Page images

Every breeder should be fond of association with animals: he should be a judge of form, health, and improvement, and he should understand how to handle them. There are no secrets in the horse-business that men of average intelligence in regard to animals cannot at once master. Quiet, patient ways, with low voice, and gentle but strong hand, will teach a colt all that he needs to know. There are men in every New-England neighborhood who can break colts safely to harness, and by persistent, careful practice, fit them to stand quietly, to stop at the given word, and to be way-wise on any roads. In my county of Worcester, there are communities where they take great pride in educating oxen; and I have seen, at Worcester and at Franklin County cattle shows, steers trained to an incredible point of intelligence and docility. Boys that can train a steer to walk a chalk-line, and to go on his knees at the word of command, can do wonders with horses; for the horse enjoys the companionship of man, responds at once to kindness, and, next to the dog, has the quickest intelligence of any of our domestic animals. Horses for profit must be sold young, unless they earn their living every day. Leave speculation to jockeys and dealers; sell when you have a customer; sell whenever a reasonable profit is offered to you. The best time to sell is before the colt is foaled, to some one who is in love with the dam: the next best time is when the foal is weaned. To the common eye, all weanlings will make fine horses; and the price of a weanling generally pays more profit than the breeder ever has offered to him again. When your colt is past two, every hour that you delay to sell is “burning daylight.” Early maturity is one of the great advantages in thorough blood; and no man can afford to breed from any family that is slow in maturing.

