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Title: Riding for Ladies
       With Hints on the Stable

Author: Mrs. Power O'Donoghue

Illustrator: A. Chantrey Corbould

Release Date: October 24, 2013 [EBook #44026]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Julia Miller, Jennifer Linklater, and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
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available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)

Book cover


Lafayette, Photo: Dublin.

Author’s Signature


The Common Sense of Riding.

Riding for Ladies

Mrs. Power O’Donoghue,


W. Thacker & Co., 87, Newgate Street





  Introduction xi
I.— Ought Children To Ride 1
II.— For Mothers and Children 11
III.— First Hints to a Learner 24
IV.— Selecting a Mount 32
V.— The Lady’s Dress on Horseback 43
VI.— The Lady’s Dress on Horseback—(continued) 54
VII.— Bitting 63
VIII.— Saddling 81
IX.— “Learning To Ride”—How to Sit, to Walk, to Canter, and to Trot 92
X.— Reins, Voice, and Whip 105
XI.— Riding on the Road 122
XII.— Paces, Vices, and Faults 135
XIII.— A Lesson in Leaping 146
XIV.— Managing Refusers 158
XV.— Falling 166
XVI.— Hunting Outfit Considered 179
XVII.— Economy in Riding Dress 188
XVIII.— Hacks and Hunters 203
XIX.— In the Hunting-Field 217
XX.— Shoeing 231
XXI.— Feeding 241
XXII.— Stabling 250
XXIII.— Doctoring 262
XXIV.— Breeding 280
XXV.— Training 292
XXVI.— A Budget of “Tips” 307
  Index 339
Lady on horseback


The work to which these few lines are meant to form a preface does not aspire to the dignity of containing anything resembling an exhaustive treatise on each, or any of the numerous minor subjects connected with the principal one of Equitation. It is simply a collection of useful and practical hints on matters that pertain to the horse and his management—no study of things abstruse being brought into requisition, or any complicated theories put forward for guidance. The instructions given are of the plainest and easiest description, and are the result of an experience which has in some instances been rather dearly bought; the experiments described have been duly tested, the recipes tried, the systems explored, and the rules set forth rigidly investigated before being recommended.

The unexpected success which attended the publication of “Ladies on Horseback” induced the Messrs. Ingram, proprietors of the Lady’s Pictorial, to commission me, some little time ago, to write for them a set of articles of a prepared in part from very rough sketches made by my own hand, I think I shall have said enough to form a suitable “preliminary canter” to this volume, and may prepare to go up to the starting-point, and begin my race.

N. P. O’D.


See p. 175.


Going up hill, Whip me not.
Going down hill, Hurry me not.
On level road, Spare me not.
Of hay and corn, Rob me not.
Of pure water, Stint me not.
Of fresh air, Deprive me not.
To damp bed, Subject me not.
With brush and sponge, Neglect me not.
Home from grass, Physic me not.
Tired or hot, Wash me not.
Sick or cold, Chill me not.
With bit and reins, Jerk me not.
When you are vexed, Strike me not.
When old and grey, Despise me not.
When past my labour, Work me not.
When sick and dying, Leave me not.
And, when dead—



The Common Sense of Riding

The “Common Sense of Riding,” which formed the title under which these writings were first furnished to the public in the columns of a London journal, supplied a fitting heading for the articles at the time, very little concerning stable or general horse management being appended to the instructions offered to equestrians. The expediency of adding to the work formed a necessity for altering the title; but the original one, if used here, would set forth precisely the manner in which I am about to deal with the subject that I have taken in hand.

To discard preamble, and plunge at once in medias res, is usually the wisest and most common-sense manner of coming at and coping with the difficulties surrounding crotchety questions: and surely one of the foremost in the category of such is the often-heard inquiry, “How shall I best learn to ride?”

To offer instruction on any subject to persons who fancy they have no need of it, is at all times mere waste of time and trouble. My remarks, therefore—embracing, as it is meant they shall, a variety of matters especially interesting to ladies—will be addressed throughout to those only who really feel their need of friendly counsel, who are anxious to learn, and are willing to benefit by such hints and instructions as my varied experiences of horses and horse-management enable me to give them.

Before entering fully upon my pleasant task, I would say that although many men, and very many youths, may learn a useful lesson or two from matters upon which I shall touch, or possibly deal with in detail, my observations will be directed chiefly to ladies, my desire being to take each separately, as it were, into my confidence, and speak to her less as teacher to pupil than as friend to friend.

It seems to me that to adopt the homely pronouns “you” and “I” will be more convenient and concise than adhering to the stereotyped and old-fashioned terms “the reader,” and “the author”—modes of expression which are as a rule unnecessarily formal, and most uncomfortably cold. When, therefore, I begin my subject, I shall suppose that you are a novice, with but a very shadowy idea of the subject on which you wish to be enlightened; but when I say “novice,” I do not necessarily mean a child. Indeed, I hope that you are not one, for it is widely known that I object very strongly to children riding, my reasons for doing so being founded on the surest and most common-sense principles. The point is one which has of late years led me into discussions with very many high-class authorities on equitation, but I have never for a moment swerved from my fixed opinions, and many of my keenest opponents have, from time to time, ranged themselves on my side.

It is indeed a matter of surprise to me that anybody possessed of even moderate reasoning capacity can advocate infantile equestrianism. The two arguments which defenders of it make their strong points, namely, that it is “splendid exercise,” and that it imparts a courage which is beneficial in after life, can, while admitted, be counterbalanced by so many genuine drawbacks and objections, that their boasted efficacy runs considerable risk of being regarded as a thing of nought. Before, however, dealing with the con’s of the case, let us take up the pro’s in rotation. It is splendid exercise. Granted; but rolling hoop is quite as good, while ball-playing, tennis, badminton, and every other game that sets the blood in motion and calls the muscles into active play, may be styled equally beneficial. All the advantages which are derivable from exercise—and they are many—can be had without riding; this is an admitted fact; and, being so, it serves to sweep away suppositious inferences respecting the superiority of equine practice, or training, over that of any other sort. So much for the oft-quoted plea of “exercise.”

With regard to the question of courage, it cannot be denied that a certain and useful amount of confidence is imparted to all young persons who participate largely in pursuits which have a smack of daring or danger about them. Watch, for example, the peasant girls who inhabit the country districts of Ireland. They climb steep mountains, descend jagged cliffs, run barefooted along sharp ledges and high rugged walls, without thought of danger, or trace of fear. And why? Because from childhood they have been accustomed to it. It goes, then, without saying that early practice does impart an amount of bravado, which may in later life be found useful on occasion; but, having acknowledged this, I feel that I have done my entire duty towards the advocates of a system to which I strongly object, and I shall, therefore, proceed, in all fairness, to demolish their theories by a clear and simple setting forth of the evils which are, in my opinion, attendant upon early equestrian pursuits.

Few persons will be found to dispute the fact that a child on horseback, especially a girl, runs at least as many risks as a grown person. She may at any moment be jerked off, run away with, overpowered by the strength or temper of her mount, cannoned against by awkward or reckless riders, or subjected to the unpleasantness of discovering that the animal she herself is riding is given to slipping, stumbling, falling completely under her, or behaving in some unseemly manner that is entirely beyond her powers to check or control. To these dangers and discomforts—as well as to many others with which equestrians, old and young, are uncomfortably familiar—she is at all times liable to be exposed, and, this being an admitted truth, I ask whether it can for a moment be asserted that a child is as capable as an adult of coping with such risks? The answer must be “No.” The perils are the same for both—while the weaker side is absolutely unable to grapple with them when they arise. I speak from experience, and strive to teach from it also. Having been largely associated with juvenile riders, especially in country parts of England, the knowledge which I have picked up from their absolute want of it has proved most fitting and serviceable to me when offering hints and instructions to others of similar age. Five years ago I had the unhappiness of seeing a pretty child who was riding with me seriously hurt, through her horse falling under her while traversing an extremely rutty road. He made what is called a double stumble, and had her hands possessed the cunning, or her arms the strength, to have pulled him together after he had made the first blunder, he would undoubtedly not have gone down; but he was a slovenly animal,—one that wanted “collecting” and keeping well in hand: two things of which my tender little companion knew nothing whatever; nor was she capable of putting them in practice, even had it been otherwise.

About the same time I saw another bright-eyed little maiden run away with over the “breezy downs.” Her horse, fresh and frolicsome, started with mine at a light canter, and for awhile we kept nicely together; but presently—after a quarter of a mile or so—her mount began to romp with his head, and finally breaking into a gallop, made off at terrific speed, lashing the damp turf from beneath his flying hoofs, and laying back his wicked ears until they rested flat upon his neck. I knew that the youngster he was carrying had abundance of pluck, even without any very distinct knowledge of the art of riding, so I shouted to her with all my might to sit close and leave him his head (we were going up hill at the time), and to give him the whip when he tired, which I knew he very soon would do, with a long, heavy incline in front of him. I might as well have spoken to the wind. Terror, and consciousness of her own ignorance robbed the child of her wits: she gripped the pommel with her right hand, tugged at the reins with her left, and, after swaying about in a manner that makes me sick to think of, finally fell off, and was picked up bruised and bleeding, and so entirely unnerved as to render it a matter of extreme difficulty to persuade her ever to ride again. As for the horse, he was not personally any the worse of his escapade, but, having conquered his rider, he was ever afterwards rightfully considered an unsafe animal for a lady to mount.

I have seen children over and over again subjected to the most fearful risks through riding horses that were too much for them. It is so easy for a girl to be overpowered,—and, once she is so, good-bye for ever to all or any pleasure in riding the animal who has been her conqueror. He will always remember his victory, and presume upon it.

Horses are not simpletons; their wisdom, on the contrary, is astonishing. Allow them to vanquish you once, and they will pursue their advantage to their lives’ end.

There are other reasons, also, on which I ground my objections to children riding. Little girls are exceedingly apt to grow crooked. It is all sheer nonsense to say “they will not if they sit straight,” inasmuch as young riders never do, as a rule, fall into the desired method; or, if for awhile it is a thing accomplished, they very speedily fall out of it again, when fatigue overpowers them, or the groom has shortened their stirrup-leather too much, or when a large amount of pressure upon it during a long ride has stretched it to an uncomfortable length. It is the merest sophistry to argue that such things ought not to occur, seeing that they do, and are in fact happening every day around us. One child out of five hundred may, perhaps, be an habitual straight-sitter, but to counterbalance her perfection in this particular, the remaining 499 will be either hanging to one side or the other (usually the near, or left side), or sitting square enough, it may be, yet with the right shoulder thrust forward and upward, thus sowing the seeds of a deformity which in ten years’ time, when the little one of eight shall have grown into a belle of eighteen, will have become an incurable disfigurement, one which all the arts of the most skilful modiste cannot by any possibility cover, or the most seraphic charms of face and manner serve to put out of sight.

The frame of a child, even the most robust, is too weakly and delicate—too liable to grow “out of form”—to render equestrian exercise a fitting pursuit for persons of tender age. Nature has not ruled that her frail handiwork shall be roughly or unfairly strained, and when it is, the penalty is certain to follow, in disarranged system, weakened or injured muscular development, misplaced shoulder-blades, undue tension of the tendons of the left leg—or contraction of them, which is worse—accompanied by an unnatural languor and a constant craving for permission “to go and lie down,” which, in so many cases, children are observed to manifest.

The absurd assertion that no girl can excel as a horsewoman unless she begins to practise the art when a child has been so often and substantially refuted that to attempt further contradiction of it would be merely to entail loss of time. Suffice it to say that some of the finest equestrians the world has ever produced have been entirely ignorant of riding until after their arrival at womanhood, or, at all events, until childish days had been left far in the rear. Of these a foreign Empress is a noteworthy example, while many others, whose names in park and hunting-field are familiar as household words, might go to swell the list.

“Well, but really”—I fancy I hear some unconvinced matron saying—“I cannot see that my children are anything the worse for riding every day. I myself rode when I was their age, and it never seemed to do me any harm.” Granted, madam; but question yourself, whether you have a right, because you have had the good fortune to escape the evils usually consequent upon a prejudicial system, to encourage your offspring to go in the way of contracting them. As well might you boast of having escaped contagion during an attendance on a fever patient, and then (presuming on your own lucky chance) thrust your children deliberately into an infected house. No; if you are a wise parent, or guardian, advocate early instruction in pianoforte-playing and its study, also in drawing, painting, and such branches of education as will expand and benefit the understanding, without unduly straining the yet undeveloped resources of the body; encourage likewise such exercises as are of a healthful and suitable nature—but compel the young folks of whom you have charge to leave riding alone, at all events until the fourteenth year has been well got over: because, just as in singing the vocal organs are weak, and the voice apt to alter and break about that period (which is the case with girls as with boys, although very many fail to know or believe it), so, in like manner, the frame of a young girl is delicate and unstrung, and is absolutely incapable of enduring strain or fatigue without incurring consequences which, even if not made much account of at the time, will most likely in after life cause themselves to be dismally felt.

About fifteen, or from that to twenty, is an excellent time for a girl to learn to ride—by which I mean that she ought not to attempt it before the first-mentioned age while the last will not be one whit too late. Boys may begin whenever they choose; their position on horseback obviates the possibility of growing shoulder-crooked, while custom which enables them to ride with a leg on each side of the saddle, equalises their seat, and fairly distributes the amount of stress which pressure on the stirrups entails upon both nether limbs. Moreover, they are infinitely stronger, even from babyhood—can bear any amount of knocking about, and so far from being injured by an occasional spill or two, are immensely benefited by making moderate acquaintance with mother earth. It is not so with girls, and around them all my sympathies entwine.



It is a rare thing to take up a cookery book in which the reader is not solemnly warned against the evils attendant upon frying chops and steaks in the pan, the deterrent paragraph usually winding up with: “Nevertheless, for the benefit of those who will not be brought to acknowledge the superiority of the gridiron as a cooking utensil, we append a few instructions.” It is as though the writer of the volume meant solemnly to say, “I have told you how to avoid the horrors of dyspepsia; but, if you will go in for them, I may as well show you the least objectionable way of doing it.”

On this principle, or something bearing a close resemblance to it, I have, as in duty bound, made known my objections to girls of immature age being permitted to indulge in equestrian exercise; and having eased my conscience by doing so, I shall lay down a few rules for the guidance of those who pay no heed to friendly warnings, but prefer taking their own way, and who, in short, will have the pan, in preference to the gridiron.

First, then, I will surmise that the child to be instructed is at least five years old. There are, I am aware, mothers of families who actually put their infant children into panniers, because they “look pretty” in them, and send them out on ponies for an hour’s jolting, with their poor little heads bobbing pitifully about, and brain and spine alike suffering from the so-called exercise. There are fathers, too, who think that their boys ought to ride before they are well capable of walking, and who in consequence of this belief clap them on to wide-backed, rough-actioned animals, regardless of the dangers to which, by so doing, they are exposing the feeble frames of their hapless offspring. To aid such persons by offering any sort of instruction as a help to their objectionable practices would be like assisting at a murder, or showing a torturer how to get on with his work.

I was choosing some articles at the establishment of a fashionable saddler a short time ago, when the proprietor stepped forward and requested me to look at an instrument (I can call it by no other name) which he had just completed to order. It was a child’s saddle, with a contrivance not unlike a brazier, arising from the centre of it, well furnished with padding and straps. This unique appliance was, it appeared, the invention of the father of the unfortunate infant for whose benefit it had been manufactured, and his pride in its appearance, and in his own cleverness, was quite unbounded. Determined that his son, aged three, should begin his lessons in horsemanship at that early period of life, and resolved to secure him from tumbling off (the only thing in the shape of danger to which he gave a moment’s thought), he conceived the idea of buckling the infant into the “brazier,” which was meant to come right up under the armpits, and by this means avert all possibility of a fall. It had apparently never struck this intelligent inventor of curiosities that the pony might fall as well as the boy, and that if it did, the little rider could scarcely fail to be seriously if not fatally injured, owing to the impossibility of his falling clear of the prostrate animal.

If a child of tender years must ride, by order of an ill-judging parent or caretaker, let it do so upon a safety-pad, fitted with a well-stuffed back, in order to prevent that of the child from becoming fatigued by remaining too long unsupported.

The pad-pony should be a light, elastic walker, and of necessity perfectly docile and quiet. He must, of course, be led: his paces being properly regulated, and his head kept quite straight. A good contrivance for this—and indeed for leading any description of horse—is a stout bamboo cane, fitted with a swivel snaphook.

The pad-pony should be ridden with a mild snaffle bridle, with loops somewhat large—and I am a great advocate for flap-reins: by which I mean a straight but not over-tightened band, extending from the flap of the saddle to the loop or ring of the bit, on either side—an admirable contrivance, which keeps the pony’s head in position, and also serves as a check against restiveness or starting. The girths should be broad and strong, and not too slack, and the pad should be made without a tree, and be composed of some soft roughened material, ornamented or not—according to fancy, and the outlay to be involved in the matter.

The advantage of having a strap in front is apparent for a very young child. It should, however, be used only when the pony is led, and when he cannot therefore possibly make off or fall down. In such case, and such only, it may be approved, inasmuch as it imparts a certain amount of confidence to an infant learner, and is likewise of assistance in ensuring an upright seat; but I should like to see it discontinued after the first few lessons, and the back of the pad also removed when a trifle more experience has been gained.


About eight years old is the very earliest age at which a girl should, under any circumstances, be permitted to ride on a side-saddle, or to mount the back of an unled animal. I prefer a small horse to a pony for the initiatory lessons, as being generally better paced and better broken. The child should not at first be allowed to touch the bridle at all. She should sit perfectly square and erect, her figure well balanced, her shoulders thrown back, and her arms folded upon her breast, while an attendant walks alongside her horse and keeps his paces evenly regulated. This is the correct method of teaching a child how to ride from balance,—an accomplishment most desirable for every class of rider. The ordinary fashion of putting a little one up, and giving her the reins to hold on by, is about as efficient a plan of instruction as teaching the same child to play the piano by ear only—thus ignoring the very first principles of the art—or running-up a building without laying a foundation-stone. Circus-children, the most beautiful balance-riders in the world, are taught to ride at first without ever touching the reins; and nothing else that could be suggested would ever be capable of giving the same firmness of seat.

If the learner be a boy, he should be taught his first lessons without stirrups; but I would not deny the assistance of such support to a little girl, as her position on the saddle would otherwise entail much extra fatigue upon the left leg. Be it understood, however, that the stirrup should be taken away after the first few lessons, and the child be instructed to ride for at least an hour a day without any such aid; otherwise she will trust to it, when riding, for the remainder of her life, and to ride from the stirrup is one of the most objectionable practices into which a young person can possibly fall.

When a firm and even seat has been obtained, without the help of reins or stirrup, the former (of the very lightest description, and single) may be entrusted to the little learner’s hands, but the flap-reins must not by any means be discarded.


When the child is perfectly at home on her horse, and has learned to treat his mouth with the utmost gentleness, and not on any account to pull at the bridle, a canter may be indulged in, by the attendant attaching a long rein to a cavesson and urging the horse to a gentle pace, making him lead always with the right leg, and pulling him up directly he changes to the left. The child should be most carefully watched during the exercise, and any tendency to hang over on one side or the other, or to lift one shoulder, or poke the neck, be at once checked.

The saddle should be level-seated—covered with buckskin, for a beginner—and should have no off-pommel. This latter appendage is happily almost obsolete, except with the most old-fashioned saddles, and is entirely unnecessary, as well as unsightly, for it affords no additional safety to the rider, and youthful learners are especially apt to lay hold upon it in any imaginary danger—an excessively bad practice to acquire.

As the term “level seat” applied to side saddles may not be generally understood, I will give a few words of explanation:—The ordinary side saddle, being made with the arch of the tree raised to clear the withers, is necessarily much higher in front than behind, and as a consequence the knee is thrown up in a cramped and fatiguing position; it is difficult thus to keep the figure erect, an aching back ensues to the rider, and frequently torture to the horse. The level-seated saddle has the steel front-part cut quite away over the withers, and replaced by a pad of soft leather, giving that horizontal shape from front to rear so much desired, yet so seldom found. These saddles were introduced and perfected by Messrs. Nicholls and Co., of 2, Jermyn Street, London, who have carefully studied the comfort of both horse and rider, and assisted by the experience and suggestions of that well-known authority, Mr. Wilson of Albington Manor, late master of the Vale of White Horse Hounds, have produced really admirable side saddles.

Trotting must be taught when the pupil has been perfected in the canter. It is not an easy thing either to teach or learn, but I shall come at the principles of it by-and-by. Trotting should be practised on soft, springy ground, never on a road, and the horse on which the lessons are taken should be very light of action, and of even paces. Otherwise, the punishment to the learner will be great, and the teacher’s difficulties equally trying.

Little girls learning to ride should be dressed in neat skirts, just long enough to cover the feet; loose-fitting jackets—(jerseys are excellent)—hair left flowing, never fastened up; and soft hats or caps, well secured under the chin, in such a manner as to prevent the possibility of their coming off. Whips should not on any account be allowed until some degree of proficiency has been attained, and the proper use of them should then be strictly pointed out, and as strictly adhered to. With this matter I shall likewise hereafter deal, as also with the question of spurs—articles which, I may here observe, should never, under any pretext whatever, be granted for children’s use.

A child should be taught to mount her horse with ease when assisted, as also the expediency of being able to do so without any help at all: this latter by simply letting down the stirrup-leather—taking it up, of course, to the required length, or rather shortness, when seated securely on the saddle. She should likewise practice dismounting without assistance. No active child should ever think of requiring a helping hand. To lift the right leg deftly over the up-crutch, take the left foot from the stirrup, gather the skirt well together with the right hand—making certain that no portion of it is in any way caught upon the pommels—and then to jump lightly down, is the proper method of dismounting. To be lifted—except for very young pupils—is extremely babyish.

How long a child should be permitted to ride at a stretch is a question very often asked me, and one to which I find some difficulty in giving a satisfactory reply. Some children are strong, and can both endure and enjoy an amount of exercise that would knock a delicate child completely up. Again, some are passionately fond of the art, while others care but little about it, and (as is well known) the things that one likes are seldom liable to cause fatigue, except when carried beyond the ordinary limits of moderation.

The counsel I would give is this: Watch carefully for any sign of lassitude, or display of weariness on the part of the pupil, and stop the riding as soon as such appears. What I mean to convey is, that if a child complains of feeling tired during her lesson, she should at once be permitted to dismount; or if after, say, an hour’s ride on the road she is conscious of fatigue, the time should on the next occasion be shortened to three-quarters, or even to half, and subsequently increased, according as the pupil gains experience and strength.

Nothing should be left undone to inspire confidence in the breast of a child-rider. Her mount should be the gentlest, her teacher the kindest, all her appliances (saddle, &c.) new, comfortable, and reliable. Girths that are apt to break, for instance, give a child uncomfortable impressions,—and early ideas or opinions on any subject are certain to influence the entire of the later life. Be it remembered, however, that although everything should be done to make the youthful learner feel at ease, while striving at the same time to impart proficiency, no approach to self-conceit, or desire to “show off,” should be for an instant encouraged. Modesty of demeanour is quite as charming out of doors as within. The child who pays attention to her seat, her hands, her horse—in short, to what she is doing—will make a better and more reliable horsewoman (even though she may be awkward at first) than will she who looks about for admiration, while neglecting the principles on which she has been taught. It is like the plodding student and the flippant-tongued. One will answer every question with tolerable smartness, out of the shallow depths of a superficial knowledge, while the other, though missing, may nevertheless be engaged in laying up a store of learning, which will in after life stand her in good stead.


page 21.

Now, a word specially addressed to children, and I shall close my chapter. Be uniformly kind to animals, especially to the horses that carry you. Let humanity be a portion of your religion. Discipline, properly exercised, is just and right, and is as far removed from cruelty as is light from darkness, or bitter from sweet; but, hand in hand with it, gentleness should ever go. A hasty temper will induce cutting with the whip, dragging with the bridle, kicking or rasping with the heel, and uttering rough words, which, although not thoroughly understood by the animal, yet carry a tone with them which has a meaning for him of no pleasurable sort. On the other hand, a child of cold and dogged disposition will take its turn out of the willing slave at its command, and think no more about it than if it were a mere machine. This is pitiably wrong. You, as a child, ought to teach your horses to love you. You can do so, and it is well worth the time employed in the pursuit. I need not tell you how to do it: instinct will teach you. There are a thousand little ways and means, all of which you can try. For instance, always pet your horse in his stall, and when saddled for your use; make much of him when you are on his back, patting his neck, and stroking him gently with your hand, speaking soothingly to him all the while. Accustom him to the sound of your voice; give him scraps of bread, sugar, apple, or carrot when you dismount, or while he waits for you at the door; and when you do this, allow him to take the morsel quietly off the palm of your hand, not showing any fear; he will not bite you, if he is fit to be your pet. You should never offer him a bit between your fingers, or pull your hand away before he has taken the morsel up. This will, or at least may, induce him to snap: just as it would provoke a dog to do, if tantalised. You can feed him, too, if you like, when seated on his back; there is nothing more charming than sympathy between the human and the brute creation. Horse and rider should be on the best of terms, and all will then go right.

In a former work of mine on equitation, I made repeated mention of a hunter I once possessed, called “Pleader.” I gave him that name because his sire was “The Lawyer,” a very famous horse. “Pleader” and his mistress were on the most affectionate terms—brother and sister we were, that horse and I; certainly no two ever loved one another better—and this despite the fact that I had given him many a good whipping, for I trained him myself, and he was a rare hard one to bring to his manners; but he knew quite as well as I did that it was for his good, and so he loved me none the less. I rode him subsequently to hounds for three seasons, without ever giving him so much as a warning touch. When we fell together—and how often we did!—he waited for me to get up; and when he was the first on his legs, although trembling with excitement to scurry away with the rest, he would stand patiently for me to remount him. That horse’s training was not thrown away. He carried me in the first flight through two long and trying runs, the very day previous to that on which I met the accident that deprived me of the power of ever riding him again, and he is now carrying in similar splendid style a noble and popular master of hounds, the Earl of Eglinton and Winton, gaining honourable mention in the Field and other sporting papers. I sold him to a good master and a good home, and when he shall have finished his work (if I am spared to see it) he has been promised to me again, that the last of his days may be spent in quiet happy idleness, and that the hands that trained him may lay him to his rest.

I have spoken thus of “Pleader,” not altogether because I love him so dearly, as to encourage my young readers to make much of the animals that carry them, and to establish a bond of mutual sympathy, which is as beautiful as it is good. The greatest horsewoman in the world, Her Imperial Majesty the Empress of Austria, frequently feeds her horses with bread or biscuit while seated upon their backs. She is one of the rare few who seem to grasp the meaning of that peculiar “sympathy” of which I have spoken, and which is indeed so very difficult to understand.

“There are mysteries deep that we cannot unravel,
And bonds of affinity ever unguess’d,
While the Road to Research is a hard one to travel,
And many’s the query, and weary the quest.
There are circuits of Thought, growing fainter and wider,
Like circles in water when pebbles are thrown,
And the links that exist ’twixt the horse and his rider,
Our shallow philosophy never has known.



Having already pointed out my objections to children’s riding, and appended a chapter of instructions for the benefit of those whose prejudices in favour of it will not be overruled, I shall in the present one assume that you, my reader, are not a child in years, although you may be one in experience. Surmising, then, that I am addressing a young lady of sixteen, or thereabouts—although the fact of your being much older will not in any way tell against you—the first point for consideration will be, whether you are resident in town or country. If the former, or that you even come up for a temporary visit now and again, the wisest counsel that I can give you will be to place yourself under the care of the very best riding-master within reach of you, being careful to select one according to reliable recommendation, for some are as incompetent as others are the reverse. I shall not occupy space or provoke jealousies by naming any in particular, but shall here take occasion to say, that readers desirous of receiving private hints or information on any subject strictly connected with horses, riding, or stable-management, can receive such by addressing their inquiries to me, care of my publishers, by whom all communications will be at once sent forward. This plan I have found to work very well upon former occasions, a few rules being of necessity laid down. For example: ask all questions as briefly as possible; write clearly; do not cross your letters; and wait patiently for answers, accepting the assurance that no unnecessary delay will be made.

Having, then, advised you, if a city belle, to secure the services of a competent riding-master (though it shall be my aim by-and-by to teach you how to ride very well without one), I would follow up this counsel by saying, when you do so, leave yourself entirely in his hands, and do precisely what he tells you. This is not by any means an unnecessary admonition, for at least one-half the awkward riders whose deficiencies pain our critical eyes in the Row and elsewhere, have learned in good schools, but have been too wilful, or too conceited, to give up their own entirely erroneous ideas on certain subjects connected with equitation, and, as a consequence, failure—not to say fiasco—has of course followed.

It is precisely the same with regard to every other art. The pupil should submit her own opinions to those of her teacher. If he is not competent to instruct her, why go to him at all? And, on the other hand, if he is, why not follow his advice?

To illustrate my meaning: I rode with a girl, one day, to a meet of hounds at Courtown Gate—starting from Kilcock Station, to which point we had railed our horses from Dublin, and trotting the two miles, or thereabouts, at a brisk pace, for we were a trifle behind time. From the moment that we settled in our saddles, until we saw the tails of the “beauties” in full wag at the entrance to Capt. Davis’s demesne, that girl never for an instant removed her left hand from her thigh—(pardon plain speaking; it was neither on her hip nor her knee that she placed it when we started), the fingers pointing in the direction of the up-pommel, causing, of course, the elbow to be shot out entirely from the side, the joint turning outwards in singularly ugly fashion. Should any of my readers have a desire to picture to themselves this position, with more clearness than words—or lack of them—have enabled me to depict it, they have only to seat themselves for a moment upon a make-believe horse, and adopt the pose which I have just described. I wish they would do it; it would be an excellent future warning. As I had a tolerably close acquaintance with the young lady—who had, I was aware, been taught by a really first-rate master—I ventured upon asking her whether the peculiarity on which she seemed to pride herself had met with his approval?

“Oh, dear, no!” she replied. “Old Prosey liked me to put both hands to the bridle, or if only one, the left; but I like this style myself; it’s so chic!”

I was not her teacher, nor did she inquire my opinion,—in fact she would in all probability have dubbed me “Old Prosey” also, had I offered one; so I wisely kept silent—and no doubt my companion believed that I was admiring her original attitude very much, for she rather intensified it as we proceeded, and took care to canter in advance of me, whenever we came to a patch of grass by the roadside, as though to give me full opportunity for feasting my eyes upon her figure.

Ah me! How often have I seen the same thing since that well-remembered day; seen it—been sorry for it—and yet smiled to myself because of the vanity and the folly. Would that we all—each one of us—could “see ourselves as others see us!” but, unfortunately, we never can.

To return, however, to the subject-matter in hand.

Should it happen that you are chiefly resident in the country, or that you enjoy the luxury of complete immunity from city life for even a portion of the year, defer riding until that time of times comes round, and then teach yourself, by simply following a trustworthy code of instructions laid down by some reliable authority.

This may sound as though I had, after all, but little real faith in riding-masters. It is certainly not so meant. I would not for a passing moment cast the smallest slur upon a painstaking and often much-maligned body of men, many of whom are capable of bringing a pupil forward in an almost marvellous manner, by the excellence of their method, and that ready observance of so-called “trifles,” in other words, a quick eye, and rapid detection of anything that is amiss, which are the riding-master’s most valuable attributes. Nevertheless, despite the good opinion in which I hold many instructors of the art, I am a very strong believer in the efficacy of self-help, and just as a novice at skating will, in spite of many sore falls and painful bruises, acquire skill if left to himself, long in advance of his brother-learner who is trusting to somebody to bring him along (being pretty certain to come down with a run whenever that “somebody” considers it expedient to let go), so, in like manner, I shall be ready to back my pupil, although I may never have seen her, to hold her position across country, in the park, by lane, street, or roadway, against the city demoiselle, who in a fashionable school has been taught to ride upon a carpet of tan, and who would be as much at sea in a crowded thoroughfare, or endeavouring to cross an intricate hunting-country, as an inexperienced vocalist would be if called upon to interpret the difficulties of Wagner or Bach.

Let me here especially impress upon you that, if you value your prospects as a future good rider, you should not suffer anything to induce you to accept the services as instructor of John the coachman, or James the groom. It is lamentable to see the manner in which parents and guardians of the present day give up the teaching of their charges to this class of persons, not one of whom has any more idea of how a lady ought to manage a horse, than of instructing her in the etiquette of the dinner-table, or the intricacies of the valse. On the evils of the system, I need not now enlarge; they ought to be apparent to even the most obtuse; suffice it to say, that fathers and mothers who permit their daughters to be taught by studgrooms ought not to wonder when these personages impart another and different style of knowledge to the pupils whom they have been unwisely privileged to instruct.

To provide yourself with a suitable horse will be the first thing necessary. It is a cruel injustice to a pupil for a master to expect her to learn upon any chance animal that may happen to come in her way. Never attempt such a thing. Respect your rights, and exercise your privilege by selecting an appropriate mount. If it is not within your power to do so at the time, put off your practice until it is. I cannot sufficiently urge upon you the importance of this advice. It is the very direst mistake for a beginner to attempt to learn upon an indifferent animal. Bear in mind that first impressions are never forgotten, that you will take all your future ideas of riding from the sensations which you derive from your elementary practice of the art, and, believe me, if you make your opening venture upon the back of a happy-go-lucky beast, one who is sometimes well-conducted, but oftener not, or who shies, or goes upon his shoulders, or indulges in cross-legged movements, or throws up his head, or bores (which is a still more objectionable habit), or if you are called upon to gain your first experience upon a rough trotter, or a loose galloper, who, to use a stable term, goes “slummucking” all over the place, you will care but little for riding during the remainder of your life. The discomforts which such things entail will dwell unpleasantly in your memory, and in fact create an ineffaceable impression; so much so, that even if, later on, you happen to be suitably mounted, a long time will have to elapse before those early impressions can be eradicated, or induced to fade even partially away, and a still longer one will go by before you can acquire that confidence which is one of the first and chiefest necessities of a good and easy rider.

While on this subject, I may say that a timid horsewoman will never be a successful one. She may just as well give up the pursuit at once, for her rides will always be a punishment to her. With some, timidity is a natural weakness which cannot be got over, but with the majority it is the result of early impressions—an uncomfortable, unfading recollection of having learnt upon an unsuitable mount.

To illustrate what I say: most children are fond of driving, because they have never associated the pastime with other than pleasurable sensations. Neither risk nor discomfort is, as a rule, connected with the simple carriage exercise to which so many young persons are from babyhood accustomed; but, give a child his first experience of it by driving him in an open phaeton, behind a shying, kicking, or backing horse—one that winds up a long list of vagaries by spilling the vehicle and its occupants into an unpleasant dyke, and if that child does not carry his primary impressions through many a long course of after drives, I am a less sapient observer of human nature than I am generally accredited with being.

A lady’s horse, to be suitable, should be perfect in temper and training. Beauty may be dispensed with, decided acquisition though it undoubtedly is, but disposition and education may not. They are absolute necessities which cannot be done without, although a really skilled horsewoman may, without undue risk, ride any animal that is fit for a man to ride, provided he be not fidgetty in mounting, or a decidedly hard-mouthed puller: two points with which I shall have to deal by-and-by.



The purchase of a saddle horse requires a grave amount of consideration, especially as ignorant persons are apt to think that “anything will do for a beginner.” Every second person to whom you make known your requirement will be ready to put you in the way of securing “the nicest little horse in the world.” Gentlemen friends from every quarter will have something cut and dried for you to invest in; amateur dealers will persecute you; professionals will harry your life out; John, the coachman, will make himself odious by recommending some highly undesirable animal and stolidly determining to see no virtue in any other. You won’t know at first what his object can possibly be, but by-and-by you will find out that he and the owner of the property have come to an agreement concerning a certain little “tip” to be made over to John, in the event of his inducing you to become the possessor of the decided acquisition in horseflesh on which his own affections are set; and then, when you decline to be victimised, John will assume a stony appearance, and obstinately refuse to be interested in any other purchase.

You should be slow to select a horse, with a view to buying him, unless you can command the aid of a competent and disinterested judge. Do not take the onus upon yourself, for I grieve to say there is not any species of trade in which there is so much dishonesty and such a terrible amount of deception. If, however, you should happen to be thrown altogether upon your own resources, act thus (or get some one to do it for you): Go to the most respectable of the trade; it is your best safeguard. In former times, men like Scott and Anderson were so far above suspicion that the veriest tyro was safe in their hands. There are others of the present day of whom the same may be said. Find out one of them, tell him to what price you can go, and see the best that he can give you for it. If he happens to have what pleases you in price and appearance, get the animal examined by a reliable veterinary surgeon, and ask for a trial. Buy nothing without it. If refused, rest assured that something is amiss. Dealers and grooms, even the honestest of them, have ways of their own for pulling horses together, and making them step up and show themselves: ay, and for covering their defects, too, of which ladies, as a rule, know nothing at all. Therefore, when you fix upon an animal, get him ridden by a friend on whose judgment you can rely,—not in a hurried manner, in the dealer’s yard, but for an hour or so upon the road—and also for a turn upon grass. A correct opinion can then, but not otherwise, be formed concerning his paces, and the amount of training and discipline to which he has been subjected.

A lady’s horse should, as I have said, possess perfect manners. If he romps with his head, pulls heavily against the hand, leans weightily upon the bit, crosses his legs, goes clumsily upon his shoulders, or, in short, renders his rider in any way uncomfortable or unsafe, he is as unsuitable for you as though he were addicted to some actual vice. To be brief, he is not fitted for his office.

If, on the contrary, he can be ridden upon grass with a common snaffle and a single rein—not pulling, and going well up to his bridle—the making of his mouth has at least been properly attended to; he is fit to be a lady’s horse. I do not consider that any animal is so who requires a curb; but the subject of bitting is of too great importance to be merely touched upon here. I shall give some practical advice about it in a future chapter.

In the event of your purchasing a horse from a friend, adopt precisely the same rules as though buying him from a dealer, unless the animal be one with whom you are perfectly well acquainted. In such a case his price will be the only question; but if there is nothing amiss with him, and your friend is a person of honesty and good sense, he will freely grant you both a trial and an opinion, and will be rather pleased than otherwise that you should demand them, as the responsibility of the sale will then be lifted from his shoulders.

In selecting a horse, discard anything that is too large. A lady who is not a welter-weight does not require a weight-carrier, nor does she look well upon one either. See that he has good fore-legs, and has not any tendency to being what is termed “over at the knees,” for if he has an inclination that way he will be very likely to come down, and a sure-footed horse is positively essential to the comfort and safety of a lady rider. Bent knees denote a weakness of the muscles and tendons of the back of the leg, and are therefore to be reckoned as fatal to a roadster, although, strange to say, they are not thought nearly so objectionable in a racer, his price being in some instances not very materially lessened by them. This is owing to the fact that in the gallop they do not tell against an animal, while in the trot they do, very materially. “Diamond,” who was, some years ago, the winner of many important races, was so marred in appearance by this defect, that when standing still he always looked ready to topple over upon his knees; yet sportsmen know what a brilliant cross-country performer he was, and what a price Joe Anderson—dear old man! still living, and hearty, though deaf as any post—gave for him after his win at La Marche.

I have not the objection that most persons have to a hollow-backed horse, especially when designed to carry a lady’s saddle. It is infinitely preferable to anything approaching a roach-back, and animals distinguished by it are, strange to say, generally possessed of a variety of excellent points—extreme good temper and docility being among the most prominent. An unduly marked sinking of the spine is certainly not to be desired, but an animal who has what grooms term “a touch of a dip,” need not on any account be rejected for it.

A wise purchaser will always make a careful examination of the angles of the lips. A decided hardness about them, although an unfavourable symptom, need not condemn the animal; it may have been occasioned by abuse of the bit, or by the use of an improper one. A cicatrix on the mouth is a defect, as showing that the true skin has been removed from its place, and if a decided induration, or anything like a lump can be felt in the vicinity of it, evidence is afforded that the animal is a puller. He ought not to be purchased for a lady’s use.


A good foot is an indispensable adjunct. I am not in favour of over long, or excessively sloping pasterns, although they are preferable to those that are either too much shortened, or unduly upright. Where the latter defect exists, it indicates, in my opinion, a thickening and rigidity of the flexor muscles, and produces an unsafe method of planting the feet, particularly in walking. A light, supple pliant pastern is a great beauty. I have often watched a thoroughbred racer trotting over turf. The fetlock actually tips the ground, or seems to do so, at every step, and if elasticity and slenderness of this portion of a horse’s anatomy were to be regarded as indications of weakness, very few finely-bred animals would ever pass the post at all.


Strong high hoofs, with broad, firm, well-shaped heels, are most desirable; though I know that in saying this I am challenging a large array of contrary opinions. I have heard many persons found their liking for low hoofs on the ground that an excess of horny substance checks expansion, and pinches the internal substance. This is, with all due respect, a fallacy. The hoof cannot press upon or injure the internal portion of the foot, any more than a well-developed skull can bruise or hamper the healthy brain which it has been created to protect. I cannot believe in the excellence of short, straight hoofs, with narrow heels, nor can I forego my opinion, although once or twice I have had to fight for it, that the best bred and safest horses have their feet standing close together, with the toes pointing forwards, in preference to a tendency to point either outwardly or in. The leg should be straight and firm, the knee-joint flat and broad, the shin hard, the forearm lengthy, and the limbs large and well-developed where they emerge from, or rather join, the trunk. The thorax should be wide; a narrow one is invariably accompanied by low withers (a great defect), and by upright shoulders, which is another. As it is, moreover, sacred to the purposes of respiration and circulation, its proper dimensions should be regarded as an all-important point.

A nice horse, in colour, for a lady to ride is a dark chestnut or bay. Browns and blacks are generally serviceable also, but greys and roans are objectionable, owing to the hairs coming off upon the habit. About fifteen-two is a good height for a horse which is to carry a rider of average proportions. He should have well-set sloping shoulders—oblique pasterns—clean, shapely legs—firm feet—and long, easy, swinging action, which is vastly better and more comfortable than that chin-knocking motion which lovers of what is showy run after and affect. The lady’s horse should carry his head handsomely, being neither a star-gazer nor a borer, and his back should be somewhat longer than might be thought altogether desirable in a horse intended for a man to ride, in order to give ample room for the side-saddle. He should have a moderately high forehand, be firm and flexible in all his movements, and be at least 20 lb. above the weight he is meant to carry; by which I mean that if you are, say, 8½ st., or from that to 9 st., and that your saddle and appurtenances (including your riding gear) weigh 2 st. extra, or a trifle over, you should select for your use an animal well up to 13 st. or thereabouts. To overweight a horse is both cruel and unwise, especially when a lady is the aggressor—which sounds strange, as female equestrians generally ride with tolerably light hands, and rarely stop out for any great length of time together, except on particular occasions. Nevertheless, their position on horseback, sitting far back and in a side attitude, entails a good deal of additional fatigue upon an animal; nor has the lady’s horse the advantage (a great one) which pertains to that of a man—namely, being eased now and again by the rider standing in the stirrups when galloping, or jumping off for a moment or two when opportunity offers.

A rider of more matronly build

I have always thought it a pity that ladies do not select their saddle horses with a view to their being somewhat in keeping with their own style of appearance. It would be an immense advantage if they did. A slender, willowy figure will always look best on a light-limbed animal—one of spirit and breeding, full of quality, and as nearly as possible thoroughbred—whereas a rider of more matronly build should select an animal of medium height, with broad, strong back, powerful quarters, big, healthy hocks, and stoutly-built forelegs. She will look infinitely better on him, and be more safely carried, than if mounted upon a slender weed.

So much for appearance. Now a brief word about other matters.

Do not buy a horse that is not a good walker, however perfect he may seem to be in other respects. I have always attached great importance to an animal’s walking powers. It is a pace more generally adopted than any other when out for a pleasure ride, and if you really want to enjoy this last-named recreation, have nothing to do with an indifferent walker, though he be offered you for a song.

About four and a half miles an hour is a good walking pace—excellent, indeed, when leaving stable. The horse that accomplishes it will generally walk at the rate of five miles an hour when coming home. A good walker will neither stumble, drop, shuffle, nor break. Everybody knows what the first and third mentioned of these defects signify. “Dropping” is a most uncomfortable fault: a sort of inclination to duck downwards in front, or indeed more generally with the hinder part of the body. Few young horses that are not overweighted are apt to do it, and when they do, it is a sign of weakness of the muscles; they are unsafe to ride. “Breaking” is an inclination to get into a canter, or trot, and is one of the symptoms of defective training. I like to see a horse walk steadily down hill, with head well up, and feet firmly planted. It is an excellent test.

“Brushing” is a dangerous drawback, and so is “cutting.” The first means striking one ankle against the other: the second is hitting the shoe against the other leg—a practice which involves considerable wounding and bleeding. Fast trotters frequently do it—therefore, if selecting one, look out for its signs. A horse that cuts or brushes with the fore-legs is thoroughly unfit for saddle use: he may come down like a shot at any moment.

The training of a lady’s horse should render him steady in every respect: perfectly quiet to mount, light mouthed, and ready to obey the smallest touch of the rein, without showing skittishness. An animal that bounces about when his mouth is felt, or whilst waiting to be mounted, is anything but a treasure to possess. He should not be a puller, though ridden in any description of bridle—nor should his action when trotting be rough or jerky. If this latter be not looked to, his rider will constantly suffer from undue fatigue.

