« ПредишнаНапред »
that of the Old Surrey. The hounds are splendid: the kennels, newly erected after a plan of Mr. Assheton Smith's (a friend of Sir E. Antrobus, the Manager of these hounds), perfect, and the men remarkably civil and attentive to their duty. The stud consists of thirteen horses of a good stamp, and some of them bought at high prices for Sir Edmund's riding, but transferred to the kennel for the huntsman. Sir Edmund is a good buyer, giving tolerable high prices, 150 and 200 not being uncommon; and, considering the sort of country they have to go over, and the way he and his men are obliged to knock their horses about in getting to their hounds, it requires a pretty strong purse to keep the stud efficient ; but money is no object with him if sport can be shewn. Both himself and huntsman always have two horses out, and by their being ridden by steady men, and keeping the tops of the hills, they are always at hand for a change when the ones they are riding are blown, which must be the case with the best of horses if he is ridden up and down these hills quick.
There are fifty-five couple of hounds in the kennel for four days a-week, and the entry every year is very large on account of the number of hounds maimed from the flints, &c.
Sir Edmund Antrobus's horses do not stand at the kennel, but at his own place, about eight miles off. I have heard he is often seen on apparently raw horses, which, if I had his fortune, should never be the case, for I would have them come to me ready made, and not requiring tuition : and this leads me to the subject of procuring hunters.
The difficulty that exists in procuring horses for the field acquainted with their business arises in a great measure from the little pains taken by farmers and breeders in teaching their stock to jump while quite young. The method recommended by my old acquaintance, Mr. Craven Smith, is most excellent. He little thinks who the writer of this is, but I have seen him kill many a fox when he first started as a Master of Fox-hounds with the Hambledon, and heard with much pleasure of his after-success with the Craven. Does he remember a certain Greek at a County Member's splendid fête some years back ? I heard also a good deal about him two years ago from an Ex-Master of Hounds on the borders of Essex and Suffolk. He is as gallant a horseman as an acknowledged master in the science of hunting, and I hope he may yet be at the head of a first-rate pack of hounds.
Sure I am that Leicestershire and Northamptonshire will never be permanently settled with a Master till they adopt the plan of engaging a Gentleman to hunt the country, who, being without ties or local interests, will find it his interest to put up with trifling annoyances with which many independent men of large fortune get disgusted at and retire.
Mr. S.'s method, as recommended in his “ Diary of a Huntsman," of teaching horses to jump is well worth the attention of every one. Mr. H. Thompson, of Skelton, near York, has long adopted a similar method, and I have before mentioned this Gentleman as being a very extensive breeder and a most likely person to procure hunters from on account of the very great pains he takes to make them jump. He has still, I understand, a great number of mares in his breeding paddocks. I will, however, again add a hint to all breeders to be very particular in
the blood they breed from. Some breeds, such as the Blacklock and Emilius, are generally weak on the fore legs : some others are subject to spavins, and are bad hocked; and naturally good sound legs and feet are the first great requisites in a hunter. Well-bred ones have generally plenty of bottom, though even in this point some sorts, such as the Whalebone, old Tramp, and Dr. Syntax, are better than others. Some are by nature of a hot temper, such as old Orion, but generally good ones, and with care may be made quiet. Did farmers, therefore, take sufficient trouble, they would be enabled often to get rid of their young horses likely to make hunters at a much earlier age : indeed I doubt not that many Gentlemen would buy three-year-olds (could they procure them knowing their business), and keep them a couple of years before putting them to work. Farmers would then find breeding hunters quite as profitable as breeding carriage-horses, which are only preferred on account of their coming into work so much sooner, and being taken off their hands. It is far better to sell a three-year-old for £60 than to keep him for two years longer and get £100, taking the risk into account.
There is no place in the world where there are so many good horses to be bought as in London, but there are also quite as many
bad ones, and the difficulty is to distinguish one from the other. There is such a system of fraud carried on that it is impossible for a man to be certain what he buys.
The great dealers, Anderson and Elmore, will not keep a bad horse knowing him to be such ; but the prices they are obliged to ask is the best proof of the difficulty they find in procuring good horses; and it is not every one that is blessed with the means of going to such markets.
When the tuition of young colts becomes generally practised, the prices for made horses will become more equalised. A dealer assured me not long ago he had commissions from twenty customers at £150 a-piece for good sort of horses, but really did not know where to get them; and I believed him, well knowing that sound young horses of a good stamp and knowing something of their business are hard to meet with.
