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Having conducted your examination of the horse you contemplate purchasing up to this point, carefully scrutinizing each part separately and leisurely, you are now to stand behind him and look well at the prominences of the hip bones. These you will occasionally find not precisely on a level ; and although fractures and dislocations about these parts are extremely rare on account of their prodigious strength, yet lameness from various causes, as blows, strains, &c., especially about the round-bone, which is situated a little posterior to the prominence of the hip, is by no means of unfrequent occurrence. This complaint will of course be more easily detected on putting the horse in motion ; but the wasting of the large muscles of the hind quarter on the affected side (from their being kept almost constantly at rest on account of the pain that any motion of this part occasions) is a symptom that must not be overlooked. Now the extent of a horse-dealer's veterinary acquirements is extremely limited, and it is ten to one but you will find, after passing your hand over any very suspicious-looking spot, that it smells strongly of some stimulating liniment, and on rubbing back the hair with your thumb the skin will present a slightlyblistered appearance. In other cases a few pieces of bran sticking to the horse's coat will demonstrate the recent application of a poultice, the necessity for which will be corroborated by the heat of the skin and other symptoms of inflammation. Whenever you discover that strong oils or liniments have been rubbed into any part, no matter where situated, be sure that something is wrong, or has recently been so, and have a thorough good trial before you are satisfied that these applications have really effected a cure, instead of having patched up an old grievance “ for the nonce." It is best also, in all these cases, to give the horse some good rattling exercise, and then to examine him again after he has been at rest for an hour or two. You will frequently discover that a high-mettled horse, although to all appearance sound, after having been at work for a short time, will come out of his stable either dead lame, or at least very feelingly, as though he feared to set his legs down to the ground. Sharp spurs and a tight rein soon take off this mincing gait, and make the poor devil almost unconscious of his usual pains from fear of the whip and spurs, and away he steps as though nothing were the matter with him : but when brought to a stand still the case is very different; his shaking legs and weakened joints proclaim the worn-cut cripple, the worst species of horse a man can have, and never worth the trouble of improving, unless he be young and the shaky state of his legs arise from too great an exertion at an improper age. Another effect of exercise is to reduce swellings of the legs or other parts, provided they are not in an inflammatory state. Motion produces an increased action of the absorbent vessels, by which effusion into the cellular parts is removed ; and thus a horse, whose limbs appear perfectly fine after an hour's exercise, may be found with
swollen and gummy legs, or a large thorough-pin, after having been left at rest for some time.
The marks of bandages are easily detected, especially if they have been put on tightly; but, although bandages are commonly used on legs that are liable to swell, yet their employment is no certain sign of any defect, as it is a common and indeed a very excellent plan to bandage every horse's legs whose work is at all severe. Nevertheless dealers are so well aware that any marks about the legs are viewed with suspicion, that they will not use bandages where they may be dispensed with, and, moreover, never apply them tightly except for infirm legs : therefore, whenever you perceive the circular rings made by the turns of a closely-applied bandage, you may take it for granted that it has not been used without a cause.