That a lady’s horse should be sound and healthy is nothing short of a necessity—nor ought he to have any glaring defects, or blemishes, visible about his person—although a single one, if it be trifling—the result, say, of a former wound, blister, or scar—need not cause him to be rejected; in fact, it often happens that some excellent animals can be had quite cheap at the end of a hard hunting season, because they have got a little bit knocked about, although in many cases it does not tell against them in the smallest degree.

Very many persons—Irish at all events—will remember the beautiful “Adonis” who created so marked a sensation in the parade of prize-takers before the Lord-Lieutenant at one of the last of the Dublin Horse Shows, that was held in the grounds of the Royal Dublin Society in Kildare Street. He had a conspicuous blemish on the right side of his chest, the result of a car-shaft that had been driven through his body only five months previous to the show; yet his patching up had been almost perfect, and he commanded an excellent price, though nothing at all to be compared with the sums I had been offered for him before the accident occurred. This carries out what I have said respecting the chances of being sometimes able to secure a good animal, even a prize-winner, at a comparatively low figure, owing to some outward blemish, which, although slightly disfiguring, is not in any way prejudicial to the health, action, or general appearance of the intended purchase—or to his real value, when considered from a “useful purpose” point of view.

Goodness before looks when selecting a mount


I think I shall make this a chapter upon Dress. Not that the subject ought, perhaps, rightfully to come in just here, without first introducing some more details about the horse—but I know it to be a popular one with ladies, and it will make a pleasing variety from drier matter, which can be made to hold over very well until by-and-by.

In the days of Gottfried and the fair Maid of Ghent, ladies rode upon long-tailed palfreys, attired in embroidered robes of velvet or brocade. A century later we find them wearing cloth manufactured into riding gear, but fashioned so extraordinarily as to set us marvelling how on earth they ever bore the weight, or kept their skirt-tails even moderately clean. So far down as the first half of the present century trailing habits were worn, and about that period we find many allusions to the absurd custom, which would seem to convey something like admiration of it. For example, Charlotte Bronté, describing the return of a riding-party in ‘Jane Eyre,’ says, “Her purple riding-habit almost swept the ground;” a very questionable grace, in my opinion, and a highly dangerous one.

Even in the present day our risible faculties are sometimes excited by the sight of some countrified equestrian, clad in the old-fashioned attire of our mothers’ or grandmothers’ epoch—skirt six feet long, and quite four yards in width; bodice with long basque, neck completely open, displaying a huge expanse of shirt, finished off below the chin with a red bow, or a blue one, or a green, as the case may be; sleeves of enormous dimensions, both wide and long, and braiding enough to set up a regiment of Hussars. There was a girl in the park last season who wore a habit such as I have described, with the addition of soiled white kid gloves, and an extraordinarily tall hat, with a very narrow straight leaf, and evidently much too large to fit her head, for it went bobbing over her eyes at every step of her ungainly steed. Thousands of laughing glances were directed towards her, but she never minded, and only seemed pleased; possibly she thought they were signs of admiration—and her pleasant, healthy face was aglow with delighted satisfaction.

What a pity, I thought, that she had not the benefit of that inestimable looking-glass, a friend’s eye. Somebody ought to have told her what an exhibition she was, yet evidently nobody did; so ready are we to ridicule others, without offering help.

A learner’s first costume may be as primitive as her knowledge of the art—yet certain particulars concerning it ought not to be overlooked, and while considering them I shall adopt my former unceremonious mode of address, and speak as friend to friend.

To begin, then, with your head. Leave your hair floating, perfectly loose—untrammelled by so much as a ribbon. The object of this is that you may not have any temptation to remove your hands from the position in which the master has placed them, or anything to divert your mind from the subject with which it is engaged. Were you to take your riding lessons with hair plaited neatly up in a coil, you would probably become conscious, after a round or two of jolting, that a tail was sticking uncomfortably out at one side, while a cold hair-pin would perhaps make you shudder by sliding down your back. Then, if your hand was not immediately lifted to rectify it, the tail would rapidly increase in length and volume, and a perfect rain of hair-pins would begin to descend upon your shoulders. This is precisely what a riding-master dreads and detests—for fingers and attention are alike employed to rectify the damage, which cannot be done in a hurry, but takes a long time,—and so discomfort reigns paramount until the lesson is over.

Always, while a learner, ride with your hair unbound, and wear a soft hat or cap upon your head, fastened securely with an elastic beneath the chin. This latter does not look pretty, but that need not matter very much; there will not be many to see it, and even were it otherwise, the sensible among them would applaud your foresight, and commend you for providing against the discomforts attendant on a hat that would go rolling off with every motion of the horse you were riding.

Your jacket should be more than easy-fitting: it should be loose—allowing the figure full play, and giving special liberty to the arms, which should never be hampered in any way.

The shape of it need not trouble you; beauty and fashion can be dispensed with till by-and-by. Your skirt should be wide and short; the make of it will not matter;—as in the case of the jacket, let “cut” give place to comfort. Do not wear a hard stiff collar, or anything that would irritate or distract your mind. Never wear petticoats on horseback, even from the first. To do so is a grave mistake. I advocate the purchase of proper riding trousers, to be worn from the very beginning, and they, of course, obviate the necessity for any such garment. I have heard persons speak in favour of flannel combinations, made to fit quite loose, and must confess that, having never tried them, I am not in a position to condemn, but my prejudices are certainly not in favour of them. If not fitted with elastic below the knees, they would most assuredly ruck up and make their wearer miserable; and if so supplied, the legs of them would turn round and round until the backs were almost twisted to the front, a state of things terribly uncomfortable, and one that could not be remedied without getting off. If, however, there is a decided predilection in favour of these extremely undesirable garments, the twisting process may in great measure be obviated by attaching a piece of good firm elastic, long enough to pass under the sole of the foot, to each side of the leg of the combinations. This answers the purpose of a man’s trouser strap, but must, if adopted by a lady, be worn under the boot. It is, I must say, surprising to me that the combination, or knickerbocker garment, should ever have received the notice of juvenile riders, inasmuch as it leaves the leg, from the knee down, entirely uncovered, save by the stocking, except when long boots are worn; and we all know that the limbs of a learner are far more tender and liable to abrasion than are those which have become saddle-hardened and inured to rubs.

Boots should be well-fitting, broad-soled, and made without buttons, bows, or anything that could possibly catch in the stirrup, or require disentanglement when about to dismount. High heels should never be worn.

Gloves are of little consequence, provided that they are soft and large. Of the two I like to see beginners ride without them, except when the weather is cold. A good strong woollen or cloth pair will then be found preferable to any kind of leather.

A whip you will not require, therefore I need not speak of it; neither will you have any need of a spur.

Having thus disposed of your requirements as a learner, we come to consider your more advanced costume, and I shall find need to speak of every requisite for park, road, and country riding—reserving the hunting outfit for the last.

If you are a moderate rider, three hats will be sufficient for you; a silk one, which I prefer low-crowned; a jerry, or melon-shaped; and a soft felt. These should be all of the finest quality; in fact, I may here take occasion to warn you against cheap or indifferent articles of riding apparel; they are, in all instances, by far the dearest in the end. For my own part I really look with horror upon low-priced articles of clothing—not from any snobbishness, far from it, but because I have always found them wear so badly, look so unsightly after short service, and adapt themselves so indifferently to the wearer, that a perfect abhorrence of all so-called “bargains” has been the not unnatural result.

You should have at least two riding-habits—one of heavy, the other of light material. Wolmershausen and Co., of Curzon-street, Mayfair, are constantly showing a variety of beautiful stuffs, suitable for all places, in town and country, and for all weathers likewise. They are the introducers of the famous “Curzon Red,” in reality a dark claret-colour of most charming hue, fine texture, and durable quality, being perfectly impervious to the effects of rain or sun.

I am frequently asked for advice respecting the newest fashion in the cut of riding habits—the form or shape of the bodice, and so forth. The very best I can give is to go to a good maker, and leave the matter entirely in his hands, not hindering him by the setting forth of any ideas of your own. If he be a master tailor he will know his business, and will not relish interference. Should you, however, be called upon to give directions to a provincial or country workman of doubtful capacity, send for a good pattern of a skirt, and then get your tailor to cut it out in coarse, rough calico, and to tack it lightly together. Finally, let him adjust it to your shape when on horseback, making quite certain that the fit of it shall be perfect before attempting to cut it out in cloth. By this simple process you and he will be spared much disappointment, and you will be saved unnecessary expense. A well-cut habit-skirt should fit without wrinkle or fold; it should be barely long enough to cover the left foot; there should not be a particle of superfluous cloth about it; the end of the hem should form a line as nearly as possible horizontal; and the circumference inside the hem should certainly not exceed two and a-half yards, even for the most matronly rider.

I adhere to the belief that no habit-skirt can be properly adjusted unless the maker of it can have the advantage of adapting it to the figure of the intended wearer while she sits on horseback. All fashionable tailors have model or block horses, on which they mount their customers, and by no other plan can a perfect fit be secured. It must be borne in mind that the better shaped a habit-skirt is for riding the more unsightly it looks when seen on a standing figure, or when held in the hand; in fact, it is then a seemingly hideous and “all wrong” thing, full of irregularities, and apparently without form and void—whereas, when viewed in the saddle, it adapts itself to the figure of the wearer, and falls into perfectly correct and shapely lines.

All modern habit-bodices are made entirely without perceptible basque, having merely the coat-tail at the back. Some are made to open at the throat, and these look smart with a white or pale buff scarf tie. Others, again, are slightly opened at the waist, or very much so at the breast, displaying fancy waistcoats of various kinds and patterns, some of them quite startling in colour and design. The fashion is, in my opinion, not one to follow. The nicest shaped bodice for a lady is one made closely buttoned up, almost to the throat, showing merely a small linen collar above the braid or neck-band, with the addition of a neat tie of no conspicuous colour. The bodice itself should be entirely free from ornament of any sort whatever.

I think it a good plan, although some tailors reject it, to have two large strong hooks attached to the back of the bodice, with eyes of corresponding size affixed in proper position to the band of the skirt. When these are fastened there can be no danger of getting “out of gear.”

Bodices which open much at the throat are very apt to give colds and coughs to the wearers of them. There is an old saying that pride feels no pain, and certainly ladies who fancy their own appearance in this particular style of garment are unfortunately only too apt to forget, or overlook, its tendency to admit the chill blasts and treacherous breezes which frequently make havoc with the most delicate portion of the frame. Nobody could condemn the practice of muffling up the throat more heartily than I do myself, but to leave the chest exposed to harsh wintry winds—as I frequently see done—with only a trifle of silk or muslin to serve as a protector, seems to me to be positively suicidal. I therefore recommend that when open bodices are worn in chilly weather, a fold of chamois, or warm soft flannel, should be placed across the chest.

A habit-bodice should fit closely, without crease or wrinkle, but ought not to be by any means tight; if it be so, all comfort in riding will be destroyed. I am confidently of opinion that half the ladies who canter their horses in the park and never attempt to trot them, only adopt the fashion because they themselves are too tightly laced to effect the rise in the saddle. This system of compression is a great mistake. If ladies could only be induced to believe it, it certainly adds nothing to their charms, for Nature will not allow herself to be put out of sight, and the figure that is crushed in at the centre by unduly tightened corsets must bulge out above or below them—sometimes both—in a manner that is by no means pleasant to contemplate. Putting aside, therefore, all questions connected with hygienic principles, the fashion of squeezing the waist is not one to be recommended.

I believe that a great many ladies who are not by any means naturally stout or clumsy, are made to appear so by wearing cheap and ill-fitting corsets; while, on the other hand, figures that are inclined to embonpoint can, with the assistance of a judicious and capable stay-maker, be invested with an appearance of grace and slimness that is not by nature their own. To expect a habit-cutter to fit a bodice over a seven-and-sixpenny corset, with two long bones, bald and unsoftened, sticking up at the top of the back, hip-pieces too wide, and front steels long and obtrusive, is as great a piece of injustice as to expect an artist to paint a picture with broken brushes, or a cook to furnish a banquet without the proper materials.

I cannot refrain from dwelling a little upon this subject, because it seems to me that ladies are very often—without meaning it, perhaps—a trifle unjust, not to say tyrannical, blaming their tailors, and even speaking against them in influential quarters, for faults in fitting, which are in reality entirely attributable to their own obstinacy (combined, perhaps, with a little bit of parsimony), in neglecting the advice given them: namely, to purchase well-made corsets from an artist in that particular branch of industry. To lay a good foundation is at all times, howsoever applied, an excellent rule, and the corset is the foundation on which the habit-bodice must, as it were, be built. Your figure may be ever so charming in all its outlines and details, but if that which helps to mould it is in reality only calculated to disfigure, the effect cannot be otherwise than unsatisfactory and bad.

Habit-sleeves ought not to be too long. To end within two inches of the hand is the correct thing, the space to be filled up by a spotless linen cuff. Ample room should be given at the elbows, and at the setting-in of the sleeves,—otherwise there will be discomfort, and a continual tendency to run up.

The system of shotting habits at the hem has happily entirely gone out. According to the present rule of skirt cutting, it certainly is not required, but for fair equestrians who are unduly nervous about exposing even the smallest portion of understanding, a good plan is to have a band of broad elastic affixed to the inside of the skirt, in such a position as to enable the toe of the right foot to be thrust through it, while a similar band does duty for the left. These appliances cannot be properly arranged by even the most skilful tailor, unless the wearer of the habit is ready to seat herself on horseback, or on a block horse, for his benefit and assistance. The necessity for this is obvious, as the precise position of the bands, or loops, must be regulated by the rider’s length of limb, otherwise they may be altogether wrongly placed, and, when used, have only the unsatisfactory effect of dragging the skirt completely out of form. Some authorities have censured me for advocating this plan at any cost, declaring it to be highly dangerous in case of a fall. I should like to know how it is so, seeing that it does not involve the possibility of dragging, or place a lady in any sort of peril. The theory is about as sensible as others of the kind, which ignorant persons—or men who attempt to write for ladies—not unfrequently lay down. For riders who are, nevertheless, apprehensive of danger from this source, reassurance may be found by using Nicoll’s patent safety-band for the right foot opening with a spring—so that, in the event of a fall, the rider is not kept in a cramped position upon the ground, but can at once make an effort to regain her feet, without trouble to herself or damage to her garments.

Ladies who ride much in the country, especially in summer weather, will derive comfort from the possession of a gingham habit, or one of very lightest dust-coloured summer cloth. I have had one of the latter myself, and it wore splendidly—bearing a couple of washings into the bargain when disfigured by dust on which a shower of rain had fallen. I would have it borne in mind, however, that cheap though the material may be, it must be tailor-made, otherwise it will not be fit to wear.


No amateur manufacture can possibly look well on horseback. The effect is like that which is produced when men play cricket or tennis in home-made flannels, or go to fancy balls, or private theatricals in costumes manufactured by their wives. Please do not imagine that nobody ever does such things. To think so would be indeed a fallacy—but the effect is not a bit more ludicrous than that of amateur tailoring, especially when a back view of the latter is obtained.


Riding trousers come next for mention. Many ladies prefer them to breeches, and when worn, they should be made of chamois, with cloth to match the habit extending from the foot to about midway between the knee and the hip. Chamois, if of good quality, is soft, elastic, serviceable, and most pleasant for wear, and side buttons are preferable to an opening in front. Small, firm, well-adjusted straps should be affixed to the ends of the legs, to prevent the possibility of rucking up—an indescribably uncomfortable sensation. These straps may be made of leather, though many prefer elastic. I do not think it matters much which of the two is used for ordinary riding, but if the latter, it should be quite an inch in breadth, and should have a slit worked in it, button-hole fashion, at each end (leaving a good piece of the stuff beyond the slit), and by this means be made to fasten to two buttons, stitched very firmly, one on either side of the hem of the leg—on the inside, of course. By adopting this arrangement the straps can be readily changed—a great advantage, for elastic soon gets worn out; and if you are a wise and methodical manager you will have a second pair of straps always ready at hand, to provide for unexpected contingencies. No lady who rides much can possibly do without at least two pairs of riding-trousers: a pair for each habit being in fact the correct thing. I think it will be a boon for ladies to know that Messrs. Tautz have introduced an acceptable novelty in ladies’ riding and hunting breeches, a really beautiful and durable article made of deer-skin—soft as velvet, and elastic as a glove. Perfection in fit is secured through the medium of a lady “fitter,” who is specially relegated to the department, and it is a point in favour of these breeches that they can be worn quite as readily and comfortably with leggings or gaiters as with the more sporting “tops.”

The reference to these latter re-introduces the subject of boots: one on which I have already lightly touched. Never wear them tight—adopt the very plainest fashion—and let the soles be moderately thick. If you prefer Wellingtons—which many do—have your trousers cut away at the instep and buttoned close at the ankle, with a small strap to pass under the foot when in its stocking; or have the boots drawn over the trousers, à la militaire, so that you can get into both at the same time. Captain Horace Hayes pointed out to me the utility of this plan, and I have found it answer excellently for myself—but it is not every lady who can be brought to see the wisdom of wearing boots large enough to admit of it.

If a spur be required, select a Sewarrow; but I am against the indiscriminate use of such an appliance, and always maintain that if a lady is riding a properly broken horse she can have no possible need of a spur for ordinary road or park riding. When hunting, it is, in my opinion, an absolutely necessary adjunct, as also when training young or vicious horses—but such employment is altogether distinct from quiet, everyday exercise, and requires, in fact, an entirely different equipment, of which the spur forms only a part.

Stockings for riding should always, even in summer, be of a heavier and warmer description than those worn when walking, or in the house. I would have you remember, also, that to garter them will have a tendency to make your feet cold—a thing by no means pleasant or desirable,—therefore use suspenders to keep them up.

Corsets have already been discussed. Never, if at all inclined to stoutness, use what is called a riding-belt, or stay; in other words, an abbreviated and thoroughly unsatisfying contrivance, neither high enough nor sufficiently strong to serve as a support for the figure. It is only excessively slight and naturally erect women who can at all indulge in the wearing of such flimsy articles.

Web drawers of very light texture, such as are worn by men, will be found agreeable for wear, and being so close-fitting I have never found them move, or cause any discomfort.

Chemises should be made barely long enough to meet the saddle, or if worn a shade longer they should be fashioned in the form of trunks, extending about midway down the thighs. Nothing that can possibly ruck up should ever be worn. I like to see chemises made in the form of a man’s shirt, so far as neck, breast, and sleeves are concerned—but collars and cuffs should be movable, and all appliances complete for rendering an immediate change of these articles a matter of no difficulty whatever.

Ladies who do not adopt the shirt-like form of chemise frequently complain of the difficulty of keeping their cuffs in right position. The best way to do this is to attach a little loop of single-cord round elastic to the inside of the habit-sleeve, and place a small firm button on the back of the cuff, around which the elastic can be fastened with perfectly satisfactory results.

Pins should never be employed for any purpose, except about the head. This sounds strange, but I shall come to it by-and-by. Ribbons ought not to be used as ties, especially gaudy ones—nor ought anything coloured (including veils and flowers) ever be worn by a lady rider who desires to lay claim to the possession of even ordinary good taste. In this I am strongly opposed to the opinions of “Vielle Moustache” and other well-known authorities; but every man, and of course every woman, has a full and just right to his and her own views upon all such matters, and when we put them in print for the benefit of others, it is with the object of directing and advising by the reasonableness of them, rather than of coercing by their weight or power.

Gloves should be of doeskin—or strong, fine quality leather. They should be double-stitched in every part, have at least two buttons, and be amply large, in order to allow full play for the fingers and the muscles of the hand, as likewise to admit of circulation going freely forward—for extremities soon become chilled if cramped up in coverings in which they cannot be easily and freely moved about. I do not like white gloves, or yet black; a nice dark shade of tan looks well—and some black stitching on the backs is a decided improvement.

No ornaments ought to be worn when riding. A small stud should fasten the collar: never a brooch; ear-rings and bangles should be left at home; a watch-chain should not be seen crossing the breast of a habit-bodice, nor should a handkerchief ever be worn protruding from the front of the bosom. This latter custom is simply an abomination, which no rider of good taste would ever dream of adopting. Some, I know, regard it as chic: a principle that makes them also keep their elbows out from their sides—but with the vagaries of such persons I have happily little to do, and certainly have very little sympathy.

Veils should be of black net, cut just deep enough to cover the tip of the nose, without reaching below the nostrils, and they ought to be sufficiently long to twist into the form of a knot at the back of the hat, where they should be secured with two short steel pins. Those which have round shiny black heads are the best, being easily seized upon, even by gloved fingers, when the hand is put back for the purpose of removing them.

You will observe that I have said the veil should be twisted, not actually knotted, at the back of the leaf of the hat—for when it is the latter, there is always difficulty in undoing it, and frequently the hat itself has to come off before the veil can be successfully got rid of. Dust-veils, of grey or black gauze, are extremely useful in the country, but ought not to be worn in town—nor should any description of white veil ever be seen on a lady’s riding-hat, even though she be exercising in the wilds of Connemara, or in a district as lonely as the deserts of the East.

Whips are of many sorts and patterns. Select the plainest among those of good description, and on no account carry one that has a tassel appended. Never use a hunting-crop except when going out with hounds, and do not despise a neat little switch if riding in the heart of the country.

I think I have but one more point to notice before concluding this portion of my subject. Be certain that your hair is always most securely put up before setting out to ride; unless, indeed, you are a juvenile, and wear it loose. Make sure also that your hat is so well fastened that it cannot, by any possibility, come off, either by the influence of a high wind, or the sudden action of your horse. A good deal must, of course, depend upon the manner in which you arrange your coiffure. If your locks are abundant—sufficient to make into a stout coil at the back of your head—an elastic loop to pass under it will be found an advantage. Should your hair, however, happen to be light-coloured, this will look badly, and I therefore recommend a plan which I have myself found very effectual. Procure two steel pins such as I have recommended for veil-fasteners—only much longer; pass them through the leaf of the hat, about three inches apart; then weave them securely in and out, in a transverse direction, through the roll or plait of your hair, keeping the points of them turned well outward. No danger can possibly accrue from this system of pinning, if properly performed, even though you may be unfortunate enough to fall upon your head any number of times in the day.

For girls who wear their hair flowing free, I cannot recommend any really perfectly safe method of securing a hat, except by an elastic passed beneath the chin. It is not a pretty way, certainly, but juveniles need not care much about that.

You will find a warm winter jacket a great comfort in chilly weather. It ought to be tailor-made, and lined with satin, to ensure its being easily slipped on and off over the habit bodice. A little braiding will be a great set-off to this, and a trimming of any good dark fur will also enhance its appearance. I like astracan myself. The Empress of Austria, when hunting in Cheshire in 1881, wore a lovely over-jacket of dark blue cloth, trimmed with a deep bordering of astracan, with collar and cuffs of the same becoming fur. Large frog buttons, with double loops of twisted braid, extended down the front. The corners were rounded, and the shoulders ever so slightly raised at the setting in. When she took it off one day at luncheon time, I saw that it was lined with very glossy purple satin, through which ran a tiny yellow stripe. Nothing could have been prettier or more becoming.

A rain-proof cape, or jacket, will be likewise essential. If you get the former, attach an elastic the circumference of your waist to the inside of it at the extreme back—hem the ends of this, and stitch a hook on one and an eye on the other, to enable them to fasten in front. This will prevent the wind from getting underneath the cape, and you can ride quite comfortably, even in squally weather, by bringing the ends of the elastic over the fronts of the cape before securing them around your waist.

If you ride much in winter time, when wet days are of frequent occurrence, you will find a couple of pairs of celluloid cuffs, with collars to match, extremely useful. They are universally known, and are now very cheap. All india-rubber houses keep them, and they can be had, I believe, in every size. Being impervious to wet, they are an improvement upon even the best starched linen (which they strongly resemble in appearance), seeing that the latter gets limp and wretched-looking after even a trifling shower.

I think I have now entered into all particulars respecting your ordinary riding gear. That for hunting will occupy a chapter later on. Bear in mind that the more plainly you are dressed, the quieter your appearance, and the less obtrusive your style, the more ladylike you will appear, and consequently the more to be commended and admired. It is only horsebreakers and women of inferior social standing who seek to attract attention by conspicuous action and costume. A lady shows best that she is one by neither doing nor wearing anything that is in the smallest degree calculated to provoke remark.

I have really often thought that the reason why many ladies look so much better in their riding-habits than in ordinary walking attire, is that there is so much less opportunity, when so dressed, for wearing what is unbecoming, or for conforming to silly fashions which only serve to distort and destroy all the beauties of the human form divine. On horseback we are spared the unsightlinesses of dress improvers, high heels, and high shoulders! The natural outline of the figure is revealed to us, and with it we can find but little fault. “God made man in His own image,” said a country preacher to whom I listened a short time since, “but woman makes an image of herself!”


Having now provided yourself with a suitable mount for road and park purposes, and likewise a supply of riding apparel sufficient to answer all purposes until you come to hunt, it will be necessary for you to turn your attention to the interesting subjects of bitting, saddling, and general turning out. These things ought of necessity to precede the actual riding—for you certainly cannot mount your steed until he has been saddled and bridled, and to know how to accomplish this yourself is in the highest degree important.

In the present day, when equestrianism is not only a popular amusement but amounts almost to a craze, it is astonishing to find the amount of ignorance that prevails among riders upon subjects with which they ought to be at least tolerably well acquainted, before laying claim to the terms “horsemen” and “horsewomen.” In no department that I can think of, or name, is this lamentable want of knowledge so clearly displayed as in the important one of bitting. That ladies are not, as a rule, very conversant with the subject is scarcely to be wondered at, for most lady-riders give no thought to anything on earth save the pleasure of the motion, and the fit of their habits and gloves. They have undergone a certain description of superficial training, which just enables them to know how to sit, and how to hold the reins between their fingers, but the real pleasure of being thoroughly en rapport with their mount—knowing what bit he will go best in, and feeling conscious that he is not enduring torture from being wrongly bridled or saddled—are things altogether denied them. It is precisely the same principle on which ladies execute showy pieces on the piano, without at the same time having the smallest knowledge of the theory of music, or any idea of why it is that pressure upon the pedals is capable of altering the sound. It is a sorry fact, but a certain one, that nine-tenths of the ladies who ride in the Row—pulling equally, as they often do, upon both reins—would stare at you in helpless amazement, or blush “celestial rosy red,” if asked to describe the difference in action between the curb bit and the snaffle. They do not know. Nobody has ever told them, because it has never occurred to them to ask. They are simply aware that there are two leathers, attached by some unknown means to the horse’s head, and that they are supposed to hold these nicely between their fingers, and look as charming as they can; but what the leathers are for, or why there are two of them, or yet, why some other ladies of their acquaintance ride with a single rein while they have been given a double one, are things of which they have not the very faintest notion. Lip-straps, cheek-pieces, throat-lashes, ports, cannons, &c., terms with which even moderately skilled horsewomen are familiar—have never been so much as heard of, or even inquired about. The existence of this species of ignorance among lady-riders is not hearsay. I speak from practical knowledge, having proved it upon many different occasions. “Pooh, nonsense; what do I care about your old leathers!” laughed a merry-hearted Cork girl to whom I was once striving to explain some necessary matters; “I just hold on, and let the beast carry me—and what more on earth do I want?” And away she went, helter-skelter, after the hounds, as she spoke—holding on, true enough, to both reins, with a good firm grip; and the beast did carry her, to some purpose too, up to a big drain—and finding his mouth unfairly dealt with in the taking-off, landed her deftly into it, and ungallantly galloped away.

With men—those who ride, I mean—ignorance concerning bitting ought never to exist, yet I have been fairly astounded at finding out how very little many of them know about the matter. An officer, who was considered a good man to hounds, and who owned a couple of racers to boot, looked actually quite puzzled when it was observed to him one day that he was riding his hunter in a very severe bit (a saw-mouth bridoon, attached to a snaffle), and said, “By George, I don’t know. I suppose my confounded servant put some queer thing or another on him, for the beggar won’t go a yard!” He had actually mounted his horse and set out for a day’s hunting without so much as casting a glance at the animal’s head. Nor was his by any means an isolated case.

Now a practical word or two about some of the bridles most generally in use—beginning with the common, smooth-jointed snaffle, which has ever been my favourite bit. This, when sufficiently wide and large, forms an absolutely perfect bridle, and its action is extremely simple, restraining the horse by pressure on the bars of the mouth when his head is carried more or less perpendicularly, and on the corners when the head is lifted or lowered. Owing to the centre of the mouthpiece being jointed, there is very little pressure on the tongue, which is one of the many points in favour of this admirable bridle.


The common snaffle must not in any wise be confounded with the ringed-snaffle which has a noseband attached to the inner rings, kept in place by pieces of leather stitched round them and brought under the ends of the cheeks. It may be made to act severely by drawing one pair of reins tight and sharp, thus causing all the pressure to concentrate upon the horse’s nose—and is then called a Newmarket snaffle.

I append sketches of a common jointed snaffle, the easiest and nicest bit that a thoroughly-trained horse can possibly go in, and also a double-ringed one, such as I have just described. The latter is frequently used by men when breaking young horses in Irish hunting-fields, and is very useful when servants have to be entrusted with the handling of animals, for, severe though it may be made, it cannot spoil a horse’s mouth so easily as can any description of curb.


There is not among the whole range of bits any so mild or suitable to a learner as the common snaffle. Captain Horace Hayes, writing to me on the subject, says: “The more imperfect the rider, the greater the necessity for using a snaffle bridle; but this,” he adds, “goes without saying. Persons are at times found to express such mad ideas about horses and bitting that to reply to them is only to encourage their folly.”

A big smooth bridoon (with or without horns), and a solid Portmouth bit and curb, will be found a capital hunting bridle. It has always been a favourite with me for horses that do not want to get their tongues over the bit, and where this objectionable habit does not exist, the common-jointed snaffle or Pelham will be found very nice also. In using it, however, you must see that the headstall is long enough for the pressure to lie on the bars of the horse’s mouth. This should always be looked to by the rider. If it has a tendency to crumple the lips at the corners, it is wrong, and partakes of the nature of a gag.


The Pelham bridle finds many advocates: Major Whyte Melville liked it, for instance,—and for showing off paces (if this alone be desired), I approve of the Hanoverian Pelham, but not particularly for anything else. The Newmarket snaffle is a capital bit for pullers, and the American snaffle with india-rubber mouthpiece is a pleasant bridle, largely used in the States for trotting purposes. The Segundo, formerly a great favourite, is a very powerful controller—while the Melton mouth-bit is deservedly a prime favourite with many riders. The Liverpool is greatly used for harness, and seems to have quite superseded the old Buxton, the bottom bar of which made it uncomfortably liable to catch on the pole-end or shaft.



I dislike seeing a gag employed, and consider it altogether unnecessary, except for a buck-jumper, or an animal who determinately “bores” his head in a downward position; nor am I at all in favour of the twisted snaffle, which is a very severe bit, and does not answer any purpose, so far as I have ever been able to make out, that the chain-snaffle cannot be made to fulfil; for if severity be required, it can be obtained by twisting the chain before putting it into the horse’s mouth. I hate to see it, however, and never would permit its use in my own stables, except in the case of some animal that was known to be of an unusually fractious, or, I might say, evil temper. Severity in bitting is, in my opinion, very rarely necessary; and taking into account the cruelty of it, I dislike it excessively, and always cry it down.



I saw a man in Cheshire, when the Empress of Austria was hunting there, riding in a terrible bridle. He had a strong, wiry rope-bit attached to the horns of an ordinary snaffle—and it must have been frightfully severe, for the horse’s mouth was bleeding at both corners. I remarked to the Kaiserin that it was no wonder she was anxious to get away from that part of the country, if her sensitive eyes were often thus shocked. She looked at the man—at the horse—at the man again—and then said one word—“Brute!” It was certainly expressive, and concise,—and she spoke it in right sound English too, which I thought a very good thing.

The ordinary term “bit and bridoon” means simply a curb and a snaffle. The latter has been already explained. The common curb is merely a mouthpiece attached to two cheeks, and is curved in the centre, forming what is called a “port,” while a chain is attached to the cheeks in such a way that when the curb-reins are drawn tight, the chain presses upon the chin of the horse, and so restrains him.

There is much variety in the shape of curbs, a Chifney being the strongest, and therefore the most capable of misuse in unpractised hands. A really good double bridle for ordinary riding is a Dwyer curb (which has very short cheeks), and a common smooth snaffle. The Cambridge bit is also very generally esteemed.

For hunting purposes, I like the snaffle bridle to have half horns only, as being less likely to be drawn in a scurry through the horse’s mouth, taking the curb along with it. I have seen this happen once or twice, with very unpleasant results.


To say that an animal is “hard-mouthed” is a very general expression; but the notion that he is so constantly arises from his being improperly bitted. Something or another is thrust into his mouth that does not go near fitting it, and as a consequence has no more effect in either checking or guiding him than if it were tied to his tail. When a horse is badly bitted, and controlled at the same time by incompetent hands, the double evil is almost too great to be endured; but when a proper bit is applied, there is far less suffering and inconvenience on the part of the animal, even though subjected to the hands of a very unlearned master. Timid riders ought to know, and remember, that as a horse is governed by his mouth—just as a ship is by her rudder—it will be wise to devote especial attention to that quarter, in order to avert the danger that may otherwise ensue. A skilful and experienced hand at the bridle will always prove the best means of success, and ensure the greatest amount of safety; but, where this does not exist, the natural or acquired defect may in great measure be counterbalanced by the application of a suitable bit.

Persons have positively laughed at me when I have spoken of having a horse’s mouth measured—and yet there are three interior measurements which ought to be carefully made before fitting an animal with a bit: these are, the width of the mouth, taking the measurement from the chin-groove—the exact width of the channel in which the tongue rests—and the height of the bars of the mouth, by which I mean from the surface of them to the undermost point of the chin-groove. If a bit with a port is to be used, the horse’s tongue ought also to be measured.

It often happens that from improper bitting horses acquire an ugly trick of working their tongues over the mouthpiece. I had two that did it, but cured them by riding them for awhile with a snaffle only, and then carefully fitting them as described with suitable bits.

Correct bitting will ensure complete control, or ought to do so, without inflicting pain. Anything that involves suffering ought to be discarded—although I do not wish it to be understood that I object to such pain in bitting as will compel an unbroken horse to drop his head to the correct position, or yield to the hands that are training him. Remember, however, that a curb unduly tightened, or a bit that is too severe, will often make a horse poke out his chin—and you must not then drag at him, but rather give him ease. When an animal has a bit forced into his mouth that he feels will not suit him, he tries to tell his master so by all the means that lie within his power. He exhibits restlessness when the bridle is put on: gapes, mouths, flings his head about, and carries it (when urged into motion) either on one side, or unduly high or low. There is by nature very little so called “vice” in horses. Comparatively few of them are born unruly, but many are made so by improper treatment on the part of those in whose charge they are at times unfortunately placed.

There should be one established law in bitting: never use any bridle that your horse after a trial will not face. Were this advice attended to there would be fewer accidents, and far fewer unsightly exhibitions of danger and discomfort than we are at present accustomed to see. A well-placed bit will just clear the tusks in a horse’s mouth, and in that of a mare will lie one-inch above the corner teeth. A considerate rider will always look to these things himself before mounting; will see, for instance, that the throat-lash is not drawn too tight, and that the pressure of the bit lies exactly on the bars of the mouth. These bars are formed much like the tibia, or human shin-bone, the minor edge being sharper and more salient than the outer, where it rounds off. Their shape varies in different horses. In hard-mouthed animals they are round, low, and furnished abundantly with fleshy substance; in a tender mouth they are very lean and sharp; and in what may be styled a good mouth, they are moderately so, without exhibiting too great an inclination to either of the first-named conditions.

I like to see a good wide mouthpiece used; it is a vast deal better to have it too wide than too narrow, and I give you the advice in case you do not go on the principle of measurements, which some ridicule. Let your mouthpiece be at all events not less than five inches inside (and even this will be found narrow for many horses), with cheeks rather short, and set outwardly. If a port is used it will be much better to have it opening laterally, from two to two and a-half inches.

The unsightly habit of lolling out the tongue arises from the pressure to which it is, or has been, subjected, by the whimsical shapes of many of the mouthpieces in general use, the ports of which, instead of being fashioned according to the form of the tongue and mouth, are so constructed that the first-named is either pinched severely in the hollow, or pressed between the cannons of the mouthpiece and the bars of the mouth. The horse, then, in order to relieve himself from the torture, either hangs out his tongue, or draws it up above the mouthpiece: an action which compels him to open his mouth in an unsightly manner. This latter defect is likewise frequently attributable to the extreme height of the ports of some mouthpieces; these act, most improperly, on the palate, and when the reins are pulled, cause such excessive agony that the sufferer gapes, in order to ease his pain.


It is a common error to suppose that the power of the bit lies in the mouthpiece, according to its form, and that a high port (one that bears upon the palate) affords control over the animal thus bitted. The real power lies in the branches, according to their proportions, and not by any means in the size or shape of the port, which latter ought to have the effect of an axis gravitating on the bars of the mouth, in order that by its influence the branches may act on these only, and not on either the palate or the tongue.


No lady’s horse worth calling one will ever require a rearing-bit, but such things are useful on occasions, and a gentleman told me some time ago that he obviated an uncomfortable habit which one of his horses had contracted, of throwing up his head, by using a round ring bit with reins attached, in place of a snaffle. I have never tried it myself, therefore cannot vouch for the general efficacy of the experiment; but it may be very good. Men do not mean to be cruel to horses when bitting them improperly, but they are so nevertheless—to a terrible degree. An animal shows signs of uneasiness, and it is at once set down to “temper,” and punished accordingly. Temper may at times no doubt have something to do with intractability, but so it has—very often—with ourselves, and what better means can be adopted to calm the irritability of man or his slave than patience, kindness, and an entire absence of all desire to fight?

I do not much care for nosebands; they seem to me to interfere with the proper action of the bridle, by preventing the headstall from going forward, and also the cheek of the bit. The only really useful noseband is one that is detached from the bridle-cheeks and has a separate crown-strap. This, when worn low on the nose, is effective in preventing a horse opening his mouth widely, and thus displacing the bit from the bars. Martingales I simply abhor, for hunting purposes, although I have heard some good authorities advocate the use of the standing martingale, even when crossing country. I think it is only allowable in case of a confirmed “star-gazer,” who goes at his fences with his head in the air, instead of looking straight before him when he jumps. A running martingale might be found useful with some horses for park or road riding, inasmuch as it can be made effectual for keeping the head of a flippant or unsteady goer properly in place. When made use of for this purpose it should be adjusted in such a way as to allow the pull of the reins to be directly in line with the top of the withers, and should be lengthened for a horse who holds his head already sufficiently low.

I have seen Irish horsebreakers in the country improvise a martingale, by putting the reins underneath the horse’s neck, and then passing them through two rings, kept together by a strap. It answered pretty well for rough riding, but I cannot recommend the innovation.

Martingales of all sorts and descriptions are, as a rule, undesirable, except when the rings attached to the reins of them are so small that they cannot by any possibility slip over those of the bit, and this will necessitate the stitching of the reins—for buckles will not do. Stops will otherwise be essential: made of leather, for safety.

I cannot help believing that bitting is generally much too severely carried out. The most cruel curbs are used by ignorant persons, whereas there are really very few horses who cannot be done much more with by dropping the curb rein altogether, and riding on the snaffle only. Ladies pull and work their horses’ mouths, and then wonder that the horses pull them in return. It is a great mistake. Hundreds of animals are made thoroughly unruly by undue use of the curb, and so much evil have I seen accrue from it, that I strongly recommend all young riders to try riding with the snaffle only, and to keep the curb rein hanging loosely over the little finger, so that it may in an instant be taken up if necessity demands, which I am confident, however, will not very often be the case.

Some time ago I rode a mare for a friend who was very desirous of ascertaining whether the animal was a fit one to carry a lady with safety. I don’t believe she meant to imperil my safety in any way, in order to secure her own. I simply offered to try the mare, and the proposal was accepted. Terrible things had been said of the animal’s want of training, evil temper, and so forth, and the groom who brought her to me was evidently extremely nervous. He told me, the very first thing, that the mare had never in her life done any saddle work, except with “a desperately wild young gentleman,” who had bitted her severely, and yet found her most difficult to manage. Therein lay the secret, I thought to myself; but I said nothing, and the maligned quadruped and I started on our trial, the groom most earnestly imploring me to keep a firm hold of the curb. I found that she hung desperately upon her bridle, kept her head between her knees with a strong, determined, heavy pull—a dead one, in fact—upon the bit, and went along with a rough, jerky action, which had me very soon tired out. The Editor of the Sporting and Dramatic News had volunteered to accompany me, in order to see the trial, and when we got into the Row and set our horses going, the brute nearly dragged my arms out in her canter. The tug she had upon the bridle was quite terrific, and, evidently prepared for a fight, she laid back her ears and shook her wicked head angrily. I rode her from Palace Gate to the Corner in this manner—not pulling one ounce against her, and yielding very slightly to her in her stride. By the time we turned she had given up fighting, and I was enabled for the first time to speak to my companion. I then dropped the curb, and rode her entirely upon the snaffle. The effect was magical; she at once lifted her head, ceased pulling altogether, and went along in a pleasant, joyous canter—going well up to her bridle, but not attempting any liberties whatever. In less than an hour’s time I was riding her with one hand, petting and making much of her with the other—an attention which, as a pleasing novelty, she evidently much appreciated. Finding her slightly intractable during the ride homeward, I once more lightly took up the curb. It maddened her in a moment. She turned wildly round, twisted about with a rotatory motion most bewildering and unpleasant, ran me against a cart, and behaved altogether so outrageously that it required my very utmost skill, confidence, and temper to restore her equanimity, and steer her safely to our destination. On dismounting I observed to the groom who had come to fetch her, that considering the amount of excitement through which she had passed, it was wonderful that she had not sweated. His answer was that she was always fed upon cooked food (a pet theory of mine, to which I shall devote a chapter by-and-by), and added that the horse which he himself was riding—a remarkably fine four-year-old—derived its chief sustenance from boiled barley.

I shall now close my chapter upon bitting. That it has been a horribly dry one I cannot hope to find contradicted, but I felt that its instructions ought to come in just where I have introduced them, and they will be better understood, no doubt, when the pupil shall have learned thoroughly how to ride. No lady’s education can be called anything like complete (with regard to equine matters) until she perfectly understands the principles of bitting, and can, moreover, saddle and bridle her own horses without the aid of a groom. I shall give instructions concerning these matters in another chapter.


The choice of a lady’s side-saddle is a most important matter, and ought not to be treated in any other light; yet with multitudes of equestrians it seems to be regarded as almost a thing of nought. “Look out for a second-hand saddle for me, there’s a dear!” writes a country lady to a town friend; “I am actually going to ride!” And away goes the town lady on a search through alley and slum, and comes home the triumphant purchaser of an awful instrument, which gives a sore back to the bearer of it in no time at all, and is then sent to be stuffed, coming back to its owner all the worse for the process, owing to the fact that the stuffing has, in the first instance, been entirely over done. Articles of this description never give any satisfaction, and would be dear if purchased at half-a-crown. Economise as you will in other directions—put up with cheap hats, habits, boots, and gloves, if you cannot really afford any better,—for, odious though they be, they can prove injurious to yourself alone,—but let your saddle be of the best. Go to a first-class maker; get measured as accurately as a man does for a pair of hunting breeches—tell him that you need the best materials and very best workmanship—and if he knows his art he will require no further directions. It is almost superfluous to repeat that a well-made side-saddle should be level-seated, and should have no perceptible dip, or sinking, from front to cantle. It ought to be amply long for the rider, and the points of the tree should fit close to the horse’s sides behind the shoulder-blades. I object to stitching, on either near or off side, as being unworkmanlike; but an unpractised rider may have the seat of her saddle covered with buckskin, which will afford her a more secure grip than she can obtain from the ordinary slippery leather. The gullet-plate should either be dispensed with altogether (as mentioned in a former chapter), or be sufficiently arched to prevent its pressing on the horse’s withers. I prefer the former plan, and have found it answer admirably. The up-pommel should be barely high enough to afford a secure catch for the right leg. When higher than this it sticks up like a horn beneath the habit, and is extremely disfiguring.

The leaping-head should be movable. I do not mean that it should merely turn round and round, or bend downwards with a hinge, but it ought to be capable of being placed higher or lower, according as the rider may desire. This can be accomplished by having two, or even three, holes made for it within varied distances of one another: a plan which will be found of especial benefit in cases where a saddle is purchased with a view to more than one lady making use of it—and a tired rider will frequently find it a great boon. Of course, in such case, the leaping-head must be a screw one, a thing to which I know many ladies object on the ground that it gets out of order. It really ought not to do so,—nor does it, except when entrusted altogether to a groom, who keeps unscrewing it every day as if for mere pastime. It should not be touched at all, except when necessary for cleaning purposes, or to lubricate it with a little oil, and it will be well then to do it yourself, unless your servant happens to be an exceptionally good and trustworthy one, or that you are too grand in your ideas to put your hand to anything in the shape of work. I hope, however, that I am not writing for any such silly person. You should never be above looking after everything connected with your own riding gear. It will not lessen your dignity one whit: rather the contrary—for your servants will then see that you are not a simpleton, and will respect you accordingly. The lady who shudders at a duster, and wonders where puddings grow, is in reality not an atom more to be despised than is the foolish-minded equestrian who thinks it is inelegant to know anything about the conduct or management of her own stable. I like to see a woman able and willing to put her hand to everything that comes in her way, without feeling in the least lowered by it. One of the most perfectly ladylike women whom I have ever met, on one occasion groomed and fed her own hunter, when the stableman who had charge of him was found tipsy, on her return one wintry evening from a long day with the hounds; and she did it, too, before ever removing her habit. Sense and humanity combined.

