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Morgan, Abdallah, American Star, and Mambrino Chief, are examples of this grade; though, in such cases, there should be blood on the side of the dams, or re-enforcement of blood in the next generation. In selecting a thorough-bred, I would choose no weedy horse, because he had run fast miles, or lowered the record at short distances. He should have the beauty of his race, and show his kingly lineage in his bearing and expression. He should be fifteen and three-fourths or sixteen hands high, without having long legs. He should have strong mental qualities; for a horse, like a man, cannot be merely an animal. He must be intelligent, brave, patient, and generous. He must have a pedigree in which every ancestor is known to have been of approved excellence, and with record showing that they have been willing to die, to carry their owners' colors to the front, and that, in the test of the four-mile race, they have swerved not from the cold steel, nor the sharp switch of whalebone, but run straight and true, as old man Harper used to say, from “eend to eend.”
Let the men who are so swift to disparage those they contemptuously mention as “runners” not forget that the finest race of horses ever known in New England came from the thorough blood that flowed in the veins of both sire and dam of Justin Morgan; that both Hambletonian and Mambrino Chief, representatives of the two great rival families of trotters, are but four removes from powerful race-horses. And while both of these sires have made abundant failures with mares of cold blood, they have made great successes with mares strong in racing blood ; Hambletonian sharing his fame as a sire almost entirely with the daughters of American Star.
And Mambrino Chief has had a wide range of finebred mares; Lady Thorne, unquestionably the best trackhorse of her day, the only trotter Goldsmith Maid ever met from whom she could never win a heat, being by Mambrino Chief out of a dam almost quite thorough-bred.
And now it is full time for me to come to the question of what sort of mares shall we use. When I look at our NewEngland stock, it is easier for me to say what should not be used. It is generally claimed, by those who write and talk the most about horse-breeding, that foals follow the sire, and that the best mare is the one that impresses her offspring the least with her own individuality. There is much argument
cited from the Arabs, and other vague experience, to show the truth of this opinion. I entirely dissent from this view. This is a theory contradicted by all true observation and experience. It is not the theory of the Arabs, either: it is part of that vast amount of theorizing done in the all-pervading stallion interest. A ready belief has been accorded to it, because, in our way of breeding, the male is the selected parent, and usually of a higher lineage than the dam; but, other things being equal, the mare is the parent whose impress is most to be seen in the foal. Why should not this be so ? She is the equal of the male in every equine quality, and perhaps surpasses him in endurance. She concentrates herself upon one, and carries it in her body, nourished from her own heart's blood, sharing all her moods, and its temper varied by her experiences; while the sire may quicken the germ of two hundred foals in the same season, as careless of them all as the knight of old,
" Who loved, and who rode away.”
The idea that the Arabs trace all excellence through the male line is derived entirely from the testimony of Abd-elKader, who wrote a notable letter to Gen. Daumas, in which he asserts, that “the bones, tendons, nerves, and venous system proceed from the sire.” He also concludes that the moral qualities have their origin in the sire, and that really the dam does little more than to give color and some resemblance to her own form. This is the opinion of a very eminent man, and a first-rate Arabian horseman ; but perhaps, if we could bring together as many Arabs as there are American horsemen in this assembly, we would find as much difference of opinion as we are sure to find here.
Arabian testimony is based upon cloudy tradition or individual experience; but English and American thorough-breeding has a history and carefully-recorded observation which contradict the Arab chieftain, and bring proofs against him. In English and American thorough-breeding, the dams are the equals of the sires in lineage, and often in performance; and it is so well settled that the dam must be of equal blood and quality with the sire, that no one would think of disputing it. The stud-book is rich with the names of illustrious mares that have bred winners to half a dozen different
horses, that have vastly increased the wealth of breeders, and proved the truth of the maxims of another Arab, the prophet Mahomet, who said, “Let mares be preferred: their bellies are a treasure, and their backs are the seat of honor."
Blood and quality can be obtained with so much greater rapidity by the male line, that highly-bred sires used with. our best mares would soon raise the quality to the desired point. One of the follies of breeding is seen in the fact that mares are commonly allowed to breed, because they are, by age, hard work, or unsoundness, unfitted for other service. If a mare's nervous system has not been worn out, age is no reason why she should not rear foals. She must be sound in limb, of good constitution, and have room to carry her foal. Nervous, lathy, “tucked-up” mares, poor feeders, must not be used, no matter how fast they may trot. Size in a mare is not so important, if she have a good barrel, and if she is known to be of large-sized stock. Neither a large nor a small animal will perpetuate the likeness of himself or herself, unless descended from a family which is either the one or the other; for the fact that you get the characteristics of the breed, not of the immediate parent, always obtains. The better the mare is, and the better her lineage, the better will be her produce. And I will conclude this portion of my subject by saying, that if a man has not a thoroughly good, well-bred mare, and cannot obtain the services of a first-class, highly-bred sire, he had better let the matter alone.