The large dealers are obliged to buy many inferior horses, the breeders seldom allowing them to pick and choose. The breeders' object is to get rid of the lot, and the buyer is consequently obliged to take good and bad together : the latter are sold in London for anything they will fetch, to inferior dealers, coach-masters, &c.; the short-legged good-actioned ones are kept for customers, and the price is according to what will repay the money originally laid out.
With all this difficulty in procuring in London sound young horses, perhaps the difficulty of selling one is, to a Gentleman, quite as great, at least to receive anything like the value. I have known many, who, hearing of the prices given in London, are tempted to send up a young horse should they have one to dispose of, and, in such cases, generally send them to a commission stable, of which there are several in all parts of London ; but few people, until they have had experience of such places, are aware how seldom they can get rid of a horse there except at a great sacrifice.
The selling a horse is not so great an object to the proprietors as having them standing at livery; and, besides, most of these people are dealers, and where they sell one horse belonging to a stranger, they sell three for themselves. If a horse sent for sale is really a good horse and they very soon find out what he is—they will endeavor to tire out the owner into selling at a much lower price than he values him at, and then he is sold very probably to some agent of their own, and afterwards resold at a handsome profit.
It is almost impossible for a stranger to ascertain the truth in every instance, and it is only sometimes by accident the real facts come out. A
very short time ago an officer of a gallant corps lately returned from India, and quartered at Canterbury, sent a horse to a commission stable not a hundred miles from Gray's Inn Lane. He was an old horse, but sound and a tolerable good one; he valued him at £50, and after some time he was told a Gentleman had offered thirty guineas for him. Though this was rather too great a reduction, being anxious to get him off his hands, he agreed to take it, and the usual commission and expenses being deducted, he received the difference. To his astonishment, four or five days after, he was informed by his cousin, who resided about twelve miles from London, the horse was in his neighbourhood, in the possession of a person who acted as a sort of agent for the proprietor of the commission stable, and who, not being aware of the relationship of the parties, had, upon his asking what he had given for him, answered, “ Oh, I have not given anything for him ; he has been sent down to me by * * * *, who generally does so if he has anything likely to make a few pounds by !" What the horse has since been sold for I never heard ; but upon an explanation being asked for by the officer, he was told the horse had been sold to a medical gentleman for thirty guineas, but, upon trying him previous to taking him home, he disliked him, and Mr. **** took him off his hands; and as the books contained an entry accordingly, there was no evidence to proceed on, even if the animal's value had made it worth while going to law about, though the horse had never left the dealer's yard. I believe the same sort of thing is practised every day; and some of these stables (the one where this circumstance happened) have an attorney attached to the establishment, whose business it is to defend their proprietors in all cases of dispute. This very circumstance of having a regular attaché to the concern in the shape of a lawyer ought to make most people cautious before they have any dealings at such places.
Another instance, but not at the same stable, has come to my knowledge, where a Gentleman had thought his horse had been sold for £80, and a short time afterwards he met an acquaintance on the animal, who said he had bought him and paid one hundred and twenty for him! This was too much to submit quietly to, and he succeeded in getting the full sum from the proprietor, but not without great trouble and threats of exposure.
I do not mean to say that all the proprietors of commission stables in London are in the habit of doing this ; on the contrary I believe there are a few in whom you can put confidence: but on the whole, I had rather send a horse to Tattersall's than place him at any of them, for though the auction expenses are heavy, rine times in ten you get as
much as in the end you do from a private stable, and you are quite certain
horse is not abused by all sorts of trials. Besides, a very great proportion of horses sold at Tattersall’s are disposed of privately, and, if young and with good action, are pretty certain of meeting with a purchaser in the spring of the year.