I may add, before passing to another portion of my subject, that where a screw-pommel is used it will be found a wise plan to have it made with the thread of the screw reversed; by which I mean that the pommel should turn from left to right, in place of the ordinary way. By this arrangement the left knee pressing against it serves to fix it all the more firmly, instead of, as is usual, misplacing it.

I am often asked what ought to be the weight of a side-saddle, and what the size. Much must of course depend upon the dimensions of the rider. About eighteen pounds is, or ought to be, the average weight of an ordinary saddle, although my own were much lighter. I do not, however, see that there is very much to be gained by riding in too light a saddle. A few pounds one way or the other can make little difference (except in racing) to a good horse, and light saddles are sometimes apt to give sore backs.

With regard to size, I consider that a lady of moderate height—say five feet three, or thereabouts—ought not to purchase a saddle less than nineteen inches long. Any good maker will, however, give the proper proportions.

The stirrup-leather of a lady’s saddle is generally attached to it by an iron ring, but I greatly prefer the spring-bar attachment, same as is used with men’s saddles. Many ladies say that it is apt, with pressure, to come away, and if this be the case, a greater objection could scarcely be urged against it, but, for my own part, I have never found it do so.

Peat & Co., of Piccadilly, have brought out and patented a really first-class article in this line, namely, Born’s saddle-bar, a contrivance which instantly releases the foot in case of a rider being either thrown or dragged. I can confidently recommend it.

A very simple way, which some like, is to have the stirrup stitched to a single leather, which is then passed through a ring, and drawn downwards to within an inch or two of the end of the flap. It is next passed round the horse’s belly, and buckled to a single tongue on the other side. This keeps the flaps of the saddle close, and the rider is enabled by it to shorten or lengthen her stirrup from the off side—an advantage not to be overlooked.

Girths are of various kinds. Some are in favour of the elastic webbing; others like the Fitzwilliam, which is a very excellent kind, and thoroughly to be depended on for general work. For myself, I strongly advocate the plaited girths, made of either hide, horsehair, or cord. Being open-work they admit plenty of air, and are calculated to prevent chafing.

I do not, as a rule, care for saddle-cloths, but no doubt they preserve the inside of a saddle very much. If used at all they ought to be very thin. To save a sore back, a sheepskin is best A leather saddle-cloth will keep pliant if in constant use, but if laid by for a while it should be moistened with a little oil. Cod-liver will be found the most efficient for the purpose.

I am not in favour of any of the so-called safety stirrups. Nicholl’s patent is the best of them; but I cannot help regarding them all as danger-traps, having twice nearly lost my life through using them. I therefore strongly recommend all lady riders to adopt a perfectly plain stirrup, such as is used by men, only of course smaller. A neat little racing stirrup served me faithfully for years, and I cannot advocate any other. Safety stirrups are perpetually getting out of order, and my experience of even the best of them is that they are liable to catch the foot and confine it in a dangerous manner, which the plain stirrup never does.

To ride with a slipper, even for a very young beginner, is strongly to be condemned. To allow children to use it is simply to train them to ride from it—thus sowing the seeds of a most pernicious practice. It feels so snug and comfortable under the foot that there is an irresistible desire to rest and dwell upon it: an evil of which I shall hereafter have occasion to speak.

Having now said all that I consider useful concerning saddles and bridles, I think it will be expedient to give a few instructions about putting them on; for, as I have already said, a lady or gentleman who cannot do this without the aid of a servant has yet (no matter how accomplished in every other way) something very important to learn.

To bridle a horse, go quietly up to him, holding the headstall in your hand. Make much of him for a moment or two before putting it on: not at all because you think that he is going to fight against it—no lady’s horse would be guilty of doing such a thing—but because it is a nice and right habit, and one to be put in practice upon every reasonable occasion. The way in which unthinking grooms drag poor horses’ heads about, and force heavy bits into their quiet, unresisting mouths, is enough to make a humane heart feel grieved and angry together. Gentleness is, however, a woman’s attribute, and the kindness with which most women usually regard animals is one of their most loveable traits.

When the headstall has been nicely fitted, take a glance over it, and note that the forehead-band is loose enough, and that the throat-lash will admit at least two of your fingers between it and the skin. Fit the snaffle-rein next, by the buckles, and see that it falls about half an inch below the angle of the mouth. If you are in the habit of riding with a curb, adjust it very carefully, observing the rule laid down in my chapter on bitting, of resting the mouth-piece on the bars of the mouth, just above the chin-groove. I know it occasionally happens that some irregularity about the teeth renders this a difficult thing to do, and where such is the case the bit must of course be slightly moved, but it ought to be placed only just as much above the obstacle as will be necessary to clear it. You must next hook the curb, taking the off side first, and leaving a link in reserve. Then come to the near side, and leave it length enough to afford two links—making sure also that it lies quite flat on the chin-groove, and has not the smallest tendency to rise upwards at the draw of the reins. Ascertain above all things that the chain is sufficiently slack, and that it does not inconvenience the horse. A good test will be for you to insert the first and second fingers of your left hand between it and the animal’s chin: slipping them in, so that the palm of your hand shall go beneath the under lip of the horse, and the back portion of your two fingers be exposed to the pressure of the chain; then draw the reins quietly with your right hand, and if you feel an unpleasant pinching, slacken the chain a link, and try again until you have it right. I said in my last chapter that the action of the mouth-piece on the bars of the mouth was entirely controlled by the branches, which also regulate that of the curb-chain, both on chin and bars. The pressure which it effects on these constrains the horse to obey the will of his rider. Now, when the curb-chain is left to hang in too loose a fashion, the pressure cannot be effected at all, and the branches go backwards, because they meet with no resistance from the curb-chain: and thus the action of the cannons on the bars of the mouth is altogether defeated.

Saddling comes next to be spoken about. Place the saddle clear of the play of the shoulders, if meant for hunting; when the adjustment is for ordinary riding, an inch or two further back will do. It is a common error to place the saddle out of position, in order to make it appear as if the horse bridled better, or had a finer shoulder than he really has; but it is a very wrong thing to practice constantly, and can only deceive the most inexperienced judge’s eye.

If you want a horse to go particularly fast for a short distance, you may adjust the saddle so that it shall be as far forward as possible without interfering with his action: as the chief office of the hinder part of an animal is to propel weight, while that of the fore part is to bear it up.

When the saddle has been nicely placed, take up the first girth, and then the hinder one, drawing both well back from the horse’s elbows, so that they shall neither chafe nor inconvenience him in his action. Do not girth him up too tightly at first, especially if he has been recently fed; nor must you on the other hand leave him too much space for the air to make way through, taking into account that some horses are terrible rogues, and will actually swell themselves out ever so much when they feel the girths tightening upon them, which shows that they are more sensible than many who ride them, inasmuch as they object to being too tightly laced. I had an arrant rogue once, who used to present the appearance of a drowned pup whenever I came to girth him up, and would gradually collapse inward, like an indiarubber ball with a hole in it, whenever he thought he had me sufficiently gammoned. That horse’s face would have won a fortune for him as a type of injured innocence when I let him see one day in a practical manner that I was up to his tricks; but we continued excellent chums, nevertheless, and as it was to a male friend I subsequently sold him (who would, of course, clap a leg each side of him, and so distribute the weight), I said nothing about his little dodges, but laughed to myself when, a few days later, I saw the dear old man (his owner) riding his wily purchase in the Row, with girths so slack that he could have put both feet into them, stirrups and all, without much inconvenience, and my cunning friend trotting demurely along under him, with the most lamb-like countenance in the world.

It is almost unnecessary to say that while tight girthing is for every reason to be avoided, it will not do at all to leave the girths of a lady’s saddle too loose. When they are so, the uneven distribution of weight which a side position necessarily entails will be sure to draw the saddle on one side, or perhaps even cause it to turn: in which case the consequences will be both dangerous and unpleasant.

I think it an excellent plan to lead a horse about by the bridle for a minute or two after girthing, and then try again whether he is tight enough, by inserting a hand between the girths and the belly, and seeing whether they need any further looking after.

I must not omit to say that if you are using a saddle-cloth or sheepskin, you should, before finally girthing up, draw the front part of it well forward on the withers, in order that the gullet-plate of the saddle (if that article happens to be made with one) may not press upon them.

The last thing for you to do before mounting will be to pass your forefinger under the girths at each side of the horse’s body, and smooth away any wrinkles that the action of girthing may have caused in his skin.

It will not be amiss here to say that many ladies have asked me for an opinion concerning the advisability of riding occasionally on the left or off side of the horse. I cannot see any objection whatever to it for ordinary riding, although I cannot advocate it for hunting; and where young girls find it expedient to ride a good deal, I should be apt to recommend it highly, as a means of preventing their growing awry. The saddle necessary for it is a somewhat awkward-looking article to those unaccustomed to view such things, but it may be satisfactory to know that the Princess of Wales rarely uses any other kind.



Being now provided with a fully-caparisoned mount, it is time that you should begin in good earnest to learn to ride; therefore to this pleasant task we will apply ourselves, reserving the interesting subjects of shoeing, feeding, stabling, &c., for future consideration.

To mount well must first be studied, and practised: the latter assiduously, no matter how great the drudgery may be. It is certainly disheartening to a learner to feel that one of the most trying portions of her equine education is after all the only one that involves a very serious drawback, namely, that of requiring assistance that cannot well be done without; yet, so it is—and the difficulty is one which must be considered and met. A lady may saddle and bridle her own horse, may give him the finishing touches herself, and canter away, independently, when once she is on his back—but to get there she must, as a rule, seek for assistance from some source or another, and animated sources (by which I mean men) are generally painfully inefficient. It certainly is what is expressively termed “hard lines” on a practised equestrian to be made an exhibition of at door or covert-side by some inexpert individual, who either sends her clean over the saddle by the superfluous energy of his action, or leaves her to hang fire midway while he stoops to pick up his hat, which he manages to lose through stupidly poking his head forward at the moment at which she is making her spring. I know exactly what it is, and the mortification that it entails. Many of us are, unfortunately, familiar with the feeling that we have done precisely the right thing ourselves, but that some officious and horribly incompetent assistant—or would-be such—has frustrated our efforts, and left us a laughing-stock in the centre of a crowd. It is just like going up to a piano in full possession of all the difficulties that may mark the song selected to be sung, and being compelled to undergo the torments inflicted by a bad accompanist, who handicaps the singer by his own utter unfitness for his task. Half the people present are not able to discern whether it is the voice or the piano that is at fault; they only know that the performance is a failure, and speak of it afterwards as such. So it is with mounting for a ride. Say that there are a hundred persons present at a lawn meet, and you emerge from the house to mount your horse, with the result that you are kept struggling for an awful moment or two betwixt the ground and the saddle by some blushing booby who has offered to put you up, and who will neither do so properly nor suffer you to jump quite down. At least two-thirds of the onlookers will be ready to say the fault is yours. My advice, therefore, is, never leave yourself open to an unpleasantness of this description; select your assistant cavalier, just as you have a right to accept or reject a partner for a dance—and if nobody in whom you have confidence happens to be present, have recourse to the groom’s assistance, if you are quite certain that he knows how to render it, and, if not, lead your horse to a low wall, should such a thing be near enough, or take him, at all events, out of sight of the crowd, and utilise any sort of stepping-stone to reach his back, rather than incur the ridicule or unjust remarks of the more fortunate among your sex.

It is, of course, in some cases, quite possible for a lady to let down her stirrup and mount by it, unassisted—drawing it up again to the required length when seated on her saddle. To little girls riding ponies I have already recommended this plan; but for grown equestrians it is far more frequently impracticable than otherwise. A lady rider may be of diminutive stature, and may yet be called upon to mount a very tall horse; or her stirrup may not be an easily movable one (say, for instance, that she is accepting a ride upon a borrowed mount, with trappings entirely unlike her own), or her habit-bodice, despite all warnings, may not be loose enough about the waist to enable her to make the long stretch up to the pommel which unassisted mounting always requires. Therefore, writers who say that a lady can at all times be entirely independent of extraneous assistance prove to a certainty that they have not studied the subject.

The orthodox method of mounting is as follows: Take the reins and whip in your right hand and lay the fingers of it firmly upon the top of the up-pommel—grasping it, in fact; then, with your left hand, gather your skirt away from your left foot, and place this latter in the hand of your assistant, bending your knee as you do so. When you feel that his palm is firmly supporting the sole of your foot, take your left hand from your habit-skirt and place it on his left shoulder—he being in a slightly stooping position at the time. Then give him the signal: any pre-arranged word will do—“Ready!” “Go ahead!” “Now!” or, in short, anything you may choose to fix. As you say the word, straighten your knee, and make a slight spring upward, your cavalier at the same instant raising himself to an erect position, without letting his hand drop in the very smallest degree. By this arrangement you will reach your saddle with comfort and expertness. It will, as already mentioned, require some patient practice, for, like many other accomplishments, it looks wonderfully simple and easy—until you come to try it. In the event of having to mount by a wall, a big stone, a horse-bucket, or other article—any one of which you may be glad at some time or another to make use of on emergency—steady yourself well upon your stepping-stone, whatever it may be, gather the reins in your left hand, laying it firmly upon the up-pommel or on the horse’s mane, place your foot in the stirrup, taking care that it is well freed from the habit-skirt, then seize the cantle firmly with your right hand, and jump into the saddle. If your skirt is properly cut, you will have no difficulty in arranging it comfortably over your right knee when the latter has been placed in position, and you should then lift yourself slightly, and smooth the seat of the skirt from right to left with your left hand, first transferring the reins and whip to your right, in order to enable you to do so.

You should be extremely careful, if wearing a spur, to keep your left heel well away from the horse’s side when mounting: otherwise, the consequences may be very disastrous. I once saw a lady thrown heavily upon her face by a sudden start of her horse, through her spur having struck him in the flank just as she reached the saddle, before she had time to secure the support of the pommels.

Be cautious, also, not to touch your horse, when mounting, with your whip. If you do so he will assuredly start, and may give you an ugly fall. It is for this reason that I advocate the custom of ladies when mounting retaining the whip in their right hand and placing it, together with the reins, on the up-pommel of the saddle, in place of, as many do, handing it to their assistant cavalier. A man, when he gets a lady’s whip to hold, naturally tucks it away under his arm, where a nervous horse keeps looking askance at it, and is often rendered fidgetty by seeing it, even when it does not actually touch him—although it very often does. I append two sketches, one showing the correct position of the hand with whip and reins upon the pommel when just about to mount, the other demonstrating the precise attitude in which a lady ought to seat herself upon the saddle.

If properly placed, and sitting erect and even, your seat ought to be as secure as that of a man, or even more so, although you may have to depend (which no doubt you will) upon the girths for safety, and also to submit to the disadvantage of not having a leg on each side of your horse to guide him or urge him to his paces. A clever rider will, however, make her whip-handle serve her in great measure for this.


Be careful, when seated, to keep the toe of the right foot from pointing outward, and the left heel from going back—and look right between your horse’s ears, to ensure sitting straight.


When you have once obtained a correct idea of position, you should seek to acquire what is termed “a good seat”—in other words, an easy confidence, which will add grace to your pose. I am now surmising that you are teaching yourself—say, in a large field, or private school—and that you have not anybody with you, save, perhaps, some male friend or relative, who may be capable of assisting you if required—without, however, being able to instruct. I cannot for a moment advise you to go out alone for the purpose of learning, no matter how high-couraged you may be. Always enlist the services of a suitable companion, or attendant, but remember that if the latter is a servant—even though his service may be of many years’ standing—you are not on any account to permit him to give you so much as the very smallest hint on any subject connected with equitation. Coachmen know nothing at all about riding; and grooms, as a rule, very little: a fact that is every day testified by their heavy hands and awkward gait on horseback. Laying all this aside, however, there can be no doubt that whatever hints servants may be capable of imparting to boy pupils, they are the very worst possible instructors for girls, while pretending very often to be the best. I attribute one-half the faults in style which shock our eyes in park, street, and hunting-field, to the pernicious teachings of “John the groom”; therefore, the moment that such persons attempt to open their lips to you, except when spoken to, shut them up at once, in a manner which (without any rudeness) will show that you desire them to keep silent except when addressed.

As soon as you are secure upon your saddle, and have learned to feel at home there, get your horse walked about with the reins looped over his neck. Do not touch them at all at first, or trouble yourself about carrying a whip, but rather devote your energies and attention to acquiring an even balance, and learning the proper grip of the pommels—without which you never can ride well. Do not lean heavily upon the stirrup, or force yourself to undue muscular action; nor will it be in all cases wise to thrust the left foot “home,” as it is called,—better ride from the ball of it. Further reference to this point will be found in the concluding chapter.

Ascertain before starting that your stirrup-leather is precisely the right length, in order that you may not be induced to lean to the left side owing to its being too long, or have your knee uncomfortably thrust up on account of its shortness. You should sit erect and square, with chest forward and shoulders well back, yet without any appearance of stiffness or rigidity of position. Be as firm as a rock below the waist, but light and flexible as a reed above it. On these two rules all the beauty, and indeed the safety, of equestrianism depend.

You must practice hard to attain a good, steady seat, for it will not come to you by magic. On the contrary, you will find yourself at one moment sitting as stiff as a poker, with your chin thrust forward in the air—and then, when you catch yourself thus, and strive to rectify it by assuming a sudden limpness, you will discover that your lower limbs have grown limp also, in sympathy with the rest of your body, and are hanging so loosely that a touch will send you out of the saddle. Again, you will discover that the toe of your right foot has a dreadful tendency to turn outward from the ankle, while that of the left turns down, and shows the sole of your boot to those in the rear of you.

All these things will be seemingly against you for a long time after you have begun to have your horse led about: a process which must be done first by hand and then with a leading-stick, while you sit perfectly erect, with your arms crossed upon your bosom, or your hands lying easily (fingers laid together) in your lap, just below the waist. Avoid, above all things, sitting too much to the left; it will not only induce you to lean too hard upon the stirrup, a thing which you ought not to do at all, but will be pretty certain to give your horse a tender back from the very beginning.

When you find that you can sit quite straight and steady while your mount carries you at a walking pace, you may have him led by a lunging-rein, and cantered slowly in a circle to the right, or in a figure of 8. Never on any account grip the pommels, or clutch at the mane, no matter how frightened you may be. A little start will not upset you, nor will a sudden playful movement have the power to send you off, provided that you are sitting “square,” with your right leg well pressed over the up-pommel, and your left against the leaping-head, while your whole attention is given to your seat, and to nothing else whatever. This is the true secret of learning to ride from balance, and once it is yours, nothing can unseat you, so long as your mount remains upon his legs.

Cantering is not a difficult motion by any means. When attempting it your attendant should make your horse lead with the off fore-leg, although, should it be your intention to ride occasionally on the left side of the saddle, you must accustom him to lead now and again with the near. Sit well back, and when your mount moves in a circle, lean just sufficiently to the right to enable you to see his feet.

When you are at home in the canter you must commence to practice the trot, which will be to you the beginning of sorrows. Do not at first make any effort at rising in your saddle, but sit very close, and prepare to bear the unpleasantness of the bumping—for it must be borne for awhile—until you have become accustomed to the motion. As you will of course have your hair flowing loosely, and a wide easy-fitting jacket on, you will suffer fewer discomforts than if differently apparelled.

To rise in the saddle, you must keep the left heel well down, and move the leg as little as possible. To sway it like a pendulum will not help you one bit. Keep your hands perfectly steady—your arms to your sides—your left foot slightly pressing the stirrup as the horse throws out his near fore leg, while you lift yourself very slightly at the precise instant that his other leg is advanced. It will take you a long while to accomplish this. Over and over again you will sigh with disappointment, and say involuntarily, “I cannot do it!” But you can, and will in time, if you will only persevere. Few things that are worth learning can be acquired in a hurry; a young robust girl, with plenty of courage and go about her, will often learn how to “stick on” in an incredibly short space of time—but will look supremely ridiculous notwithstanding, both then and later; to acquire the niceties of riding, however, and become an adept at them, is a degree of perfection to which comparatively few ladies ever attain. The accomplishment of rising and falling nicely in the saddle, in time to the trot of the horse, can only be acquired by constant practice; I do not believe that the fact of having a master riding alongside of you, and saying “one, two,” “one, two,” until you are half demented, will ever teach it, although steady perseverance on your own part may, and will.


page 103.

There are three things that I want you particularly to avoid. First, an ugly churning movement, which is hideous to look at and distressing to the horse; second, a disposition to ride with your elbows extended, or your left hand on hip or thigh, or placed at the back of your waist; and third, a habit of stooping forward in the trot and hanging over to the near side, a fault which is extremely usual with lady riders. I give an illustration of this unsightly position, by way of warning; supplemented by one of a figure seated correctly upon the saddle, while her horse is trotting at the rate of eight or nine miles an hour.

As soon as you are perfectly mistress of the art of riding gracefully from balance, and can walk, canter, and trot, both fast and slowly, without any assistance save that which your grip of the pommels and slight help from the stirrup combine to afford you, the latter adjunct may be discarded altogether for awhile, and you may ride for an hour or so every day without it. You will not take very long to practice this; indeed, the only inconvenience arising from it, at all worth considering, will be a certain tired feeling in the left leg, as though the limb wanted dreadfully to have something to support it—but, believe me, a very few days of steady practice will enable you to dispense with stirrup aid altogether, and not to feel at all incommoded by doing so. In a week’s time at furthest you will be able to ride quite as easily without the stirrup as with it—and surely, even were it to involve a month’s hard labour, the result would prove ample remuneration. If you mean to be a huntress, there will assuredly be days when your hardly-earned accomplishment will stand you in good stead, for never yet was there a straight-going lady who did not at some time or another break a stirrup leather, or lose one, or find herself in some way or another deprived, through accident, of the support to which so many horsewomen unfortunately trust. It often happens, too, that the misfortune occurs at a provokingly long distance from home, and miles away, perhaps, from any place where repairs can be executed; therefore, the advantage (in this respect alone) of learning to ride without a stirrup must be at once apparent: to say nothing of the great benefits derivable from having taught yourself complete independence of any support from it—a thing which always ensures an erect and perfect seat.



When you have decided to your own satisfaction that you are mistress of the art of riding from balance—can trot and canter in circles, and in a figure of 8, without reins or stirrup, with waist pliant and nicely hollowed, and shoulders well thrown back—you may, with advantage, take up the reins and learn the uses of them.

Learners, to whom I have endeavoured to expound this theory of teaching, have asked me once or twice whether there was not some less difficult way by which they might be taught; and I have no doubt that many among my lady readers are longing to ask me the same question. Certainly there is; in fact there are several ways which will be found very much less difficult than the one that I am striving to teach. Hosts of riding-masters will engage to perfect you (or very nearly so) in six lessons—will put you on a horse, give you a stirrup and a stout pair of reins, and adjure you volubly to “hold on,” taking very little further trouble about you; and if you are a plucky, intelligent girl you will hold on, and will canter and trot too, in a sort of way, within the specified time,—and your instructor will take your money with a smile, and allow you to go out into the park and make a show of yourself, until some really kind disinterested friend warns you that things are entirely wrong, and persuades you to go and unlearn all that has already been taught you.

There are just two ways of doing everything in this world—the right and the wrong, and the latter is always, unfortunately, very much the easier of the two, although so much the more unsatisfying in the end. I am quite willing to acknowledge that some very nice horsewomen have learned all that they know of riding without ever having gone through one-half the labour which I have set forth as necessary; but those four little words, “all that they know,” contain the whole meaning of the matter. I am willing to allow, also, that there are prodigies in the world—at riding as at everything else—who can look nice, and go straight, and seemingly do nothing amiss, and who yet have never been taught to ride at all; but these are uncommon creatures, quite beyond the study of books on horsemanship, or on anything else. They form, in fact, the exceptions to the rule, that ladies who have learned to ride in the ordinary way and from ordinary teachers, do not ride well, or correctly; and that even in cases where their appearance on horseback is fairly satisfactory, and their park riding quite as good as many others, the efforts made by them at cross-country riding are miserable, and dangerous to a degree. Balance-riders can alone negotiate a difficult country with safety. Hundreds of ladies get serious falls every season over the difficult doubles of our trying Ward country and the ragged fences of old Kildare, which they would never get had they in the first instance been properly taught. Therefore, being desirous, as I truly am, that all my lady readers shall excel at an art which is so well worth studying, I have laid down the best practical directions for their instruction, in the hope that they may accept and profit by them; and I promise fearlessly that by so doing they will be in the first flight when others are on the roadside, and in the saddle when those who trust for safety to rein and stirrup are exploring the slimy depths of some uncomfortable ditch.


page 108.

Having now arrived at the question of holding the reins, we shall consider their uses and abuses from a common-sense point of view. You are not to regard them in any degree as a means of preserving your own equilibrium—this I have already taught you. To ride from a horse’s head is one of the gravest faults of which an equestrian can be guilty; nor must you depend altogether upon the bridle for the management of your mount, this is a very general error, and one that I want you strictly to avoid. Horses are controlled by three things: the reins, the voice, and the legs—and a lady rider must make her whip-handle serve her for the management and guidance of her mount on the off side, where a man has the advantage of having his right leg to assist him in the office. Of this more anon, for I mean to touch lightly upon the three controlling powers.

First, the reins. Teachers of the haute école style of riding may possibly have told you wonders about military horsemanship, and how the movements of an animal may be regulated by certain subtle touches of the thumb or little finger. I must candidly say that I don’t believe a word of their efficacy for general-purpose riding. I do not think that a learner could ever be brought to understand such theories from printed rules, or to profit by them if understood. Put a girl, for instance, on a high-mettled hunter, loop the reins over the fingers of her left hand only—as fashionable riding-masters do in schools—give her the whip, pointed upwards (another general symptom of defective teaching) in her right hand, and then send her out, not over the smooth grass fields and through the convenient gates of beautiful Leicestershire, where, a few years ago, a whole day’s hunting might be had without having to jump a single fence, but away over the rugged plough and trying ridge-and-furrow which take the wind out of our Irish hunters. The high stone walls of Galway hunting-fields are excellent tests of skill; so also are the five-barred gates of Meath and Carlow, and the yawning chasms—sixteen feet wide and twenty deep—at which we in this hapless yet lovely old country have to steady our horses when coming up, and support them when over, or else lie gasping at the bottom, with broken ribs and damaged noses, and dreadful saddle-pommels making havoc with our frames at every struggle of our engulfed and terrified steeds. Send, I say, a haute école rider out over Irish hunting-grounds, and see what good she can accomplish with the little finger of her left hand! Such teaching is a mere tirade of ornamental nonsense, for which, I believe, no pupil would in the end feel at all obliged.


I approve of taking the reins in both hands from the very beginning. It is a sensible method: one which all colt-breakers adopt, and they are not bad judges of such matters. Ladies, however, rarely adopt the practice; it is not allowed in many of the most approved schools—but, in my opinion, “Put both hands to your bridle” is excellent premonitory advice. Begin by riding with a bridoon, or snaffle rein, only. Let your fingers lie above it—not underneath,—the thumbs pointing toward one another, at a distance of about three or four inches apart, the off leather resting between the third and little fingers of the right hand, while the slack of the near passes between the first finger and the thumb. The illustration will show you what I mean, and demonstrate how by this rule both hands have equal command upon the bridle.



To shorten your reins quickly: let go the slack of the off one with the left hand, and slip it forward on the near leather, until you have judged (rapidly, of course) of the correct length; then take the off one between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, and you establish a cross-rein, the right hand quitting its hold instantly, and taking up its original position. I append an illustration of my meaning, and strongly advise a little practice of it, which can be readily managed even in the house, by utilising tape or ribbon reins attached to the back of a chair. The method thus described is an admirable one for shortening a single bridle when coming up, say, to a fence at which a horse may require some holding; and I likewise append a little sketch of how the bridle ought to hang, and the hands be held, when going over.

When you want to ride leisurely, in park or on road, with the reins in one hand only—a thing at times not at all to be deprecated—draw the near rein between the third and little fingers of your left hand, and bring it out between the first and thumb, while the off one is made to cross it in the palm of the hand, thus:—


Then turn the hand with the knuckles upward, as here represented,


and a correct position will be ensured.

You should avoid working the fingers about when riding, as doing so is very apt to shift the bit in the horse’s mouth. Your hand may go back and forth with a “give-and-take” movement, but not from side to side on any account.


The best method of riding with double reins can, I think, be most effectually shown by illustration. This represents the reins held firmly, though not tightly, in both hands; while that on the next page shows an easy style of going—one that is nice to adopt when proceeding at a walking pace. When trotting, the reins may be dropped by the right hand, which should then be lowered to the level of the saddle—the whip pointing downwards.

If you wish to ride with one rein only, though with a double bridle, hold the snaffle rein in your left hand in the manner already described, and loop the curb over your little finger, in order that it may be readily taken up when required.


I may here say that, despite the directions which I have taken pains to give on the subject of holding reins I adhere to the belief that so long as they are held flat and smooth, there need not really be any fixed rule about the handling of them. If elbows, shoulders, and wrists are in proper position, it matters comparatively little how fingers may be held—and beginners are, as a rule, a great deal too much worried and puzzled about a matter which generally simplifies itself according as a knowledge of more important things is acquired. At the same time, there is with this, as with everything else, a right and a wrong side to the subject; and in order to avoid the wrong, it will perhaps be as well to adopt the orthodox right method from the very beginning. There is, however, nothing at all wrong in occasionally moving the reins about and changing them from one hand to the other. All good riders do it, and it is vastly better than adopting the stiff, set style which would-be fine riders sometimes affect: namely, placing the hands in one position when setting out, and scarcely ever altering them from it. A good horsewoman will sedulously avoid everything that is stiff or ungraceful, and will move about in her saddle with as much pliant ease as though seated at home in an easy chair. The unsightly rigidity observable about the figures and demeanour of some lady-riders—especially those whose “teaching” has been too finely drawn—is certainly not a thing to be copied or admired.

Having now discussed the subject of reins, we come to consider the “Voice” as a means of controlling and managing the horse.

I have always considered the effect and power of the voice as second only in usefulness to those of the bridle. Horses are intelligent and sensitive beyond what most persons can be induced to think or believe. I know to a certainty that they not only listen to, and are influenced by, every sound that issues from their riders’ lips, but absolutely gather his meaning and desires from the various inflexions of his voice. I know that they love their masters and mistresses, and look to them for teaching, just as dependent children ask you what it is that you wish them to do. There is something inexpressibly beautiful in this loving intelligence on the part of animals—this sympathy between horse and rider, which, in a former chapter, I strove to say something about. Horses are in reality the very noblest of God’s created things—excepting, of course, man as he ought to be. They have, so far as their endowments permit, all the attributes that go to make the human character lovable and good, supplemented by a rare fidelity, such as is unhappily seldom met with among those who are fashioned in the Creator’s own image. I have read, and been told a great deal, about horses that were “obstinate brutes,” and “wicked devils,” and “outrageous beasts,” and everything else that was hateful and bad—and have listened with a bursting and indignant heart to accounts of thrashings, and starvings, and spurrings, and mouth-burnings, and other wickednesses, which have made me feel how infinitely superior was the so-called brute creation to that which it is made to serve. I confess that it has not been my lot to come across any specimens of this much-talked-of vicious sort, excepting in one or two rare instances, where I knew that vice had been engendered by bad and cruel treatment. I have no doubt that horses, like human beings, are sometimes born with evil natures—sometimes, but not very often. I have not met with any of them, and the few with whom I have ever had trouble have invariably been those whom wanton cruelty or rank injustice had in the first instance spoilt. There are very few horses indeed—even the most unruly—that cannot be tamed, or made amenable and obedient, by the hands and voice of a kind and judicious trainer, and for this sort of work women are especially fitted. I mean, of course, women of courage and mind; not such as would scream at sight of a spider, or go into fits if a mouse chanced to cross the floor. A woman’s voice carries great power along with it, and the touch of her light firm hands can effect things at which a man’s would utterly fail. Gentleness goes ever in advance of force, and leading is preferable to driving. Even if you have to scold, or whip, there is a way of doing both that is temperate and wise, and that will never create ill-will between you and your horse. Fight an animal, and he will fight you in return; coax him by the gentleness of your action and the sound of your voice, and he will be pretty certain to yield. It is just the difference between “lead” and “drive.” Such, at least, has been my experience.

I saw a horse some time ago in the west of Ireland, caged like a wild beast, and fed with a pitchfork through the bars of his door. Nobody would go near him, he bore such a bad name, and the appellation his groom bestowed upon him—“A tattherin’ divil!”—was certainly more expressive than refined. I offered to buy him; his owner said I might have him for nothing; but I gave what I thought fair, and took the horse home. The creature was wild from savage treatment. He had known nothing but blows and threats, and angry epithets: things that he had learned to understand only too well, and was, seemingly ever expectant of, and waiting for. I taught him something different—and how?—by the simple power of my voice. It is not a particularly musical one, by any means, except in the ears of animals, but to one of these it has never yet uttered an angry word,—and the horse came to know it, and to listen for it, and to neigh at the sound of it, and by-and-by we got to understand one another quite well, and the great, big, foolish old head, all defaced and disfigured as it was by hard knocks and bad usage, used to rest lovingly upon my shoulder, while I stroked the ears that in former days had so often been laid back in angry vindictiveness against a harsh and cruel task-master. “He’ll take the nose off your face some day, the treacherous brute!” an ex-attendant upon my new pet once said to me. But, needless to say, it was a libel: my nose is still intact. The horse learned to love me, and to caress and obey from that feeling. I believe he would have died for me. When I hunted him he jumped the biggest places at a word from my lips. Without whip, curb, or spur I rode him for many a day, over the difficult Ward country, and he never once played me a shabby trick. Poor fellow! He had not a particle of beauty about him; indeed, I think he was ridiculously ugly, in all save prejudiced eyes; but he had an honest heart, one that would have broken rather than have grieved or disobeyed his owner; and when I had to shoot him (he broke his back, leaping a drain with a friend to whom I had unfortunately lent him for a day’s schooling), he turned such an eye upon me as I cannot to this day think of without a lump in my throat that is very seldom there.

The voice, as an instigator and soother, is alike powerful with the horse, if we only know how to use it; and being so, it is a pity that it should ever be employed for any other purpose than that which is good. Teach your horse from the beginning to know the sound of your voice—the various tones which signify approval, warning, encouragement, and reproof—and by them you can teach him to obey you, just as you can with the reins.

I do not altogether approve of speaking to strange horses when mounted upon them. Were I, for instance, to borrow a hunter for a day’s outing, I don’t think I should be inclined to talk much to him; I should fear that he might not understand me, and that mischief might consequently ensue. I have, in fact, seen men get tremendous falls in the hunting field through shouting at hired mounts, just when they were rising at their fences—frightening the animals out of their wits by so doing, and throwing them completely off their balance.

With your own horses, however, it ought to be quite a different thing. You should so accustom them to the sound of your voice that, no matter how it may be raised, it shall have no startling effect upon them. An intelligent animal will soon come to know and judge of your meaning by the tone in which you speak to him, and will learn his own name, too, marvellously quickly, if frequently called by it, a thing that will be a great aid to you in training him. He will very soon also comprehend the meaning of such terms, as “Trot,” “Canter,” “Stand,” “Walk,” and so forth, and will ere long obey every mandate that comes directly and firmly from your lips.

“Hi, over!” is, for instance, a capital incentive for making a horse fly his fences without hanging at them,—but you must never trade upon an animal’s intelligence for the purpose of fooling him, or showing off. I once knew a man who boasted that by simply saying “go!” he could make his mare jump fifteen feet of an ordinary field, and he tried it twice or thrice for the benefit of unbelieving acquaintances; but, when next he took the animal out to hunt, and raced her at a brook, with the hitherto magic word screamed loudly in her ear, it proved to be a very decided case of “go,” and “go in” also, for she just planted her toes on the brink of it, and, stopping short, sent her over-confident rider head foremost into the water.

The use of the whip as a means of managing a horse is, unfortunately, too often entirely misunderstood: to hurt, frighten, or coerce with it being seemingly the chief object with many riders. Allowing that all three may at times be necessary—as in the case of vicious horses, for instance—ladies will very rarely find it to be the case, their mounts being, generally speaking, of a gentle and docile type. Leaving, therefore, the abuses of the whip on one side, its uses in the hands of a competent horsewoman are usually reduced to the part which it may be made to fill in helping her to guide her mount on the off side—just as a man’s second leg assists him in doing—and, in like manner, to press him up to his work. This can, of course, be best accomplished by the aid of a stout hunting-crop, carried handle uppermost, as a rule: although there are times when to shift the position of the whip, and press the heaviest part against the horse’s flank, will be found very effectual, particularly when negotiating ugly trappy fences, or turning sharp corners at a brisk trot. For example, when, in the latter case, the turn is to the right, the rider’s body should be bent slightly to the off side of her mount, and her leg be pressed lightly but firmly against his flank on the near side. This preserves an even balance, and will often save a fast flippant trotter from coming right down. When the turn is to the left, the body should be inclined a little that way, while the whip handle is judiciously pressed against the off side, thus preventing the animal’s quarters from swinging too suddenly round.

I may here take occasion to say that corners ought never to be turned without both hands being put to the bridle, and a support given to both sides of the horse; if to the right, the leg the strongest—if to the left, the whip. When the pace is very quick, and the turn is a decidedly sharp one, the horse’s hind legs will need to be brought under him all the quicker, for which reason the body of the rider must sway well with his motion, while the necessary support is, at the same time, given on either side.

I shall conclude my observations about the uses of the whip by saying—use it as little as you can to punish, and as much as you can to aid. Above all things, never take it up in anger, nor for a moment forget that the creature on whom the stroke is about to fall is sensitive to its lightest touch, and is fully capable of being ruled without severity.

The same remarks apply also to the spur—the abuses of which are even more general and lamentable than are those of the whip.



I have hitherto been surmising that your rides have been upon your own horse: one specially purchased for you, and perfectly trained for a lady’s use. If such a state of things could always be ensured, equestrianism would be a safe and delightful pastime for the gentler sex—but, unfortunately, it cannot be so. Ladies who are much in the saddle are called upon often to ride a variety of horses, and under such circumstances their position is an awkward one, if unaccustomed to manage any save thoroughly-trained and well-mannered animals. To have none other for one’s own use is at all times advisable, so far as it can be done, but occasions may arise when you will have to prove your claim to a higher title than that of merely a “nice” or “ladylike” rider. Say, for instance, that you are stopping at a country house, your invitation to which has not been extended to your horse, or yet to your groom, and that there are riding parties every day, which you are invited to join, your host sometimes supplying you with a mount, and a neighbour occasionally offering to lend you one, it is scarcely probable that, having a different animal to carry you every time you go out, you can hope to escape discovering the uncomfortable effects which pernicious training, or subsequent injudicious handling, invariably bring about. To be prepared for these—not to be taken aback by them—to be ready to face every emergency, and overcome every difficulty in the way of equitation—is the true meaning of the word “horsewoman.” It shall be my office, then, in this chapter to endeavour to tell you as concisely as possible how to act (in all cases of ordinary road-riding), when called upon to control horses with whose ways you are not altogether familiar.

In the first place, when your mount is led to the door, be ready in time to go out and inspect him. This you can readily do while the laggards of the party are preparing for their ride. In using the term “inspect,” I do not mean that you are to assume a confident, boastful air, or proceed to make an ostentatious examination, as though nobody knew anything about horse business save yourself. This would only make you appear ridiculous, and be calculated to incur dislike. You should go quietly to your horse’s head, and while affecting to be engaged in caressing him, run a hasty eye over the following points: that the saddle is quite clear of the play of the shoulders, and yet not too far back; that the girths are tight enough, and the surcingle not too loose, although decidedly easier than the girths; that the headstall is sufficiently long, and in every way easy-fitting—the curb-chain the correct length—the lip-strap on—the martingale (if a standing one) of easy length, and if a running, so arranged that the pull of the reins shall be in the proper place—namely, at the top of the withers. If you find nothing to correct, you may account yourself fortunate; if, on the contrary, you perceive that anything is amiss or out of place, signify the same quietly to the groom, and then go indoors, or turn aside, while he rectifies it. There is something positively unkind in standing staring at a servant while he attends to matters which you have pointed out to him for correction. Ten to one, if you do so, he will grow confused beneath your scrutiny, and will leave his task imperfectly accomplished. Consideration for others ought at all times to be a part of your religion. Give no unnecessary trouble; do as much for yourself as you possibly can; never speak harshly to even the humblest; strive to put everybody at ease; look away from an embarrassed person until he has recovered his composure; and if you detect a failure or shortcoming in a servant’s work, tell him gently about it—quietly, and without impatience—and it will probably be rectified very much sooner than if you scolded or stormed. For my own part, I have no liking for grooms at all, and regard most of them as the veriest eye servers; but I know there are times when they are unjustly blamed. In this matter I once got a useful lesson at an English country house. My horse was brought to the door without a lip-strap, and with things in general so very indifferently turned out that, being in a hurry, I got provoked, and began to say more than my custom usually was. The groom, whose eyes were cast down, looked pitifully at me as he answered, “Forgive me to-day, ma’am, please. My little child died this morning!” And the great tears rolled down the poor fellow’s cheeks, and I felt grieved for having spoken impatiently to him when his heart was so sore. It was a lesson not to be forgotten, for there are times with ourselves when sickness or trouble prevents us from attending properly to our tasks; and servants are liable to similar weaknesses.

It will be well, when you are seated comfortably in your saddle and have felt your horse’s mouth a little, to inquire of your host (should the animal belong to him) whether or not he has any peculiarities, or “little tricks,” for which it may be as well you should be prepared. You will be almost certain to hear “No,” for it is a strange coincidence that men are quite as infatuated about their equine possessions as women are about their children, and will never on any account be induced to believe that such a thing as a fault can possibly exist in the nature or training of any of their stud. At the same time, it can be no harm to ask, and then, if the owner can be reluctantly brought to acknowledge that he “wants a bit of rousing,” you may prepare yourself for the discomforts of riding a slug, or, if the animal is allowed to be “a trifle skittish,” you can ask for an ounce or two of diachylon, or the same quantity of birdlime, to stick yourself well in the saddle!

Joking apart, it is really an unwise thing to be too foolhardy about riding strange horses. The most courageous equestrian in the world ought not to fancy herself above asking, in a pleasant off-hand way, for some information concerning the character of her casual mount; in fact, the more accomplished the rider, the more necessary it may be to do so, for there are many owners of horses who know very little themselves about riding, or of the perils attendant upon supplying ladies with unsuitable mounts—and the consequence is, that if there happens to be in the stable a creature whom that Irish groom, already mentioned, would call a “tattherin’ divil,” he is quietly told off on a hunting day, or otherwise, for the use of the lady or gentleman who may be esteemed the most capable of managing him.

A Hungerton farmer—one of a big class—once volunteered to lend me a magnificent high-flyer to negotiate the big thorn fences with the Quorn pack. I was foolish enough to accept, without asking anything about the animal, except whether he could jump; and when I tell you that between Beeby and Scraptoft he gave me two falls, that he knocked down a boy on a pony, and damaged a wrecker to the extent of a couple of sovereigns, besides bringing me home without a hat, and with my face well stuck over with thorns and a general need of surgical assistance all about me, it will be readily imagined that the “high-flyer” was not exactly an eligible beast for a lady to ride. But his owner only stood in the doorway laughing from ear to ear when he saw me, and uttered a great “guffaw” on hearing the recital of his property’s misdeeds. “Glory be to Christmas! I thought you could ride anything!” was all that he said, fairly doubled in two with merriment at the sight of my forlorn appearance,—and I answered crossly enough, that had I been as wise when setting out as I was on returning, I would have seen that the animal was differently bitted, and have clothed myself in sackcloth—to say nothing of ashes—instead of in the best hunting-gear of which I was possessed. “Well, you never asked me a word about him,” his owner said, still in a roar, “or I’d have told you that he was a rum one when once he got going!” and as I had nothing to say in reply to this, I took myself and my rags upstairs out of sight, and spent the next day in bed, with a leech to my eye, and plasters all over my body.

To return to the subject of road-riding.

Always strive to make your horse start from the door at a walk. If he is properly trained he will step nicely out, nodding his head as he goes; but no matter how quiet he may appear, it will not be well to leave him an entirely loose rein. You should keep a light but firm hold upon the bridle, so as to be ready at a second’s warning to bring restraining pressure to bear upon his mouth.

If you want a horse to walk fast, ride him with the snaffle only; but when in the park, or desirous of showing off, you will best bring out his action by a light use of the curb. If he is a very highly-mettled animal, and anxious to get off on first setting out, do not irritate him by keeping him back with too tight a rein. Allow him to trot away pretty freely at the beginning, and after awhile he will be almost certain to settle down and walk collectedly for you with a slack bridle. To hold a horse in, and then whip or spur him to make him walk, is but to turn his courage to vice. My counsel is, leave him his head, and when he attempts to break—namely, to get into a trot or canter—at a time when it is your wish that he should walk, pull him gently up and make him begin again. By adopting this method, and preserving as strict a command over your own temper as over the reins, you will soon teach almost any horse to walk correctly.

I believe that in no other pace can there be found such true experience of the meaning of “light hands.” This admirable attribute—which, it must be confessed, is generally confined to women—signifies absolute control over an animal with scarcely any display of force—a sort of elastic touch, by which accomplished riders convey their meaning to their mounts through the almost imperceptible action of the bit, acted upon by the reins held lightly with the fingers. This is a poor explanation, but it will do to serve as a guide, until experience shall have taught you far better than printed instructions ever can.