If horses are kept on the farm because they are thought to be improving, or useful in work, they are liable to accident, and they are usually injured in the feet from some of the diseases that are incident to shoeing. Our greatest folly in our management of horses is in submitting their feet to the clumsy handling of a stupid, ignorant, and often drunken mechanic, to have him shod. I will not here contend that horses should not be shod at all; because shoeing, though an invention of barbarians, is, when carefully used, an assistance in utilizing the powers of the horse in his artificial life; but, in the common way of doing it, it is the most onerous tax imposed upon mankind. A horse condemned to wear heavy shoes to which heel and toe calkins are affixed begins to fail from that moment. At the age when he should be in the fullest enjoyment of his strength, he is called old. And few of our horses live out half their days, the great cause of their decline being from diseases of the feet; all of which are caused by ignorant shoeing. In the management of colts on a farm, they should not be shod until they come to rapid and long-continued labor on hard roads; and then the lightest possible application of iron should be made. The safest way is to let the hind-feet be bare, and to shoe the forefeet with tips or crescents of iron that only cover the toe. It must be borne in mind that the frog is the natural level of the horse's foot, and the hoof must be trimmed, keeping that ever in view. I cannot close this paper without comment upon the manner in which horses are judged, and premiums awarded, at the annual fairs of our county associations. Regardless of breeding, form, comeliness, or temper, the only point considered is speed at the trot. And even when there is an award for the “family horse,” so called, or the “roadster,” the premium usually falls to the horse of these classes; that is, the faster trotter. I have seen a first premium awarded to a “stallion for general purposes” that was suffering from periodic ophthalmia, and that was stone blind within a year, and a first premium awarded to a threeyear-old stallion, which had, under his paraphernalia of trotting-boots, as much as two ring-bones; in both cases because they were skilfully driven by a professional horsesharper, and made the fastest mile. A system under which such awards are made calls for thorough reform. In other departments of live stock, animals are judged by their points, and receive credit accordingly; and, if our agricultural societies wish to make their exhibitions occasions of profit and education, they should adopt a scale of points for judging horses of all ages, in which speed at the trot may be reckoned as one point, but in which size, symmetry, soundness, action, &c., should constitute others. Then if a ring-boned, or spavined scrub that has been “handled ” and “developed" so that he can make a fast mile, beats a large, fine, well-actioned, well-bred horse, let the scrub have the benefit of that point, but do not let him have a society's recommendation to breeders as the best horse “for the general purposes” of the year. The CHAIRMAN. I think you will all acknowledge that the subject has been presented in a very masterly and happy manner; and it is now open for discussion. Col. HUMPHREY of Concord, N.H. The subject presented before us for discussion is the horse. I indorse every word the gentleman says. I have had some experience in the matter, and I think I know something about the subjects on which he has spoken. I fully indorse his remarks upon the matter of racing-horses. If there is any curse in the world to young men and farmers, it is that of breeding a trotting-horse for the track. When I speak at our meetings upon the subject of the horse, I always take the ground that he takes. I consider it one of the most demoralizing things for a young farmer to get the idea into his head of breeding a horse for the track. But the gentleman has presented that subject so fully, that there is no occasion for my going into it. I will, however, state a few facts in regard to the amount of money that is spent in raising and training track-horses; and we all know that there is not one in a hundred of these horses that proves a success. I have taken a little pains to investigate the matter; and, if my memory serves me right, there were, last spring, two hundred and twenty-five horses at the training-stables in New England, not to mention the green horses and colts. Every gentleman who has a promising colt expects to get a horse that will trot in 2.20: 2.30 will not answer the purpose. When I was young, 2.40 was considered great speed. We all know that a very large number of the owners of these colts must be disappointed; and, as it has been well said here, the expense of training a horse is enormous. Of course, out of those two hundred and twenty-five horses, there will be more than two hundred that will disappoint the expectations of their owners, and they will fail to get a return for the money expended. The cost of training a horse one year will eat up his value, and more than that. Therefore I am opposed to the breeding of horses for the track. Then, in connection with that, is the gambling that is carried on. I suppose you all know about that as well as I do. I have been through the ring, and know all about the inside of this matter of gambling, — the pools that are sold, and the amount of money that is put at stake. If that was carried on in any of our cities or towns, the parties would have the authorities down upon them : but at the track it seems to be all right; you can gamble there. I know, that, when we see a horse start off, we get interested in Mr. So-and-So's horse, and we are apt to put our hands into our pockets, and put up five dollars, and perhaps a great deal more, when we ought not to. The whole thing is exciting and demoralizing ; and therefore I go against it on that ground, if on no other. I have not time to say much on the question of breeding; but I want to say one thing: be sure you breed from perfect animals. Do not breed from a mare because she has given out here or there, or has some defect. If there is any defect in the mare or horse, it is just as sure to be transmitted as can be. I have had a little experience in this way. I own a mare which no money would buy, because I bred her. I owned her mother and her grandmother before her. Her descent was in a direct line from old Sherman Morgan. The grandmother was thirty-three years old when she died on my hands, and she was a grand-daughter of old Sherman Morgan. A spavin came out upon the old horse; and that spavin has followed his descendants all the way down, and appears in the mare that I drive to-day. But for that spavin, I would not take a thousand dollars for her. I am hoping now to get her so that she will not go lame. I remember a well-known stock horse that had a ring-bone in his foot; and almost invariably his colts had ring-bones in their feet. Then I remember another horse that came from New York forty years ago, - a celebrated horse in his day (that is, so far as looks, and so on, were concerned); but he was so vicious that nobody could handle him. That horse was never driven, to my recollection; and all the colts that came from him were utterly vicious, but all good-looking. There was not one of them that could be broken so that it could be made useful on the farm, or as a driving-horse. The question of the influence of the male and female on their progeny has been much discussed. I suppose it is a scientific question not yet settled. I don’t pretend to understand it; but I know some few facts about it. The impression is, that the character of the first horse put to a mare influences all her future progeny. A gentleman who lives in the town adjoining mine had a mare that he put the first time to a black stallion, and afterwards put her to all kinds of stallions; but every one of her colts was black. I don't pretend to say that there is any thing in that: I only state the fact. As I said before, I think we should be always sure to breed from a perfect horse. I am a great admirer of the Morgan breed, although I do not think they have a great deal of the original blood in them: of course, it is greatly diluted; but still I think that there is no horse that will do our work under all circumstances, and keep his looks, so well as a Morgan horse. If we could get some of the original blood, and keep it, we should have a very desirable breed of horses. There is very little of it that crops out now, even in the Vermont Morgans, as we used to call this breed. I have here a little extract, taken from “The Contemporary Review " of London, in regard to the expense of breeding racing-horses in England; and perhaps it may be interesting to you. It shows that the amount invested in racehorses in all departments — breeding, training, &c. — is 1,723,000 guineas. The interest on that, at five per cent, is 4:90,450 per annum, or $452,250. The interest sunk is but a small part of the expense. The annual expense of keeping a race-horse is £250, or $1,250, including training and all expenses. The whole amount is as follows: —

Interest on capital invested. . . £90,450
Annual keeping and training . . 583,500

[ocr errors]

This is the expense of keeping and training horses for the turf in England; and the same thing is true in regard to the expense involved in the business in this country. I was well pleased with the remarks of the gentleman on that subject, and nobody can gainsay them, although, undoubtedly, there is a great variety of opinion here on that subject.

Dr. HUNT of Waltham. I must say that I have been

« PreviousContinue »