But to return to the Surrey Hounds.- I believe this pack has been in existence for upwards of fifty years, and the different Managers in that time have been only four-Mr. Neville, Mr. Maberly, Mr. Haigh, and the present Master, Sir Edmund Antrobus. There are few old-established packs in England that have had so few Masters in the same period; and what is worthy also of remark is, that they have been hunted by members of the same family all that time. The present huntsman, Tom Hills, has been with them twenty-seven years, and his uncle had this place previously. Hills is as gallant a horseman and as good a huntsman as any in England; and the manner in which he keeps with his hounds in this country of hills and deep vales is the wonder of every one. He has, however, had some terrible falls, and a broken head, arms, ribs, and collar-bones have been the consequences. It was only last year he got such a desperate fall over a strong stile, that he, I fear, will be obliged soon to give up his vocation ; for the excruciating pain he suffers in the broken bone, whenever he gets cold or has an attack of rheumatism, is dreadful. He has of course had some very clever horses during so long a career, but the best and cleverest, take him all in all, is a chesnut horse he calls Paddy, and which is still in the stud. He is by Lord Egremont's Little John out of a Suffolk mare, and came to the kennel when five years old, from having run away in harness. He is not the best tempered one in the world, and the sight of a tilted cart or wagon, though half a mile off, will to this day send him right over the hedge rather than go near it; but no day is too long for him, nor any fence too big. He has, however, been obliged to undergo some severe operation with the iron to keep his legs sound ; and it was only very lately Mr. Turner, the celebrated veterinary surgeon at Croydon, was speaking to me about the extraordinary cure of this horse from the worst case of break-down he had ever seen.
Mr. Turner's mode of firing is severe, but generally effectual ; and the number of valuable horses he has sent to him for the purpose of firing from all parts of England, is a strong proof of the estimation he is in. I have heard more than one Master of Hounds declare they would rather send a horse two hundred miles to be fired by him than have him done by anybody else, so convinced were they of his extraordinary skill.
Mr. Turner, of Regent Street, the brother, is also famous for the operation called nerving; and the number of horses he operates on is almost beyond belief: and let me caution all buyers of horses to be very careful in their purchase, for so cleverly is the operation performed in the present day, that the nicest and closest observation is necessary to detect a nerved horse; in short, none but a professional person can do so, and not all of them. Mr. T. assured me the number of horses brought to him for examination as to soundness, and which
of course he is obliged to reject as nerved horses, is incredible, and very many of them are horses upon which he has operated. I have reason to believe a number of nerved horses, from the hands of inferior dealers, also find their way to the Continent.
The metropolis and its surrounding district produces some of the best and hardest riders in England; and I have seen and heard of one or two instances which would bear comparison with many of the breakneck feats of the Sister Kingdom. There is a butcher named Selmes, at Godstone, who is noted for his nerve and the extraordinary knack he has of making any horse jump: cart-horse or race-horse is all the same to him when once on their back; go they must at whatever he puts them at, and no horse is ever in his hands a month without becoming a jumper. With a snaffle-bridle and the buckle of the rein in one hand, the head quite loose, a good ash stick in the right hand, and one spur on the left heel, he charges gates, stiles, hedges, or brooks, and refuse they dare not, for the ash plant is sure to catch them on the side of the head if they offer to turn to the right or the left. They may fall if they please, and they very often do at first, but they soon become quite as much afraid doing that as of refusing. The man himself is as active as a cat, and seldom gets hurt. There is a very high and pointed barred gate leading off the common into the paddock belonging to the kennel; I should think it could not be less than 4 feet 9 in.; and one day in the summer, while up at the kennel chatting to some of the people, he began to shew off his horse by jumping him over some hurdles and a rail round a stack.
He then, without much of a run, rode at this gate, and over he went, but the horse struck the top of the spikes with his hind-feet and broke two of them, and at the same time one of his stirrup-leathers gave way. This not pleasing him, he turned the animal short round, and brought him back over it again, and then a third time out of the field over it again, both the last times with only one stirrup, and going at least a foot higher than the gate. The horse was afterwards bought for 100 by Sir E. Antrobus.
Another very bold feat was performed not long ago by the son of a large farmer, whose name I forget, but who rode an old stale grey horse, that had been bought out of the Lewes coach for £18, over a very stiff gate in cold blood, though he had never seen the animal before, or knew whether he could jump; but, as he appeared a highcouraged one, he fancied by his galloping he ought to be able to jump, and having asked the owner to let him try him, he got on,
and giving him one turn round a paddock just to warm him, then charged the gate, and over he came, to the astonishment of his master, who was standing by.
Now these two instances are, I think, illustrative of as high courage and nerve as you often meet with, though I have no doubt the metropolis could produce many similar instances, would any one take the trouble of communicating them when they hear of such.
I shall conclude this long epistle by enumerating a few names among the merchants and professionals well known in the metropolitan districts as Sportsmen,