I would have you remember that although a very perfect walker may be permitted to go forward for a good space with a loose rein, he should never, if tired, be allowed to do so, for even one moment. Hold him with a firm, even hand, keeping a judicious watch upon the bridle, and drawing his head rather downward and toward his chest. By this means he will be constrained to bring his hind legs well and regularly under him.

Young riders are often exceedingly incautious when taking beaten horses home after a hunt, desiring to affect the seemingly careless seat and equally unstudied handling of the reins which are the prerogatives of finished horsewomen. These, having complete confidence in themselves, can afford a certain show of nonchalance, but it will not do for students to follow their “carelessness,” until their own claim to both “hands” and “seat” shall have become perfectly ensured.

You must, when walking, keep your horse collected: by which I mean that he is to be kept well on his haunches, and prevented from crossing his legs. Let him pick his own steps if going over rutty or uneven ground; move with him as he moves, turn as he turns, so as to be, as it were, a portion of him, and, when going round a corner, do not pull his head any further in that direction than will just enable you to see his eye.

Having thus considered the subject of instructing an imperfectly-broken horse to walk well upon the road—in such a manner as shall gain for him the reputation of being a good roadster, or covert hack—we will now say a few words about trotting. When you want an animal to change from a walk to a trot, signify your wish to him by a light movement of the bridle in his mouth, a pressure of your leg and whip-handle, and an indication of your meaning by a slight rising in the stirrup. When he begins to go, keep him thoroughly well collected, but not on any account too tightly reined in. Timid equestrians do themselves and their mounts great injustice by fancying that a tight grip of the bridle, and consequent shortening of the horse’s head, is in any way calculated to ensure their safety. It is exactly the contrary way. Allow somebody to rein back your own head and neck, and then attempt to walk down an unknown staircase, or go in and out among obstacles that you cannot see. Ten to one you will make a blunder, and come down; whereas, had you been left your head, your progress would in all probability have been perfectly easy and safe. I hope I shall succeed in making my meaning distinctly understood in this matter, because it really is a most important one. I just want to illustrate the difference between permitting an animal to go all abroad (or what Tom Cannon calls “slummucking”)—and reining him in so very tightly that he cannot see where he is expected to plant his feet. On your complete knowledge of this essential subject, one-half, if not more, of your success as a horsewoman must inevitably depend, and in my anxiety that you should grasp the meaning of it, I may, perhaps, be found fault with for referring to it too often, or for speaking of it in too homely a fashion. This is, I am aware, an age of false refinement: one in which a writer has to grapple with extraordinary difficulties, being stigmatised as “coarse” when he ventures to set forth home and useful truths, and “vulgar” when he writes humorously or introduces a spice of fun. Now, it is not my way to care in the least whether or not such terms are applied to me by outsiders (my friends can judge for themselves)—but I would a good deal rather any day be a “vulgar” practical writer, doing some good in my generation, than a “refined” useless one, and I think it necessary to make reference to the matter in this place, because I have a great deal yet to say on subjects connected with the one on which I am writing, and if I am to dress up my sentences in flowers and satin ribbons, instead of suffering the plain meaning of them to appear, I may go on writing for many months to come, and yet fail to make myself properly understood in the end.

You must bear in mind that the trot is the horse’s natural pace, and that when not overpressed he will go further and with less fatigue to himself when regulated to it, than at either a canter or gallop. At the same time, he must not on any account be urged beyond the limit of his powers, for such a course is not only cruel, but dangerous—inasmuch as an animal going a hard pace cannot, if he makes a mistake, recover his balance as rapidly as if proceeding at the even rate of eight, or from that to ten miles an hour. I consider the latter excellent going indeed; too fast, in fact, unless the remainder of your party happen to be as well mounted as yourself—for nothing on earth is more indicative of bad taste than riding perpetually in front of those who are in company with you.

I am not, as a rule, at all in favour of allowing a horse to break from a trot to a canter, or from one pace of any kind to another, but there are times—when going long distances, for instance—at which a humane rider will permit her mount to do so by way of rest and change, rather than keep him perpetually going at precisely the same pace, in order to gain for him the name of an exceptionally fine trotter.

Your rise and fall in the saddle should be light, graceful, straight, easy, and accurately in time with the movements of your horse’s forelegs. By attending to this rule when riding on the road, you will save yourself and your mount a great deal of unnecessary fatigue.

If you find, when trotting, that your horse is going in an uncomfortable, one-sided manner, giving now and again a strange sort of cow kick, you may be confident that the saddle is hurting him. In such a case dismount at once, and if at all close to home, put the bridle over your arm and lead him the rest of the journey. Should it happen, however, when you are a long distance away, you must only take him very quietly indeed, until you are near enough to walk the remainder of the way yourself.

It is on just such emergencies that the practice, which I have so staunchly recommended, of wearing comfortable easy-fitting boots, comes most usefully in. I have seen ladies remain seated upon the backs of most palpably suffering horses, simply because they were absolutely incapable of walking even half a mile in the boots which they had donned for riding.

Never allow your horse to get into a jog-trot when in company with a riding party, or in the park—but remember that it is a most valuable pace at which to bring home a tired hunter. A very light easy canter, wherever the road is soft, or where there is sufficient grass by the side of it to take the jar off his feet, or else what is known as the “jog,” will be the most humane way of getting him safely to his stable.

Many lady riders imagine that cantering is a safer as well as a pleasanter pace at which to travel, than trotting (whether fast or slow) can ever be. This is really a great mistake; trotting is the safest pace at which a horse can go, provided that he is sound-footed. I shall strive to explain the reason in a few words. When cantering, the off fore and off hind leg are advanced together, leaving the others in the rear; thus the diagonal legs of the two pairs are not set down simultaneously. If you listen to a perfectly sound horse trotting on a road, you will hear four even beats; but in the canter it may be only two or three, according as the animal’s weight is adjusted. When trotting he makes his diagonal legs serve him turn about, so that when one pair is going forward, the other is sustaining his weight in an equal, or perfectly even manner; not in a one-sided way, as is the case in the canter. A sound-footed horse, trotting at a regular pace, always has two diagonal supports under him, and two coming to their assistance, for which very reason fast trotting is a dangerous pace when a leg or foot happens to be unsound, or when a slovenly motion is indulged in.

A horse trotting quickly should never be pulled up in a hurry. You should bring him to a slow trot by shortening the reins, and then to a walk by sitting down in the saddle, and talking to him in a language that he will very readily learn to comprehend.

In reining a horse back, you must keep in mind the fact that he cannot move at all if you drag him so suddenly backward that he gets both hind-legs under him together. It is a revolting and heartrending sight to see the way in which draymen beat unfortunate horses about the breasts and bellies by way of punishment for not backing heavy loads far enough, when, in reality, the wretched animals are in such position that they cannot by any possibility move their extended hind-legs. I saw a cruel instance of this in Liverpool a few months ago: a carter savagely beating his horse, a crowd of persons looking on, and one or two among them abusing the man in no measured terms; yet not one had the sense to tell him that if he would only lead the horse quietly forward, even a step or two, and then back him, doing the same thing every time that he came to a stop, the desired object would very soon be attained—which it was, as soon as the proper method had been tried. This is just the principle of reining back. The horse must be collected, and brought square on his legs every time that he resists, and be again brought under the influence of the bridle, for backing purposes, when he has come to an even stand.

I fancy it will be almost superfluous to tell you to observe strictly the rules of the road—namely, to keep to the left, except when you have to pass anything going your way, in which case you must get by on the right of it.

Your rise and fall in the saddle should be light, graceful


Cantering is a very nice pace for park or road riding, when the ground is soft, and not cut up by stones. A trained horse will start from a walk to a canter at a very slight indication from his rider, but surmising (as in the last chapter) that you have accepted the loan of a somewhat unmannerly or not sufficiently educated mount, you must induce him to canter by collecting him well on his haunches (from which the motion is in reality performed), touching him with the whip on the off side, and drawing his head gently round to the near until he makes a start. When he does so, balance yourself in time to his movement, and use the bridle lightly, with a very slight give-and-take motion of your hands. Do not allow him to get into a gallop; but, at the same time, remember that it will be cruel to keep him cantering too long, especially unless you permit him to change his leg, for which purpose you must pull him quietly up, and reverse the movement by which, in the first instance, you have urged him to go off. A slow, handsome canter, collected and dignified, looks extremely well no doubt in the park, but it is terribly trying to a horse when kept up too long; in fact, a smart, stirring gallop will not distress him nearly so much.

When cantering keep your knees firmly pressed against the pommels—sit close to the saddle, like a part of your horse—and throw your shoulders well back.

The very nice pace called a hand-gallop may be indulged in by slackening the rein a little, and encouraging your mount by voice or bridle to go a trifle faster. The hand-gallop never distresses a horse, even a broken-winded one; it is a joyous, exhilarating motion, in which both steed and rider find pleasure. Conversation need not be stopped by it, or even interrupted for a moment, and it will be found a delightful pace at which to go to covert in the morning, or to travel on to the next one, when “blank” has been called at the first.

The hand-gallop is only pastime—mere play, without any peril—but the gallop proper, to which I now come to allude, is a very serious business indeed for a young rider to take in hand. If your horse is a trained one, you have only to sit down close when he gallops, and hold the reins firmly in both hands: your seat secure, your body as motionless as you can make it, your elbows like hinges, your hands low on the withers, keeping your horse’s head straight and steady, while you give-and-take with his every stride, and on no account, or under any circumstances whatever, keep a dead pull on his mouth.

I shall surmise, however, as before (for the purpose of instructing you) that your steed is not by any means perfect, and that he will probably give you a good deal of trouble before you have quite done with him. He will not be likely to have all the vices, or even one-half of those for which I am about to prepare you, but you will probably meet with them in one form or another at different periods of your career as a horsewoman: therefore a few words about such matters will not, I think, be amiss.

If called upon to ride a puller, get his head up, and then drop your hands a little to him, to see whether he will yield to your will. If he fails to do so, catch the reins short, draw back your foot, give him one good pull, and then another: in short, a succession of them—but yield to him always between whiles, and speak to him in a quiet, soothing manner. Do not attempt to fight him, or he may run away with you, and that is nasty for a lady. If you think that he has the bit between his teeth, you may saw at it from side to side until you get him to release it.

Boring is a very unpleasant vice, if I may call it one. Few horses have it naturally, and I attribute it in most cases to an undue use of the curb. I have found that the best method of treating it is to take up the cheek-pieces of the headstall. If a horse bores to one side (a most unsightly habit), attach the throat-latch to the ring of the snaffle-bridle by a small strap on the side opposite to that on which the head is bent. This is generally effectual, because it brings the mouthpiece to bear upon the gum.

A kicker is not a pleasant mount for a lady, and the powers which some animals possess in this especial line are simply astonishing. As a rule you will perceive, either by the laying back of your horse’s ears, or a queer wriggle of his body, that he is going to do something that will stamp him as a villain, and if these indications are accompanied by a backward turning of a very whitened eye, look out at once for your life! Many horses will, however, give no warning of any kind, and they of course are the most dangerous sort. Thoroughbreds are quite dreadful in this particular. They will kick when going a brisk gallop. I have twice had my hat lashed by the tails of high kickers—and the most stunning fall I ever got in my life was through being caught napping by one of these volatile gentlemen, who pretended to be going up to his bridle in the most collected manner possible (when exercising one day in frosty weather, in a wood), and suddenly shot me off like an arrow from a bow!—so high, too, that to this day I am ready to swear I saw the tops of the bare elms, while the force of my contact with the ground, when at length I came down upon it, gave me concussion of the spine, from which I suffered for several succeeding months.

A horse that kicks must be ridden in a severe bit, except in cases where it is only an ebullition of spirits. Where this is the case, ride him hard, and get it out of him; when it amounts to an actual vice, you must keep him partially in order by using a bit such as I seriously decry for other forms of misdemeanor, and when he begins his unpleasant pranks get his head well up, so that he can’t force it between his knees, and bend him round until you compel him to turn. By doing this a few times he will probably leave off kicking.

To ride a kicker in the hunting-field is highly injudicious and unfair. Some excellent hunters, however, though not by any means confirmed kickers, will lash out dangerously when riders are crowded together at a gap, and this is about the very worst time at which a horse can possibly misconduct himself. When riding one of this sort, you must be content to pay the penalty of his vagaries by isolating yourself from the rest of the field—a disadvantage, of course, for all riders naturally make for the best places at which to get out; and if, in spite of this, you are pressed upon by others, you must put your hand to the back of your waist, the fingers turning outwards, and motion slightly with them, in order that those in the rear of you may know that they are in peril.

Buck-jumping is another most unpleasant vice, although happily not a very common one in this country. I have only come across one horse who possessed it. He belonged to a Meath farmer, and I bought him for a song on account of his failing. He got me off five times the first day that I attempted to ride him, and so delighted was he with himself when he succeeded in gaining the odd number, that he actually kept bucking about, like a playful goat, all around me—squealing and romping, and flourishing his horrid heels at me—while I lay exhausted upon the ground, too much bruised to be able to get up without help. After this I put a gag-snaffle on him, pulled the reins sharply when he attempted to get his head down, and then, when he lowered it in spite of me, let the leathers slip through my fingers on to his neck, leaned back as far as ever I could (still, however, keeping hold of the reins), and the moment I was able to get a pull at him, turned him round and round from one side to the other, until both he and I were pretty tired of the work. All things considered, I cannot conscientiously recommend a buck-jumper for a lady’s use.

Rearing is a very dangerous vice for a horsewoman to have to contend against, owing to the side position which she occupies in the saddle. If ever you are unlucky enough to have to mount a rearer, do not touch him with a curb at all; ride him on the snaffle only, and when he attempts to rise up with you, lean well forward and clutch his mane firmly with your hands, holding the bridle very loosely all the while, and touching him sharply with your heel. Do not on any account lay your whip upon him, be it ever so lightly. I myself have found the butt end of such an article, brought down briskly between the ears of a rearer, a very efficient mode of bringing him to his senses,—but please bear in mind that I do not either advocate or recommend it: in fact, rather than do so, I should prefer to warn you against it, for once, when, flushed with my own success, I chanced to say something in favour of the system, my temerity brought thirty-two letters down upon me (most of them from horrified old gentlemen who declared that their daughters were practising on the carriage horses!), and the columns of more than one sporting paper were inundated for a month or two with an inane correspondence.

I have found a rearing bit most useful at times; but, if taken aback when riding without one, it will be well to follow the practice of holding on to the mane with one hand, say the left, while with the right the reins are pulled in a downward direction, bringing the horse’s head round ever so little, in order if possible to make him change his leg. The fact is, there are vicious rearers whom nothing will cure—cunning ones who know enough never to tumble back upon you, and are sufficiently amenable in other ways to encourage the hope that something may be made of them—playful ones who transgress more from skittishness than vice—and timid ones who, having suffered from too severe bitting, throw themselves upward as soon as they feel the touch of the bridle upon their mouths. An accomplished horsewoman will soon distinguish the differences which mark these various offenders, and will act with coolness and judgment, according as her training may point out to her. I believe that to be perfectly cool on all occasions, never to be flurried, or taken unawares, and above all things never to lose temper, no matter how trying the circumstances, will best ensure successful equestrianism, both for men and women. To expect to ride without encountering difficulties and worries, as well as risks and dangers, is only to look for something that cannot possibly be attained. Ride, of course, you may—if to sit calmly on a slug’s back, and walk him round a grass field, or along a country road, can be called riding—but the term, in the sense in which I apply it, means something very different indeed. It is replete with dangers and anxieties of all sorts, but surely it is worth them. Many a time, when I have come in fagged, heated, and dirty, after battling with a young beginner—or ragged and weary after a hard day’s hunting through bush and briar, it has been said to me, “Surely the pleasure, such as it is, cannot repay you for the toil.” Utter nonsense, of course! Is any trouble, or any loss, for an instant remembered in the joyous burst of music with which hounds rattle their fox out of covert, or the delight of feeling a hitherto intractable youngster bending at length submissively to one’s will?

Often and often now, when sitting alone in my quiet study, or watching the active pleasures from which I am wholly debarred, I feel how truly I have “had my day”—a most happy one—and how willingly I would go through the same sufferings, if consequent upon the same joys. Tempora mutantur. Even so, let it pass.

Shying cannot properly be called a vice, though many consider it one. I think it generally proceeds from defective vision, and where this is the case the animal may be led quietly up to the object of his aversion, and shown that it is nothing very dreadful after all. Shying at a bicycle or road-engine is so extremely natural that the rider—so far from showing any anger against his mount—ought to soothe and quiet him by every means in his power. A young, fresh horse will shy at a bird, a piece of paper—anything—but a clever equestrian should never be discomposed by such trifles. A steady seat ought to be sufficient security against all possible disaster.

Stumbling is a very unpleasant weakness, though not a vice. Being too heavily shod is often a cause of it, and this of course can be remedied; but there is little chance of effecting any good when the fault proceeds from defective muscular action, or from malformation of the feet. Neither can it be cured when it arises from the shoulders being too straight, or the forelegs shaky. A bad, cramped trotter without any proper knee action, is extremely likely to stumble and come down, and all that a rider can possibly do with such a one is to keep him well collected—I do not mean reined in, but going properly up to his bridle—and to make him bring his hind legs under him, at whatever pace he may be going. I greatly dislike the habit, common among ignorant riders and drivers, of striking a horse when he stumbles: it cannot then effect any good, and is calculated to give him an unpleasant habit of prancing about whenever the mishap occurs.

Disquietude in mounting is a very serious fault. Some horses plunge and dance in a highly dangerous manner—the result of nervousness, or of having at some time or another been frightened by some mischance. When this is the case the horse ought to be held for a moment or two by the snaffle rein only, quite close to the cheek, and be spoken to at the same time in a soothing manner. He should never on any account be scolded, and by-and-by, when he quiets down a little, the groom should stand at his head, and hold the snaffle-reins firmly but lightly in both hands. If you perceive that he (the attendant) is not thoroughly master of his business, it will be yours to see that he does not by any movement bring the curb into action, or pinch the horse’s jaw.

Running away is a desperate vice for a lady to have to grapple with, and my own experiences of it warn me to put others on their guard. If a horse is known to be a runaway, never be induced to trust yourself upon his back. He will do it again at some time or another, even though his first offence may have almost passed out of mind, and it will be better that you should give him a wide berth. I must candidly say, however, that I would rather, for my own safety, ride ten practised runaways—what are called old hands at it—than one mad, frightened horse that had lost his wits from some real cause of alarm.

The best advice that I can give in either case is this: Do not keep a dead pull upon the reins, because that will not be a particle of use; in fact, by doing so you will only be supporting his head, and giving him stamina to go faster. Try by a succession of strong jerks and pulls to prevent him getting fully into his stride, for once he does so you may bid good-bye to any chance of stopping him until he has run himself clean out. A horse that is not a confirmed runaway may be checked by sawing his mouth hard with the snaffle, but my advice is, do not try to stop him at all, if you have fair going ground before you, or that you can possibly breast him up any sort of incline. In such case, let him go—sit close down in your saddle—and when you feel him slacken, take up your whip in earnest, and give it him within an inch of his life. This latter advice, however, only applies to “rogues”—animals who habitually run away and endanger their riders. To whip a really startled horse would be both cruel and unwise; nor is it ever judicious to do so in cases where the going is not both fair and open in front of you. If run away with in park or street, you must endeavour to keep clear of trees and vehicles, and strive to get your horse stopped as best you can. Happily, such catastrophes do not very often occur.

I am against the theory that a rider ought in all instances to stick to a runaway horse. As a rule it is better to do so, but there are decidedly a few exceptions. A pet idea of my own is to bring him down, in whatever way it can best be done; but I do not for a moment want to persuade others to do this. One man’s meat is another man’s poison; and on this principle a plan which is, or has been, successful in my own hands might prove a dangerous failure in another’s. I once stopped a maddened horse that had made away with me at Melton, by letting him have his head for about a furlong, or something less, and then giving him one stupendous tug with the reins. The sudden jerk to his mouth caused him to cross his legs, and he came down a “thundering cropper,” giving me one, of course, also; but riding, as I always did, in a plain racing stirrup, without having my foot thrust “home,” I got clear off, and escaped without any more serious injury than a very severe shaking. The sensation was not a nice one, I confess, and the peril was great; but, on the whole, I should prefer it again to enacting Mazeppa, or something like it, on the back of a wild steed, who would probably not stop until he had landed his rider at that fatal bourne from whence no traveller returns.


Surmising that you are now as perfect as possible in park and road riding, you must qualify yourself as a huntress by learning to jump every kind of obstacle that will be likely to come in your way. Indeed, it is advisable for every rider, even though destined to spend a lifetime without ever hearing the music of the hounds, to acquire practice in leaping, as a means of improving the seat and securing immunity from possible danger and inconvenience. I mean to convey, that to a lady equestrian who knows nothing of sitting over a jump, a long ride in the country will be likely to prove somewhat embarrassing, seeing that newly-cut ditches and small sheep-hurdles are frequently to be met with, and where some members of the party jump them and others hang back, the difference of opinion will not tell in favour of the laggards. To be ready for all emergencies is the rule of good riding, and even if country difficulties have not to be encountered, there may be times—probably will be—when an animal will bounce suddenly forwards, or bound into the air from very exuberance of spirits, and if his rider has not learned to sit over a fence it will be ten to one against her keeping her position in the saddle. An unprepared or untaught rider is always thrown forward by a horse’s leap, and the object to be gained by teaching is to be able to offer suitable resistance to this—and to do so, no matter how sudden or unexpected the movement may be.

Some excellent authorities assert that a lady’s first leaping lessons ought always to be in a school. I object to the word “always” in this instance, and should like to substitute “generally.” Without in the very least depreciating the excellence of school teaching—for it sometimes is excellent, though oftener the reverse—I have nevertheless undertaken to teach “riding without a master,” and with this object in view I shall offer a few hints upon the subject in a simple, common-sense fashion, which I hope may prove profitable to those who wish to learn.

I think it an excellent plan, if in the country, to begin by practising over fallen trees—or if a place can be found where two or three of these have been felled together and are lying at short distances from one another, so much the better. Such a spot affords capital schooling-ground. Small ditches too, and cuttings, are very nice—and so are little streams that don’t call for much exertion on the part of the rider to enable her to get over them. If, however, your surroundings are not such as will admit of your practising over natural obstacles of an easy nature, have one or two artificial ones erected, in the shape of small hurdles, interwoven with gorse or some such matter, but strive to avoid taking your first leaps over a bar—a thing at which many horses are apt to go “slovenly,” owing to the fact that they see the daylight underneath, and have sense to know quite well that they are only being humbugged.

When you have acquired a certain amount of confidence over such trifling obstacles as I have mentioned, it will be well for you to enlist the services of a good rider, and ask him to pilot you over a few easy fences, and to show you the way through a gap or two, with perhaps a small ditch on the off or landing side. You must avoid being too ambitious, or over-confident, if you happen, fortunately, to get on well at first. The horse on which you practice should be a steady, easy jumper, neither too flippant nor at all apt to refuse, and you should ride him without a spur, until such time as you are qualified to take him into the hunting-field.

When going straight at a leap, sit firmly in the centre of your saddle, your head well up, your eyes looking right between your horse’s ears, the snaffle reins in both hands, with just a slight feeling upon your mount’s mouth, without any attempt at holding him back or clinging by the bridle to secure your own safety. Never on any account contract the habit of clutching short at the reins, or at any part of the saddle, in order to help you in preserving your balance—nor should you throw up your hands, which must in all instances be kept low and steady. When approaching a leap, bend your body slightly backwards from the waist up, at the same time keeping your seat firmly in the middle of the saddle, that you may not be disconcerted by the action of the loin-muscles of the horse. The degree to which this “leaning back” is to be carried must of course depend altogether upon the size and nature of the leap to be accomplished; for example, at a big-drop, or down-jump, a good rider will almost touch the horse’s croup, but you must never lose sight of the fact that it is the shoulders that are to be bent flexibly backwards (returning to an upright position on landing), and not any part of the body that lies below the waist.

The two great secrets of leaping are, to sit like a centaur while your waist and shoulders adapt themselves pliantly to the movements of your horse—and never to interfere with his mouth. Plenty of headroom has always been my cry; I believe that where it is attended to there is very rarely an accident. Horses, even those that are not very highly trained, are marvellously clever, and will generally put their feet in the right places if allowed to see where they are to put them, but a rider might just as well blindfold a horse at once—tie a thick bandage across his eyes—and then expect him to fence safely, as draw the reins so tight when he is rising that even if not absolutely thrown down by the action, he is prevented from seeing where he is expected to land. A horse cannot possibly do his work well or generously when compelled to carry his rider with his mouth—nor can a rider derive the pleasure that he is seeking while sitting altogether wrongly in the saddle.

It is quite beautiful to see the way in which young horses fence when their mouths are not interfered with. I have often taken a raw youngster out over a trappy country, with only leading reins on him, or long ropes, and have jumped alongside of him over the little ditches, transported with delight at the manner in which he gathered his haunches under him, and the clever way in which, on landing, he planted his feet. It is really charming to watch them, and most sad to think and know that by-and-by, when some professedly fine, but in reality totally ignorant rider gets upon their backs, every second fence or so will witness a cropper, and the young, fleet-limbed, spirited creatures will be beaten, and pulled at, and called “brutes,” and sworn at too, as though it were not the clumsy hands at their mouths that were in reality bringing them to grief.

Good hunters are, times out of number, thrown down by their riders. A lady, for instance, borrows a mount for a day, and hears from his owner (who perhaps knows very little indeed about horsemanship) that he’s a “capital goer, but wants a little lifting at his fences.” I have heard that idiotic expression made use of hundreds, nay, thousands of times. Well, out she goes; the animal, fresh and buoyant, starts away at a nailing pace, and when not interfered with goes skying over obstacles from which others are turning away,—but the half-frightened rider on his back has that word “lifting” imprinted upon her sensitive brain, and the moment the horse takes off at the first big fence, up go her hands with a sudden haul at the bridle, and the animal, surprised and thrown off his balance by the action, lands unevenly, if he lands at all, and very likely gives her a severe fall.


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There is not one on earth who is more against permitting any “slummucking,” or romping, or going “abroad,” than I am myself; to keep a horse well collected has always been my teaching; leave him his head when coming up to a fence; let him stretch his neck to see what it is; keep a light, very light, feeling upon the snaffle when he makes his effort; and, as he lands, but not till then, give him a gentle support with both hands—especially if the jump is a very big one, in order that he may not “peck.” Bear in mind, however, that if you attempt this support too soon—when he is in the air, for instance, or in fact until he needs it—you will undoubtedly throw him down. Practice will teach you all these things far better than anything else, but a careful study of them should not on any account be despised.

Horses do not as a rule like schooling. I believe they abhor it; there is not any kind of excitement about it—no emulation, no company, nothing, in short, to keep up the “go,”—therefore I maintain that more falls are to be had when practising in this way (owing to the fact that animals will not jump so generously as when actually going the pace), than are ever to be met with in the hunting-field. Still, it must occasionally be done, especially where young hunters are to be kept in practice—and I strongly advise you to undertake the doing of it yourself, rather than entrust your favourites to a heavy-handed groom, who will rattle the lives half out of them, and cram them at their fences in a manner calculated to spoil them utterly for your own subsequent use.

Never believe anybody who tells you that the best equestrians sit forward when their horses jump, and backward when they land. Such is really not the case at all. In some instances they may have begun by doing so—taught probably by a military riding-master to think it the proper thing—but one or two sounding knocks upon the nose or in the middle of the forehead, received through inability to regulate the precise time for the two distinct movements, have taught them to discard the theory as nonsensical, which it most certainly is.

I believe a great deal in having confidence, and in the power of imparting the same feeling to your horse; also, in keeping both him and yourself in perfect good temper. Ride him with judgment, and he will soon learn to understand exactly what it is that you want of him. Never take him too fast at wide ditches, or at fences that necessitate a rise; in all such instances suffer him to measure his stride;—give him time—don’t hustle him—(an unwise and horrid habit), let him gather his hind legs well under him, and on no account hold him hard on the curb. Remember, likewise, that you must always leave him sufficient length of rein to enable him to extend his neck.

I am against going over fast, even at water, unless the place is a formidably wide one. I think that undue haste must prevent a horse from measuring his stride, and that this is the reason why animals so frequently take-off too soon, and consequently either over-jump themselves, or land short. They have done it with myself, many times, in the early days of my riding career; there is scarcely a branch of the Lara in which I have not been ducked, and surely experientia docet. Moreover, a horse cannot possibly last in anything like a fast run, unless he is kept collected. A sprawler very soon comes to the end of his tether, while fair-and-easy goes far in the day. This is particularly the case where ridge and furrow, or marshy ground, have to be traversed.

You should accustom your horse to do small places slowly; blind fences and ugly trappy obstacles must be negotiated with deliberation, for the very worst falls are got through hustling animals at such things as these.

You should never take your horse’s attention for a moment from his work. A bad rider comes “fighting up” to a fence: spurring, striking, and jagging at his horse’s mouth—and somehow the good riders are not sorry when the fretted animal jerks his tormentor off, and gallops away without him. A mind at ease and undisturbed is absolutely essential to a fencer; to strike or spur him at a critical moment will probably throw him out of his stride, and may be the means also of throwing the rider out of the saddle.

There are certain varieties of jumps which it will be well to consider in detail, especially as beginners are apt to think that if they succeed with tolerable credit in getting over a few small cuttings in the country, they are fully qualified to take foremost place in the ranks of fair Dianas.

In timber-jumping, to begin with, you must remember that a horse quite fresh from his stable will naturally be able to accomplish much more than when half pumped out; and as a fall over timber is much nastier for a lady than almost any other description of casualty, I strongly advise you not to urge an animal that has jumped, say, four feet of timber with you at the first go off, to do more than three, or three and a-half, at the second. The reason is simply this: to accomplish timber safely a horse must rise well at it; this he cannot do if at all pumped out, and the consequence is that he hits it with his knees, or chest, and gives himself and his rider a terrific fall. There are fences that may be taken at a swing, others that can be scrambled over, and others again that must be negotiated deliberately, requiring more coolness than courage to accomplish the doing of them safely—but timber must be got over in thoroughly hunter-like fashion, or a terrific crash will be the result. High stiff rails, or gates, have more perils for riders than any other obstacle that can be met with in the hunting-field, not even excepting walls; for many hunters will go collectedly and steadily at these latter, when a four or five-barred gate, with the daylight showing through and letting them see what is on the other side will be either refused, or done in decidedly slovenly fashion, in which case the latter state is infinitely worse than the first.

In taking an up-jump, throw your head and shoulders well back, so that you may escape being struck in the face, and leave your horse unlimited headroom, for the danger of a leap of this description is, that the animal may not get his quarters sufficiently under him to land safely on his legs, and may in consequence be in danger of going back: in such case, if he is in the slightest degree trammelled about the mouth, he will be unable to stretch his neck or make the necessary struggle to recover himself.

Many ladies have a horror of going over water, the dread of immersion being no doubt the paramount cause of it; but I have always thought that a good wide brook, or a narrow branch of a river, was about the safest of all obstacles to encounter. In saying this, I of course mean where the banks are sound, for if either the taking-off or landing-ground happens to be marshy or rotten, there is nothing more conducive to a ducking.


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Horses do not, as a rule, enjoy jumping water; some blood ones don’t object to it, but most animals hate it, and will refuse if they can, especially where they have at any time had what is called “a cold bath.” Should you ever happen to be riding a horse who, on seeing water, gradually shortens his stride, and “shuts up” as he approaches it, do not try to get him over, for you may be certain that he will not have it. All very fine, it may be, to talk about not allowing yourself to be conquered, but the strongest effort in the world won’t make a horse jump water safely when he once refuses it, and it will not be pleasant to stand cudgelling him upon the bank, while he plants his toes in the sedges every time that you bring him back to it, with an air as though he were saying, “You may keep me here till doomsday, but over it I won’t go, unless you hire a skiff to carry me.”

A good water-jumper, going skimming along, ought to clear eighteen or twenty feet: even five-and-twenty not being over-much accounted of (with Irish horses, at all events) where the banks are sound; yet, as a rule, a brimming brook of fourteen feet will generally stop at least half a large field. There are two reasons for this: firstly, if the water is visible from a distance, horses slacken, and riders funk; and secondly, if it runs between banks, they gallop up to look at it, and then, all is lost.

The better bred a horse is, the better water-jumper he will assuredly be. Coarse-bred horses who are clever enough at ordinary fences, will almost always go clumsily at water, if they can be got to go at it at all; the reason being that clean-bred horses are the only really good stayers, and as deep or wide water is seldom met with at the beginning of a run, they alone have the stamina to carry them safely over, after galloping perhaps a stiff line of country for thirty minutes or so, with scarcely any check. When jumping water, give your horse a very long rein, and don’t touch him with the curb. Steady him when coming up to it, and again on landing, in order that he may get safely away on the other side, and not either peck or sprawl.

If you have to jump a thorn fence, and that it is leaning towards you, be sure there is something ugly on the other side, and go at it with sufficient determination to give your horse the necessary impetus for a safe get-over. If, on the other hand, the ditch is on the taking-off side, and that the hedge leans away from you, take him very steadily and deliberately—letting him see exactly what he has to do.

Finally, if the horse that you are riding happens to be old, or what is called “dickey,” namely, shaky on the forelegs, be careful about jumping him when the ground is hard. This applies likewise to tender-footed animals. I have ridden horses in February who travelled delightfully over soft slushy ground, and fenced splendidly when up to their fetlocks in mud,—yet, when March came round, and lands were dry and hard, they stood still and shivered at the sight of even an ordinary sheep-hurdle or small scoured drain. To force a horse to jump, under such circumstances is inhuman and unwise.



Riding refusers is unprofitable work for ladies, yet nothing seems to be more general in every hunting-field. I firmly believe that men ground their well-known objections to ladies hunting chiefly on this very thing,—nor is it altogether to be wondered at. What, for instance, can be more annoying to a well-mounted straight-going hunter than to have a lady get in front of him at a fence—the only negotiable spot in it, perhaps—and keep him and a number of others back, though hounds are running in the next field, while she whips, and kicks, and jags the mouth of a horse that is determined not to have it? Of course the rule in all such cases is that the rider of the refuser shall at once pull off and suffer the rest of the field to go by; but ladies never seem to remember that it applies to them, or ought at least to do so, quite as much as to their brethren or pilots, and so they resolutely hold the place, dragging first with one rein and then the other, and shouting “Go on” with great apparent bravery, while the horse dances and sidles, and shows every tooth in his head, owing to the continued drag upon his mouth, and disgusted horsemen turn away with very naughty expressions scarce checked upon their lips, and gallop off to seek some other means of getting over.

I have seen this sort of thing scores of times, and have felt angry and sorry about it together—angry at witnessing the punishment to the horse, as well as at being kept back myself when I wanted to get forward, and sorry for the ignorance, and occasionally the temper, which was the cause of it all.

Most riders—ladies especially—seem to have a firmly-rooted conviction that horses only refuse from vice, and consequently they form an idea that to whip it out of them will be the very best method of procedure that they can possibly adopt. A more ignorant theory could not by any possibility be acted upon. Unskilled riders, or those who are unpossessed of sufficient bodily strength to pull their horses well together when coming up to a fence (so as to make the animals shorten their stride and collect themselves before reaching it), will frequently meet with refusals; whereas, an accomplished horsewoman, even though labouring under the disadvantage of being mounted upon a vastly inferior animal, will be carried safely over, without any attempt to baulk. The truth is, a horse that is ridden either wildly or carelessly at his fences will be almost certain to refuse them, because he feels instinctively that he cannot take the jump with safety, or knows perhaps that, owing to the non-regulation of his speed, he will be compelled to take-off too soon, or not soon enough. This is one reason for refusing. Horses do not like endangering themselves; they are often more methodical, more cool-headed—shall I say more sensible?—than their riders; and where an animal feels that he cannot jump a place with safety to himself, he will generally decline having anything to do with it at all. There are, of course, some big, bold, fearless hearts—just as there are among riders—that will go for everything, houses included, should such happen to come in their way, and give no thought at all to consequences; but they are not always the best sort for ladies to ride. Something cool and collected will be found much better.

Allowing, then, that timidity—or, more properly speaking lack of confidence—is the primary cause of refusals, we have to consider it in juxtaposition with another, which will be far more difficult to deal with—namely, obstinacy, or sulk.

I know quite well that when readers arrive at this point they will at once want to be told how they are to distinguish between the two. I did, when I found that from time to time I had to contend against both evils. Well, I am about to tell you all that I know of it.

When you are coming up to something which you know quite well your horse can easily accomplish, and you nevertheless feel him give a sort of wriggle under you, while at the same time he begins to stiffen himself and drop out of his stride, you may know that he means roguery, and consequently be prepared for his sticking his toes in the ground when he gets up to it, and assuming a stony aspect, as though he were indifferent to consequences, and would be quite willing to stop there for a week, or even a fortnight, without grumbling, provided that you were obliging enough to carry him his water and corn with tolerable regularity. If, on the contrary, he gallops boldly up to the obstacle, throws his head forward, pulls it suddenly back, shivers slightly, and at once commences a retrograde movement, while signs of sweating break out upon his skin, you may be certain that he is refusing from timidity and not from vice. He lacks confidence in his powers, for some reason or another, unknown perhaps to you, but of which he himself is perfectly cognisant. He may have weak hocks, and be afraid to venture upon propelling himself, for fear of falling short. The hind quarters—hind legs, in fact—are the real propellers, the front ones being chiefly serviceable as supports: and if a horse feels that he cannot depend upon himself behind, he will naturally hesitate about rising to a leap. Watch, for example, a dog when recovering from a fit of sickness. He may, perhaps, be very anxious to get upon some particular chair, couch, or window cushion, which in the days of his robust health was a perfectly easy jump for him—yet now he is so weak on his hind legs that, although a strong desire to take the leap is palpably present with him, timidity nevertheless keeps him standing looking at it, and moving uneasily about in front of it; crouching at one instant as though prepared to make his spring, and the next rising upwards with a sort of whine, as though he gave it hopelessly up. It is just because he is timid about propelling himself. The goal cannot be reached by a mere extension of the body, or by any action of the forelegs, and the hinder ones are, owing to their weakness, absolutely unable to accomplish their natural work.

It is precisely so with the horse. Where hocks or hind-quarters are in a condition that deprives him of proper propelling power, he will certainly hesitate about exercising or bringing them into muscular play; nor can we rightfully offer him either chastisement or blame.

Again, an animal’s hesitation about taking a jump may arise from a terror of experiencing painful concussion on landing. Corns will cause this, so will splints, or injured or tender ligaments of any description. It is often the case that when a horse baulks at a fence his rider is able to remember that he jumped the preceding one only half generously, and landed perhaps very gingerly after his effort. Where this is the case the animal should never be pressed. To compel him to take a leap for which he shows unwillingness may entail a bad fall for both him and his rider: the former being, under all circumstances, a good deal the more to be pitied.

When a horse refuses from timidity, and you yet have reason to know that there is nothing whatever wrong with him, take him back a bit from the fence, and send him at it again, sitting well down in your saddle, and catching a determined hold of his head, with the hands held low and the reins well apart. Speak encouragingly to him at the same time, and press him up with your leg on the near side, and the handle of your hunting-crop on the other; but do not on any account cut or spur him, unless you know him to be a rogue—in which case give him plenty of it, in a wise and temperate way; but never enter into a determined warfare with him unless you are absolutely certain that you can come off the victor.

My experience is that once a horse resolutely baulks, with a fixed determination to continue to do so, no man on earth—and certainly no woman—can by any possibility conquer him while on his back. Under such circumstances it will be better to strive to accomplish the desired purpose in some other way; either get off, if you are in a suitable place for it, and that your reins and whip are long enough, and by so doing make him have it, or—which will be better—take him to another part of the same fence, and don’t begin by fighting him, but rather leave it to his honour to carry you generously over, and ten to one he will. I greatly disapprove of punishing a horse severely at one spot; it is highly calculated to give him a thorough hatred of jumping, and to spoil his temper also in a way that may not easily be remedied. Moreover, it is cowardly in the extreme, for the battle is almost entirely one-sided. Were the dumb combatant able to whip and spur and swear in return, the rider would have a very small chance of abusing him for any length of time together; but it is because the creature is ignorant of his own strength and power that he submits himself a slave to man’s too cruel rule.

Now, another hint or two before proceeding to a different subject.

Horses will sometimes refuse through feeling themselves “out of hand,” or being ridden timorously by inexperienced riders. Where this is likely to be the case, such a bridle as a Pelham, for instance, ought not to be employed, but rather a good powerful double bridle, the curb of which may be used when galloping, and the pressure of it released for that of the snaffle when just coming up to a fence.

I have seen horses, many times, refuse through their riders having the horrid practice of throwing up the right arm just at the critical moment of rising: by way, I suppose, of affecting a hard-riding air, or perhaps of obtaining some imaginary balance of the body. The habit is a most hateful one, and frequently causes a horse to “rush,” in cases where he is too bold to baulk or absolutely to refuse. It is also extremely apt to make him swerve, owing to the fact that the pressure is retained on one side of his mouth only, in place of being preserved evenly upon both.

I may say in conclusion that that capital sportsman, Captain Horace Hayes, once told me of somebody, who, by a very clever expedient, cured a horse of refusing water-jumping. The animal, it appears, used always to baulk at water, and then, when pressed, jump right into the middle of it with a terrific splash. One day a happy thought struck his owner, and he at once proceeded to put it in practice. An artificial water-jump was by his direction constructed upon his own lands, and at the bottom of it, quite sunk from view by weighting, he placed a quantity of thorny bushes. When the affair was satisfactorily completed, he had the horse led quietly out, got upon his back, and rode him boldly at the obstacle. The animal tried to stop as usual, and ended (as usual also) by jumping slap into the middle; but on this notable occasion, he scrambled out with astonishing celerity, and ever afterwards fairly flew every water-jump that he happened to come across. The thorns, easily picked out, did him no harm in the world, while the lesson was productive of an immensity of good.



To be able to fall well is an art in itself—but it is one at which, unfortunately, very few ladies excel; therefore, not to fall at all will in their case be much better than to do so in even the most artistic fashion.

At the same time to dispense with falls must in a measure mean to dispense with riding also—that is, with riding straight to hounds; and as this latter enjoyment is, to a keen sportswoman, the very greatest pleasure that earth can possibly afford, I cannot wish to see any of my readers deprived of it, and have therefore determined to devote this chapter to the subject of various kinds of falls—the circumstances under which they generally happen, the way to avoid meeting them, and the best method of escaping being injured by them when they chance to occur.

To escape falls will to many ladies be the most interesting portion of my subject; therefore, we will consider it first.

To begin, then: you should decline riding any save the most perfect horses. A rusher, refuser, runaway, or anything else associated with the vices which have already been treated of, should be at once put beyond the pale of your favour; nothing short of positive perfection should ever tempt you to mount. Secondly, you must never on any account be in a hurry, nor allow others to hustle you. Though hounds may be in full cry within a field of you, and only a single small fence dividing, you must take your time, deliberately, and without flurry. Thirdly, you must never under any circumstances make for the fastest route, nor jump a big place to get on terms with the pack; on the contrary, you must let the hard-riding fraternity go by on all occasions, and then, warned by their mishaps, calmly pick your own places, and get through gaps and gates as best you can. Fourthly, you must watch the very first signs of tiring that are visible in your horse, and on perceiving them give in at once, and either ride or rail him quietly home. Fifthly, you must be decidedly wealthy, to allow of your purchasing marvels that can never by any chance contrive to put a foot astray. Sixthly, you must be a first-class judge of horseflesh, to enable you to find out such unheard-of acquisitions: and seventhly, you must possess a calmness of temperament very rarely to be met with among horsewomen—coupled with a wisdom to which that of Solomon, or Minerva, was a mere bagatelle.

I fancy, having got thus far, that I hear some lady asking rather disconsolately why I thus jest about serious matters, and whether it is really not possible, except on the conditions I have named, for an equestrian to ride to hounds without receiving falls,—and I at once answer that, according to my ideas of straight riding, it certainly is not. Whenever I hear a lady boast that she can ride two, three, or four days a week without ever getting a tumble, I at once surmise that she must be a very mild goer indeed; that she never rides hard except on exceptional days, when a country with which she is perfectly familiar happens to be traversed, and that the click of her horse’s hoofs is heard far oftener upon the roads than is the thunder of them on the broad fields, where bullfinch and yawning chasm offer difficulties with which the “cautious ones” do not care to meddle.

There is no denying the fact that if you mean to harden your heart and go straight, not stopping to take mental measurements of any obstacle that you may chance to encounter, falls will assuredly be your portion, and probably a good many of them, too; for you must remember that no matter how perfect may be your skill in the saddle, or how admirable the training of your steed, such things cannot afford you complete immunity from danger, so long as the hunting-field is flooded (which it unfortunately is) with ignorant horsemen, mounted on all kinds of animals—rough-riders, who care little about jostling and cannoning, provided that they themselves succeed in getting foremost places—and children, chiefly young boys, whose parents indulge them with mounts (no matter of what sort, provided they have four legs to carry them) during the long Christmas vacation, and who, with the fearlessness of ignorance, dash hither and thither, without any regard whatever for their own safety, much less for that of others.

One of the very worst falls I ever got in my life was caused by a schoolboy on a pony. The little chap burst wildly through a hedge close to Notley Abbey, where I happened to be waiting quietly, in hopes that the fox might break that way—and, cannoning right against me, caught my horse on the quarters, and turned him a complete somersault, burying me beneath his weight. Fortunately there were not many out, for it was a Chilton day, and the weather was very boisterous; had things been otherwise I could not have escaped being ridden over, for the game broke at the precise instant of my fall, and the field, such as it was, came streaming right over the fatal fence. On another occasion, when down at the bottom of a deep drain, a horsebreaker on a colossal mount tumbled crash on top of me, and neither of us looked handsome when dragged out—nor for a good many days after.