If you have followed the advice I have already laid down for the examination of a horse, you will now have criticised almost all the parts on which it is necessary that you should found your opinion of him. Your work is, however, as yet only half completed; for you have still to consider his general appearance, his state of condition, his constitution, his tricks, some habits and disorders which are chiefly manifested in the stable, and last, not least, his value. On this latter point it is impossible to give an opinion on paper by which the judgment may be guided in the purchase of a horse. As I have already mentioned, a horse of absolutely no value whatever to one man may be fit for the work required of him by another, and consequently worth a certain sum ; so that to affix a just value upon any horse is perfectly out of the question. Setting aside fancy prices obtained by some dealers for hunters, first-rate carriage-horses, and smart Park nags, the only real method of obtaining a true knowledge of the marketable value of horses is to attend the different auctions and mark the prices that they fetch. You will then see at once how much dealers will bid for a spavined, a groggy, a blind, an old, and a lame horse, and will thus very soon be enabled to estimate every horse's just value within a few pounds. Fancy, however, goes so far in horse-dealing that you will often find men giving more money for a horse than you consider him worth : but these are the exceptions to the general rule; and, moreover, many dealers have commissions to purchase horses for a certain purpose, and even if they do give five pounds more for a horse than they consider his value, provided they can make their employer give them five more, what do they care ? Any man who is a good judge of horse-flesh can mount himself with hounds in first-rate style for from sixty to eighty guineas, and very frequently for much less. Indeed there is no species of horse of which so much may be made as a hunter ; for I am firmly convinced that the value of fifteen out of twenty likelylooking horses for the field, and which are in the possession of men who either never hunt or who are timid horsemen, may be increased a hundred-fold by a bold and judicious rider with a stout heart and a light hand. No horse, as a young one, can be bought for a hunter, except by judging of his points and probable capabilities ; and when we see the enormous price that very many of these animals are sold for, at from seven to twelve years old, we can easily conceive how dealers of good character, who will not sell a bad horse, and very seldom have a
moderate-priced one in their stable, must thrive upon their knowledge of a young one. Such is the fancy with some men of fortune for horses that will suit them, that there is scarcely any rational limit to the sum they will give for a good horse ; in exemplification of which fact I may mention having seen some years back a horse of Mr. Gully's called Scroggins, a punchy, thick, heavy beast, about fifteen hands high, and looking fit to draw a four-wheel chaise, sold at Tattersall's for four hundred and thirty guineas, although he was at that time eighteen years old I
Having thus digressed somewhat from the immediate purport of my subject--the examination of a horse--I shall conclude the chief of my remarks upon this head by advising you to feel the hide over the ribs, and try if it move freely over them. If the skin appear tight and unyielding, the horse is said to be hide-bound ; and this is a very general sign of internal disease of some kind, or of general bad health. The coat should next engage your attention. A soft glossy coat, which lies well down, instead of staring, to use a common phrase, is a symptom of good health and sound constitution, and shews that a horse is thriving. On the other hand, a rough, ragged, and broken coat indicates want of condition, even if a horse appear fat. No doubt a half-starved brute, kept either at straw-yard or in a very cold stable, cannot be expected to have a very fine coat; but such horses are seldom exhibited for sale, and therefore, when you meet with such a one, you may fairly suspect that his state is owing to some constitutional defect, unless you are acquainted with his previous history.
During your examination never allow the dealer's man to hold the horse's head high and make him place his fore-legs well in advance upon rising ground. I shall notice this part of my subject more particularly when I come to speak of the usual methods adopted by low dealers for the purpose of getting rid of their horses. In the mean time suffice it to say, that, whenever you find a horse shewn to you in this fashion, take the bridle quietly out of the man's hand, lead the horse yourself to a level piece of ground, and let him stand there with a perfectly loose rein, so that his head may be quite at liberty. A horse that is shook on his legs will then immediately shew his grogginess; the knees will be bent more or less, the legs shaky and tremulous, and the heels not set firmly on the ground. The pastern joints too, if the horse have done much work, and frequently the fetlocks of the hind-legs, will be seen to bend and become relaxed as though the horse required to ease them as much as possible, and the elasticity of the tendons and ligaments of those parts were greatly diminished. The position of a groggy horse, when left to himself, will be generally that of leaning over the fore-legs, the feet of which are farther under the belly than the upper part of the leg, and the whole limb describing somewhat of a curve, of which the knees are the most prominent part. Some people have given the name of chest-founder to this state of the fore-legs, where a horse is incapable of putting them freely out, and shuffles in his gait. The term is in this case used very erroneously, and the meaning of it really not understood by those who employ it. If there be in reality such a complaint as chest-founder, I take it it should be applied to a rheumatic affection of the muscles about the chest, which
cramps their action and diminishes the stride of a horse, but has nothing to do with his legs except secondarily. If I am wrong in this opinion, I cannot at any rate err in recommending you never to buy a horse for the road or field whose action appears confined and stumpy, from whatever cause this defect may arise. A lively, free, and good stepper is a delight to his rider ; whereas no ever crosses a short-going puddling devil without having sundry unpleasant misgivings as to the result, and not a very agreeable perspective of one or more purls, the upshot of which he leaves to chance and his own activity.
And now, having run over the chief points requiring attention in the examination of a horse, it may be as well, before we proceed to notice those defects which are principally to be observed in the stable, and those which declare themselves on trial, to say a few words respecting
ACTION, in the different paces of a walk, trot, canter, and gallop, for without good action a horse is worthless for quick work, as well as dangerous, although he
well in a cart or at plough.