MANAGEMENT OF HORSES. Under this head I suppose I am to speak of the rearing and care of stock.
Having been a stallion-keeper, I wish to begin by some remarks on the management of stallions.
When a horse begins a stud-career, his owner should absolutely withdraw him from the worry and excitement of training. Horses kept for service of mares, and trained at the same time, will get nervous and excitable stock. But a worse error still is to put a horse into a condition of flesh, like a prize pig, in order to brag of how much he weighs, and to keep him, without exercise, in the close confinement of a box-stall, until he becomes a moody, morose, and often savage
brute. Many stallions become partially insane under the common treatment, and are a pest to their owners, dangerous to grooms, and beget vicious stock. A stallion should be kept in good health and moderate flesh. His box should be where he can have the constant company of other horses, or in sight of his mares. He should have a paddock to run in, or have plenty of cut grass during his season. He should be exercised in double harness, or under the saddle accompanied by other horses, as often as convenient. His exercise should be brisk and blood-stirring, with occasional sharp work so as to get a good sweat. Under such treatment, a stallion, unless he is naturally a vicious brute, will be as cheerful and pleasant to keep as any mare is.
Breeding-mares must be kept in good condition, the best of pasture, oats and hay in winter, and warm quarters. Work will not hurt them. Some of the best foals have come from mares that worked moderately up to a week before foaling.
When a breeder, by the union of suitable parents, has produced a foal, it then rests with him to bring it to the full perfection of power. To do this, common sense, or what is sometimes called “horse sense,” is all that is required. A well-pastured or well-fed mare will provide all the nourishment the suckling requires. If it is a fall foal, it may be allowed to run with the dam until spring; but, if it is a spring foal, four or five months is the usual time. Foals are easily weaned, but must never be turned back to pasture. This is a critical time. The foal must be kept growing. He must therefore be kept in a convenient paddock, fed regularly with sweet hay and bruised oats, and continually handled all over from head to feet. Now is the time to train and break him. The lessons taught at this stage will never be forgotten, and he can be made perfectly docile and obedient. His feet must be carefully looked to, and not allowed to grow too long either at toe or heel. There is a common idea among farmer breeders that a colt should not be allowed grain ; and nine out of ten men who show you a colt will boast, truly or falsely, that he has had no grain. I have listened to the remonstrances of my neighbors against my practice of training colts; they insisting that it was the occasion of various forms of bone disease. New England
abounds in wretched stock, that, in addition to the disadvantage of low mongrel breeding, has been starved at the growing time of life, raised on bare hill pastures where there was nothing to make a horse of, exposed to cold storms, scorching sun, torment of flies, and in winter compelled to live on meadow-hay, and shiver in the barnyard, an unkempt, longhaired, lousy scrub. A colt so reared, if he were descended from a royal line, would never make a horse. “Half a horse goes down his throat; ” and the first two years is the time to make your horse in. The time then lost can never be regained. If you starve a well-grown, mature animal, he will be thin, weak, and unable to work; but you can return to generous diet, and put new flesh on his frame, and give the gloss of health to his hair. But a colt must be kept growing, or he loses his opportunity. Oats are the natural food of a horse ; and a weanling may have from two to four quarts a day of bruised oats, and all the hay he can eat. The yearling may have more, if he exercises in a large yard or paddock.
At two years old a colt should be broken to harness, and have regular work. This will sound strangely to people who are accustomed to wait until a colt is five years old, before they halter break him; and I know there are many colts, that, for lack of breeding and keeping, are not mature enough to go to work at five. But I am talking now about colts that may be raised for profit; and such a colt must be fit to be broken to harness at two, certainly at three. There has been a great deal of dispute about this point in horse management. I have heard the arguments on both sides, English and American; and while I would not train a two-year-old for speed (except a thorough-bred), nor work him beyond his strength, I am fully satisfied that it is best to use him carefully for the better development of his muscles. The French breeders of the Percherons, a magnificent family of powerful horses, in use all over France, work them at a year old ; and at eighteen months they are expected to earn their living at the plough and in the cart. There are no sounder horses in the world than those thus reared. In Mr. Murray's book on the Perfect Horse, there is an admirable chapter on "How to Train a Colt;” and, though I do not agree with many of Mr. Murray's opinions, that chapter and the chapter on horse-shoeing redeem all his errors.