It is, therefore, manifest that however valuable skill and good horseflesh may undoubtedly be, we are largely dependent upon others for our safety, or its reverse, when we go to hunt, and as Carlyle’s theory of “mostly fools” is never in any place so clearly set forth as in the hunting-field, it will be well not to go thither with an over-confident feeling respecting our own powers, but rather to adopt the pithy prayer of the old Hobb’s Hill huntsman, “From all bad riders and wild horses, good Lord deliver us!”

I would have you bear in mind that it will be a grand help to you upon all occasions to keep cool, to avoid flurry and fuss, and above all things to steer clear of “funk,” which is as bad as panic, or a trifle worse. It is the least flurried riders who always come off the best, in two senses of the word,—therefore, while falls are not by any means to be made light of, they should be taken as coolly as possible, nor should demonstration of any sort ever be made over them. I saw a lady get two falls one day with Sir Bache Cunard’s pack at Holt Wood, and although her face was a sorry sight when turning homewards after the last one, she made infinitely less fuss about it than did an irrepressible damsel who had merely scraped her cheek against a thorn-bush.

You should never jump off at once when a horse bungles, but keep steady in the middle of your saddle and give him plenty of rein. Time enough for a man to show his quickness when his knee touches the ground, and for a lady in a similar predicament the best course will be to sit still, deal him out unlimited rope, grip his mane firmly—leaving his mouth alone—and ten to one he will recover himself. Of course I am speaking now of the plan to be pursued in case of a slow fall: one that is preceded by a scramble—in fact, a “bungle” as I have chosen to call it. When an animal comes down a weighty cropper, there is seldom much time for reflection, or choice of action either; the great point then is to come off as best you can.

To roll clear of the horse is the secret in most heavy falls, and this can only be done where the foot is absolutely free from the stirrup, and the habit from the pommels of the saddle. For this reason I again most strongly advocate the use of a plain racing-stirrup for ladies in the hunting-field, as it has not any sort of machinery that can possibly get out of order, and is therefore independent of the variable attentions bestowed upon such matters by unthinking grooms. A good plain stirrup, made large enough to release the foot, even if thrust “home,” is the safest and best in which an equestrian can ever ride. I approve (as already stated) of the spring-bar attachment, and think that every lady before setting out to hunt ought to see for herself that the spring is open. I know that this theory is not a popular one among horsewomen, as they think it is apt to entail the loss of a stirrup in a quick run; but this is an error, for the stirrup-leather will seldom or never come away if properly treated (by which I mean not leant upon)—except in case of strong pressure being brought to bear upon it, as, for instance, in the event of a fall. An accomplished horsewoman will never ride from the stirrup, but will use it merely as a support for the foot, and will be altogether independent of it, even if entirely taken away.

With untrained riders it is, of course, different, and to their churning motion in the saddle, and heavy hang upon the stirrup-leather, one half the sore backs and other sufferings to which ladies’ horses are liable, are altogether attributable.

A habit-skirt, if properly constructed, cannot possibly catch upon the pommels when the wearer receives a fall. I have already given suitable instructions concerning the cut of habits, and would here take occasion to say that a marvellously improved plan, introduced by Thomas & Sons, of South Molton Street, has been lately shown me. It consists of cutting the skirt with one seam less than usual, and making it without any hem around the bottom. Of this latter I greatly approve. It has frequently happened that a skirt, when caught on the pommel, has torn downwards as far as the hem, and been there arrested, owing to the resistance offered by the strength of the doubled cloth. Where the hem is done away with, this danger ceases to exist, and the skirt looks if anything better than those that are finished in the ordinary way. I strongly recommend the innovation.

The most dangerous fall that a lady can get is one into a deep ditch, or drain, with her horse on top of her; the least dangerous is when he comes down with her on the flat, and gives her a chance to roll clear of him. The best course to pursue in the first instance is to remain perfectly quiet, provided the horse does so also, until rescued. If your head happens to get under water, or that you are in any physical suffering entailed by the position in which you are placed, it will of course be incumbent upon you to endeavour to extricate yourself from it, but even in so awful a moment you should strive to remember that a prostrate horse will be far less likely to injure you than a struggling one, and that if you begin to move, or to pull his head about (as I have seen some frightened ladies do), he will probably make violent efforts to get upon his feet, and may hurt you very severely before help arrives.

If the place is very deep, and narrow at the bottom, and that you are partially under the horse, strive for your life to keep his head down, in order that he may not attempt to rise, and so trample you in his endeavours. He cannot get up so long as you can prevent his lifting his head; therefore, if you can contrive to throw a leg across it, or an arm, or any other portion of your body, do so, but never drag at the rein when in such a position. Strive if possible, however, to retain a light hold of it, in order that, in the event of the animal managing to regain his feet without mischief, he may not get altogether away from you. Coolness and courage will be the best companions upon so trying an occasion.

When a thoroughly practised horsewoman gets a fall of this description, it is generally through riding a beaten horse at a place that is too big for his exhausted powers to carry him safely over—an error into which almost all enthusiastic riders are apt to be led; or it may occur through the landing-ground being rotten, or broken away. When this latter is the case, the horse’s hind legs slip from beneath him, and he hangs for a dreadful moment, half-in, half-out of the ravine, beating a frantic tattoo with his fore-feet upon the brink, while the hinder ones struggle to find something that may serve as an assistance against the otherwise inevitable going back. A moment like this is supremely dreadful for both horse and rider. The latter, if a man, may swing himself off in the twinkling of an eye, and jump on to the bank, keeping a hold of the bridle all the while, and by it may assist his mount to regain terra firma when he is safely landed there himself; I have seen it done by smart horsemen over and over again,—but no lady that ever entered a hunting-field can possibly do it without a hand being stretched from the bank to assist her.

I recall instances, and think of them with horror, of finding myself hanging over an abyss—for such it always seems to an excited fancy—watching my horse’s forelegs striving to plant themselves, feeling the struggling quarters seeking some help from below, seeing the scarlet nostril laid level with the earth, the eager neck outstretched, the panting muscles brought strongly into play—hearing the anxious snort, dealing out abundant rein, and uttering words of encouragement in the vain hope that the horse may succeed in righting himself—conscious, nevertheless, that he is sinking lower and lower, seeing then a friendly hand outstretched to assist me, feeling the welcome grip of it, clutching strongly at it as it drags me to the bank, knowing that I have never let go the bridle during that terrible moment of suspense, making use of it then to draw my brave horse to a place of safety, looking down with a shudder into the chasm from which we have both escaped, and finally, with a laugh, and a Laus also, jumping merrily into the saddle again, and scurrying away in the hope of picking up the hounds.

But there came an instance of misadventure which ended less happily—when there was no strong hand to rescue or help—when the awful backward crash occurred only too surely, and oblivion followed, to be succeeded in time by a consciousness that for ever and ever the sight of happy hunting-fields, and the sound of huntsman’s horn and hounds’ joyful opening-out were gone away, to be known no more on earth. Such things are sad awakenings from sweet fitful dreams. I pray that all my young readers may be spared them; and with more than one fate to warn, I urge that discretion may at all times usurp the place of valour or ambition, and that no feat may be attempted which will be likely to involve dire, if not fatal results. Better be a live dog than a dead lion; and a few who are now disabled would rather have their bodies intact to-day, than have ever known the uncertain pleasures that are attendant upon being Kings and Queens of an hour. I do not say that it is so with myself. A short life and a merry one is much more suited to my elastic temperament; but there are others, young, beautiful women, whose feet have only touched the threshold of life’s loveliest and brightest doorway, who are nevertheless looking back—with tears.

To resume, however. The second description of fall on which I have touched: namely, one on the flat, is only dangerous according as the horse may or may not attempt to roll when down. If he falls fairly on his knees and nose, you may manage (as I have explained) to retain your seat in the saddle, and may even assist him to get upon his legs; many fine horsewomen do it: but if you try the experiment you must not forget to sit well back, not only in order to take the weight off his shoulders, but to save yourself from getting knocked in the face. If you watch the movements of a fallen animal, you will perceive that at the instant that he steadies himself on his knees when rising, he instinctively flings up his head, a motion absolutely necessary for the restoration of his balance; if at such a moment you happen to be leaning forward in the saddle, you will be certain to receive severe punishment, and perhaps be disabled for the remainder of the day.

If, in falling, the horse turns over upon his side, you cannot do any better than strive to get clear of him; but do not on any account let go the rein if you can possibly help it. So long as you can keep hold of it you will not only prevent your mount from getting away over the country, but will save yourself from possible contact with his heels, for it stands to reason that he cannot have both his back and fore-quarters turned to you at one and the same time, and if you have a hold of his head he certainly cannot twist himself round to kick at you. I know quite well that there is an ignorant idea abroad relative to the danger of holding on to the bridle of a fallen horse. “Let him go! let him go!” shrieks the multitude, when any mishap is witnessed; and the poor, unlearned, frightened rider follows the foolish advice, and away goes the steed, with reins and stirrups flying—lashing out, perhaps, in his exuberance at finding himself free—and is perhaps not brought back until the wearied owner has had to relinquish all hope of catching up the hunt, and been compelled also to walk some miles of the road homewards.

No, never if you can help it, relinquish your hold of the bridle when you and your horse are together making the acquaintance of mother earth, but remember the rule, “a long rein,” even when not upon his back.

Should a horse peck with you, a very nasty kind of fall, I tell you candidly that you will be almost certain to come off over his head, unless you are sitting glued to your saddle and very far back indeed; but, as this is a sort of tumble which does not often happen, except when riding a deep drop, or crossing something very wide, you may prepare yourself for possible contingencies when going at the jump by allowing your body, from the waist upwards, to lie back almost to the croup, while you deal out unlimited rein, and keep your seat as firmly as any rock. In this way you cannot possibly be pulled over the animal’s head, and by leaving him plenty of bridle you will still further stave off the probability of mischance.

When a horse falls with you into water, stick to him if you possibly can, and clutch firmly by his mane, while leaving him the entire length of the bridle. If you happen to come right off, keep alongside of him as well as you are able, retaining a light hold of the rein, and assisting yourself by the saddle, the stirrup, or any other thing that may present itself, provided it does not in any respect hamper his movements or interfere with his mouth. I strongly advocate keeping the bridle in your hand if you can possibly manage it, but you should not on any account make use of it as a means of support. To do so will be to drag your horse’s head under water, a thing involving very serious results. So long as you leave an animal abundant room to stretch his neck he will not drown, even in the deepest river, and if you keep a cool head, and assist yourself by the saddle until you can lay hold of some side bushes, or until assistance shall arrive, neither will you, however near it you may fancy yourself to be.

When a horse falls with you into a ditch and immediately regains his footing without unseating you, do not allow him to essay getting out at the same spot at which he bungled, for probably the bank may be rotten, or broken away by the hoofs of other horses, and may thus occasion him to go back again. You should rather urge him forward a little distance, in whichever direction his head is turned, and as soon as your eye detects a sound spot in the bank, collect him for his effort, throw him the reins, and sit well back while he struggles up the side. I do not mean that you are to hang back, this will only impede him, but keep your head well away from him, or his may strike you a blow that will take you a long time to forget.

Do not neglect, however, in the event of walking a horse along a ditch which is skirted by thorn or hedge, to look out for protruding brambles, and push them aside with your hand as you go forward, lest your face suffer. On no account neglect this precaution.

The instructions given in the present chapter will be found especially applicable to ladies who are fond of cutting out a line of country for themselves, or whose pilots may either have got lost in the fray, or may not be sufficiently quick in turning to the rescue to prove of any immediate assistance in case of need.

In a forthcoming chapter on “hunting,” I shall have something to say on each of these subjects.



It is time that we should now consider the additions and alterations which will be necessary for your wardrobe before it can be pronounced a complete one for a lady who intends to hunt.

A very great deal must, of course, depend upon whether you mean to be an inveterate huntress, or only to enjoy the pleasures of an occasional day out. Following the hounds thrice a week, and sometimes oftener, I have found the following outfit sufficient: two silk hats, two jerry ditto, and two soft felt; two Melton cloth riding habits; one thoroughly rainproof ditto; one ordinary cloth, for mild days, such as are to be met with even in winter time; two pairs of hunting breeches; six chemises; six pairs of web drawers; six web vests; two corsets; two pairs of Wellingtons; six pairs of fine wool stockings; six pairs of silk ditto; one Latchford spur; three pairs of strong leather gloves; one hunting crop, with long lash attached; three net veils; one celluloid collar, with cuffs to match; six linen collars and cuffs; two woollen neck-mufflers; two silk ditto; one rainproof cape or jacket; one warm, lined jacket, to fit over habit-bodice; and one Newmarket overcoat, to wear when driving to and from covert.

It will be only necessary to notice a few of these articles in detail, having already given advice concerning most of them. To begin, then, with stockings. Wear woollen ones if you want to have your feet always dry and comfortable, with a pair of silk drawn over. Nobody who has not tried this plan can possibly realise the warmth and comfort of it—especially when the outer stocking is of spun silk; a material in itself almost as warm as wool. If the sensation of wearing wool next the skin is objected to, the silk may be worn underneath. As a rule, however, it is only cheap wool stockings that “tickle”; the finer kinds seldom do, and I cannot recommend the “cheap and nasty” in any article of riding gear, no matter how comparatively unimportant it may seem to be.

Your breeches for hunting should be especially well-made; large enough in the seat not to burst in case of a fall, and long enough in the thigh not in any way to hamper the knees. Nothing save a garment of this description can be worn with top boots, nor will anything else do so well for hunting, or be half so comfortable. They should be carried below the calf of the leg, in order to check the tendency to work up, and ought to have the last four or five inches made of silk, or better still, good serviceable satin, by which I certainly do not mean the abomination known as cotton-back, which in reality gives no wear at all. This arrangement will prevent the top of the boot (a Wellington, of course), from being overcrowded or bulky, and is in fact, for many reasons, a desirable one. The legs of the breeches should button from the knee down—four buttons being ample to allow—and the fastening of the right leg should be on the inside, while that of the left is on the outside, in order to prevent rubs. These breeches, if made of cloth, should be lined with chamois; but I prefer deer-skin to any other kind.

With regard to securing perfection in the fit of them—a thing indispensable where comfort is desired—it will not be at all necessary to submit to a tailor’s measurements. Very few ladies indeed would like to do so, and it is pleasant to know that nothing of the kind is required. Application to any first-class house will bring back the necessary directions, simply given, for self-measurement, and by paying attention to these and forwarding the precise particulars, a perfect fit will be ensured. In saying this, I would draw attention to the words printed in italics, for there is no other article of ladies’ riding apparel which can be, and so frequently is, utterly and completely ruined by incompetent cutters. I have heard ladies say that they made their own hunting-breeches and found them answer very well. No doubt they may do so, by ripping up an old tailor-made pair, and proceeding to cut out exactly by them; but that they can succeed in the first instance without a pattern to go by, I cannot bring myself to believe, any more than I can credit the expediency of home millinery and dressmaking, except when attempted by unusually clever and competent hands.

I do not like riding trousers for hunting, although many are wedded to a firm belief in them. If adopted, they must, of absolute necessity, be the exact colour of the habit, must be made long enough to allow even fuller freedom to the knees than in ordinary riding, and be fastened beneath the arch of the foot with a leather strap (always leather for hunting purposes), although elastic is in some respects not to be despised, inasmuch as it yields easily with pressure, and is consequently not altogether undesirable when the trousers have been made too short in the legs. It very soon wears out, however, as stated in a former chapter, requires constant renewing, and is unpleasantly apt to give way when least expected to behave badly—very often on hunting days, or when a long distance from home—and then good-bye to everything save extreme discomfort, for the trouser-leg will assuredly ruck up, and a good many lady riders—and, indeed, gentlemen also—have a disagreeable knowledge of what that means.

I now come to speak again of boots, a subject on which I have already given some advice. The so-called fashionable boot—an awful invention, utterly misshapen, with toe narrow and pointed, and long heel protruding like a spike from almost the centre of the sole—must be altogether discarded. It is to be hoped that this will not go hard with sensible girls, or women. Nobody can ride with comfort who is not prepared to lay aside all cherished prejudices in favour of cramped feet, hour-glass waists, and gloves that are two sizes too small for the hands they are meant to protect. I do not believe that anybody really admires a stuffed doll on horseback. The elegance of the figure depends upon its flexibility, and a supple foot is in its own way quite as much to be commended. If the boots are too tight, the feet will be cold; nothing on earth conduces so largely to that oft-complained-of evil as wearing boots that are disproportionately small and close-fitting. The foot should be able to move freely within its covering, even though clad in the double stocking which I have so confidently recommended. A broad sole, wide toe, and flat broad heel, placed properly back, as far as the natural heel, are the requisites for a comfortable riding-boot.

I have already drawn attention to the fact that a considerable distance has sometimes to be walked in boots that have been made, ostensibly, for riding in alone. For example, a horse may get away from his rider after a fall, and leave her to walk across several fields—over very rough ground perhaps—ay, and to climb fences, and get through rutty gaps too, before arriving at a point at which he can be brought up for her to remount him; while, in addition to all this, a gentle-hearted equestrian will often of her own accord like to get off, when taking a tired horse home to his stable, and will walk alongside of him with the bridle thrown over her arm, a piece of humanity which eases her own limbs as well as his. To have comfortable pliant boots, and everything else proportionately easy-fitting, will be found both healthy and wise. In short, a lady dressed for riding ought to be able when dressed to take down or put up her hair, draw off her boots and put them on again, and walk a mile or two with them on, if required, without feeling any desire whatever to remove them after the exercise. This—if it will only be believed—can be accomplished without any unsightly clumsiness, or necessity for making feet or figure look in the least degree larger than if tortured and compressed into unnatural proportions. Well-made clothing, composed of pliant materials and properly put on, will never impart an appearance of bulk, even if worn sufficiently easy-fitting to be slipped on and off at a moment’s notice; while ill-cut garments, unnaturally strained and tightened, will make figure and extremities look absolutely larger than they really are. Who, for instance, that has ever seen a No. 6 glove stretched upon a hand that ought to take at least four sizes larger has ever been deceived into believing that there was not something painfully amiss? Straining seams, fingers only half drawn on, and ominous gaps, yawning and wide, where the first buttons ought to fasten, attest the “vanity of vanities” against which we have been warned. With boots and corsets it is just the same,—and yet, despite the uncontrovertible evidence brought to bear upon the matter, ladies still persist in destroying the symmetry of their appearance, undermining their health, and leaving themselves exposed to disparaging observations, rather than give up the follies into which an undue desire to appear “slim” have by degrees drawn them. After all, when we come to consider the subject, is it really worth while to undergo suffering and inconvenience in order that one or two persons may, perhaps, say, “That girl has small feet”; or “What a slender waist that lady has?” Ten to one the utterers of such remarks never think a second time about them, but turn away to make their comments upon the next person who chances to come in their path—and for this trifling gratification, distress and pain are borne, and the seeds of inward disease are in some instances suffered to take root. If anything that I can say, in this or future chapters, shall have even a trifling influence in deterring my sisters from destroying the natural attributes which a wise Creator has apportioned to them, I shall deem myself happy in having written it, and feel that my efforts have not been altogether in vain.

The Newmarket coat, for going to covert, is, I think, the only article of which I have not now fully spoken. The nicest of these are made of dark strong melton, or beaver cloth—the latter wears splendidly—and are lined all through with good satin, being well quilted about the bodice to keep out the cold. Some ladies affect the coachmen’s garment, a drab coat, with double capes, but I have a strong objection to it myself. The collar should be made pretty deep, so as to be capable of turning up about the neck in wet or chilly weather, and the skirts should come quite down to the feet. It is almost superfluous to say that an overcoat of this description should be cut so as to fit very easily over the habit, nor need I add that the task of fitting should be entrusted to none save a really first-class tailor.

Ladies have frequently inquired of me, by letter and otherwise, what ought to be the price of various articles of riding apparel. Indeed, to judge by the number of communications which have from time to time reached me, a great and stirring interest appears to be centred in the matter, and the fact that I at times delay answering the multitude of writers who ask questions and beg for immediate replies is not really attributable to any discourtesy, but is rather the result of over-work, coupled with a sense of difficulty in detailing the average cost of a variety of articles which are manufactured in every quality—good, bad, and indifferent—the cheapest, or lowest priced, being in all cases the dearest in the end. A thoroughly good article will look respectable to the very last bit, while a cheap one can never be made to do so at all. I can, for my own part, see no virtue in the so-called “bargains” in which many ladies are so curiously fond of investing. I use the word “curiously” advisedly, for to me it is most strange how sensible practical women, who on most subjects have their wits well about them, are nevertheless afflicted with a positive craze for bargain-hunting, and are willing to bear any amount of pushing and trampling upon, in slummy shops with “Selling off” emblazoned in large letters all over the windows, for the very doubtful satisfaction of carrying home some three or four pairs of half-soiled gloves at one shilling per pair, or a few yards of mildewed ribbon at something very much too dear for it.

The average cost of riding gear, every article being of the best and finest description, may be thus set down. Silk hats, from £1 1s. each; jerry ditto, 14s.; soft felt, 12s. 6d.; melton riding habits, £12 12s. each; rainproof ditto, £10 10s.; ordinary cloth, £10 10s.; summer cloth, £8 8s.; gingham or holland, £5 5s.; riding breeches, £4 4s. per pair; buckskin, £6 6s. to £8 8s.; trousers (chamois lined), from £2 2s. to £3 3s. Chemises, 8s. each. Web drawers (silk), £1 10s. per pair; (cotton), 7s. 6d.; vests (silk), £1 1s. each; (cotton), 5s. Corsets (satin), £4 4s.; sateen (red), £2 10s.; sateen (white), £2 2s. Wellington boots, £3 3s. per pair. Wool stockings, 3s. 6d.; pure silk, ditto, 16s.; spun silk, 6s. 6d. Latchford spur (plated), £1 1s.; japanned, 9s. 6d. Gloves, 5s. 6d. per pair. Celluloid collar and cuffs, 4s. Rainproof jacket, £2 2s. Cape, £1. Warm over-jacket, with braiding, £6 6s. Newmarket covert-coat, from £10 to £12. It would be impossible to lay down any rule for the price of whips, as much must necessarily depend upon the mounting; but I have always thought that with them, as with all other articles of riding apparel, the plainer they are the better. A good hunting-whip with long lash attached averages from £1 10s. upwards.

Every article that I have named may be had at a very much lower price; in fact for half (or even less) the ordinary cost that I have set down, but the question of course remains, “Are cheap things, as a rule, worth purchasing?”


To economise well is a great art, and unfortunately very few persons understand it. The public mind wavers as a rule between two views of the matter—excessive parsimony, or continual hunting after cheap things. When I say “cheap,” I mean low-priced; for brummagem articles, no matter of what description, are always the very reverse of cheap. “I have got such a bargain,” says one dear friend to another, displaying some trumpery thing which would have been dear at half the price given for it; and away goes the friend and invests in a similar treasure, only to regret her want of wisdom when too late to retract.

The true secrets of economising are: first never to buy anything that you do not absolutely require; second, to purchase every article of the very best description; and third, to take care of your things when you have got them. These three rules will go far if attended to, but, like the Siamese twins, separate them and they will die. A word, then, about each—taking them in rotation as named.

Buy nothing that you do not want. It is a general weakness with ladies to infringe this rule. They are fond of shopping, and shopmen know it, and pander to the familiar infirmity—not only detaining them twice as long as is necessary at every counter, but showing them an endless variety of articles, by way of tempting them to buy. The artifice succeeds only too often, and the consequences are a lightened purse, and an unnecessarily burdened wardrobe.

To have too large a stock of clothes is in every way a mistake. They become old-fashioned before they are half worn out; they encourage and engender moths; they form a cumbrous baggage if compelled to move; and they are a source of embarrassment and trouble if taken away with one on visits—seeing that in this age a lady rarely enjoys the luxury of a wardrobe in her bedroom, except in her own house. Most of us consider such a commodity a necessity when at home, but when we go visiting it is a luxury absolutely denied us. I do not mean to say that there is not an imposing piece of furniture so styled in the sleeping apartment allotted to us; there almost always is; it looks quite magnificent, generally, with its shining panels and tempting mirrored centre—but, alas, it is a delusion and a snare! We find that the doors are immovable: they are locked; the hostess has it filled with her own fineries, and has either forgotten to remove them, or has said to herself that it would be too great a trouble to do so: the visitor can manage very well without it—has she not got her imperials, and the bed-rail—and the drawers of the toilet-table to keep her brushes and things in, and what more can she reasonably want? To say that this is not the way in good houses is both foolish and untrue; for it is so in the very best. It may be the fault of my lady’s maid, or housekeeper—probably it is, in many instances—but it is my lady’s fault in a great measure also, inasmuch as she has neither seen to the comforts of her guest, nor made inquiries concerning them. However this may be, or with whomsoever the fault may lie, the wardrobe is a sealed book, into which we are not permitted to peer, and so we cast our despairing eyes around us for some substitute, and brighten as we perceive a tempting-looking chest of drawers; but it likewise is a deception, for it is found to contain articles of children’s clothing folded away in the top receptacles, while the lower ones have toilet linen in them, and the big deep one at the bottom contains a bolster doubled in two, like a huge sausage put away to keep. This being the case, we shake a dismal head, and proceed to lay out our neat habit-skirts and other things on the bed-rail, and on the backs of the chairs; and by-and-by, when we return to our room to dress for dinner, we find that a remorseful hostess, or a conscience-stricken maid, has unlocked one of the mighty doors of the mysterious “sealed book,” and has graciously crammed three or four satin gowns on to one of the back pegs, leaving the front ones free to hold whatever we may be pleased to hang upon them. Sometimes even this small boon is not vouchsafed, and we run the tether of our visit with only chair-backs to depend upon for hanging purposes, and with the cheerful consciousness that all the maids in the establishment have tried on and admired themselves in every single article belonging to us for which we have been unable to find room in our trunks. I once caught a smart abigail in an English house pirouetting before the cheval-glass, dressed in my riding-breeches, and grinning delightedly, with a hand on each side of her waist. By way of punishment, I made her divest herself of the trifles in my presence, and by so doing found that she had augmented the evil by making an entirely wrong use of one of my silk vests—while as an end to all bitterness, she had actually fitted on my stockings and boots.

It being then an established fact that a superabundance of clothing is both an encumbrance and an extravagance which leads to waste, I think I have succeeded in proving that the first on my list of theories—namely, to buy nothing that is not absolutely required—is at least worthy of consideration. Of course, there is no rule that has not an exception, and there may be times—although they come but rarely—when there will be a perceptible advantage in purchasing clothing in advance: for example, when one is obliged to go for a lengthened period to some out-of-the-way place where things are absolutely not obtainable. In such, or similar cases, the regulation practice may be broken through, although even then it will be better, if possible, to secure the services of a friend who will purchase and send them out according as they are required.

The second point on which I have given advice—namely, to buy none save the best articles—is one upon which I must resolutely hold by my opinion, despite the fact that my expression of it in a sporting journal in which, some time ago, I quoted a list of probable prices, called down upon me such a vortex of letters—some of inquiry, others upon the extravagance of my ideas—that I fairly sat down under the shower in a state of bewilderment, and felt that the only way in which I could reply to such a multitude, or at all hope to satisfy them, was to select the first opportunity of writing a disquisition on economy—the present venture being the result.

I have, as stated, been repeatedly and anxiously pressed to say what I thought the price of sundry articles of riding-gear ought to be, and as the subject was a difficult one to propound, have thought it best to give the amount usually paid for goods of first-class description, leaving it, of course, to the intelligence of the reader to surmise (even when not plainly stated) that prices vary according to quality, and acknowledging that it is quite possible for a lady to furnish herself with a complete hunting outfit at a very much lower scale of charges than that which I cited in my last. It is just a question of how long she expects her things to wear, and how well she expects them to look when the first gloss (always an arrant deceiver) has worn off them. Low-priced articles never stand the test; they may look fairly well to the eye when first put on, but time and weather place a stamp upon them with which the owner cannot but feel disappointed. Take a few examples. It seems to many a great extravagance to give a seemingly high price for a riding-hat, when at half the shops in town a fairly good-looking one can be bought for half the money. Quite true. But place the two hats side by side together after a hard season’s continual wear and tear, and see whether the Lincoln and Bennet or Madame White will not be bravely holding its own, when the other is only fit for the dustman’s cart. In like manner, you may purchase a riding habit for five guineas,—I have seen them made to order scores of times at that price—but I have never yet seen one of such articles able to hold up its head after immersion in a muddy stream, while very many of them could not even stand a heavy shower of rain without showing spots or “cockles,” or both. Then, again, you can get a Newmarket covert coat for £3—not at all a bad-looking one either—quite a jaunty article, in fact; a neat plaid if you like it, and gorgeous big buttons if your fancy happens to turn that way,—but just think of the seams that are all machine-stitched, ready to act shabbily by you at the most inconvenient moments, and of the uncertain nature of the material, which is dreadfully wont to wear “tender” in highly important places: under the arms, for instance, and where the collar fastens in front; and of the awful moments which you will have to endure, tugging hard at it, or getting somebody else to do so, in order to work it off; and think of the still more painful and embarrassing ordeal that awaits you in endeavouring to draw it over your habit-bodice, to which it seems to cling as provokingly as though birdlime had been scattered over both,—all because it has not any nice, smooth, slippery satin lining to make it slide easily over the garment that it is meant to cover. Even if perchance your persuasions have induced the maker of the wonderful thing to augment its monetary value by the insertion of a satin lining in the bodice, you perceive with horror, after an incredibly short period of time, that the silk facing has completely worn off it, and that long stretches of discoloured cotton threads are intersecting the fabric in every inconvenient direction.

With boots and gloves it is just the same; you can get them very cheap. I have seen capital-looking boots in shop windows ticketed eight shillings per pair, and gloves 1s.d. (always a ha’penny, when it is not three farthings), and I have no doubt that plenty of people buy them—they must do so, or such things would not be so numerous; but an important query remains behind: namely, how long can these articles be made to last—even such of them as look moderately decent at the first go-off?

There are, however, without doubt, very many ways in which small economies may be justifiably practised, with results by no means discreditable to the appearance of even the most dashing equestrian. If, then, you want to appear at all times fairly well turned out, and yet cannot command sufficient capital from your dress allowance to enable you to extend your custom to first-class houses, you can take a “tip” or two from the following hints:—

Look carefully over the columns of the various leading journals which contain an “exchange and mart,” and you will be almost certain to see some advertisements of riding habits made by high-class makers and only worn a few times—occasionally never worn at all, and only parted with because the owner has been compelled to give up riding, or is going away. If the size of the waist seems to suit you, answer without delay, and if, when sent on approval, you find that the cut and quality are good, close at once with the bargain, and get such alterations effected in the article as may happen to be required. I have known one or two ladies with very moderate dress allowances who secured really excellent riding habits in this way,—but, of course, everything will depend upon the maker; a high-class house rarely or never turns out an indifferent cloth, and the cut is certain to be good.

Again, you may be able to borrow a pair of well-made riding trousers from some intimate lady friend, and if you are smart and can make a couple of pairs for your own use by the pattern lent you, it will be a great saving of expense. Breeches will be more difficult to accomplish successfully: in fact, I regard the cutting of them by amateurs as very nearly impossible, so perhaps they had better not be attempted: but, with proper self-measurements and a good pattern before you, I can see no reason why comfortable riding-trousers should not be creditably turned out. When making these, cut the linings for the different parts the exact size of the various pieces, and take care to tack piece and lining together before running up the whole. If this is not done you will experience great difficulty in adjusting the linings when the garment has been put together—indeed, you will probably fail completely, for it is a most difficult thing to do, and the plan I have named is a very good one, although the seams cannot (when it is adopted) look quite as neat on the inside as if a tailor had had the doing of the job. If you want to avoid the trouble of arranging linings at all, procure some strong soft chamois leather, make your trousers of it, and cover them from a short distance above the knee with cloth similar in colour to that of which your habit is composed. Use silk thread for seam-sewing—strong, and of the best quality—and when putting on the buttons wind the thread round and round the stems after you have stitched them firmly to the garment, so as to form a sort of artificial shank; then fasten off very securely upon the wrong or inner side.

If your resources are extremely limited, do not buy silk hats at all. Low-priced ones are mere delusions, and it will be better for you to invest the amount usually given for second-rate articles—say from 12s. to 15s.—in a good, serviceable felt, or billycock, which will stand a large amount of ordinary knocking about.

By wearing riding trousers instead of breeches you can dispense with Wellingtons, and be content with ordinary boots; anything that you can walk comfortably in will do, but remember I do not believe that any woman has ever yet been able conscientiously to say that she walked “comfortably,” or indeed otherwise than miserably, in narrow-waisted, high-heeled boots, with toes an inch wide (or something less) at the tip. A street or two may be traversed in such articles without actual pain, or any perceptible show of inconvenience, but a walk of five miles will probably necessitate the services of a chiropodist, while half the distance will show a decidedly altered gait.

The third item of advice which I have given you, namely to take good care of your things when you have them, is one to which you will do well to take heed. Negligence concerning the guardianship of one’s wearing apparel generally proceeds from one of two causes: either from a natural carelessness of disposition, which leads to all sorts of shiftless and untidy ways; or to a foolish desire—if among wealthy or showy people—to affect an air of indifference concerning cost. I have seen examples of both these dispositions; a girl who just stepped out of her riding-gear, and left it there behind her, habit wet and muddy, hat spotted with rain, veil never folded, boots flung anywhere, whip and gloves in different corners, sometimes in different rooms, or on the hall table, to be certainly missing when next wanted to be used: a sort of girl who kept jam-pots in her press, and matches in her work-box, and who rooted for everything she wanted, precisely as a dog does when burying a bone.

On the whole, however, I am not quite certain whether she is not preferable to one of the vainer sort, who strides over sharp stones, and plunges in and out of muddy pools when there is any distance to be walked, rather than have it supposed that she is picking her way in order to save her boots; who eats bread-and-butter without removing her gloves, for reasons of a similar sort; and who puts on a smile of unconcern when her hostess’s lap-dog makes a meal off her whip-lash, or mistakes the handle of it for a bone.

Few things are more to be avoided than a studied carefulness about matters of costume—when others are by,—the practice, for instance, of tucking up a mantle rather than sitting upon it—of smoothing the back of the skirt before taking a seat—of guarding the hands from contact with any object that may possibly impart a soil to the gloves—and so forth, all of which are signs of lack of breeding, and are, as a rule, peculiar to persons unaccustomed to mix in society,—but the opposite extreme is quite as little to be admired. The best bred are those who appear wholly unconscious of having anything on that is worth fussing about: just as the best dressed are invariably those upon whose costume no onlooker would ever pass a remark.

To have a set place for everything is economy of both time and substance: you will then know precisely where to look and where to find. You should have neat trees made for your boots, and insist upon the regular use of them being observed. Brush your riding-habit carefully yourself, unless you have a maid who can be trusted to do it properly: namely, in a downward direction always, and never from hand to hand. Should it be wet, hang it in a cool, dry place, but not close to a fire—and place a stick across the skirt on the inside, in order to aid the drying process. Do not attempt to brush off mud spots until the cloth is perfectly dry.

Stretch your gloves upon block hands, made the size and shape of your own, and if they have been wet, be all the more careful about doing so. Make a frequent inspection of the stitching of them, and mend with a fine needle and silk any portions that may have given way, or seem likely to do so. Look to the buttons also, in order that you may not be inconvenienced at unexpected times.

If you wear a silk riding-hat, never be induced to allow an iron to touch it, except when wielded by a professional hand. You can renew it yourself by wiping it very lightly with a sponge just dipped in warm water, going carefully round and round, always the one way. When the hat is dry, brush it gently with a very soft brush, and finish with a silk handkerchief.

A black veil that has become discoloured by dust may be restored by dipping it a few times in cold water, shaking the wet from it, and stretching it neatly out upon a rail or line to dry. It will not require any ironing if nicely picked out with the fingers. Another way is to put the veil, when damp, between two soft cloths—old lawn handkerchiefs will do—and pat it smoothly out with the hands, leaving it then to dry without hanging.

Your celluloid collar and cuffs will wash beautifully in your basin, and will require no making-up, beyond a light wiping with the towel on which you dry your hands. The material is a marvellous invention, introduced by our friends across the silver streak, and is invaluable to equestrians in wet weather, as it never becomes limp after rain: a great improvement upon linen in this respect, as in many others also.

To conclude my list of economies: If you cannot afford the price of silk drawers and vests, fine cotton ones in summer, and merino in winter, will make good substitutes; but silk is not an extravagance in the long run—it wears so well and feels so delicious next the skin. Silk underclothing of all kinds is a great luxury, and considering the benefits that arise from the use of it, I question much whether ladies of even very moderate incomes will, at the end of twelve months, find themselves any the poorer for investing in it.

If silk stockings are thought too dear for wearing under or over cotton ones—and certainly they are an expensive item of dress—fine cotton ones will do very well; but there are few ladies who do not possess a supply of silk for dinner and evening wear—and these, when old, or deficient in colour and freshness, will serve the purpose quite as well as new ones.

While on the subject of “colour” it will not be amiss to give a hint or two about the proper method of washing silk and woollen underclothing. Silk stockings, vests, chemises, pocket-handkerchiefs, and so forth, ought to be washed as follows:—Mix six tablespoonfuls of bran with four quarts of water, put it to boil, and stir while boiling. When ready, pour into a tub, place the articles in it, and move them lightly about with a stick until the water is cool enough to bear the hand; then wash rapidly in the usual way, but without using soap. Rinse in three or four waters, hang out to drain in a bright, dry atmosphere, and iron while damp, placing a piece of fine muslin between the iron and the article on which it is used. This receipt will be found to answer admirably also for white flannels or woollens. For coloured ones the water must be in a lukewarm state. Neither silk nor woollen garments should ever be wrung.

On the subject of corsets I have from time to time received a vast number of letters, most of them wailing over my well-known abhorrence of cheap goods. Surely the matter is one of which ladies ought to be able to judge for themselves. I did not know that it was possible to obtain a really good corset, made specially for one’s-self, of best materials, and by a superior artist, for less money than I am accustomed to quote,—nor do I believe that it is. At the same time, corsets (like everything else) will be found ready manufactured in various qualities, and at different rates of charge. I have seen windows full of them in London, and even at expensive Eastbourne and Bournemouth, ticketed 1s. 11½d.! After this, who need complain of prices? The papers teem with advertisements of “ready-made corsets” of all patterns and descriptions, and I have heard many persons say that they have found them answer perfectly well. This being the case, I cannot see why the articles should not be given a trial, or why ladies of limited resources, and with figures easily fitted, should pay two or three guineas for a corset, when “perfect treasures,” or, at all events, something that will suit quite well (and that will not go to pieces all at once), can by all accounts be had for less than an eighth of the sum.

I once went to a famous London oculist, to consult him about the right sort of glasses to be used for extreme short-sightedness, and was quite prepared for his prescribing some rather costly affairs; but, to my surprise, he said, very pleasantly, “Just go to an optician and suit yourself. Don’t mind what he says; select something that you can see well through, and that does not in any way distress your sight, or cause your eyes to feel on the strain. Years ago,” he added, “I found that I wanted glasses myself, and coming across an old man sitting at the corner of a street with a tray of them before him, I chose a pair for a shilling, and I’m wearing them now.”

On this excellent principle I advise corset-buyers to act. Purchase what suits you, and if your means are limited, do not trouble about any particular maker, or price.

To wind up, never be ashamed to exercise a reasonable and honest economy. There are really very few among us who do not require to practice it, especially during these difficult times—and there is not anything to blush for in the fact. It is a very false shame indeed which induces us to launch out into extravagances that we can ill afford, rather than say candidly, “I must content myself with something cheaper.” Believe me, there is more shame in owing an honest tradesman five shillings, than in wearing cheap corsets, cotton stockings, and mended gloves—in place of the better or costlier ones which that same five shillings would have helped to buy.

A silk riding-hat


I am wonderfully fond of a good hack, and very wroth at times that ladies will persist in mistaking the meaning of the term, and in thinking that it signifies something that is meant to be abused. They take this idea, I have no doubt, from expressions associated with their childhood: hacking out their clothes, for instance,—in other words, abusing them. “Don’t throw it away, it will do very well for a hack,” meaning for very hard usage on second or third-rate occasions. Such a thing as a valuable hack, one not on any account to be subjected to rough treatment, they have never believed in, or, indeed, thought about at all. I was once bemoaning the loss of a favourite of this description to a lady acquaintance, and although she pretended to sympathise with me, I heard her, when I turned my back, say, “What a fuss over a thing that had come to being a hack! Not worth fourpence, most likely.”

Now, it is for ladies who do not know much about hacks, yet who want to learn, that I am writing this chapter. The subject is a very useful one, and might be readily enlarged upon, but I shall be as concise as possible.

Hacks in the olden days were capable of immense hardship; the distances they travelled, the weights they carried, the amount of endurance they displayed, would be deemed marvellous in the present century, and cruel if put to the test. Such animals—and they are very rare—are only now to be met with in the stables of stirring farmers of the wealthy class, who go over their lands before breakfast, and overlook hundreds of acres on the backs of these useful creatures. Occasionally, too, they are to be found with country doctors, well-to-do parsons, and others whose daily work cannot be accomplished on animals less enduring or strong; but the ordinary seeker looks for them almost in vain.

A good hack is a most trustworthy companion. His rider may drop the reins to him on the very worst roads, and yet feel certain that he will put his feet in precisely the right places, and make no mistakes. His fore-feet are always well formed, and whatever the pace may be they fall straight, and flat, and even upon the ground. His action when trotting is from the shoulders, his fore-legs working strictly from them, and just sufficiently bent to enable the rider to see his knees as they are raised, but not to see under them. Chin-knocking action may do for a park hack, but not for a roadster; indeed, I don’t admire it myself in any class of horse, but in a covert-hack it is decidedly objectionable. The wonder of my life is how so many extraordinary goers, such as one sees throughout every hunting season, contrive to jig along, or jog, or pound, as the case may be, without coming down like logs upon the ground; but they do: just as drunken men, though staggering, manage to get home without a fall.

The paces of a thoroughly good hack are characterised by perfect regularity and ease; his shoulders are well set, sloping, and strong; his feet well formed, his back somewhat short, his loins muscular, and his hips wide. The shoulders at the withers are thick and firm—their tops well back—and a good long space between the pommel of the saddle and the termination of the mane.

Fore-leg action of the proper sort is an actual necessity in a hack intended for a lady to ride, because the safety of the rider is dependent upon it; but in selecting such an animal look to his hind-leg action as well. If the hock joints do not, when moving, seem pliable, and as though they were bent with perfect ease, bringing his hind legs well forward, reject him at once, no matter how good his front action, or how perfect his forehand may appear.



Good hocks are clear, sharp, and well-defined in their outline, with bones large and prominent, denoting a similar condition of the muscles. When too much bent there is generally a liability to sprain, and when placed very far back there is, as a rule, an absence of propelling power. I like to see hocks in such a position as shows that they are right under the centre of gravity. This always enables a horse to propel himself with confidence, and to bring his hind-legs properly under him in the trot—at which pace they should be carried as far forward as they can well be, without hitting the fore-feet. An animal that sticks his hind toes in the ground, and walks gingerly, as though his hocks had not any joints, will never be safe or pleasant to ride. If he possesses strength and evenness of hind-leg action, his paces will always be agreeable. Good shoulder action and far-reaching hind legs will ensure delightful ease and pleasure to the rider. Racehorses, when trotting over turf, carry their hind feet far before the front ones—and outside them too, as I have proved by footprints—although some persons have flatly contradicted me about the matter.


I do not think that a covert hack ought to exceed fifteen hands in height. He should walk with ease and freedom, trot ten miles an hour, and canter fifteen, without any trouble, or blowing, or other symptoms of distress. Of course he cannot do this if his lungs are not as sound as bells, and his legs and feet perfectly healthy. I may say, however, that exhibitions of pace are perfectly unnecessary; nobody really needs to gallop full tilt to covert—but light easy action, and reliable powers of endurance, ought not to be lightly esteemed. Beauty may be altogether dispensed with in the covert hack—although it is generally so coveted that buyers will often ignore many important defects on account of it. I don’t approve of this. I have seen most excellent hacks who had coarse heads, blemished bodies, rat tails, and other undeniably ugly attributes—but what mattered it, so long as they had perfections of a more important kind? Such animals are not wanted for show, as are their more gaudy brethren the park hacks.

I like to see the ribs of all riding-horses long in front of the girths, and short behind them. This keeps the saddle in the proper place, which it is hard to do (without the aid of the old-fashioned crupper) where the ribs in front are short.

The race of genuine covert hacks is, I am sorry to say, apparently fast dying out. Go, for instance, to any ordinary meet of hounds in almost any hunting country—you will see votaries of the chase arriving in every variety of vehicle: in phaetons, dogcarts, waggonettes, on drags and in broughams, on the backs of horses that they mean to hunt, on “general utility” animals, on fine park hacks, brought out to be admired and then cantered home again along the roadside grasses, or hand-galloped through the fields where convenient gates abound—but the number of real covert hacks will be very small indeed. I suppose the reason is, that in this troublous age, few (in Ireland at all events) can afford to indulge in luxuries, and a good hack is one, in the very fullest sense of the term.