It is rather a difficult matter to explain clearly of what really good action consists ; for the different shades between bad and superior action are so numerous, and moreover depend so much upon taste, that a description of them would of itself go far towards filling a moderatesized volume.
The principal points to be attended to in criticising the action of a horse are these: Firstly, in walking, the knee should be moderately bent, sufficiently so to raise the foot clear above any ordinary obstacle, as stones, &c. On setting the foot down, it should fall flat, and not touch the ground first with the toe. Those horses indeed that bring the heel down first are considered the safest ; but although this sort of action may be easily seen in trotting, it is but seldom noticeable in the walk. Secondly, the legs should be put straight out, and be raised in like manner; that is to say, the toes should neither be turned outwards nor inwards, nor the foot describe a portion of a circle, and exhibit the sole to a person standing on one side of the horse. Thirdly, in a small compact horse, the walk should be sharp, active, and springy; in a more lengthy and larger horse, the stride should make up for the want of quickness which such animals usually shew, their action being generally more stately than that of the hack. It must, however, be remembered that every horse, be he hack, hunter, or roadster, should step freely out. A mincing, shuffling gait, that appears in some measure to proceed from a wriggling of the body, is a pretty good sign either of badly-formed shoulders, old sprains, or (which is most common) of tender and contracted feet. In walking, a horse should carry his heaļ erect, and appear to spring from the hind-legs, the feet of which should nearly be placed in the marks produced by the fore-feet ; although very
wide-hipped horses will occasionally place the hind-feet to the outside of these marks—a peculiarity which is not to be objected to, inasmuch as horses thus formed are commonly endowed with very great power in the hind-quarters. The hind-legs should be freely bent, picked up sharply, and carried forward under the belly. A horse that seems to drag the hind-legs, instead of lifting them cleverly, will seldom be found to possess much power behind, and, though he may be made to do for harness, will never turn out a good jumper or prove a smart hack.
In trotting it is very much the fashion to admire those horses that bend the knee very much and raise the leg high. These are generally termed clamberers, from their action being such as would enable them to run up a ladder, if such a feat could be performed. This showy sort of pace may do very well for those who keep a horse for the mere purpose of an airing in the Park with a view to attract attention, and to whom the admiration of the cockney and the stripling, to say nothing of that of the fairer sex, are as the “breath of their nostrils.” It is their delight, “monstrari digito prætereuntium;" and provided this treat be secured, they care not what sort of animal they cross. steady hunting-looking horse walking along the Park is only eyed by the cognoscenti in horse-flesh, and by them probably without audible remark, consequently a nag of such unpretending merit will not suit your elegant; but a hot tightly-curbed clamberer, with his tail carried like that of a Dutch pug, that makes a constant “ much ado about nothing," placing his feet down nearly in the spot whence he raised them, is just the beast to call forth the “My vinky, vot an oss!” of the Sunday-Park-ward importation from Whitechapel, and consequently in the London season will ensure plenty of customers, as more men buy horses from vanity than from any motive of utility. These horses are by dealers not inaptly called Flat-catchers.
Horses with high action of this description never cover much ground, and do as much work in going one mile as a horse of less shewy but really better action does in two. Moreover, the higher the action the greater will be the wear and tear of the legs; and on this account a high-stepper will soon shew windgalls, bent legs, and other signs of work, even though the distance he goes daily may not be very great.
Occasionally a horse in trotting will be seen to bend one knee rather more than the other, and in this case he will generally be found to have a thrush, corn, splent, or some other complaint in the leg or foot of that limb which is least raised. Much of the action of a horse at any pace depends upon his rider. Thus, a horse in walking, trotting, or galloping, may be made by a good horseman either to gather himself up closely, and as it were fight with his fore-legs, raising them high and throwing them out, or creep along in a totally different style. A really good walker, however, will always shew himself such, be he ridden in as slovenly a manner as may be ; but a moderately good trotter may be made to step out and bend his knee in a manner very unlike his usual mode of going. This is done by the help of a sharp curb, spurs, and the pressure of the legs, combined with a nice hand that is capable of feeling a horse whenever he throws himself forward, and of giving him a lift when he seems to be relapsing into anything like a lack of spirit.