that had such a record. Stock horses that have, among hundreds of unknown or forgotten failures, registered some accidental trotters, have had no lack of patronage, and, in some well-known cases, have commanded enormous fees for their services; greater, in the aggregate amount, than the whole value of their progeny. But the trotting-business is a complicated one. It does not end with the growth of the foal to common maturity: that is but the beginning of sorrow and responsibility. This trotting-instinct, unlike other horse qualities, is latent. The horse that can trot fast don't know it: he has to be developed by a peculiar course of instruction. He is like a deaf man, who is also mute because he has no comprehension of speech; and his unused faculties have to be awakened in the brain, and the organs practised, until he learns lip-reading and speech. So the colt has to be “developed,” — “handled for speed.” Then begins the real expense of his rearing. One season of a young horse in the hands of a “professional,” with the cost of sulkies, blankets, boots, toe-wrights, constant changes of shoeing, &c., will take the cost of a trotter far beyond any thing that he will realize as a mere horse. It is the rule of these ventures, that the colt is a failure, and that, tried too young, he is over-worked in training, and comes back to his owner with puffed legs, stiffened joints, contracted feet, and, it may be, with incorrigible vices. But if he prove the exception to the rule, and develop speed and stanchness, it is then incumbent upon his owner to take him to the track, enter him skilfully where the most can be made of him by getting or avoiding record; and the profit must be had from the games of the track, or by selling the horse for a price that indicates at once that he is to be used for gambling-purposes. It is calculated by observing horsemen, that when the best sires and dam are selected, and the produce bred with the greatest care, the chance of pro
ducing a record trotter is about one in a hundred; but, when the business is attempted in the hap-hazard way, the chance of success is infinitesimal. But if these failures to make trotters could be profitably utilized in any other direction, if the horse which finds the miles too long to win somebody's money for his owner could be sold for a high price for other use, there would still be hope for the breeder. But it happens that these families that are the residuary legatees of the trotting-power have little else to recommend them, lacking style and size for the carriage, weight and power for draught, and falling far short of the physical and mental standard demanded for the saddle. It is especially unfortunate that several of the favored progenitors of the trotting faculty have been the veriest brutes in race and disposition, soft in bottom, unsound, and leaving behind them a heritage of defects that taints their whole line of descent. Among the disputes, false pedigrees, ignorance, and haphazard of trotter-breeding, the chances and the results are about the same as a cynical Frenchman said they were, when a man sought to get a good wife in Parisian society. He said it was like grabbing for an eel hidden in a barrel of snakes. It thus appears that our horse-breeding is a failure, because we have pursued a branch of the business that is involved in such doubt and difficulty, that it compares with legitimate pursuits as the investment of money in lotteries compares with regular industry. We have done it at an expense that the most favorable outcome could not reimburse, and we have been trying to produce that which has but a limited market, and that depends upon sport or fashion. At this moment, while the country is full of trotters that lack the disposition, or the wind, or the limb, or all of these, to trot, it is well known that fine horses for carriage-use were never so scarce as they are now. The observer at our watering-places and in the city parks will notice that there is a return to English fashions in pleasure-driving ; that slower horses of fine action, fit to wear heavy harness, and draw large carriages, are in vogue; that the coaching-clubs, dog-carts, tandems, and T-carts, require a different style of horse from the light wagon; and the long unused manly pleasure of the saddle demands the shoulder, the pliant neck, and the elastic pastern, of the blood-horse.
These are the horses wanted by all the luxurious and wealthy of the world. The finer and more beautiful the animal, the surer his market. We want a proud, fineactioned horse, – a lean head, with thin lips, open nostril, full, kindly, lustrous eye, a broad forehead, and quick, playful ear; the crest not too high; the neck light, well set, and arching; the throttle large ; the skin thin, and the fine hair blooming with health; the limbs powerful and perfect; the hoof round and hard, – the type of horse whose back has been the throne of conquerors, whose neck is clothed with thunder, and the glory of whose nostrils is terrible. Granted that this is the ideal horse, the horse of story and of song, yet it is easier to produce him in his highest possible perfection than it is to get the ideal of the trotting-track.
An accidental, elegant carriage-horse may be occasionally found in any of our families of horses. Morgans, Hambletonians, Clays, Mambrinos, produce them more frequently than they produce low record trotters; but all these families lack the combination of size, style, courage, and bottom, that are wanted in the horse for which there is a steady, unfailing demand.
It has been urged by writers who have considered this subject before me, that, in order to produce carriage-horses or park-horses of proper quality, we should use the exceptionally fine ones of the families we have, and find our result in their produce; but experienced breeders are well aware that accidentally fine animals of races of mongrel blood do not reproduce their own accidental qualities, but commonly throw back to their inferior ancestry. If this is allowed, we must look outside of what we have, if we intend to breed horses for profit. At this point of our investigation we are not compelled to grope in the dark: we are upon ground that has been carefully explored, and we can avail ourselves of the experience of the world.
The poet says, –
“From fairest creatures we desire increase,
We know that beauty of form, fineness of bone, good stature, and other high qualities, if inherent in families, may be continued by careful selection. The question then arises, What available race is there, that, bred through long generations, is so established, that it is unfailing in its power of reproducing its qualities? We know that the horse of the East is the type, and that his is the parent race; and we know that the Eastern horse, Arab, Barb, or Turk, was the founder of the present race of English thorough-breds; and it is the experience of the world, that the Anglo-Arab, nourished, trained, and tested for two centuries by the best horsemen in the world, is the unfailing fountain to which they must recur. On the Continent of Europe this question is so settled, that there is not an argument to the contrary. The government breeding studs of every nation are supplied with sires from “the tight little island.” Every important sale held in England has competitors from the Continent; and, when the horse Blair Athol was brought to the hammer, an English breeding company was compelled to pay fifteen thousand guineas to retain him in England. So great has been the drain, that the English are alarmed; and the warning cry is raised, that they are being depleted of their supply. In every city of the Continent, even to the south of Spain, the traveller sees in each magnificent equipage the blood that has been so long the glory and pride of England. We are fortunate in having a long-established branch of that family in this country, in some respects superior to their English congeners. The soil and climate of Kentucky, that State, as my old friend Dr. Weldon says, “ of short-horned cattle and long-horned whiskey,” has proved their kindly nurse, and put forward horses that even dare to cross the water, and challenge English sportsmen on their own turf. And now I come to the assertion, founded on the facts of general experience, that, if we are to breed for profit and credit, we must come forward with the rest of the world, and employ the services of selected thorough-breds. I say “selected,” because I am well aware that there is a vast range of choice in thorough-breds. I have sometimes been almost persuaded that half or three-quarters bred horses from strong stock would best answer the purpose. Justin