I do not believe, although many do, that it spoils a saddle horse to put him in harness. Were I rich enough to possess a number of hunters, I should drive them in a four-horse drag during the summer months, and I believe it would do them an immensity of good. A covert hack of the useful sort makes an excellent trapper, or one of a pair in a brougham or waggonette—nor does he lose any of his saddle qualities by being so made use of.

I may here say that, for country or covert riding, I do not at all approve of the ordinary half-bred cobs, which so many sportsmen, and some sporting ladies also, are prone to affect. No doubt they are strong: it is their only recommendation; but even this very strength is in one way an objection to them, for it is in many instances derived from a close connection with cart-horse blood, and on this account they very soon tire when trotting, and begin to step short, which occasions them to trip, and very often to come down. Besides, it is almost a matter of course that their shoulders are straight, and their fore-feet carried too far under them. In every way, therefore, I object to these animals for saddle use—especially where ladies are concerned.

Scarce as riding horses of endurance are in this country, there is no doubt whatever that we have the breed, and that it only requires careful cultivation—by which I mean select—in distant Colonies, where our road and rail luxuries are not, for love or money, to be obtained. In Southern Africa and distant Australia this has been proved, as also in the crosses of our horses with Continental ones, in Italy, Germany, and Spain.

I now come to speak about hunters. In choosing these, do not go in for outward beauty of form, for it will not stand you in any stead. I am compelled to impress this upon ladies—especially very young ones—because they usually select their horses (as they do their husbands!) for appearance more than for genuine worth. It is such a perfectly natural weakness that nobody can be blamed for it. Everybody likes “something to look at,” but there is more than this to be desired in many respects. I remember either reading somewhere, or hearing somebody say, that a hunter that combined high courage with so fine a temper that he would stand while his owner opened gates or remounted him after a fall—one that liked his trade, cried “Ha, ha!” at the sound of the huntsman’s horn, went generously at his fences as if he relished them, picked his places sensibly, had a good constitution, drank his gruel freely after the day’s work was over, would stand two ordinary days a week, and three good ones along with them in the course of a fortnight—was a treasure, even though he might have an ugly head, a ridiculous tail, an unfashionable colour, corns at times, and many skin-deep blemishes. In addition to all this, I may add that if he is a fairly good hack, and can trot or jog his ten or twelve miles home to his stable after a hardish day, he is simply an invaluable acquisition, especially to those who love sport, yet have not the good fortune to possess a sporting income.

It is rarely, however, that one is lucky enough to meet with so entirely desirable an animal, and when found he certainly ought to be prized.

The essential points for a hunter are these: a good constitution, so that he may bear hardships and hard knocks; good powers of endurance, to enable him to stand long and tiresome days, and frequently to travel lengthy distances homewards; good shoulders, and strong healthy legs and feet. Further good points are, a back powerful enough to bear any weight that he is meant to carry; hind quarters with propelling powers to land him safely over his fences; a good chest, with lungs inside of it sufficiently sound to allow of his galloping without showing signs of distress; and good eyes to enable him to see where he is going.



Straight fore-legs, such as are shown in the illustration, are an absolutely essential quality—and they should emerge from the trunk with plenty of firm muscle as well as good fleshy substance. Legs that are too close together, or too far apart, are alike defective, and ought not to be overlooked.


A hunter for a lady’s use need not, as a rule, be over fifteen hands in height, or about 15·2 for a man of ordinary stature. Of course top-weights of either sex must have something proportionately big to carry them, but my experience is that clever hunters of 15·2 or 3 can negotiate even the biggest country with safety, and I believe there are a greater number of perfect fencers of that height than can be found among those above it. Small horses, whether hunters or steeplechasers, have distinguished themselves brilliantly from time to time all over the world, yet the rage for tall ones is very great. About ten years ago, at the Islington Horse Show, there were forty hunters (out of 100 entries) that were over 16 hands high, and they were among the very first sold, some of them to extremely diminutive purchasers. I was speaking about this a year or two ago to a dealer, and asking him his opinion respecting the cause, when he made me laugh by answering, “Well, you see, big horses makes big fences look a trifle smaller, and that’s something to them as rides.”

I have always considered it a good plan to select a hunter, with due regard to the country in which his purchaser intends to hunt. For example, if hilly, or composed of wide grass lands, or plough, good breeding will be decidedly essential, because with it good staying powers will be combined; if trappy, or difficult, requiring constant pulling up at fences and careful getting over, extreme cleverness will be far more valuable than blood. Even a broken-winded horse will, if cautious and clever, be more useful over such a country, than a flyer or very flippant jumper—because he can catch his wind between his efforts, and will not be likely to exhibit distress.

If you cannot count upon a horse’s pedigree, when looking for a blood one, you can generally judge him by his haunch. I think it an excellent test of breeding. A well-bred haunch and handsomely carried tail, impart a dignity of appearance which is unmistakable, and they are certainly far in advance of the rounded quarter and drooping caudal appendage which my sketch on the succeeding page represent.

Still further commendable points in a hunter are long shoulders, high withers, broad hips, and loose flanks: this latter in order (as I have heard it expressed) that he may “dash” his haunches under him at the big jumps. He should have good shoulder action, but it matters little (as I have said) about that of the knees.



A hunter is thought to be in his prime at six years old, and if this be the case, every hunter in the kingdom—especially those with which dealers have anything to do—must be just arrived at that happy meridian, for surely no one has ever yet inquired the age of such an animal without being told that he was “just six year old,” or “rising” it. I have known some admirable hunters, however, who had passed the familiar landmark by four years or upwards; and in the west of Ireland I saw one, and rode him too, who was said to be eighteen years old, and certainly a finer fencer it has rarely been my lot to handle.

I do not, however, as a rule, recommend young horsewomen to purchase aged hunters. I have generally found them to be too crafty and clever, calculating their distances too finely, and leaving themselves nothing at all to spare. Better mount a young rider on a young, generous goer, who will give himself a couple of feet or more over the mark.

Never judge of a hunter from seeing him jump in cold blood, because many animals that will perform calmly and collectedly over a schooling-ground, become so tremendously excited in the hunting-field that they are altogether beyond the powers of a lady to control. I need not say that horses of this class are not only unpleasant, but are highly dangerous mounts.

I always advise ladies who have invested in anything that they find disappointing—either a rusher, refuser, plunger, or anything else—to entrust him at once to thoroughly competent hands to break him of the vice. I believe largely in horse-dealing farmers of the straight-riding sort. A horse given up to one of these will be exercised about the lands through the summer months, taught to get slowly through gaps and over difficult fences, made to stand quietly to be mounted, and ridden temperately but with determination when hounds begin to run.

A hunter that pulls should never be made use of by a lady, but for my own riding I have always preferred an animal that gave me something to do to hold him, to one that stuck his head in the air and refused to take hold of his bridle. I don’t know anything that renders a lady more helpless in a quick run than a horse that is too light-mouthed, and that flings his head up every time he feels the action of the bit. I would not take a present of such a one for my own use.

It is an excellent plan for ladies to train their hunters to follow them when on foot. Suppose that in the course of a run you happen to come to some awfully cranky place: cramped, difficult, and highly dangerous to ride, you may find it pleasant and advisable to get off and scramble it, and your steed will follow you beautifully if you have him trained. It is quite easy to do it; accustom him to the tone of your voice, and if in the country take him out on summer evenings with a leading-rein and a pocketful of carrots. You will not have much difficulty after a while, and it is quite worth the trouble, even if you are disposed to think it such, which I never did.

There used long ago to be certain counties celebrated for good hunters. Ireland was, and is, justly famous, both for breeding and training youngsters of a style fit for any hunting-field: but posts, telegraphs, and telephones have placed us far more on a level than we used to be, and I don’t believe that there is now anything like the advantage enjoyed by our fathers and grandfathers in purchasing direct from a breeder.

I may wind up by saying that no horse is worthy of being called a hunter that cannot be turned in a very small circle, that jumps with his hind-legs stretched out behind him, or that won’t at all events attempt any fence at which his owner may wish to turn him.


page 216.


A very tempting title truly, but before we can get there we must say a word about the preparation for it, and also about the journey to be taken to reach the desired goal.

To prepare, therefore, you should look first to your horse; you must get him into good hard-fed condition some time before the opening of the season, and either exercise him regularly yourself, or get somebody to do it for you. The subject of feeding I hope to discuss in a forthcoming chapter—as also that of shoeing, which is extremely important. I may here say, however, that my system of feeding hunters is in many points so widely different to that of others that I shall not undertake to advocate it openly, but shall merely state that I have found it answer most admirably in my own stable, and that many private friends to whom I have recommended it have endorsed my opinion of its excellence. The only portion of it to which I shall in this chapter refer, is concerning the times at which I think the meals ought to be given. I advise that hunters be accustomed all the year round to do without a heavy midday meal: this practice to be adhered to during the summer months, as well as in winter; in fact, whether the animal is doing work or not. A good substantial feed at 7 A.M., and another twelve hours later, with one of hay only (but plenty of it, and of the best) at noon, is all the food that need be given. Horses fed thus do not, on even very long days, miss anything except their midday repast, whereas, if accustomed to a solid feed of corn in the middle of the day, the vacuum created by the want of it must certainly tell upon the animals, and render them in a great degree unfitted for their tasks.

Let your horse, then, be fed as I have directed, and you will (confidently speaking) find him quite able and ready for the long days which are so trying to horses that are not in condition, as well as to many that are.

Look to his shoeing a day or two before you want to use him, and when I say “look,” I mean for you to do it yourself, and not merely inquire of the servant whether it has been done, unless, indeed, he is one of those treasures who are as rarely to be met with as the proverbial four-leaved shamrock, or the horse that is a day over six years old. Grooms will not, as a rule, trouble themselves much about the shoeing department, except at the most inconvenient times; when they don’t want you to go out, for instance, it is quite surprising how quickly they contrive to discover that the horse must go to the forge. I know all their little tricks perfectly well, and the length of time, too, that they generally find it necessary to be absent when that forge business is declared to be a necessity that cannot be done without; therefore, it will be well to look to it always yourself, a good bit in advance, in order that you may not in any wise be taken unprepared.

Give a glance over your hunting-gear also, lest anything should be astray. It is not at the last moment that such things ought ever to be looked to. See that your gloves are in good order, and your riding-breeches perfectly whole—for, remember, there is a great and constant strain on this particular garment, and it will in consequence stand in frequent need of repairs. Make certain also that your skirt is neatly brushed, your hat in perfection, and your whip and spur in perfect readiness for use.

Having made these preparations, you must turn your thoughts from necessaries to possible contingencies, and hold yourself in readiness for such. Procure a small, tidy valise, and in it place a complete change of warm clothing. You can dispense with fashionable and costly articles, and put in merely such things as will prove convenient in the possible event of your being either dyked, or subjected to such a wetting from above as would render it unsafe for you to proceed homewards in your riding-habit. Of course, I am now surmising that you either drive or rail to the hunt, and return the same way.

If you ride a hack to covert, or jog your hunter at an easy pace, you will not only find it impossible to carry a change of clothing, but you will not have any need of such, because nobody ever catches cold, even from wet clothes, so long as motion and circulation are kept up; but if you have a long drive homewards after a hard and exciting day, or a journey (even a short one) to perform by rail, I strongly advocate the carrying of the valise. It will not prove a source of the least trouble to you. You can leave it either in your vehicle or at the railway station, and it is an inconceivable comfort to be able to get into a dry suit when every stitch that you have on is clinging to your body, heavy with wet and mud. I advise the labelling of the valise in plain letters, if it is to be left in any waiting-room. To attend to this may prevent a good deal of possible confusion. Many ladies think it a trouble, I know, to carry such things about with them—just as men, when they go out walking, consider it “a nuisance” to carry an umbrella or an overcoat, even on the most uncertain and showery days—paying the penalty, of course, in drenched garments, rheumatism, and catarrh. The “trouble” in the first instance is very small; in the second it may be serious.

Having then made all square and ready, we have next to consider in what way you intend to proceed to covert. If by rail or vehicle, and that you happen to have friends of an obliging sort living close to the proposed meet, you may perhaps find them willing to give accommodation to your mount for the preceding night. If so it will be very pleasant, both for you and your horse, as the animal will be as fresh as a daisy to carry you—a cheery thing for both parties. You must, however, remember that you will be under a very decided compliment—one which many may not desire to incur—to the friend who shows you this favour, inasmuch as putting up a horse signifies either putting up a servant also, or sending a groom to meet the animal at the station; at all events it entails extra stable duties, and these must be considered and paid for.

Supposing that you do not send your horse anywhere the night before, see to it that he gets off betimes in the morning, and, if going by road, give your servant directions to take him to some quiet corner or laneway close to the meet, and to wait for you there until you come. I regard this as a very much better plan than having him led direct to the meet, and mounting him there in presence of an assembled crowd. Ladies who like a little bit of show generally prefer the latter way—but for true comfort, opportunity for overlooking the general turning-out of your horse, lengthening or shortening of stirrup-leathers, folding your muffling tidily away (instead of flinging it anywhere or anyhow into the vehicle), giving your groom directions where to meet you at the close of the day, and so forth, commend me to the former.

If a hunter is to be railed, let him go to the station well clothed, and send extra things along with him for coming home. Winter evenings are usually chilly, if not downright cold, and are very frequently damp as well; if, then, a heated animal, with every pore open from exercise and excitement, is called upon, unprepared, to encounter these combined atmospheric influences, coughs, catarrhs, rheumatic affections, and sometimes the more serious evils of inflamed or congested lungs, are certain to be the results.

Rise early yourself on a hunting morning; have a cold bath, if of a robust temperament—if not, tepid. Eat a moderate breakfast of white fish, cutlet, or steak, accompanied by dry toast or biscuit, and partake of very little liquid. Fill your flask with cold tea: it is more invigorating than either brandy or wine; and provide a small sandwich, or a biscuit or two, to put in the pocket of your saddle. This will be provision enough for the commissariat department.

If you have the luxury of riding a good hack to covert, and that the distance is not very far—say, from five to eight miles—you will be certain to enjoy it, and it will put you in fettle for the more serious business of the day. This again, like the bath, means if you are strong and hardy: in short, inured to long rides, and not by any means easily fatigued. If it be not so with you, it will be better to make arrangements to go by rail, or drive.

Some ladies ride their hunters quite long distances to meets, but as a rule they are not among the straight-going sort, being satisfied with seeing the first draw and the burst away over a good line of country, where the two or three preliminary fences are not such as to occasion many serious mishaps. I do not think that any lady who rides even moderately straight ought to hack her hunter for a longer distance than five or six miles of a good fair road, and the best way to take him will be at a brisk walk, alternated pretty frequently with a steady jog-trot, or a hand-gallop on the grass at the side. I do not at all object to a hunter being allowed to drink a little water before starting on his journey, although I know that very many disagree with me on the point; nor do I object to his having a few mouthfuls in the intervals of hunting; it will refresh him excessively, just as a small goblet of water would refresh you, although a large one might overload your stomach, or give you a chill.

On arriving at the meet, keep as quiet and as much in the background as you possibly can. It is better taste by far than to push forward in ever so small a degree. Do not trouble yourself with thinking about your own appearance, be it what it may; in all probability nobody will be minding you at all. If you are perfectly well turned-out, feel happy in the consciousness that you are so, but shun display; if indifferently, console yourself with the reflection that each man and woman present is occupied in admiring him or herself, and has neither time nor desire to admire you, or the reverse.

Do not expect that august personage, “the master,” to shake hands with you, even if acquainted, or to stop and talk. Salute him as he goes by, but nothing further.

Do not worry the huntsman with questions about the proposed draws, or anything else. If you know him, salute him, and say a word or two, if you like, about his hounds, but never expect him to answer you; his mind is on other matters bent.

Do not indulge in loud talking, or conspicuous laughter, which will be certain to render you remarkable and bring many eyes upon you. A quiet, ladylike demeanour will always ensure admirers.

When the order is given to go, and the huntsman moves off in front with his hounds, contrive to keep as close to him as you can, without an appearance of “push.” This for the obvious reason that a fox is very often found the moment (or nearly so) that hounds are thrown into covert, and if you are on the spot, you may get well away with the pack; whereas, at the end of a long cavalcade, on a narrow and difficult roadway, it will be ten to one against your doing anything better than hunting a stern chase for the remainder of the run.

It has for long been a vexed question whether or not the hunting-field is a suitable place for ladies, and I am certainly not going to discuss it in extenso, especially in a necessarily limited space. One or two things concerning it I may, however, be permitted to say.

Firstly, that timid ladies, those mounted on badly broken horses, and others (a large community) who push for first place while in reality only fitted to take third (in company with wheezy old gentlemen on fat cobs, farmers on green colts, and the numerous company of confessed road-riders), are a very decided nuisance in the field; and, secondly, that ladies who possess courage (by which I do not mean the effrontery of ignorance and vanity combined), who are thoroughly well mounted, and who never get in anybody’s way, are, in my opinion, a charming addition to the delightful pleasures of the chase. If, then, you want to be considered an acquisition, be contented—especially if a beginner—to take second place: that is, not to force a way among the hard-riding lot, or expose yourself to the numerous perils which really first-flight men and women go out prepared to encounter—ay, and usually manage to get through safely, too, if not interfered with or endangered by second and third-class riders. By-and-by, when you have gained the knowledge and experience which getting up from the ranks will assuredly bring you, there will be an extra pleasure in finding yourself not only holding first place in the most difficult runs, but in knowing that you are qualified to hold it, and are justified in declining to yield it up to others who may not have won their spurs.

If, however, you desire to render yourself thoroughly obnoxious to everybody, you can set about it in this way. Select for your mount something that is both fidgetty and showy, yet utterly “incapable.” Whenever you attempt a fence keep your horse at it, whether you have any chance of getting over or not, to the exclusion of half the field. When you get on fair ground, gallop madly forward and override the hounds, if you chance by a “fluke” to get near enough to them to do so. When there is a check, and the pack fails in hitting off the scent at once, slash at the nearest of them with your hunting-whip, and tell the animal playfully that it is “a naughty dog not to hunt better.” Always make a point of crowding at gaps and gateways, when hounds and field are struggling to get through. Never fail to effect an intimate acquaintance with the master, and be sure to call the huntsman, when speaking of him, “Bill Simmonds” or “Jim Brown,” although “Simmonds” or “Brown” may be quite enough for other people. Always follow this last-mentioned functionary into covert, and speak to him all the time that he is anxiously watching his hounds. Should you happen to view the fox away, swell out your lungs for a good bellow of Tally ho-oooo! and gallop full tilt at him before ever a single hound has left covert, which wise proceeding will be certain to turn him back, and gain for you the blessings of all genuine lovers of sport. Finally, when the game at length breaks fair, rush away in advance of everybody else, with your chin to the sky, and your elbows flapping like the sails of a windmill; and when you have half-killed your ill-conditioned steed, and frightened the wits out of a score or two of old squires who have long ago lost their nerves (together with their appreciation of such “hard riding” as yours), then pull off, and dose everybody with whom you are acquainted, for the next week or two, with glowing accounts of the wonders that you performed on the opening day with the Dashshire hounds, and the merits, beauties, and achievments of the exquisite animal that carried you so brilliantly through the first run of the season. By adopting this mode of proceeding you will be certain to gain a host of admirers in the field, and will do much toward disabusing the public mind of the idea (very deeply implanted in it) that the hunting-field is not a place in which ladies ought to seek for sport.

Now, in conclusion, allow me in all seriousness to lay down a few maxims for your instruction. Never go to hunt without a good pilot. Young lovers are very nice for this purpose, although not always the safest. I recommend sharp old foxhunters, who know the country, and who will give you a judicious lead. If you cannot secure a trustworthy leader, dispense altogether with the services of one, and cut out a line for yourself, provided that you are mounted on a really first-class animal, one well up to your weight, and endowed with an infallible knowledge of where to put his feet. Keep the hounds in sight if you can, or, at any rate, within hearing, and ride rather wide of them, to right or left; never in their actual wake. Keep your horse well in hand all through, that he may not sprawl. Be quick at turning. Avoid, so far as is possible, deep heavy lands; and if traversing plough, keep along the headlands rather than pump your steed by galloping over ridge and furrow, as others frequently do. When obliged to get through gaps and gates put extra steam on when coming up to them, in order to be first; and if there is a crowd, hold your horse hard, and touch him lightly with your spur, that he may keep up his mettle and be ready to bound into full speed the instant you get clear of the ruck. If riding a young hot-blooded hunter, it will as a rule be safer for you to put him at a very big jump than to trust him in a crowded gangway. While riding hard, never so much as glance at the remainder of the field. Keep your eyes for your horse and for the leading hounds, so as to keep exactly with them, and check the very instant that they do.

Never distress your mount by taking unnecessary jumps. Don’t be a bit ashamed to make use of a convenient gate if you can get along with equal quickness that way; it will save your horse, and will enable you to hold your place much longer in the run; but, at the same time, never shirk a practicable jump when you want to go straight.

If riding a kicker, give warning to those in the rear of you to keep out of the way. Never jump over a fallen horseman; select another part of the fence to effect your leap. Do not continue to ride a beaten animal; pull off the moment that he hangs out signals of distress. When called upon to cross a ford, do so very cautiously, and if your horse makes a kind of forward plunge, and an attempt at swimming, throw him the reins at once or he will roll over. Do not on any account interfere with his mouth at such a time. Keep your left foot stuck well forward, or, better still, lift the leg right over the leaping-head, that it may not be struck by the horse’s hind foot—and at the same time take a firm grip of the up-pommel and the off-side of the saddle, to avoid being unseated when he makes his second plunge, which he will do the moment that he recovers his footing.

If the first run of the day be a good one, rest satisfied with it, and do not attempt another, unless you have a second horse out. If your mount should chance to lose a shoe, especially a fore one, make at once for the nearest forge. If one of the hind feet has sustained the loss, you may continue the run, provided the going is over soft ground—but when a fore shoe happens to go, pull off without a moment’s delay. I have always thought it an admirable plan to carry a shoe, or slipper, slung on (in its neat leather case) cavalry-wise, to the saddle. This, in case of accident, obviates the necessity of waiting at the forge while the smith manufactures one—and of course on arrival at home it can readily be changed for a more durable foot-protector. I have even known some sage old sportsmen carry in their pockets a little American hammer and nail-box in one, and do their own shoeing when they found themselves in difficulties and at a distance from professional aid.

Dismount when there is a check, if only for an instant; and, when there is time, shift your saddle an inch back or forward, the first for preference. This will prove a great refreshment to your mount.

Be uniformly kind and courteous to everybody. If you chance to distinguish yourself by good riding, or good fortune, make no fuss about it, or look for adulation. Always carry a yard or two of twine, a pick, and a few shillings along with you; there may be uses for all.

When riding home, if you do ride, grasp the first opportunity of getting your horse some warm gruel, and take him through a shallow ford or pond to wash the mud from his legs and belly. When you get him to his stable do not allow him to be tormented by elaborate grooming; see that he is given an abundance of straw to roll in, and a good bucket of linseed tea to drink; have his ears dried by pulling them, bandage his legs with flannel, and give him an abundance of fresh air, which is of far more consequence to an exhausted hunter than either food or water. I greatly disapprove of admitting draughts, especially thorough ones—but it is a dire mistake to cram a horse into a close stable, with every chink stopped up, and then put a huge quantity of hay and oats before him. Bad air and improper feeding soon do their work. Some valuable animal is taken ill, a farrier is sent for, he tries bleeding to stop the terrific action of the heart, and before morning the horse is dead.

I shall have something useful to say on this and kindred subjects in my chapter on “Doctoring,” later on.



There are three points concerning this important subject on which I should like to thoroughly convince my readers. Firstly, that the theory, sometimes put forward, of dispensing with shoes for horses that are intended to work in paved cities and over rough roads, is a fallacious one; secondly, that the shoeing done at ordinary forges is practically all wrong; and, thirdly, that there is nothing at all derogatory in going down one’s-self to the blacksmith’s, in company with the animal to be shod, and not only giving directions about the way in which it will be most advisable to do it, but standing by to make certain that it is actually done. Common errors among smiths are these; cutting down the frog until it cannot possibly come in contact with the ground; paring the sole, until it is either bedewed with blood, or so thin that the effort to walk on it causes the horse to wince; opening the “bars” which join the frog to the outer wall of the foot; putting on unnecessarily heavy shoes; having a strong predilection in favour of calkins; rasping down the wall of the foot to fit the shoe, instead of making the shoe to fit the foot; and removing too much of the heel horn. These faults proceed, as a rule, more from ignorance than obstinacy, and it would therefore be a good and wise thing if every farrier were to be made thoroughly acquainted with the anatomy of the horse’s foot and leg: he would then perceive what dire mischief he was in reality doing while pursuing the ordinary stereotyped course which his father and grandfather probably followed before him.

To look at this list of errors in review. First of all, the frog should never be interfered with; to pare it with a knife is ruinous; it ought to touch the ground instead of being prevented from doing so: nature intended that it should. It retains the hoof in proper shape at the heels, prevents the tendency to slip, and in fact acts as the natural buffer of the foot, giving it strength, security, and elasticity, while its toughness enables it to travel over the roughest country without shrinking or pain. It wards off concussion, being surrounded by lateral cartilages which may be described as yielding sidewalls, and is the contrivance supplied by nature for preserving the superimposed structures from injury or passing hurt. Cutting into the frog is, I am most firmly convinced, one of the chief causes of thrush, and nothing can more clearly prove this than the fact that diseased and wasted frogs, and thrushes of long and obstinate standing, have been known to become completely cured by the adoption of a proper system of shoeing—one that brought the frog not only near the ground, but actually on it.

Navicular disease, that terror of every horse-owner, is without doubt largely induced by improper shoeing, coupled with the pernicious practice which I am now condemning, of cutting away the frog. This valuable india-rubber-like substance should be jealously guarded, and most carefully preserved from injury or waste; a knife ought no more be allowed to touch it than permitted to penetrate the horse’s eye; perhaps even with greater care ought it to be preserved, for whereas some excellent goers have but one eye to see with, an animal on three legs is of but little use to anybody, except the knacker, into whose hands he is pretty certain soon to fall.

Second on the list of evils comes the paring away of the sole of the foot, and so general is this most unwise operation, that grooms absolutely prepare for it the night before their charges go to the forge, by stopping their feet with cow-dung, or some other horrible dirt. The practice is a cruel, useless, and highly deleterious one, which owners of horses ought not in anywise to encourage or permit.

Third, is the hideous habit of opening up the heels: which means making a deep incision into the wall of the foot at the heel, just where it is bent inward to form the bars. Nothing could possibly be more injurious or injudicious than this detestable operation. It weakens the wall of the foot, and occasions what all horse-fanciers strive to guard against, the evil of contracted heels. The frog, sole, and bars have each a separate and most important duty to perform, and are, if unwisely interfered with, rendered absolutely incapable of contributing to the carrying out of Nature’s exemplary plan.

Fourth, is the custom of putting on shoes that are too clumsy, weighty, and thick. A thin, light shoe is in every respect preferable, the lightness of the metal ensuring a firm foothold, while it likewise brings the foot-proper in closer proximity to the ground.

Fifth, is the strong fancy for calkins,—things which I as strongly decry, except for heavy draught horses, and for those accustomed to trust to their assistance for backing weighty loads. Even where such appendages are acknowledged to be necessary, a toe-piece should be likewise added to the shoe and the forepart slightly thickened, in order to ensure an evenness and steadiness of footing, together with the keeping of the foot in its own natural position. A horse mounted upon calkins without the addition of the toe-piece must feel quite as uncomfortable as a vain belle when mounted upon a pair of tapering high heels.

Another way of preventing injury in the form of contractions from calkins is, to have the shoes forged of even thickness from heel to toe, and then to remove a portion of metal from underneath the quarters. A horse’s real weight is on his toes and heels: nature shows this by weakening the hoofs at the quarters, and the law of mechanics illustrates that if the extremities of any powerful substance are equally and adequately sustained, the absolute body which forms as it were a bridge over the space, may be trusted without support.

Sixth, is a terrible evil: namely, employing the rasp to the outer wall of the foot, in order to bring it down to the size of a shoe that is too small for it. This cruelty is generally perpetrated by farriers who consider themselves too hurried, but are in reality too lazy, to undertake the forging of a properly fitting shoe, and so they lay hands on one that happens to be lying by them, and having affixed it, proceed to cut down the foot to its level. The wretchedness of the animal, when set to walk upon this torturing protector, is precisely like that which we should suffer were our feet to be crushed into boots or shoes that were ever so many sizes too small for them. By this cruel practice the horn of the foot is seriously injured, and months elapse before it resumes its normal shape and condition.



Removing too much of the heel-horn is the seventh evil with which we have to deal. This is a very usual practice, and is strongly calculated to make a temporary cripple of the horse so operated upon. It ought to be remembered that the ground face of the hoof should be even, and justly proportioned from toe to heel, and that the sides of it ought to be of equal depth. There is at times, indeed very often, an excess of horny growth about the toe, but it is impossible to lay down any precise rule with reference to the angle to which the hoof ought to be brought: a competent eye will, however, judge of it, and will be able to decide whether it is in conformity with the natural formation and bearing of the limb.



I have a great fancy for tips—otherwise half-shoes, nailed to the toes only, and leaving both quarters free. I have known one or two young horses shod in this way who have travelled quite safely, and shown wonderfully healthy feet. For racers I particularly approve of them, and for young light-weight hunters, especially when running in a grass country. I am aware that there is a prejudice against them, except for animals that are for awhile thrown up, but it is an entirely ignorant one, and ought to be discarded. The late Duke of Wellington was especially fond of tips, and for a long while rode his horses with no other kind of foot-covering. He was at length, however, induced to give it up, as he suffered torment from persons perpetually informing him that his hack had cast a shoe. I have from time to time been shown an immense variety of india-rubber shoes, together with other novel kinds too numerous to mention, and to all of them have found some grave faults. Lyons has, however, lately produced a new specimen, which has been experimented with upon French horses in a manner somewhat successful. It is made entirely of sheep’s horn, and is said to be particularly adapted to such animals as are known not to be steady-footed when going over pavements. It is, moreover, excessively light and very durable—two excellent qualities—and although at present somewhat more expensive than the ordinary shoe, it will no doubt come down in price when the novelty wears off, and will in all probability replace the present style before the world is many years older. For horses employed in towns it must be peculiarly valuable, as it is said to be an effectual check against slipping.


Before closing the present chapter, I should like to warn horse-owners still further against the ordinary uses of the smith’s drawing-knife, rasp, and heated iron, all of which are, as I have said, most lamentably abused. By the first, especially, numerous “accidents” are made to occur. The sole of the foot being all pared away and exposed close to the earth, induces it to assume a harshness of texture totally opposed to its natural qualities, which are soft and yielding—and this change of structure is a fruitful source of corns. The outer portion of the sole rests upon the web of the shoe; the coffin-bone descends, and not meeting with any yielding substance to play upon, the flesh is pressed between the inferior surface of the bone and the upper surface of the shoe, causing malignant corns.

Again, the educated smith, in order to give what he terms “a better hold,” drives the fastening nails into the black or outer substance of the wall of the foot; whereas the untutored Arab preserves his horses’ feet by permitting the walls to descend about half-an-inch below the sole, and then driving the nails through this portion of the hoof. By so doing, he averts the evil consequences of inserting iron into the brittle substance, and secures at the same time the resistance and tough qualities of the complex covering of the foot. While the English smith is labouring to give a tight hold, he is in reality involving three distinct perils—firstly, pricking the sensitive foot, should the nail chance to turn a little bit on one side—a thing which very often happens; secondly, driving a nail too fine, or, in other words, too near the white horn—the consequence of which is that it, the nail, turns inward when the horse is worked, causing lameness to ensue; and, thirdly, to avoid these evils, he points his nails so far outward that the outer crust cracks, splits, and chips away, in time occasioning a difficulty about finding any place at all capable of affording holding properties for the necessary nails.



It is owing to this evil that riders are so frequently inconvenienced by their horses’ shoes becoming partially detached from their feet. The weakest portion of the chipped hoof yields first, the remaining fastenings follow, the shoe wags, the nails lose their hold—with, perhaps, the exception of one or two,—when the foot is raised its covering hangs pendulous from it, and when again put down some nail still remaining in the shoe pierces the plantar surface of the foot, or, perhaps, even penetrates the coffin-bone, and prolonged lameness follows. “This may be, and no doubt is, all very true,” I fancy I can hear some reader say; “but what on earth am I to do? I cannot shoe my horses myself, and smiths are so intolerably conceited.” Just so; they certainly are, and I can entirely sympathise with you; horse-owners are terribly dependent upon them, ladies in particular. But I should advise you to do what I myself have found effectual, namely, take your horses either to a thoroughly competent farrier (there are, happily, such to be found), or, what I think better still, to a complete duffer!—one who knows very little about his trade, and who, being aware of his deficiencies, will be humble enough to accept your directions, and also willing to act upon them and thankful for being afforded an opportunity of doing so. I have heard that railway companies seek for fools to act as pointsmen; by all means, then, look out for an idiotic smith!


As already stated, I give my own ideas and opinions on this subject, without any desire to thrust them forward, or the least expectation of seeing them generally adopted. Old prejudices are hard to get rid of; grooms are self-willed, obstinate, and ignorant to a degree, and masters are too yielding, or too indolent to interfere. I therefore regard it as probable that on many persons the advice contained in this chapter will be thrown away, while on others—those who are willing to break new ground—it will, I venture to say, have the salutary effect of producing improvements in the stable, and increasing the weight of the purse. By good management, which is the true secret of all economy, a man, or woman, may keep a pair of horses for the same yearly outlay that his or her less provident neighbour will expend on keeping one—while the credit of the stable will be quite as well, if not better, maintained.

I am most strongly in favour of cooked food, and opposed to the giving of raw oats in any shape or form. The absurd theory that this system of feeding is calculated to make horses “soft,” is about as sensible as that which avers (or would do so) that a man fed upon cooked rice and well-boiled potatoes, would be less capable of doing a good day’s work than if compelled to eat the same materials raw. Animals possessed of even the very best digestions lose a great portion of the nutriment of their food when given in the ordinary way—a large quantity of the oats passing through their bodies quite as whole and unbroken as when swallowed; whereas every grain of the cooked food is assimilated with the blood, and goes to nourish the system,—consequently, nothing is lost.

A chief reason for the prejudice against cooked food is that it gives trouble, and is a “bother” to prepare. This is always the groom’s excuse; everything is a trouble to him, except thrusting a measure of hard dry corn, accompanied by a bucket of water, at stated intervals before his charge, and receiving his wages—at stated intervals also—for so doing. Were he to understand, when being hired, that to cook the food would form as much a portion of his business as to groom and bed the horses, there would probably be very little grumbling—especially when every convenient appliance would be found ready to his hand; but the difficulty always lies with the old and knowing ones—men who have been accustomed all their lives to do things their own way, and have things just as they pleased. These, as a rule, resent every innovation, and are only to be dealt with by persons as knowing and determined as themselves.

Another source of objection is the idea that it will require some special apparatus—some costly, difficult, complicated contrivance for carrying out the proposed plan. There never was a greater mistake made. In my next chapter, which will be entirely devoted to the subject of stabling, I shall endeavour to show that the only apparatus necessary is an exceedingly simple one,—certainly not by any means of either a costly or extravagant nature.

To feed a horse four times a day, on any kind of food, is in my opinion unnecessary; unless, indeed, he be an extremely delicate feeder, in which case “little and often” should be the rule; but I maintain that if fed but thrice he ought to be given as good a proportion as is ordinarily divided into four. I like to see a hard-working horse able to eat his five quarterns of mixed oats and beans, varied with a good mash once or twice a week, and always on a Saturday night. At the same time I am entirely against placing an excess of food in the manger at one time; it is much better to give an animal just what he will finish, than that he should not leave his manger perfectly clean.

Corn ought to be boiled until every grain is swollen to nearly double its normal size, and is capable of being bruised between the fingers; it should then be turned out on big trays and left to cool. To suffer it to grow quite cold is not only unnecessary, but is scarcely even advisable; tepid food is much easier of digestion, both in the human stomach and in that of the horse, than food that has become chilled. Cold substances when swallowed, must rise to a temperature of nearly 100° before the process of digestion can go healthily forward, and that the food should be a step or two on the road to this degree of warmth will materially assist the sanitary laws of animal nature. There is not, at the same time, the very smallest necessity for administering warm food at all periods when nourishment is given; on the contrary, a change of diet will be found very beneficial, and summer feeding ought to differ from that of winter, both in quantity and temperature. In saying this, however, I do not for a moment mean to convey that hunters, even when not in use, should ever be allowed to drop out of condition. I don’t believe they should, unless completely invalided and not likely to be able to do any work during the ensuing season. I think they ought to be fed with a proportion of oats, though somewhat less than in winter time, and be kept in regular exercise every day. I have already said that I approve of driving hunters in harness during the off season, and having seen it tested, I can speak for the efficacy of it.

I have often been asked whether a horse ought to be given the same quantity of boiled food as of unboiled; in other words, if the process of cooking occasions the food to swell to twice its natural size, and so to fill, say, two measures in place of one, ought the two measures to be given to the horse? My answer is, certainly, if the animal is a voracious feeder, and is able to make a complete clearance of all that is in his manger, even after getting the two measures,—but I do not believe that one horse out of a hundred will be capable of doing so, or will show the least inclination to make use of so large a bulk of food. My experience has been, that about three-fourths of the quantity of cooked food is all that a horse will or can possibly eat, and even this amount is unusual—a trifle more than half being the customary thing with horses who would otherwise get through the full quantity of raw material,—and herein lies the saving, for the satisfying bulk of the food taken at a meal is largely increased by cooking, while every particle of it goes to the nourishment of the animal’s frame: a thing which is certainly not the case when the substance is partaken of in its raw state.

The water in which corn has been boiled ought never by any means to be thrown away; it sometimes is, by careless or ignorant grooms, but the pity and wastefulness are very great, for it is most admirable and nourishing for drinking purposes, as well as for other stable uses.

To secure the purchase of good oats, buy them by measurement, and not by weight. An excellent sample will weigh from 30 to 36 pounds to the bushel—a prime one ought to weigh from 45 to 48—and this, be it observed, will, when denuded of the chaff, yield scarcely more than 35 of pure grain. It is great nonsense to talk about the advisability of purchasing black, golden, or white oats; all three may be very good or very bad of their kind, and it is in reality only the chaff that is coloured, the kernel of each being of one tint. Sound oats ought to be dry, and very hard; they should chip asunder when crushed—not have anything of a torn appearance—and should be perfectly scentless. The less bearded they are the better. I strongly object to kiln-dried oats for horses, although many sellers resort to the practice by way of expelling moisture from new grain. I conceive it to be a thoroughly unwholesome process, taking into account the fact that sulphur is frequently employed in it—a thing calculated to produce the most terrible belly-ache, spasms, and gripes. If the presence of sulphur is suspected, a sample of the oats may be rubbed hastily between the palms of the hands, and the peculiar odour will at once betray itself.

Beans are not much employed in Ireland as horse-food, but in England they are very generally used. Egyptian beans are the best; they are usually mild, sweet, and tender. Peas are excellent—so are potatoes—and tares possess so many virtues that it is a wonder the use of them is so generally confined to farm teams. Carrots are very good when not given too freely. I approve of them highly for aged horses, but should be cautious about dealing them out too profusely to young blood ones. I like to see them given whole, or chopped so fine that the horse cannot run the risk of choking himself by swallowing them in lumps. This applies to almost all species of roots when given raw. For delicate feeders carrots are especially valuable; they give a peculiar relish to bran and other substances, and cause such to be eagerly taken, even when rejected before.

Now a word about hay. Upland hay is the best. It may be known by the following marks: a perfectly clean look, a bright colour, a distinctness of fibre, an absence of dust, a pleasant fresh smell, a decided crispness, a scarcity of weeds, and the presence of seeds in the stems. Delicacy and cleanliness are its characteristics, and it is in every way immeasurably superior to lowland hay, which is tawny, limp, strong smelling, and “woolly” to the touch.

New hay of any kind is objectionable for feeding purposes, but I consider that the year’s growth is quite fit and wholesome in November.

Clover hay—that is, first-crop clover—is excellent for mixing with upland; it is largely interspersed with grass, the stems are fine, and the leaves untinged by blackness, the flowers, though dried and faded, are abundant throughout it, and retain much of their original colour. Second-crop clover is not nearly so desirable; it may be known by a coarse, strong flavour when put in the mouth, by the big stems, the dingy appearance, and the noticeable blackness of the leaves.

I do not approve of giving too much hay of any kind to horses; a superabundance is apt to make them pot-bellied, and unfit for hard work. Hunters, however, that get nothing else for their mid-day meal, ought, when in the stable, to be fed with sufficient quantity to make up for the absence of more substantial food.

Ready-cut chaff ought never to be purchased; all sorts of things find their way into it, just as is said to be the case with cheap sausages!

Boiled barley is excellent food for horses. I have seen some splendid youngsters that were fed on nothing else, save the trifling addition of a very small portion of upland hay.

Gruel, if given, should be as carefully prepared as though made for the human subject; the neglect of this caution is the cause of so many grooms thrusting heavy feeds before exhausted horses, and averring that the animals “will not drink gruel.” No wonder that they reject it, when the stuff so-named is merely a bucketful of hot water with a handful or two of oatmeal stirred into it. My experience of horses has not been a small one, and I can candidly say that I have never yet seen even the most wearied or delicate animal reject a properly prepared mess of gruel.

To make a good mash, allow at least a quartern of oats and a pint of linseed—these to be boiled for three hours or upwards, and then mixed with as much bran as will make it of a proper damp consistency, but not a wet slop, or yet a dry poultice. It should be given rather warm, and a little salt is an excellent addition. A delicate or ailing animal that will not eat his mash may often be tempted by putting a little treacle or sugar into it.

A horse’s supply of water ought never to be limited. On this I shall touch in my next chapter, in conjunction with stable appliances and drinking-troughs. To drink plentifully is a symptom of good health. Very cold water is not advisable for horses; a handful of hay will take the chill off, or a little meal thrown in. Nitre should never under any pretext be added to the drink. Soft water is the best for stable uses; if this cannot be conveniently procured, hard water may be considerably softened by boiling, with the addition of about half an ounce of carbonate of soda to every pailful of liquid.

I strongly advocate variety of feeding for horses. My own hunters were trained to eat and relish almost everything—except, perhaps, codfish, on which the Newfoundlanders bring up their horses wonderfully well! Mine were given turnips, peas, potatoes (both boiled and raw), apples, pears, parsnips, patent horse biscuits, great armfuls of cowslips and fresh soil, bread, and oatcake—in short, more things than I can possibly enumerate. They were great pets, and I loved to take little dainties out to them—a few nice ripe plums, with the stones removed, a handful of sugar, a crisp biscuit or two, or a juicy apple or pear. Such joy, such whinnying, such turning of beautiful heads, such licking of grateful lips, such playful searchings for more, and brightening of lustrous eyes, and such romps together in the clean, fresh, crisp straw, with mutual kissings, and rubbings, and fondlings of all sorts. My heart is sad when I think of them—even though I know that they are made much of and are well cared in other homes—and though so many joys are spared to me in mine.

In conclusion, let me advise all who are determined to maintain a prejudice against cooked food, or whose limited stable accommodation may not admit of the erection of even the most simple contrivance for cooking it, to procure a corn-crusher and see that it is made good use of. To purchase such an article, and then allow it to stand idle in the stable is a course of procedure somewhat similar to that adopted by Lever’s West-countryman, who bought himself a new coat, and said it was “a fine thing to sit lookin’ at on a Sunday morning.”

A juicy apple


I think it highly probable that horse-owners who read this chapter will be already supplied with stabling, be it such as it may, and I think it equally probable that whereas some will be ready to compare their premises with those that I shall advocate, and be anxious to effect such improvements as I shall venture to suggest, others will turn scoffingly away from my hints, with the declaration that they have kept horses all their lives, and have pulled along very well indeed without any of the new-fangled nonsense of the present day. Of course it is not for such persons that I care to write, or want to do so; on the contrary, I prefer to address my remarks to those who desire to learn. By setting forth the exact principles on which a stable should, according to my ideas, be built and managed, I shall be affording information to such as shall either be desirous of building anew, or of effecting a series of alterations in premises discovered to be faulty—although hitherto perhaps considered complete.

To begin then. If choice of situation can be had, select that which will admit of draining, and shelter from cold winds. The aspect should be southern, and the soil dry. A stable ought never to be built in a hollow, or near a marsh, nor ought the foundation to be sunk in clay. These things generate damp, and where this evil exists we may expect to find coughs, farcy, glanders, bad eyes, and a thousand attendant misfortunes. If the foundation of a stable cannot be of chalk or well-drained gravel, the proper plan will be to excavate, put in superior drains, and fill up the area to be occupied with concrete. The surface drainage may be connected with the underground, if desired, or may be quite distinct from it. Surface drains, if not constructed in a manner that will admit of their being cleaned out from day to day, had best be dispensed with, and open channels substituted, leading to the outside of the stable.

Walls should be composed of bricks, glazed on the inside, as such do not hold any dirt. Posts should be of oak, in preference to iron—and of the same stout material divisions of stalls and boxes should be made. If expense is not an object, however, brick will be better still for the construction of these.

The roof of a four-horse stable should be at least ten feet high, and that of a six-horse twelve to fourteen, which will be ample. When too lofty, a cold atmosphere prevails; when too low there is need for very large ventilators, which create a current, not always either safe or pleasant.

I do not at all approve of paved flooring, although it is so general. Roughened asphalte is the best; or a most perfect floor may be made by laying a concrete foundation, made up with gas-tar, some three or four inches thick, with stable clinkers set and bedded in it, and the whole grounded in with Portland cement.

I am a great advocate for box stalls, and would never allow an animal of mine to be tied up by the head. It is a barbarous and cruel practice, leading to all kinds of evils, both visible and concealed. A box should be at least twelve feet by fourteen, and I prefer it much larger. If it be of brick, it ought to be lined with wood, and this again with zinc in all places that the horse can use his teeth upon. Projections of every kind should be avoided, as they are apt to be injurious when the occupant moves rapidly, or rolls to refresh himself. In a stalled stable a box may be made by converting the end stall into one. This can readily be done by having a gate that can be hung on the stall-post and fastened against the wall. A screen, hung on rollers from a top bar, is better than a door for closing up a box-stall. It never gets out of order, nor can any horse—even the most ingenious—succeed in opening it when once it is let down.

Where stalls are used they ought to be at least ten feet in length, and six and a-half or seven in width. The flooring of stalls should never slant to any perceptible degree. When it does there is a continual strain upon the back sinews and flexor muscles of the horse, and this he strives to relieve by moving backwards, and resting his hind toes in the gutter,—a practice which grooms call a vice.

A stable door ought not to be less than eight feet high; this will enable a horseman to ride out when mounted. It should be quite five feet wide, and divided into two parts, upper and lower, in order that the former may be conveniently opened in warm weather. It should likewise be free of any fastening that projects in even an apparently trifling degree.

Good ventilation is an absolute necessity in a stable; but in saying this I do not mean that it should be overdone. Up to the year 1788 the subject was but little thought of, and ever since that period there has been a constant outcry against “hot” stables. Such, no doubt, are highly dangerous, but so are cold ones; and many persons insist upon confounding hot with foul, whereas the terms need have no connection whatever with one another. In cases of sickness it may be necessary to keep a horse in a warm stable, but no ailment that ever was heard of can possibly be benefited by being nursed in a foul or vitiated atmosphere. There is a great deal of talk about temperature with regard to stables, but very little indeed concerning purity: a matter which ought really to engage far more attention.

To ventilate a stable properly there ought to be apertures for taking away the foul air, and further apertures for admitting a fresh supply—and these must be placed high up, near the roof; otherwise they will tend to make the stable unduly cold.

When air is exhaled from a horse’s lungs it is both lighter and warmer than that which surrounds it, consequently it ascends to the highest part of the building, and if permitted to escape there it can do no harm. If, however, there is no aperture so high up, it remains at the top until it grows cold, and then descends, to be breathed and rebreathed by the animal over and over again. I cannot get persons to believe this, or even to understand it. The rooms that they themselves occupy are at times positive hotbeds of unwholesomeness—every window shut tight, doors likewise shut and often heavily curtained, while sandbags are employed in various directions to exclude every breath of fresh air. Such persons sleep all night long in a vitiated atmosphere, and think that they are doing wonders if, in the event of the morning being excessively bright and fine, they open a little bit of the window from the bottom. To tell them that this is injurious would have no effect whatever; it is comfortable, feels warm, at least—and what matter about the rest? “New-fangled notions: nothing else”—and so on, and so forth.

Impure air in stables is one of the evils to be most guarded against. There may be openings large enough to admit a certain quantity of fresh air, but they are of little use unless there are others also for the purpose of letting out that which has been already breathed, before it has had time to grow cool.

The best windows by far, both for lighting and ventilating, are ordinary sash-windows, well constructed, and reaching quite to the ceiling. These should be made to open readily at top and bottom, and should be fitted with cords and pulleys of the very best description. I know, of course, all the modern appliances off by heart, and am quite ready to admit the excellence of some of them—indeed, many—but for general all-round usefulness I prefer the kind that I have advocated. Sash-windows are capable of affording a splendid current of air: when the horses are out, for instance, or when the weather is tremendously hot—and they can be made available for the same purpose even when the occupants of the stalls and boxes are in their places without creating a dangerous draught, for the air can be directed ceilingwards by means of screens or wire blinds.

Another advantage that sash-windows possess over other kinds is that there is nothing about them to get out of order, except the cords—and these can, of course, be quite readily renewed; in fact, most handy stablemen are capable of effecting such simple repairs without having to enlist the services of outsiders at all.

I like to see windows glazed with rough plate; it is extremely strong and durable, and is in every way to be commended before the 18-inch glass, which is both frail and shabby. Blinds ought to be fitted to the windows, or outside shutters employed, in order to keep out the heat and glare in summer time.

Stables should be well lighted. I do not at all approve of the half-and-half system of lighting which generally prevails, and I strongly condemn the darkness which is too often to be found in them. I cannot be made to believe that horses, children, flowers, or anything else, can possibly thrive and be healthy in the dark. Abundance of light and air is my maxim, and I smile to myself when I see persons blinking disconsolately in the sunlight, and wondering where the “draughts” are coming from. Those accustomed to live in hot-houses call every breath of air a draught, and because it is the fashion (a most pernicious and objectionable one) to darken up dwelling-houses until every ray of God’s beautiful sunshine and sweet glad light is entirely excluded, they think that to enter a room where all the blinds are up, and where sunshafts are darting in through pleasantly opened windows, is something too awful to be endured. In like manner, grooms will, when allowed, shut out every ray of light from the houses in which their charges spend the long hours of their captivity, and will tell you—if you have the patience to listen to such nonsense—that “horses thrive better in the dark.” Do not believe a word of it. Just watch a horse brought suddenly out of a dark stable, in daylight, into the yard; look closely at his eyes, how the pupils instantly contract, and the lids rise and fall, with a rapid pained movement, not to be mistaken. The animal cannot see a single yard before him, and when he stumbles, or halts, or steps gingerly, the groom has harsh names and cruel punishments ready for him at command, provided always that the master or mistress does not happen to be by. You should insist upon having a plentiful supply of light and air for your horses, for by so doing, although “death cannot ultimately be defeated, life may be prolonged.”

I do not disapprove, as some do, of having the hay loft directly over the stable, but I greatly object to the common method of dispensing the contents of it through a trap-door in the roof. It is a most pernicious practice, allowing draughts to penetrate right down upon the horses’ heads, and filling their eyes and nostrils with hay-seeds and dust. Naturally when an animal knows that it is feeding-time, and sees the opening of the trap, its head is uplifted to catch the first morsel, and, as a consequence, its sensitive organs suffer at once. Moreover, there have been times when the fork, carried in the hand of a careless stableman, has slipped from him through the opening, and inflicted serious injury upon the occupant of the stall below.

When the hayloft is over the stable the floor of it should be of brick or concrete; if of wood, there will always be a difficulty about excluding vermin, which are the pests of every ill-managed stable.

The outer yard should be partially roofed, but where this is not the case there ought to be an adjacent room with a paved or asphalted floor, for purposes of clipping, singeing, &c., none of which operations ought ever to be performed in a stable or box.

For night lighting I approve of gas, when available; and if in the country, of lamps fixed with staples. Provision should be made for an abundant supply of water, arranged according to the source from whence it is most readily derivable; and to the ordinary stable apparatus, a long water-hose, together with a number of fire buckets, ought to be added.

The rack, manger, and drinking-trough should be level to the horses’ knees—the bottoms of them to reach almost to the level of the ground. This arrangement enables animals to eat and drink as nature intended that they should. The manger, which should be lined with zinc, ought to be fitted with a footguard; it is an excellent preventive against waste of food while eating.

I look with abhorrence upon the ordinary water-pot with chain and plug. It soils the water if not kept most scrupulously clean, and frets the horse besides. I approve of those that move upon a pivot, thus enabling the refuse liquid to be at once turned out, and the pot itself kept perfectly sweet and clean.

For bedding I do not think that anything is better than prime wheaten straw, properly shaken down and evened, to secure the comfort of the horse when he stretches or rolls. To leave it in lumps is both wasteful and cruel, for when it is so an animal cannot rest upon it for more than a very short period of time. He becomes restless and disquieted, he fidgets about, just as we do when we have the misfortune to be put to sleep on a hard, lumpy, uncomfortable bed,—and by-and-by he stands up, fretted, and declines to stretch himself any more. Thus his rest is disturbed and broken, and he is unfitted for his work next day.

Straw must of course be frequently changed, according as it becomes littered, broken up, or damp. It is sometimes left open to the inroads of dogs and poultry, a thing that ought to be guarded against for various reasons, among which may be counted the liability of vermin, which very soon find their way to the horse.

The best place for a granary is over a shed or coach-house. It ought to be a cool, airy apartment, with concrete floor, and walls lined with glazed brick. In small establishments the corn chest supplies the place of one. This, if used, ought never to be kept in the stable, owing to the chances so frequently occurring of its being left open by mistake, and horses breaking loose and gorging themselves almost to death. It should be placed in a loft, with a tube or shaft attached to bring the corn to the place where it is required.

Every stable ought to be provided with a copper, or boiler, for heating water and cooking food. This, both in town and country, should be considered an indispensable appendage. It is a great advantage, as well as a saving, to have the boiler made of malleable iron, which will stand every kind of hard usage without sustaining injury. It should be placed in a room that will afford space for all kinds of cooking implements, coolers, pails, &c., and a supply of coals as well. The entrance to this should be sufficiently wide to admit a good-sized wheelbarrow, or a cooler on wheels, and there should be a good lock to fasten the door. The furniture ought to include a couple of iron ladles for mixing or measuring the food, and a water-pipe with a stopcock running into the boiler.

The stable “cupboard,” or press, must not be overlooked. It is a receptacle intended to hold working implements—such as combs, brushes of all kinds, sponges, scissors, chamois leathers, or “shammies,” as servants call them for shortness—and a variety of other matters. The groom should have a key for this, and the master or mistress will do well to have another, in order that he or she may inspect it occasionally, and ascertain that it is not put to any improper use.

A groom’s bedroom is a decidedly necessary addition to a stable,—horses so frequently become ill in the night, or fall to kicking, or get halter-cast when tied up, or contrive to break loose and go wandering about the stable,—in fact, so many things, that this special chamber ought never to be left unprovided, or untenanted. I speak now of establishments where a number of horses are kept; where there is only one, or perhaps two, and that they are properly seen to the last thing at night, there will not, as a rule, be any actual necessity for a groom to sleep on the premises.

A common appendage to many country stables is a water-pond. It is usually made to serve for washing and watering the horses, washing the carriage, bathing the fowls, and drowning supernumerary pups, kittens, and stray cats. I strongly recommend its removal—or at all events, the removal of any servant who leads a horse to drink at it, fetches water from it for feeding purposes, or drags any vehicle through it for the ready disposal of the mud upon the wheels.

Harness and saddle rooms should be entirely distinct from stables. They should contain stoves or fireplaces, and should be perfectly dry, lightsome, and well aired. There should be an abundant supply of racks for whips, &c., brackets for saddles, pegs for bridles, a good wide shelf for miscellaneous articles, and a lock-up press for horse-clothing, leg bandages, and other matters of a like description.

A cat about a stable is a decided acquisition; therefore secure a respectable grimalkin of steady, sober habits, and give her the run of the place. She and the horses will be fast friends in a very short space of time; she will get her own living, with the addition of a trifle of milk now and again, and will ask no warmer bed in winter than the sleek back of one of her equine companions.



In all cases where a horse falls sick, or meets with an accident, the proper course to pursue is to send at once for a thoroughly competent veterinary surgeon. To delay about doing so may be to lose a valuable animal, or at all events to involve a much longer attendance than would otherwise have been necessary, and therefore the mistaken effort at economy which tardiness generally represents, will, in nine cases out or ten, be entirely defeated.

There may be times, however—in country districts, for instance—when to send for a surgeon will involve a very long and wearisome delay, and when to keep an ailing or injured animal altogether without assistance or relief until his arrival, may be productive of most serious results; it will, therefore, be apparent that, although a little knowledge is in many instances esteemed “a dangerous thing,” it is certainly not so with regard to the subject which we have now in hand. For my own part, my knowledge of horse-doctoring is decidedly limited, and my surgical education still more incomplete, yet there have been occasions on which I was able to prescribe for horses, both my own and others’, with perfect success, and to keep pain and sickness at all events at bay, until the arrival of a qualified V.S. To sit down and do nothing, or to cry and moan over some injured favourite, is a very feeble and ineffectual mode of action; far better be up and doing: provided always that you know what to do, and do it in the right way.

Now, as I do not (as stated) pretend for a moment to be a skilled doctor, I shall content myself with giving a few recipes (the results of my own experience), for the treatment of ordinary well-known and common equine ailments—touching lightly upon other matters that seem to bear upon the subject on which I have undertaken to give advice.

Firstly, then, I strongly object to physicking, and think it ought to be avoided when possible. Long ago it was a sort of stable craze, resorted to indiscriminately, whether needed or not. To subject a whole stud of horses to a severe “physic” every Saturday night was as common under our forefathers’ régime as to eat dinner or drink a quart of sack. Happily, the practice is in great measure exploded, although it is still far too general, especially in country stables. To dose with aloes was formerly the groom’s chief delight; nothing else satisfied him, and the results were often unsatisfactory in the extreme. Even still he loves physicking so very much, that to adopt the oft-followed course of purchasing horse-balls and leaving them in the stable-press, is a very unwise one indeed, for the fingers of the groom positively itch to administer them, and one will certainly be smuggled down the animal’s throat at some entirely wrong period if his care-taker be allowed to have them at command. To keep a few properly compounded balls on the premises, or, in other words, “at hand,” is an exceedingly wise precaution, but in keeping them I should do so under lock and key. I have scores of times saved poor horses from the abominable punishment of having nauseous physic thrust down their throats, by simply treating them with continued soft mashes—five, or even six a day, given in small quantities at a time—and so great is my faith in this treatment, that, except in extreme cases, where feverish and other symptoms are present and render physic absolutely indispensable, I would never permit any contrary system to be adopted. For merely relaxing purposes it is far before all others.

When a ball must be given, have nothing to do with the horrible contrivance known as a twitch, nor yet with a balling-iron, which is another aversion. The use of this latter frequently causes the operator to sustain a broken or injured arm, for the horse throws up his head, and the holder of the iron is fairly lifted from the ground, and, as a rule, sustains some hurt to the limb. Even the improved contrivance, with the aperture at the side, which is decidedly an advance upon the old-fashioned round orifice, is open to a variety of objections; moreover, this method of administering medicine subjects the groom, or operating surgeon, to extreme risk from kicks from the fore-feet. A startled horse almost invariably rears up, and hits out madly with his fores—a blow from one of which is not by any means soon forgotten. I have seen a ball most skilfully given by coaxing and encouraging the horse in the first instance, taking plenty of time to bring him on terms of familiarity—then drawing his tongue gently to the right side of his mouth, into which the right hand with the ball held between the first and second fingers, was inserted, and the physic quietly pushed down.

It must not be supposed, however, that the operator’s work is over the moment that he has withdrawn his hand; horses have a marvellous facility for bringing up medicine, and will do so three and four, and even five times in succession, but rarely, I think, if properly administered. It is a good plan to close the animal’s mouth at once, and hold it so with the left hand, while the right gently rubs the throat and manipulates the upper lip. A ball can be seen, if watched for, travelling downward along the gullet, and once it is thus viewed the task of physicking may be considered complete.


It ought not, however, to be given in a hard state. If kept made up it must be re-made and softened. A drachm each of saltpetre, ginger, and Barbadoes aloes will form a mild aperient, when made into a mass with a little soft soap. If a stronger one is desired, the quantities may be doubled.

I object most strongly to giving medicine by a drink. To do so almost necessitates the use of the twitch, for the ghastly performance cannot be got through at one effort. Were a whole bottleful of stuff to be poured down the throat at once, the animal would either cough it up or be choked. It is generally therefore divided into several portions, and the wretched patient is made to undergo the torment of taking the liquid abomination in a succession of doses.

It is always best, when about to physic a horse, to banish all extraneous aid from the stable. A number of persons standing about, officious assistants crowding the limited space, and would-be advisers pressing their unwelcome aid, are things which only tend to embarrass and confuse the operator, and render the horse so fidgetty that to do anything with him, or for him, becomes a hopeless task. Not more than one person ought ever be permitted to be present, and not even one if his assistance can possibly be dispensed with.

It is a bad thing to allow a horse to drink cold water after he has been physicked; as warm as he can be induced to have it will be the proper thing.

I feel that I ought, before passing to another portion of my subject, to repeat my warning concerning undue physicking. A tendency to inflammation is repeatedly developed by it, and its evils are in every way both many and great. It should be borne in mind that well-made bran-mashes are the safest and most effectual of all laxatives, and that any desired condition of the bowels may be induced by regulating the number and frequency of them. When not too often repeated they act mildly, without inducing any of that bodily discomfort or constitutional weakness which throws the animal out of condition, and renders complete rest an absolute necessity for recovery.

Blistering is a very common recipe for a variety of ills. About once in every score of cases in which it is tried the result proves that the experiment was justifiable—yet, it cannot be denied that there are times at which the remedy may in every way be suited to the disease. Blisters are, however, far too powerfully compounded; instead of being so severe as to take off hair and skin together, they ought to be diluted with quite three times their bulk of either soap-solution or bland oil. To fire an animal and then blister him is a piece of barbarity which no educated or feeling person would ever permit. Fancy searing the legs of a timid creature with a fiery iron, and then setting a man with a coarse rough hand to rub into the raw and quivering flesh the fearful blistering substances which are unfortunately in only too common use. No wonder that the sufferer moans in its agonies, and paws the earth, and sweats and shivers from the extremity of its torture; and after all, if people will only believe it, the treatment is (for any and every evil) most palpably wrong. Simultaneous firing and blistering cannot effect good, except in the opinion of ignorant grooms and farriers; therefore, such unspeakable cruelty ought never to be permitted.

It should be remembered, when blistering, that the action of the remedy depends more on the amount of friction employed in applying the agent, than on the bulk of vesicatory stuff employed. Brisk rubbing will be highly beneficial, but roughness may well be dispensed with—and adjacent tender places should be previously covered with a layer of simple cerate, which will be a wise as well as a merciful precaution. A little at a time, also, of the blistering fluid should be rubbed on; if there is too much it is apt to run upon parts that may be injured by its agency. A blistered horse should be as mercifully cared, and as gently treated during healing time, as a human patient. How earnestly do I wish that I could impress this upon persons who, without really meaning to be cruel, are so, through carelessness, or lack of striving not to be.

Bleeding is another matter concerning which horse-owners ought to be cautious about placing too much confidence in grooms. If the blood-can is made to contain two gallons—which most of them are—the groom will, ten to one, drain the animal to fill it, or very nearly so, whereas the loss of a quart of blood would probably be quite enough for him to sustain. Horses are very generally bled after coming in from grass, when they look fat and full-bellied; but I do not consider it a wise proceeding. As a rule, it is far better not to bleed at all without the advice of a competent V.S., and few of the better educated of the profession will be found very often advocating it.

When a horse must be bled, see that his eyes are efficiently bandaged, in order that he may not start when the wound is about to be given. Make use of a fleam in place of a lancet; it is better and more effectual, for it does not inflict a cut of unnecessary dimensions, as the lancet (if at all unskilfully handled) occasionally does. When the proper quantity of blood has been extracted, remove the pressure, and as soon as the flow ceases, prepare to pin up. This is rather a nice operation, but I have seen a lady perform it quite as well as any V.S. The wound should be left open until the lips of it become sticky; then all hairs must be most carefully removed, the sides of the incision brought together with the greatest nicety, and closed by a twisted suture, a thing which I have made successfully in the following way: first running a pin through the integument at each side of the wound, and then twisting a strong silk thread round its either extremity, after the fashion of the figure 8 turned on its side—thus, ∞. I have stopped the bleeding from a wound received in the hunting-field by extemporising this kind of suture, and using a hair pulled from the horse’s tail, in place of a silk thread.

When the wound has so far united as to justify the removal of the pin, the patient should be so placed that he cannot rub the part, and should be fed on nourishing and readily-digested food.

Slings form an excellent support for a horse that is not meant to lie down. The apparatus consists of a broad canvas belt that goes under the belly, extending from the points of the elbows backwards; there is a supporting shaft at each extremity, to which the suspending ropes (carried from either roof or stall posts) are attached; a breast-strap and breeching keep the belt in its place. The horse is not really suspended at all. When he is disposed to rest his legs, he has only to bend them, and the belt receives his weight: when tired of its support he again stands on his feet. The breeching for this should be very strong and broad, and the belt well stuffed, and stitched like a mattress.

Fomentations are usually not half carried out by grooms. If, say, a leg is to be fomented, a pailful of thoroughly hot water ought to be employed, and the horse’s foot put down into it; the water should then be laved through a large sponge, as high as the shoulder, and allowed to run down over the entire limb. This process should be carried on for at least half an hour, renewing the water as quickly as it cools. If a poultice or bandage is to be applied after the fomentation, it should be done immediately, before the leg has time to grow cold.

Poultices should be large, moist, and warm, and ought never to be tied too tightly on the affected part. A good poultice will not need to be changed for twenty-four hours.

Having thus described a few appliances for remedying sickness and wounds, I proceed to say a word or two about the commoner forms of ailments—such, for instance, as are most calculated to need amateur doctoring, and to bring the foregoing remedies into requisition.

By far the greater number of stable sicknesses are brought about by a persistent giving of indigestible food, while the remainder are, as a rule, due to exposure, cold, and chills. Indigestion can only be cured by careful dieting, and by giving water (if that liquid is, as is customary, administered at stated intervals) before instead of after each meal. By this method the gastric juices are given fair play, which by any other can not be the case.

Ordinary cold, which shows itself precisely as in the human subject, should be treated by clothing the body, bandaging the legs, suspending corn diet, and giving warm mashes, with occasionally a little nitre (half-an-ounce will be sufficient) introduced. If sore throat exists, a mustard poultice ought to be applied. By attending early to this common complaint, the evils attendant upon chronic cough may be averted.

Inflamed and congested lungs, bronchitis, and other dangerous chest maladies should be at once treated by a surgeon; but pending his arrival, a good deal of danger may be staved off by applying strong mustard poultices, keeping up the surface circulation, and admitting plenty of pure air.

I regard ringbone, glanders, roaring, and whistling, as altogether incurable, although the second is the only one that will prevent a horse from working, the other three being merely partial disablements. A glandered animal should at once be separated from his fellows, and, as a precautionary measure, destroyed.

In case of worms, a dose of about four drachms of areca nut, prepared with a grater, should be given every alternate day, mixed well through a soft and tempting mash. If this is not found sufficiently powerful it may be increased, and a pint of linseed oil given to the patient. All “worm medicines” should be banished from the stable.

Diarrhœa may be speedily arrested by giving bicarbonate of potash in small half-ounce doses.

Where colic occurs there is often great internal suffering. A pint of warm gruel should be at once prepared, and in it put an ounce of tincture of opium and oil of turpentine, together with double that quantity of nitric ether. The horse should be walked about as much as possible, and his attention distracted from his pain. If the attack continues obstinate, the dose must be repeated.

Inflammation of the gums, or bars of the mouth, commonly called lampass, is a very general ailment, and when horses are suffering from it they will not eat. I have never tried any treatment except a gentle aperient and a mash diet, except in one or two extreme cases where a lance was applied. The old remedies of a hot iron or an iron nail were mere symbols of cruel barbarism.

Navicular disease cannot be cured, but it may be mitigated by blistering the coronet; and a horse affected by it may be made to go sound for awhile by dividing the sensitive nerves that supply the feet: an operation for which the services of a skilled V.S. will be, of course, imperative.

Foot-fever is another ailment that ought not to be trifled with. Before the arrival of the surgeon, get the shoes taken off, the feet put into warm poultices, and administer a purgative medicine.

Thrush is both common and curable, if taken at once. It will be necessary to remove the ragged bony particles, and treat the foot daily with an astringent dressing, having the horse at the same time so shod that the frog will, when exercising, be brought quite close to the ground.

The presence of a corn is indicated by lameness, and a red spot in the horn, close to the heel. In most cases relief may be obtained by paring away the horn, and affixing a shoe that will effect no pressure upon the tender portion of the foot. A horse with corns will be immensely benefited and relieved by working him with india-rubber soles, as by their use the pressure is taken off the heels.

Swollen legs, a very common ailment, will, in most instances, speedily yield to the following treatment: Complete immunity from hard work, regular and gentle exercise, constant bathing with tepid water in which salt has been dissolved, and careful bandaging with flannel.

Splint is very general with young horses just put to work. I have seen it effectually cured on its first appearance by giving the horse complete rest, applying cold water bandages, and utilising a three-quarter shoe on the inner portion of the foot—a course of treatment which certainly lessens the concussion. If obstinate, the periosteum must be divided over the newly-formed deposit, and if this fails a blister will have to be resorted to, or—as a very last resource—firing the affected part. If this operation is skilfully performed with a pointed iron, very little blemish will ensue. It ought to be borne in mind, however, that a splint when once formed into bone cannot possibly be removed, although a horse that has good sound legs and even action need not by any means be rejected on account of it.

Farcy is not an uncommon ailment among horses. It is notified by a puffy swelling covered over with little yellowish ulcers of an ugly sort; but, if properly looked after, it will as a rule yield speedily to judicious treatment. The ulcers should be opened gently with a large needle or lance, and dressed with an ointment composed of biniodide of mercury and lard. A horse thus affected ought to have plenty of walking exercise, with liberal feeding, and an abundance of fresh cool air. Tonics, both vegetable and mineral, will be found of great service.

Mud-fever is consequent upon wet, hardship, and improper grooming. I never allowed my horses’ legs to be washed after a journey, and although the uninitiated will stare at this, and self-sufficient grooms be found to rail against it, I advise a trial of my plan. When a horse comes in, the dirt should be removed from his legs by scraping, rubbing, and strong, rapid wisping, which will very soon leave them ready for the finishing brush. If the horse has white legs, they may be sponged next morning, and dried with a towel. This is a pleasant operation to lovers of horses, and a beautiful cleanliness is the result. Where there is mud-fever the horse should not be worked. A little aperient medicine may be given, and a linament applied, composed of liquor plumbi and olive oil—or petroleum-jelly, or “veterinary vaseline,” may be tried.

Despite the aptitude which many horses have to cracked heels, I never had a case of them in my own stable, and this immunity I attribute almost entirely to the rigidity with which my orders against leg-washing were carried out. Strong vigorous hand-rubbing, and perfectly dry woollen bandages when not at work, were my preventive measures, and whenever my neighbours had a case of them we doctored by applying oatmeal poultices until all inflammatory symptoms had subsided, and then dressed the sore parts with an ointment composed of alum and lard, with a good admixture of zinc.

Saddle-galls are terribly common evils. I pointed out the causes of them in a former chapter. Ladies’ horses are the chief sufferers, and therefore every lady ought to be able to attend to her own animals, should they chance to become affected. The moment that a tender spot is noticed, the horse’s work should at once be stopped, and the part well bathed with cold salt and water. A little fuller’s earth may then be applied. It is a great mistake, and a general one, to begin by fomenting with hot water; such a practice only makes the skin peculiarly delicate and sensitive to future hurt. Where there is abrasion, the part should be well cleansed, bathed with zinc lotion, and smeared abundantly with zinc ointment until it heals. For collar and harness galls the same treatment will be found effectual, and the stuffing or padding of the articles that have caused the injury should be looked to without delay.

Almost all hunting ladies know by troublesome experience what an overreach is. I once possessed a hunter whose hind action was so extravagant that he was constantly hitting the fleshy heels of his fore feet, but after a while I found a remedy, or rather a preventive, by having the toes of the hind shoes set back, and rounded. My treatment for the overreach was to bathe and cleanse the wound, take away any adherent broken horn, and lay on a piece of cotton wool steeped in sulphate of zinc, taking care that the torn portions of the integument were pressed nicely into proper place, and the whole secured with a bandage.

Wounds of all sorts should be most carefully washed, bathed, and the edges brought tenderly together. When a horse gets staked in the hunting-field, the rider ought at once to dismount, remove the glove from his right hand, and probe the depth of the wound with his index finger. If not deep, there will be no danger, provided it be attended to at once; but to prosecute a run on an injured animal is a piece of cruelty, happily very rarely witnessed. I strongly advise, however, that a horse so hurt should be ridden or led quietly home, if within possible distance, rather than that he should be removed to an adjacent stable until sent for, which is a usual practice, meant to be merciful, but in reality extremely the reverse, as the animal stiffens on its injury, and suffers intensely in the transit.

In cases of laceration of the wall of the belly and protrusion of a portion of the intestines, the best thing to do will be to remove the saddle without a second’s delay, press the exposed gut very gently back into its proper place, bring the edges of the wound together with an improvised suture (such as I have previously described), and bandage the whole tightly up. The horse must not be moved until proper assistance shall have arrived for the requisite conveyal to his stable, where he should be kept in a standing position, with plenty of air about him, complete quietude and an allowance of very soft food. Should there be inflammation about the wound, the application of warm wet rags will serve to allay it.

Injuries to the knees from falling are among the commonest ailments of the stable. Sometimes the skin only is injured, while at others the deeper structures are involved, and cases occasionally occur in which the bones are absolutely laid bare. The treatment in all instances should commence by the most careful cleansing, with warm fomentations for half an hour or more, and should then proceed as follows: for skin-deep injuries, tincture of myrrh after frequent daily bathings will prove an excellent dressing: for those of a deeper nature, the same treatment, only intensified, and at night a soft pad of cotton wool steeped with sulphate of zinc and secured with a bandage; when bones or tendons are involved, the joint-oil—a white-of-egg-like substance—will be discharged, and when this occurs the horse’s fate is sealed: he is absolutely valueless, and may be destroyed at once, unless he can be made of use for stud purposes. In ordinary cases of broken knees, if there is suppuration or proud flesh, a weak solution (about a twelfth part in water) of bichloride of mercury will be found useful, and in all cases the patient must be prevented from lying down. He should be walked gently about at intervals throughout the day, and be fed on nourishing food of a succulent nature.

When a horse has to undergo any painful operation, a merciful owner will always chloroform him. The best way to do this is to wind a very long towel, or bandage, about his jaws, and form a kind of tunnel with the ends; through this the arm should be passed, the hand holding a sponge steeped in chloroform, which should be held steadily within four inches of the nostrils, and only removed to transfer the sponge to the other hand in the event of the first becoming tired.

When the friend who has carried us has to be destroyed, the kindest and easiest way to do it will be to open a vein and blow in a little air with an instrument made for the purpose—a sharp lance, or rather needle, hollowed in the centre, and with an air-chamber attached. Death is then absolutely instantaneous. If shooting is to be resorted to, the weapon should be placed right behind the ear, in a slightly slanting direction, the muzzle pointing for the brain. Shooting in the centre of the forehead is frequently mere butchery. In all instances of so sad a nature the eyes of the victim ought to be gently bandaged, and the whole matter conducted as silently and in the presence of as few persons as possible.

Melancholy as is the destruction of an animal we have loved, and who has loved and served us in return, it is infinitely less so than selling a worn-out or injured creature to servitude, which generally means hardship and a hard and miserable death. Such barter can bring no blessing. The eternal God of pity sends us these noblest of His creatures with the intention that they should serve us, yet not as slaves, and knowing that they must perish, yet not willing that they should do so by any unrighteous or cruel means. At our hands will their blood, I believe, be required; and if the faith is a peculiar one, and not deemed worthy of general acceptance, it may at least be regarded without ridicule and passed by without contempt.



This is essentially an age of ladies on horseback. They are to be met with everywhere, and at all seasons: in city, suburb, park, and country, and with the advance of equestrian pursuits comes likewise a desire on the part of those who take pleasure in them to be made in some degree acquainted with the interesting subjects of breeding and training young horses. So at least I judge from a number of letters recently addressed to me, both at my own house and at the office of the Sporting and Dramatic News, requiring information upon matters which a few years ago were very little thought of by ladies, and certainly commanded no amount of attention from them.

With a view to answering the many questions asked me, I propose to offer a few brief hints on the best and most profitable method of breeding good and useful racers and hunters—appending a chapter on a system of training, which, having tried it myself with quite satisfactory results, I can confidently recommend to ladies, as coming entirely within scope of the resources ordinarily afforded them, both by nature and surroundings.

Horse-breeding is a pleasant recreation for those whose tastes, means, and residential qualifications enable them to carry it on, and at the same time conduce to its success. Living in the country, for example, in a house surrounded by good grass lands, a more delightful species of pastime, or one of a more engrossing kind, can scarcely be sought for or imagined, while the practical question of making money of it may be met with the assurance that it can be done.

At the present crisis it is especially advisable that attention should be given to horse-breeding, as it is a matter to which, when times are bad and land-culture unprofitable, lady farmeresses and others may turn their thoughts with greater chance of profit than when sheep, cattle, and every description of farm produce brought more grist to the agriculturist’s mill. Land rent is low, fodder cheap and plentiful, and labour easily obtained. Some years ago, when seasons were good, and farmers could sell their stock at a fair profit, horse-culture might not under ordinary circumstances have been found to pay; but it is entirely different now, and never perhaps was there a period at which good horses, especially high-class hunters, were in more substantial demand than at present. I know some persons, particularly in Ireland, who are ready to cry “No” to this statement, but the most substantial proof of its truthfulness lies in the fact that at sales, as well as at the autumn horse-shows, almost everything that is good is speedily bought up at fairly remunerative prices, while only those who demand excessive rates for second and third-rate animals carry their stock home with them, and grumble at the blindness of buyers and the ticklishness of the times.

Without going into any unnecessary preliminaries, I may continue my subject and say, that it will be well, when selecting a mare to breed from with a view to the production of high-class hunters, to choose one if possible that has herself been a good performer to hounds,—but remember that this is not an indispensable quality, although it may be, and is, an important one. The breeding of the animal chosen to represent maternity ought to be a point much dwelt upon; it cannot indeed be over estimated—as coarse-bred mares are, even when well mated, certain to perpetuate unsatisfying stock. I am of opinion that compactness of form, robustness of frame, and capability of endurance, fatigue, and exertion, are far before actual beauty in the brood mare. I like to see short stout legs, thick and bulging in the upper portion, denoting plenty of strength and muscle—good, fleshy, sloping shoulders, a deep chest, high withers, a strong well-ribbed frame, big broad loins, hips wide apart, substantial quarters, a high arched crest, a good sound mouth, nostrils wide and healthy, and, most important of all, a sound and well-formed foot. This last point should be rigorously observed, for my experience has taught me that no outward defect is more surely hereditary than small, narrow, ill-shapen, or unhealthy feet.

The same precautions may in great degree be applied to the sire—and as he is supposed to supply the locomotive power to his progeny, an animal should be chosen that has good hunter-like action, and not one whose paces are like those of a racer or park horse. His height will not be of much consequence, provided that the mare be of suitable size, but his general form ought to be most carefully weighed. A good sound constitution on the part of both mare and sire will be of the utmost importance in breeding, and for this reason I prefer young strong mares for stud purposes.

It is with many a very vexed question whether or not a filly is improved by having a foal. I maintain, even against much contradiction, that she decidedly is; and I have met with a good many sound judges who have agreed with me, while on the other hand some old-fashioned horse-fanciers have told me that they would not have anything whatever to say to a “widow.” I believe that the system of keeping a flock of idle brood mares has contributed largely towards the impoverishing of many a promising horse-breeding company, and a few who have had the sense to see the folly of such a course have bred with much advantage from fillies, without ever suffering a particle of loss by it. A young robust three-year-old—one that has been “gentled” and taught to jump in long reins without being ridden—will prove a capital speculation as a matron, and will at four have produced a foal which need not detain her from her training beyond the weaning time.

Wealthy horse-owners, who wish to go in for breeding racers, ought to keep their best and most promising foals entirely for breeding purposes; and I believe that such a speculation would answer admirably as a means of making money, and would in time astonish the world of the turf with a show of youngsters that would bid fair to sweep the land. Well-nurtured animals—those that had never been subjected to any sort of training—would be certain to bring forth finer and healthier specimens of horseflesh than aged quadrupeds, who were only put to the stud because they had met with accident, or had broken down. I cannot, for my own part, believe in such animals perpetuating a valuable or healthy stock; and experience has amply proved that it is only after long periods of repose—during which the waste and exhaustion consequent upon training and running have become mitigated, if not absolutely cured—that racing mares and sires attain celebrity through the progeny that they produce.

Turfites might pick up many a good and paying thing, if breeders would only relinquish some of their standing prejudices, and be induced to set apart a certain number of untrained animals for stud purposes, selecting the best of the foals produced by them, and keeping these apart until their sixth year; by so doing, they would generate a company of clippers that would make fortunes for their purchasers, and fairly open the eyes of the racing world. Strange to say, the system finds but little acceptance—a fact shown by the bad, weedy, and mis-shapen lots that are sent out to contest many of our leading races. More of them break down in the training than ever actually go to the post; and, even among the starters, how few are found in the run home really contesting the race. The horseflesh of the country has degenerated under the pursuance of a wrong system; and yet, it is asserted that racing is kept up to improve the national breed of chasers throughout the land. How far it succeeds in its so-called purpose, the public markets daily testify. Wretched blood stock is everywhere to be found, and when not absolutely what could be called wretched, it is at all events decidedly poor. A number of the foals born never return the first expenses of their existence, much less of their education. Their worthlessness is soon discovered, and after awhile they are to be met with in riding-schools and job stables, between the shafts of cabs and carts, and engaged in a variety of other work for which they were never meant—their very fitness for such demeaning labour proving at once their utter lack of value for higher callings, and testifying the hollow ignorance of those who, from blind prejudice, or some other inexplicable cause, tend to perpetuate this pitiable waste and degradation.

So-called “blood stock” is fast contaminating the pure native breed of the country. There is, every season, a glut of worthless bloods; the refuse of the stud farm is sold away to the highest bidder, and he in his turn seeks to make temporary profit out of it, with the result of impoverishing and deteriorating such chances of good things as he may happen to have among his stock. Thus it goes on from one year to another, and looks, by its continuance, as though it were meant to go on to the very end of time.

My advice to would-be breeders of racers is, to discard as sires and matrons all animals that have been trained for the turf; carefully select those of good blood, pedigree, and qualifications; reserve the best of their progeny, when brought forth, and breed from these again, ere ever they are allowed to pass into a trainer’s hands. In this way, and in this alone, will strength, stamina, courage, speed, endurance—all that is most necessary in a racer—be absolutely ensured.

To turn back to the subject of breeding a good class of hunters—a matter which I hope will interest ladies, for whom I write—I have already given my ideas respecting the best sort of mares to select for the purpose; and I may add that an animal during the period of gestation ought not to be by any means kept and fed in idleness. Gentle regular exercise, and plenty of it, will be good and healthful for a mare that is in foal. Her prospects of maternity dating from May, she can with advantage be lightly worked about a farm, or in any other way—provided that she has been accustomed to it—until Christmas; and even when actual work is suspended, daily exercise should be carefully continued.

Dry uplands, and grassy ground of a hilly nature, are excellent pasturage for brood mares, who should be kept perfectly cool, and free from excitement of all kinds. An abundance of fresh water should be allowed them—as much indeed as they care to drink—together with a varied supply of light nourishing food of a cooling nature. The shelter-shed ought to open to the south, the entrance to it being wide, and the flooring hard and very dry.


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The mare should be left quite to herself when foaling, except in extreme cases, which fortunately very rarely occur. It will, of course, be necessary to see that she does not make her way to any dangerous place—such as an ugly ditch, or cutting—a thing very commonly attempted in the country—but otherwise she ought not to be subjected to any kind of interference. This, I should observe, applies as a matter of course to strong healthy animals, such as are accustomed to pasturing out in almost every sort of weather; in other cases, it will be well to have a box at hand, thickly littered over, and lined about the walls with piled-up trusses of straw.

If you are the mare’s owner, and that she knows you and is comforted by the sound of your voice, keep close by her, and banish all others to a distance when her sufferings begin. These will most likely be short, but severe, and she will not in all probability bear them very patiently. Lead her quietly into the box that you have prepared; and on no account permit any fuss or excitement, or any peeping, to take place about her. In cases where much heaving of the flanks has occurred, I have seen small doses of sulphuric ether and cold water—an ounce of the former to three pints of the latter, well blended—given with seeming advantage; but I do not undertake to advocate any physicking whatever at so excessively trying a period, preferring for my own part to leave Nature to herself, except where danger is anticipated: in which case it will be best to send at once for the most skilled assistance possible.

As soon as matters are safely over, leave parent and offspring to themselves, ensuring for them the utmost quietude, as well as perfect freedom from even the very slightest noise. All that the mare will stand in need of at the conclusion of her troubles will be a pail of warm gruel, with a dash of old ale, or a little brandy introduced—the latter only in case of great exhaustion. The foal will require no care, except from its parent. Should the natural nourishment prove unprolific, the young one may be supplied with cow’s milk that has been skimmed, sweetened, and slightly warmed. An infant’s feeding-bottle will serve admirably for purposes of nutrition, or if such be not available, a hand may be dipped in the milk, and the tops of a couple of fingers lifted up. The hungry foal will very soon seize upon them; but it is, in my opinion, better not to feed at all, except in cases where the youngster shows signs of evident weakness, or that the mother is unable to fulfil her natural functions.

I always advocate holding up the feeding-pail when nourishment is supplied to the parent. It gives confidence, allays suspicion, and helps to tame the little one, which, after a while, will venture to pick from the hand.

The nursing-stable should be airy and well ventilated, without being subject to draughts, and the feeding for the matron should consist of moist mashes, composed of bran and scalded oats, varied with an abundance of cooling vegetable food, and a constant supply of fresh soft water.

Four days after foaling the mare may be put to light exercise: it will do both her and her colt a vast deal more good than being idle, and the little youngster (owing to the constant proximity of his dam’s attendant) will soon grow quite tame. His timidity will vanish, he will suffer himself to be handled and caressed, will pick food out of his mother’s manger, and will, when October comes round, and he has to be weaned, be as docile and full of confidence as any animal in the stable.


When that special time arrives, give him (if possible) a companion of his own age to bear him company: because he must be separated from his dam, for the benefit of both—and he will pine if not provided with society. If one of his own species be not conveniently obtainable, procure a young calf, and let the two youngsters fraternize together; they will soon be the best possible friends, and the colt will thus keep up his condition and not waste, as he certainly will if left to pine alone.

Turn him, after weaning, into a good piece of pasture land, and feed him twice a day with oatmeal-porridge mixed with a quart or three pints of good sweet milk. The cost of this is more than doubly repaid by the increased strength and power that it affords: such feeding being far in advance of the customary crushed beans, oats, hay, chaff, and other strong meat (totally unfit for babes) which grooms find such delight in giving.

Hunting colts should be kept during their first three summers on good rich grass land, and be provided with a suitable shelter, to which they can retire when the sun is overpowering, or the weather severe. In the winter time they should have warm boxes to rest in at night, but had better be kept out of doors during the day, for air and exercise. Where this treatment is adopted, there will seldom be roarers in the stable.

Excellent feeding for youngsters that are meant for hunting purposes is sliced mangel or swede turnips mixed with hay that has been cut into long chaff. Crushed maize added to the roots is also very good; and oats, peas, and beans may be given to ensure variety. Carrots are, I think, far before all other vegetable diet, where the soil is favourable to the growing of a good crop; but, where they are scarce, mangel will make an excellent substitute. Feeding on roots alone is not advisable, even for a short period, seeing that such are composed of 20 per cent of water, and if not mixed with a proper quantity of grain or chaff, are apt to produce a variety of ailments which may be found troublesome to cure.

I like to see a colt, even when a yearling, handled nicely and lightly, and dressed every day of his life by the attendant who has the feeding of him. Such a course fits him for breaking-time, and prepares him in great measure for what he has to go through in his training.

I am an advocate for paying close and vigilant attention to the feet, from the very beginning. I like to see toes nicely shaped by judicious paring, and, if disposed to chip or splinter, provided with suitable tips.



The pleasures of instructing a young unbroken colt are so many and great, that my sole wonder is how owners of such animals can so often make up their minds to the demands of the professional breaker: an individual who, in many cases, deals harshly, and in many more with a lack of judgment which is as deplorable as it is common.

To enter minutely into the subject of breaking is not by any means my intention. Volumes might be written about it, and yet the difficulty which many persons experience in learning from books, might not even then be overcome. There are as many different ways of training a horse as there are of training an infant, and I cannot at all agree with the professedly wise ones who say that only one way can be correct. I have found a variety of methods answer almost equally well, and I may (in some instances) say, almost equally badly, also—because everything must depend upon the nature and disposition of the animal that is to be experimented upon.

Some children are naturally timid, shy, nervous, and retiring, and cannot be taught at all except by gentle encouragement—a sort of continual leading onward, without any attempt to drive—while others are so sullen, obstinate, and ill-conditioned, that gentleness seems thrown away upon them, and nothing save fear and force are capable of accomplishing any good. So it is, precisely, with horses; but, just as instances of dogged obstinacy and evil disposition are happily rare among children of well-bred parents, so in like manner have I found it to be with colts that have come of a good stock. I may here take occasion to say, however, that even with the most viciously disposed animals, such as future experience proved to be incapable of anything either good or generous, I invariably commenced with—and persevered in—the very gentlest treatment, discarding all force, ignoring the uses of whip and spur, and seeking to subdue by the mildest and most kindly methods, until compelled to adopt severer ones by the hopelessly unimpressionable and intractable nature of some among my misguided charges. Having, then, found so wide a difference of temper and disposition to exist in the various animals with which I had to do, I long ago came to the conclusion that to lay down any fixed laws for training was mere fallacy and nonsense; the system that works admirably with one may prove a dead failure with another, and taking this into account I cannot, I think, do better in a chapter like the present, than state the plan on which I always began to work, and which, as a rule, I found to succeed, better than any other.

Advising you by my own experience, I should say never, when you can help it, submit young animals to a so-called professional breaker, but rather take them in hand yourself, and make up your mind to three things: first, to bring all the patience of which you are possessed to bear upon your task, to enable you to govern by gentleness and forbearance, and not by tyranny and wrath; second, that a colt must be so handled and trained that he shall never find out his own strength or power; and third, that you must give the pupil every opportunity of seeing, smelling, feeling, and hearing things that will at first be strange to him, remembering that it is by the exercise of these senses that horses form their judgment of surrounding objects.

I greatly object to the system of lungeing young horses in a circle, or ring. The evils of it are sufficiently manifested in mill-horses; but even these are suffered to walk their rounds, whereas the breaker compels the youngster to trot, and even to canter when going in a comparatively narrow circle. Injury to the sight is the very commonest result of the practice, and even if it does not show immediately, or at the time, it certainly will later on. To travel round and round at a quick rate in an ordinary ring, forces blood to a young animal’s brain, and the faster and more excited the pace the more certain will be the result. The optic nerves may be said to originate from the sensorium—being, in fact, a continuation of the brain proper—and whenever the nervous centre is congested, the sight is the first sense that becomes impaired. There are other evils also connected with the system into which I need not go; suffice it to say that I regard it as a highly objectionable one.


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The tuition of a colt may be begun when he is three months old, provided that he has been “gentled” almost from its birth. This can be done by frequently passing the hands over his body and down his limbs, dressing his mane and tail, pulling and stroking his ears, speaking caressingly to him, and in short winning his confidence by uniform manifestations of kindness and good will.

The earliest trappings should be a small bridle and surcingle made of very soft wash-leather, or calico—the intention being merely to indicate the maturer harness that is destined to succeed. Later on, when a cavesson is adopted, it must be most carefully fitted to the colt’s head. The noseband is not to be too high, lest it be deprived of power—or yet low enough to rest on the soft cartilages of the nose, for fear of impeding respiration and causing pain to the animal by any jerk that it may chance to receive. It must also fit sufficiently accurately not to turn round when the rein is drawn tight.

The first regular bit employed should be made of india-rubber, and this may be immediately followed by a very smooth plain snaffle, with players, or a “Rarey” bit, with wooden roller, which is very mild and nice for a beginner.

When you first adjust the mouthpiece do not rein the colt’s head up to any point beyond that at which he naturally holds it: no matter whether that be high or low. Give him his preliminary lessons in an enclosed place—a big barn or riding-school will be best, if you happen to be near one. Accustom your pupil to the sight of everything with which he is destined to make subsequent acquaintance: the mounting-block, saddle, stirrups, and so forth; and remember that you cannot talk to him too much, or give him too frequent handling.


Forbid the presence of other animals while you are acting as instructor, as also of any object, human or otherwise, that will be likely to distract your pupil’s attention. Stand and walk on his left side, keeping pretty well back from him—and deal him out plenty of rein, or strap—just letting him feel the weight of your hand when he attempts to run from you, but not on any account drawing him in. By degrees you can shorten the rein, and when he has learned to let you walk alongside of him without running back or showing timidity, begin to teach him to lead: not by pulling him after you, or hunting him forward, but by bringing him very very gently round in a half-circle—a plan which will oblige him to shift his foot and bend his neck to your guidance. Take him both to right and left in this way, encouraging and caressing him when he obeys you, and he will learn his lesson in a wonderfully short space of time.

As soon as you find that he leads well in an enclosed place, take him out into an extremely quiet paddock, not allowing anybody to come near you while you do it. A good method will be to grasp the reins, close to the jaw with your left hand, while your right catches the mane, and by this means lead him gently out for an open-air spell of instruction. Then proceed as when under cover, and repeat the lesson every day.

At eighteen months old a colt that has been bred on your own land ought to have gone through all the preliminaries of his education, and at that age the dumb-jockey may be brought into use with a pair of imitation legs and light little stirrups to hang on either side. Reins formed partially of india-rubber should be passed through the terrets and fastened to the bit, and these must not be drawn by any means tight, lest the colt be induced to bear upon them—or lest he rear, and fall backwards.

A quarter of an hour is the longest period that a lesson of this description ought to occupy, and the pupil’s mouth should be well wetted both before and after. If terror is excited, the utmost encouragement should be given, and no harshness be for even an instant resorted to.

These lessons may be continued, with slight variation, until the young animal shall have entered his third year, at which epoch a very light rider may be mounted on him, with rigid instructions not to interfere in any way with the bridle, except as a means of guiding. In fact, to prevent the possibility of his doing so to any mischievous degree, the india-rubber reins may with advantage be continued; but the best way of all will be to back the animal yourself: always provided that you are a sufficiently light weight for the purpose.

When the saddle is first placed in position, the extremest gentleness must be observed. Allow him, beforehand, to look at it, smell it, in short satisfy himself about it, and then proceed to rub it softly down his neck, pausing if he shows fear, and slipping it gradually backwards until you quietly lift it into its place. When it is fairly on his back, you should lift it again, and again replace it, and keep moving it gently about in order to give him confidence, and when you have induced him to stand quite still, fasten it with a racing surcingle instead of an ordinary girth, as it is more readily adjusted, and need not be drawn so tight.

To mount him successfully, place him so that the mounting-block shall be just behind his shoulder; ascend the block with the utmost coolness and quietness, and while standing on it proceed to pet your pupil, stroking him, talking to him, and “gentling” him as though he were a timid child. If he shows signs of alarm, go no further for a while, but wait quietly—no matter how long it may be—even deferring the lesson to another day, until he shall have gained complete confidence in your instructions. Half the horses that refuse to stand to be mounted have been rendered rider-shy (if I may coin a word) by scolding, and harsh treatment shown them in their early training. No attempt should be made at mounting a colt until he has become perfectly reconciled to his trainer’s standing over him, and also to the pressure of a hand on the saddle, and a foot passed in and out through the stirrup. To facilitate his standing quiet, place his head to a wall,—or, if he must be held, entrust the task to a steady quiet man, who will stand straight in front of him, fondling his nose and ears, and who will when necessary lay hold of the cheeks of the bridle, above the bit, but never of the bit itself, nor yet of the reins.

Do not, when mounted, touch the animal with your heel to start him, or attempt to meddle with his mouth in any hurried way. Speak to him coaxingly, and draw one rein very gently, in order to make him shift his leg and move—then walk him quietly about, repeating the lessons in turning, stopping, and backing, which you have already given him on foot If he shows restiveness, or an inclination to fight, slip off at once, and proceed with the old method of instruction—because you must not attempt to battle with him until you are quite certain that you can conquer. This is one of the most important principles in correct training, and one which, I regret to say, is most shamefully overlooked. “I won’t let him conquer me,” says the ignorant breaker, when the timid creature stands still and shivers, and refuses to do what it has not yet learned to comprehend. Greater nonsense could not possibly be spoken. There can be no victory, for either horse or man, until there has first been a battle, and if the man is wise he will not begin one, lest he should fail to prove himself the master, and the horse ever after refuse to obey his hand. Severity in training is merely an ebullition of the breaker’s temper, and there is no necessity for such when dealing with a creature that is really anxious to learn and obey. Gentle indications will, in all save extreme cases, accomplish tenfold more than brute force. Such, at all events, is my conclusion, after very close and practical study of the subject in hand.

Leaping ought not, as a rule, to be taught until the animal has attained its fourth year, nor ought the pupil to be mounted during the lessons for the first three or four months that are devoted to them. To lead in long reins, turning the colt in a nice quiet paddock that has a low hedge or gorsed hurdle across the middle of it, will be the proper method, and, as all young animals are imitative, it will be a great advantage to have an old skilled horse taken over the jump several times in easy fashion, in view of the youthful learner. I have made youngsters jump brilliantly over hurdles that were raised by degrees a great deal above their original height, by simply standing on the off side of them with a measure of corn in my hand, and shaking it temptingly, calling out cheerily at the same time, and always plentifully rewarding my pupils when the boundary had been cleared.

This sort of teaching is only pleasant excitement for the colt; it is not task-work; it injures neither structures nor temper, and is unattended by either accident or risk. The training of horses, both racers and hunters, as at present conducted, is conducive of many evils, as is proved amply by the fact that one-half the animals that come fresh from the trainers’ hands are debilitated by the wrong systems pursued, and are far less capable of enduring exertion than before they were taken in hand. The physicking, the brow-beating, the harshness, scolding, and fighting, are one and all tremendously pernicious and wrong. The vast majority of horses will, if properly treated, accept their duties without force; and even the most viciously inclined may be conquered, or at least subdued, without any approach to brutality.

I may cite one case as a sample of many: an animal I once bought for a song, and subsequently would not have sold for any money that could have been offered. By telling you of the method by which I contrived to cure him of his bad name, you may be guided how to act should any similar occasion chance to arise in your own stable.



By the aid of a powerful dose of physic—administered with extreme difficulty, I confess, by a strong and resolute man—and aided by a few light whiffs of chloroform, we succeeded in getting the horse so sick and stupid that he suffered himself to be handled almost without opposition. In fact, I could go up to his head, and stroke and fondle it as though he had been the quietest animal alive. We then littered a lofty shed with quite a foot deep of dung and straw (tan would, however, have been better for the purpose), and having led him into it we put on him a single-rein bridle, with a wooden gag-bit,—this latter because he presently showed an inclination to bite. We then tied up the reins quite close to the withers, put a breaking surcingle on him, passed a soft strap round the near pastern joint, lifted up the foot as though we were about to shoe him, and passing the strap round over the fore-arm, buckled it firmly, but in such a way as not to hurt the horse. I gentled him, as much as he would allow me, about the head, while my assistant worked, and we then led him about the shed for twenty minutes or more, on three legs, by which time he was tired, but seemingly too dull to be much irritated. The next operation was to place a second strap around the off fore-leg, draw it pretty tight, and pass the long end of it through one of the rings sewn on to the belly part of the surcingle. My helper then put a big strong glove on his right hand, caught a firm hold of the strap, and when the horse lifted his leg in an endeavour to hop, drew it gradually close, and brought him gently upon his knees. Our object was to make him lie down, for I never would countenance—under any pretence, or for any operation—the forcible casting of a horse with which I had anything whatever to do. Finding that he was sullen and would not move, I came to the near side of him, and drew his head gradually towards me by one rein, speaking soothingly to him all the while; I then bade my assistant go to his off side and bear against it, just behind the shoulder, with a steady, even, close pressure—and after about twelve minutes’ patient waiting, I had the joy of seeing him lie quietly down upon the litter. So far my plan of subduing by gentleness had succeeded.


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The moment that he was fairly down I made his hind legs quite fast, and then began my plan of taming. I gently stroked every one of his limbs separately, rubbed his trembling head, pulled and fondled his ears, unbuckled the bit for an instant and gave him from my hand sliced carrots, lettuce, and I think an apple or two. He was in a wretched state, poor beast! for want of care and grooming, so I got a nice brush, and went caressingly over every part of his body with it, talking to him as though he had been a frightened child. After an hour or so we took off the straps, drew out his fore-legs, and encouraged him to get up. He seemed very dazed when he did so, but was seemingly quite subdued—and having given him a feed, we left him alone for the night.*

The next day we had another and worse scene to go through; the evil spirit was not altogether gone out of the horse, as events very soon showed us. We had to resort to the same strapping-up process, and when he was on his knees he actually fought with us till he turned over; but I encouraged him to get up again (in the same cramped position, of course), and to make a second fight—treating him with steady firmness, and never giving in for a moment, but striving all the time to quiet him and make him lie down. He did so at length—from sheer exhaustion, I believe—for his obstinacy and violence had lasted over an hour, and I and my patience were alike almost worn out. When he was down I scraped the sweat from him with a scraper, gave him water and lettuce, went over every inch of his body with a wisp, and made my assistant pretend to shoe him, by lifting each of his feet and tapping them gently with a hammer. Finally I showed him a saddle and bridle, laid them under his nose, and stroked him with them—and ended by actually putting them on him with scarcely any difficulty at all. Then I shut myself alone with him in the shed, and fed, petted, and talked to him unceasingly for upwards of an hour, until all the untractableness had seemingly gone out of his disposition. His poor wild, bloodshot eyes grew calm and placid, and he actually rubbed his nose at last against my hand. I am certain that I shall be accounted a terrible fool, but I believe I wept for joy—and the best of it all was that I had gained my victory without the horse having any suspicion that he was conquered. If I had thrashed him into subjection—allowing that such a thing were possible—he might have obeyed me for awhile, although hating me—but by dint of never using a particle of harshness, and granting him his own time to make concessions, I am firmly convinced that he considered himself the better animal of the two, and was magnanimous enough to obey me from chivalrous motives, while believing that he need not do so at all.

After that day I had not any trouble with my charge, and in less than a week I was riding him about the place with only an ordinary bridle. He subsequently manifested an extraordinary affection for me, and whether the system that I pursued with regard to his taming was or was not one of which ordinary horse-owners will be found to approve, I can only say that it succeeded to perfection, and that I have seen it tried twice or thrice since, on my recommendation, with excellent results; but I never advise the adoption of it, except in cases such as I have described, where an animal has been rendered vicious by extreme bad treatment, or has inherited a disposition for sullenness and obstinacy which cannot otherwise be brought under control.

Before bringing this chapter to a close, I would wish to add that a colt in his fifth year may be ridden once or twice a week with harriers, or once with foxhounds, if the meet be very near his stable—but he must never on any account be pressed, or run to the end of his tether, for it is an absolute fact that if a young animal is once suffered to find out for himself that he is beaten, he will never while he lives get to the close of a long or trying run. This may, by some, be regarded as a fallacy, but many practical authorities will, I think, endorse what I say.

* The celebrated Mr. Rarey has been accredited with the invention of this system, or something very nearly approaching it; but so far back as half-a-century ago, Mr. Allen McDonogh, one of the best and greatest of riders, trainers, and authorities, tried it with success in his own training-stables, and subsequently (some five or six years ago) taught it to me at Athgarvan Lodge, Curragh. [↑]

A colt


Mouths and Mouth-pieces.—The shape, delicacy, or toughness of a horse’s tongue does not in the least contribute towards making his mouth either tender or harsh; but a difficulty is thrown in the way of bitting when the tongue is broad in form, because in such case it covers the bars of the mouth, and so prevents the mouth-piece from acting properly upon them. The tongue is endowed with immense susceptibility to pain or pressure, and any undue compression of it causes intense suffering and fretting, and entirely obviates the action of the bridle. I consider that rollers, olives, twists, and all such devices, are not only useless encumbrances, but are instruments of destruction as well. The severity or mildness of a mouth-piece is regulated by the thickness of that portion of the cannons which acts upon the bars of the mouth. The curb-chain ought to sit exactly on the beard, or chin, of the horse. If he is tender-mouthed, it should be left very slack.

Country Riding-Suits for Men.—If you want to ride in luxury in the country, get measured for a knickerbocker garment, with continuations in the form of breeches, fitting perfectly below the knee. This most sensible novelty can be worn with or without leggings, so that if desired for rough usage on the moors, the additions can be dispensed with, or added if wanted for saddle use.

Hunting Breastplates are approved by many keen sportsmen. I give a sketch of one.

Hunting Breastplate

Hustling Horses.—Never hustle a horse at a gap, or in a crowd, or on any account cram him at his fences. Give him time. He has, as Major Whyte Melville used to say, “to carry the bigger fool of the two, and to think for both.”

Brushing.—For a horse that “brushes” procure a leathern boot, the colour of the foot, made of prepared horse-skin, having the hair left on, and laced up the leg. On, or just over the seat of injury, a concave piece of stout leather should be let into the covering, and the hollow thus formed (which acts as a protector) should be filled up with a small pad of lint, previously saturated with zinc lotion. This serves to cure the sore, and also prevents a recurrence of it. I append a sketch.

Leathern Boot

Sawmouth Bridoon.—This is a terribly severe bit, and one which no good judge of training would permit to be used among his horses. It is calculated to destroy rather than to instruct. The illustration shows the nature of it.

Sawmouth Bridoon

To Shoe a nervous or vicious horse, or a young sensitive colt, take him to a skilled farrier—one who has a good temper in addition to his other endowments—and while he is working, take up your stand at the animal’s head, at the same side as that on which the farrier is engaged. Hold the bridle loosely in your hands, dispense with blinkers, and let the horse see what is going on. You can manage this by allowing him to turn his head when he tries to do so. Do not permit any third person to come in the way during the operation. It is a good plan to stand a horse that is to be shod close by a wall. If the smith be unfortunately a duffer at his work, instruct him to smooth the leg downwards from the shoulder or thigh, as the case may be, lifting it up and putting it down again, if the horse seems frightened, and even going away for a moment, and again returning, in order that confidence may become fully established. The safest and surest method of overcoming irritability or nervousness is to exercise a quiet kindness, combined with a cool firmness of purpose; and to accomplish this end, one, or at most two, persons, will be infinitely better than a number. The adjoining sketch shows a horse under treatment on principles of which I do not profess to approve, although I am willing to acknowledge that there are cases in which actual vice can only be overcome by severity and brute force. The custom here depicted of casting an intractable animal for the purpose of getting him shod is common enough in almost all cavalry stables, and is seldom accompanied by any cruelty, save on rare occasions, when the attendant who carries the whip makes use of it to practical purpose—a thing net often called for. When a horse is to be shod thus, the ground about him is usually covered with sacks, to break the force of his fall; but these the artist has not thought it necessary to depict.


page 310.

Broken-winded horses require regular work, and regular feeding. A generous diet, composed of oats, beans, and barley, will be very good for them; and in place of hay give about six pounds of wheaten straw every alternate day, with carrots very frequently.

Veterinary Quacks.—No man has a right to be called a veterinary surgeon who has not a diploma. A pretender may assume the name—often does, in fact—but quackery soon expires.

When a Horse clears his Nostrils immediately on being pulled up, it is a sign that he has wind enough to go both further and faster in his next gallop. When a minute elapses the pace may still be increased though not much; but when two minutes go over without the expected snort, it is a proof that the exercise has been a little too hard for the animal’s condition. Remember, when exercising a young one, that you must not take too much out of him. Frequent protrusion of the muzzle is a sign that distress is at hand, and a settled thrusting forward of it shows that the horse is at very nearly all that he can do.

Restlessness in horses—or temper, as many call it—is more frequently noticeable in summer than in winter time, and is caused by the troublesome flies which stick all over the animals’ bodies. These creatures torment some tender-skinned horses almost to madness; and when a stamp is given, ears put back, or a leg lifted as if in pain, immediate search ought to be made for the occasion of it. Horses at pasture can, as a rule, defend themselves with their teeth, feet, and tails: that is, when the latter appendages are left them; but in this country, so eminently the seat of wisdom and freedom, the effective instrument is invariably removed, and Nature most unfairly handicapped,—as if the sorrows of servitude are not sufficiently great and numerous without augmenting them by caprice.

Bales are simple bars of wood, used largely in cavalry stables to separate the horse-stalls. They are furnished at each end with iron links, by means of which they are suspended to hooks fastened at the head and heel-posts. Sometimes they are made of iron, but well-seasoned oak is quite sufficiently strong for the purpose. The usual dimensions are eight feet long, and four inches in diameter, and they are placed at a distance of about three feet from the ground. The top part may be a fixture; but one end or the other ought to be so arranged that in case of a horse getting partially under it when lying down, it will move readily upwards, according as the animal pushes it in his rise. I have a strong objection to bales, because they admit of horses biting and injuring one another, and are in other ways undesirable; but that they are cheaper than travises, I am, of course, prepared to allow. It is, however, almost their sole claim to notice.

An idle Groom is generally an eye-server. The wisp is oftener in his hand than the brush. When a horse does not look amiss on being brought to the door, and yet that his skin leaves a dirty whitish stain on the fingers when they are pressed into it, the fact is proved beyond all doubt. Thin-skinned horses will not stand a curry-comb; nor is it necessary to use one where good strong brushes are supplied, and made a proper use of.

The Curry-comb, when employed at all, should describe a sweeping movement—never a rubbing one—and the utmost gentleness should always accompany the using of it.

When the proper Grooming of a horse is neglected, he suffers in consequence. Lice, for instance, are never seen in animals that are even moderately well taken care of; but when once these pests appear, the spread of them is amazingly rapid. Nothing but care and cleanliness will eradicate them. Make a strong lather of black soap, wash well with it, then again with clean water, and finally anoint the patches where the lice are with a little mercurial ointment. If they have spread over the surface of the body, make a strong decoction of tobacco, and smear liberally with a sponge. The same treatment will do for dogs.

To remove the soft coating of Hairs that grows on the inside of a horse’s ears is not only unnecessary, but is absolutely cruel. It has been furnished to the animal as a protection against dust, flies, and dirt; and when taken away, the ears are left exposed to the influence of the three combined. All appearance of untidiness may be done away with by holding the ear in the left hand with the edges of it nicely evened, and then clipping lightly along them with a sharp scissors. I would never on any account permit nose-hairs to be clipped, or otherwise removed. Horses are immensely sensitive to any interference with them, and for sundry reasons they ought not to be meddled with.

A Horse that is Cast under the Manger cannot possibly rise until he is drawn backwards by an attendant. Every time that he attempts to get up he strikes his head, and is thus brought forcibly down again. In a properly-constructed stable such a thing could not, however, occur.

Old-Fashioned Mangers ought to be boarded in, so that no hollow may exist under them.

Filling Horses’ Feet.—I am totally against this system, but, when those who are partial to it are bent upon carrying it out, they should see that it is done with fresh moss, soft and very damp, pressed well into the feet, and tucked away on the inside of the shoes.

The Semi-Military and Travelling saddle is made to fit any horse, and is in great request among officers serving abroad. Peat & Co., of Piccadilly, have patented it, and the sealed pattern is at the War Office.

Biting the Collar-Rope.—If you want to see a horse do this, leave him a rope about two or three feet too long; shut him up in a close stable, and give him nothing to do. It is not a vice, but rather one of the many signs of weariness and idleness in which dumb animals indulge. I append a sketch of a rope-biter.

Rope biter

A Horseman’s Skill in the management of his bridle-hand consists in the discretion with which he makes the bit be felt. It ought never to be used too severely, and its effects should be moderated by the mildness and pliability of the hand.

When Boiling Grain of any kind, give it plenty of water, and keep it constantly stirred. If you neglect this necessary precaution, it will stick to the bottom of the boiler, and the burned part will acquire a nasty nauseous taste. According as the water evaporates, add a fresh supply. Never let the liquor boil over; it is a great waste to do so, as it contains a large amount of nutriment. Oats will need more boiling than beans; these latter more than barley, carrots and turnips more than potatoes. Four measures of oats, boiled and bursting, will fill seven measures; four of beans, something over eight and a half; while four of barley will fill quite ten. I have proved all these statistics in my own stable.

False Quarter is a defect of the outer wall of the foot. I give a sketch of the only possible relief for it.

False Quarter

Rick in the Back will necessitate the throwing up of the sufferer for at least six months. He must be placed in a roomy stall, the hair over the seat of injury be carefully removed, and the place kept moist with cloths dipped in a lotion composed of tincture of arnica two ounces, and water one pint. Soft nourishing food must be given, but no medicine on any account whatever—the restoration to finish with liquid blistering of a judicious kind.

The safest Arrangement for Side Saddles, to avoid risk of being hung up, or dragged after a fall, is that adopted with “the level seat saddle,” by Messrs. Nicholls of Jermyn Street. They have patented a bar for the stirrup leather, extremely simple in construction, and which will instantly disconnect it, should a rider have the misfortune to get her foot caught when falling over the off-side of the saddle. An elastic safety-band, stretched across the heads, will, when a fall occurs, prevent the habit catching on the saddle,—and the unpleasant predicament of a horse galloping about, with his rider suspended by the skirt, head downwards (as witnessed sometimes in the hunting-field), will be avoided.

Take a Pistol with you on all occasions when going to hunt, and in case of hopeless injury occurring to your mount, make use of it, with all the quietness and celerity you can command. Horses, when left to themselves, rarely meet with mishaps; it is, therefore, only fair that their riders should protect them against unnecessary torture.

Ladies’ Spurs.—I have pleasure in appending sketches of the only three of these—that I know of—that are manufactured for ladies’ use. The Sewarrow is, I think excellent. Lady equestrians frequently use a small pair of hunting spurs of the shape worn by men—the right one having a knob in place of a rowel. These are used with Hessian boots, and look well when dismounted. The spike of the spur is in all cases made amply long to fulfil its purpose; to wear one of immoderate length would necessitate having it made specially, and could not effect any good. I like “box” spurs myself, and have always worn them; but there is nothing objectionable in the strap, and it has the advantage of being readily adjusted to any sort of boot, whereas boots fitted with box spurs are generally costly articles.




Crib-Biting may be prevented by removing all woodwork from the vicinity of the horse, and if he persists in gnawing his stable-partitions, smear them well with aloes, and he will soon desist.


Dishing” is a common expression among horsey people. It signifies throwing out the forelegs in a kind of side manner, which looks badly in the trot. I have seen some very good horses do it, but it would certainly be called defective action. To “dish” with one foreleg only is a very frequent thing.

Bandaging.—When a horse’s legs have to be bandaged, it is a good plan to coil the bandages completely round the pastern, close to the hoofs, winding them around the legs in spiral form (each coil overlapping the other) until the legs are bound up to the knees or hocks, where the bandages are secured. The pressure must be equal, and not too tight. The strings should admit a finger after being tied. I have never found a horse so treated attempt to lie down, and it is far less irksome to an animal than being tied up by the head.

Habit-cutting is now perfection at most of the high-class London houses. Bodices are exquisitely made—some with stand-up collars, others slightly lapelled, to show a portion of habit-shirt or tie. The backs are cut with long seams, and the buttons placed low, so that even a naturally short-waisted figure appears the contrary, being lengthened and improved. The shaping in front is excellent. The skirts are so artistically cut and seamed that they fit at the back as closely as a man’s hunting breeches, while the shaping at the knee is supplemented by a most artistic and novel arrangement underneath, a sort of hollow, into which the up-pommel fits completely, thus obviating the necessity of having folds of cloth lying between the right leg and the saddle. These skirts, held back by the hand when the wearer is dismounted, look neat, and are of convenient walking length.

Wall-licking.—If a horse shows a tendency to this, leave a lump of chalk in his manger. A piece of rock-salt left there as well will never be amiss.

Signs of Megrim.—When a horse suddenly throws up his head, and holds it in the air and on one side, be assured he has a megrim, and will be in danger of falling if driven further without a stop. Pull up at once, and if cold water can be had anywhere within reach of you, dash a bucket of it over his head and neck.

Benumbed Leg.—When, for taming purposes, a horse’s leg is strapped up for any length of time, it becomes benumbed, and ought, when let down, to be rubbed vigorously before the animal is allowed to walk upon it If this is not done he will probably fall.

Hints for Amateur Jockeys.—The moment you know that you are beaten in a race, pull up. You can gain nothing by flogging your horse to the finish. If going well and gamely, let him alone; if not, catch him with both hands, and give him two or three kicks with the spurs, I never advocate waiting, unless the mount is a very game one. Jump off with the lead, and hold it as long as you can.

Age Symptoms.—A horse that has passed his fourth year has four incisors in each jaw, all fully grown.

A Seated Shoe signifies a regular, or ordinary, shoe, which has only as much upper surface left as will admit of the crust resting upon it.

Hiring Horses.—Windsor, Cheltenham, and Oxford are about the best places I know of for jobbing light-weight hunters. When an animal is found to suit, it ought to be at once secured for the season. Horses can be had at Barnstaple for Exmoor. Oxford is within reach of five packs of fox-hounds. Capital hunting quarters can be had there, and excellent horses—cheap too, in vacation time, as there is not any one to ride them.

Defective Vision.—A horse that has any defect in his sight should be at once rejected by the buyer. It is the only safe way in dealing, unless the desire is to buy a blind animal at a blind price. There is generally a plausible reason given for every suspicious appearance, whether it be a sightless eye or a pair of broken knees.

Blinkers.—I greatly disapprove of these for breaking. Let the colt or horse see what you are doing. In this I am aware that many disagree with me, but I usually hold to my opinions, as I do not form them in a hurry.

Amateur Blacksmiths.—If you want to be independent of the forge when frost sets in, you can do it in this way. As soon as the hunting season has fairly begun, have your horse’s shoes made with square holes punched at the extremities and at the toes. Have these fitted with slightly tapering plugs of steel, with sharp projecting points. The plugs should be about two inches in length, and must be made to fit the holes both accurately and tightly, but not to go quite through the shoe to the foot. When frost appears, and you want to go out, insert the plugs yourself in the holes, tap them slightly on the points with a hammer, and when the horse puts his weight on them it will drive them “home.” The plugs will last for three or four days, and are both cheap and easily renewed. When you require to take them out, another quiet tap or two (delivered a little at the side) will start them, owing to the taper on the part that fits into the shoe.

Hot Fitting.”—I entirely approve of this, when properly conducted. It would need a very lengthy application of a hot shoe to affect the hoof to any depth—quite four minutes to cause a marked increase of temperature in the upper part of the foot—while, in reality, the hot shoe is not usually applied for more than three or four seconds.

Temperature of Stables.—The average temperature of a stable should be about 48° F. Never clip until the whole of the winter coat has appeared—then do it once for the entire season. Leaving the saddle-place unclipped will be more likely to provoke galls than to prevent them.

Supply of Hay.—Six pounds of hay per diem is quite sufficient for a horse, when plenty of other food is given. Too much hay is a mistake.

Quartern.—Everybody knows that this weighs 2½ lbs.

Stable Forks.—Do away with steel, and use wooden ones.

Shoes.—A set ought to last four weeks, unless the work be constant and the going very hard.

Hunting Scarlet.—Do not don red in the hunting field until your “salad” days are over. It is a remarkable colour, and of late many excellent sportsmen have discarded it altogether. This may, perhaps, be owing to the fact that ladies are putting it on! Two fair Dianas who ride very straight with the Meath hounds adopted scarlet last season, and doubtless many more will ere long follow suit. It is not to be admired, in my opinion, and can scarcely fail to remind the beholder of things usually associated with street-organs and itinerant grinders of these instruments!

“Unknowing” Ones.—Ignorance concerning horsey subjects is quite common among ladies who are otherwise well educated, and, indeed, highly informed. Mrs. Beecher Stowe relates of herself, in her ‘Sunny Memories,’ that when dining one day with Earl Russell she spoke of hunting as “a vestige of the savage state,” when, to her great astonishment, she saw laughter on all the men’s faces. No wonder. Fox hunting, or rather riding to hounds is an art not yet a century old. Two of our most popular authoresses—I might, perhaps, say the two most popular—make such egregious mistakes on the subjects of hunting, racing and betting, that men laugh, and women who know, say, “What a pity it is!”

Hunting Centres.—A young Londoner cannot do better than try his hand with the Surrey Foxhounds, or with one of the Kentish packs. The hills of Surrey afford good hunting ground, despite the flints, and the superfluity of coverts.

When a Horse is Collar-shy, or nervous about the adjustment of the crupper, have the latter made to unbuckle, and procure a collar that opens at the top. This is, of course, in case of being unable to reassure the animal by kindness. Put beating and scolding entirely aside; they have probably led to the evils that have to be cured.

The Foot “Home” in the Stirrup was for long a favourite theory of mine, and one which I myself practised—especially when travelling long distances, or going the pace,—but then, I always rode in a plain little racing stirrup, made sufficiently wide to enable the foot to work easily in it, so that there was no possibility of its “sticking,” or proving otherwise dangerous. Finding, however, that, despite repeated warnings, ladies would persist in adopting the various forms of so-called safety-stirrups, in which the foot was absolutely embedded, the stuffing over the instep helping to tighten the hold, I thought it safest and most conscientious to discard my theory altogether and advocate riding from the ball of the foot. To keep perpetually saying, “Do as I do,” partakes rather of the egotistical and self-sufficient, even where one may fairly add, “And no harm will ensue,”—but if, added to this, there is apparently a strong desire on the part of those spoken to to have their own way, it is surely wise to offer them such directions as will best obviate the chances of mishap. Here, for instance, is an example of my meaning: Suppose that I am in the habit of reading in bed, using a safety-lamp for doing so, and I discover that it is a practice in my household and elsewhere for others to read by the light of a half-burnt candle, insecurely fastened into its socket in the candlestick, and laid perhaps upon the pillow,—will it not be better and safer for me to decry altogether the practice of night reading, than to keep perpetually urging (without hope of success) that safety-lamps ought in all cases to be adopted?

When a Carriage is kept covered in a coach-house, the cover ought to be constantly aired.

Never permit Water to Dry of itself on a vehicle, or it will certainly leave stains.

Aprons, Heads, etc., that are composed of enamelled leather, should be washed with soap and water, and rubbed well with linseed oil—the former being constantly unfolded, and the latter kept fully stretched.

Moths can be prevented from settling in the linings of vehicles by mixing camphor and turpentine in a saucer, and placing it inside, with all the windows drawn up. The evaporation of the mixture will serve the purpose well.

Bolts and Clips of vehicles should be constantly looked to, and tightened if loose; and all repairs should be done at once, nothing being allowed to lie over.

Horse-collars should be so made that the weight attached to the traces shall be distributed over the surface of the shoulders when pulling, not concentrated on one point, or, almost as bad, perpetually rubbing up and down. A collar cannot be considered fitted, simply because it appears all right when the horse is standing still. Set him going at a good pace, and then judge of it. If he be a high-crested animal, he will probably need a collar quite two inches longer than seemed necessary when he stood at ease. If the traces are attached too low to the hames, they will draw the collar away from the upper part of the shoulder. This can only be remedied by shifting the point of the draught, till a proper bearing has been obtained.

Bencraft Hames.—There is sometimes immense difficulty in fitting horses that are peculiarly shaped with collars that will not gall them; in such cases the above may be tried, as by using them the draught can be shifted to suit the shoulders or the height of the wheels. They have an awkward appearance, but nevertheless serve their purpose admirably.

Shaft-tugs should be of a length to suspend the shafts at exactly the correct height, by which I mean the centre of the swell of the pad-flaps, measured both ways. When the shafts are much bent, the tugs must be shorter than if ordinarily straight. The traces must be of proper length, otherwise the correct horizontal position of the shaft-tugs cannot possibly be maintained. When too short the motion of the horse forces tugs and pad forward, thus drawing the crupper uncomfortably tight—and when too long, the vehicle is drawn by the tugs instead of by the traces. It is rare to sit behind a horse that one can pronounce properly harnessed in every particular.

A Kicking-strap will be worse than useless—it will chafe and irritate—unless properly put on. A strap that is either too light or the reverse, or that passes in a direct line from shaft to shaft, had better not be used at all. It ought to be just loose enough, nothing more, to allow of the horse travelling without feeling chafed by it, and should be fastened at least two inches behind the hip-bones, as a loin-strap would be.

Fitting the Bit to the Horse’s Mouth.—This, as I have already stated, is an advisable plan. A Buxton or Liverpool bit is commonly employed in harness, but if a horse has a light mouth, he may travel well in a snaffle. Buxton bits are made without ports. Experience will tell whether the reins ought to be buckled to the cheek or to the bars. In my opinion, almost all horses go well in properly fitting bits. I altogether disapprove of the enormous affairs with cheeks eleven inches long, and weighing quite two pounds, which ignorance sometimes makes use of. I believe that comparatively few animals require bits of larger dimensions than one and three-quarter inches for the upper cheek, and three and a-half for the lower. This latter ought never to be more than double the length of the upper portion. Even when the reins are fastened to a ring below the cheek, the weight of the projecting arm will effect the leverage of the entire affair.

Horses addicted to Running away frequently lay hold of the cheek of the bit; it is a fault in large measure cultivated by using bits that are too broad for the mouth. To avoid it, the cheeks might be bent backwards, after the Wimbush pattern.

Correct Bitting gives control in harness without inflicting pain. Any suffering that cannot be got rid of by the horse dropping his head to the right position, is barbarous cruelty, however it may be glossed over or concealed. Half the horses that one sees in London and elsewhere, poking their chins in an unnatural manner, are made to do so by the use of powerful bits and severe curb-chains—yet ignorance cannot be brought to see it, although the evils of it are frequently and earnestly set forth.

Blinkers are generally considered indispensable adjuncts to harness. Why, I do not know.

Bearing-reins are only tolerable when the snaffle bit is suffered to hang well below the corners of the mouth, and when the reins themselves are of such a length that the instant the horse lifts his head and sets off, they become amply slack. I cannot at all see why they should be thought an absolute necessity for draught purposes, when not used in the saddle. There are, of course, cases in which they are advisable; when, for instance, extremely nervous or badly-broken animals are of necessity driven through crowded thoroughfares; but otherwise I cannot believe that they are either necessary or ornamental.

Fashionable Coachmen concoct an instrument of torture by drawing up the gag-bit until the horse’s mouth is dragged back quite two inches: a curb much too long and very much too wide being next added, and strained up to the last extremity of tightness. The cruelty of ordinary bearing-reins is unspeakably great, and to the use of them may be attributed the loss of sight in many fine young horses—undue pressure on the glands that lie just under the angles of the jaws being the fruitful cause of this melancholy evil.

Nagging at a horse’s mouth when driving him is a most objectionable practice, and one that is, unfortunately, too generally indulged in. If an animal appears sluggish, the driver finds it easier to rouse him temporarily by means of chucking at his mouth, than by either a suitable use of the whip, or an investigation into the general state of his health: a low or disordered condition of which is far more frequently the cause of sluggishness than the “roguishness,” of which helpless animals are often wrongfully accused.

In Driving a Pair the arrangement of the coupling-reins is a matter of vast importance; for, should one horse be naturally faster in pace than his fellow, the whole comfort of the drive will depend upon being able to regulate the two animals to the same rate of going. To do this the coupling-rein of the fast horse must be shortened by bringing the buckle closer to the driver’s hands, so that a pull will act on him before checking in any degree the speed of the other horse. Coupling-reins should come to within six inches of the driver’s fingers. I have seen a pair of runaways stopped in a short time by laying a firm hold upon the two inside reins, and dropping the outer ones.

Cantering in Harness is a very common fault, and can only be stopped by pulling up and starting afresh at a trot. A canterer in double harness may be controlled by putting on him a pair of single harness-reins, as well as the double ones.

Tandem.—I am not an admirer of tandem, but it is a good way of exercising saddle-horses in the summer time, and keeping them in condition. They should be always placed as leaders. Steady, powerful harness horses will be best to use as wheelers, the comfort and safety of the driver being dependent upon their paces and behaviour. A leader should be full of courage, and go always in the collar and up to the bit. An improvement that I have been told of for tandem-harness is to have three bars fastened to the shafts: an effectual means of preventing the leader from stepping over the traces.

Position when Driving.—I strongly object to the standing position—as though merely leaning against the box-seat of the vehicle—which many gentlemen-drivers adopt. I believe that such an attitude must leave the driver almost powerless to assist or resist his horses. The position when driving should be firm, upright, and decided; the elbows hanging at ease, close to the hips, but not laid against them; the arms nicely rounded, and the hands held at a moderate distance from the body. Nothing can be worse than seeing the arms of the driver dragged forward by the action of the horses that he is meant to control; nor can anything be much more objectionable than flinging up the wrists when coming to a stop, instead of shortening the reins by passing the right hand quietly in front of the left.

Really First-class Drivers rarely trust to holding the reins in one hand only, even in single harness; or, if they seem to do so, the right hand is ever ready to be laid upon the off or right hand rein, while the forefinger falls naturally upon the near one; by this means a gentle pressure can be exercised either by it or by the exterior angle of the hand which rests upon the off leather. A good coachman will always at starting take the reins in both hands; and animals ought to be trained to start slowly and collectedly—not with anything that resembles a jerk. The “show” in which some drivers delight to indulge, both at starting and when the horses are at rest, by first flicking them with the whip and then pulling them sharply up, cannot be too strongly deprecated.

The Whip, although esteemed a necessary adjunct to driving apparatus, should be used as sparingly as possible—more, in fact, as an instructor, than as a means of inflicting punishment. There is nothing nicer in driving than seeing the whip in rest, and the horses, fearless of its severities, going gaily up to their bridles, restrained by a master hand.

To be able to drive a Team is not considered a great feat by many men, or, indeed, by some women, in these latter days; but of course there is driving and driving—both of different sorts. I approve of studying under a first-class wagoner, and being guided entirely by him. To be a good four-in-hand driver requires courage, coolness temper, decision, quickness, strength and clearness of sight, flexible hands, and good staying power in the arms and back. I have seen but one woman in my life who was able to drive a team of full-sized horses in best English style; and I can only recall the names of seven or eight men who could do so. Hundreds, of course, attempt it, and satisfy themselves that they are doing splendidly; whereas, the contrary is, as a rule, the case. Team-driving is not suitable work for ladies. The mere exertion of holding four free-going horses for even an hour at a stretch is so great that, unless the muscles of the arms have been strengthened by sculling, practising with dumb-bells, or other gymnastic exercises, the driver will be thoroughly done up, and at the mercy of any mischance that may occur, before half the journey has been got over. A strong, firm-handed, full-muscled man, with a cool nerve, a quick eye, and his heart in the work he is engaged at, will make the best driver of a dashing four-in-hand. The “golden youth” who stand bolt upright against sloping cushions, curling and uncurling their whips, touching up leaders that need no touching, or letting them get out of hand—and double-thonging steady-working wheelers, are simply objects to laugh at, or to pity, or both.

To wield the Whip in a workman-like manner may be practised without horses, by sitting at ease on an elevation, with a good instructor close at hand. There are correct uses for every part of it, down to the very point: a proper position for the stick, and proper ways of using it at various lengths—all of which have to be learned; and nobody can be called a coachman who is not intimately familiar with them—so much so that he can carry his whip without apparently thinking about it, and hold it, use it, and curl it, as if by a kind of instinct—precisely as all these ought to be done.

A Team should be trained to Stand perfectly still until the driver gives the word to go. A restless, uneasy, shuffling, while the apron is being adjusted, the whip taken up, and the reins gathered, is both unsightly and unpleasant.

The Wheelers in a four-in-hand coach ought to start it and turn it round, without the leaders ever feeling the traces; and they ought to stop the vehicle with the traces of the leaders resting quite slack.

A good Driver will have his leaders so in hand at the start that when they move they will be out of the collars, and entirely clear of the splinter-bars.

Practice should be on level ground, and on roads devoid of traffic. None save really first-class drivers ought ever attempt to pilot a coach through a crowded thoroughfare. Plenty of novices do it, and delude themselves with the notion that they are driving beautifully, when in reality they are only clearing the road—for, as a rule, people leave a passage for a four-horsed coach, chiefly I fancy through fear of being run down by it if they don’t speedily get out of its way.

Driving a Team is, on the whole, very far from child’s play, and it needs a smart wagoner to know and carry out all the nice points of the art: how, for instance, to make the wheelers work, when to put on the drags, when to run down without them, how to regulate the pace, especially when descending a steep decline, how to go nicely and collectedly over the tops of all hills, whether great or small, with numerous other minor matters, which study and practice can alone teach.

Fourteen miles an hour is a tremendously fast pace for leaders to trot. Such a rate of going would necessitate that the wheelers should gallop. Speed is, I always think, far less necessary than stamina in a four-in-hand team. A well made up quartett, of which every horse has two good ends, ought to travel from London to Epsom at a fair steady pace, and come back in the evening in spanking style.

A Team that will Trot briskly up the hill to the Star and Garter at Richmond at the rate of, say, eight miles an hour without the whip, may be pronounced a real good thing.

If Four Horses cannot be matched in height, I advocate conceding the difference to the wheelers. Age will not matter very much—nor will colour—for merely useful work; but go and action are all important.

A Good and humane Driver always looks to the condition of each horse separately, when halting after a long drive. An oatmeal drink with the chill taken off, and an abundance of water splashed about the legs, prove great refreshers. Exhausted horses are immensely benefited by getting a scrape down, together with a “pick-me-up” of warm ale.

An Upper Jaw Bit, and an Over Draw Check will teach a youngster (when training for harness) almost as much sense as he will learn by two months’ handling. The apparatus sobers him—stops that peculiar, one-sided, twisting kind of kick, or “lurch,” which beginners when fresh are wont to indulge in—and, in short, teaches him to trot his level best, without the aid of a kicking-strap. It is called the “Carleton” Check—I presume from its inventor’s name—and consists of a very small bar snaffle, not much thicker than an ordinary lead pencil, with a loose ring at either end. Straps, about half an inch wide, are buckled to these rings, and are connected above the horse’s nostrils by a narrow upper noseband: on the same principle as an ordinary chin-strap. This little noseband is necessary to keep the bit called an “upper jaw bit” in its place: namely, under the upper jaw, just as the regular bit is upon the under jaw. The little mouthpiece is very slightly curved—a mere segment of a circle—and from it the two straps run up the horse’s nose, and are joined together on his forehead to prevent them chafing his eyes. They are then continued between the ears, and along the mane, to the water hook. At the spot where they pass the headpiece they run through two square loops, in which are “rolls,” or rollers, to allow the straps free play. They are joined at the ends, and are made to hook over the water hook, after which a tiny contrivance is slipped on the hook, which renders it impossible for the horse (let him fling his head about as he chooses) to throw the rein off the hook. The hand, however, can release it in a flash—and the whole affair is a perfect marvel of neatness and ingenuity. Its good effects are, to raise the head, extend the neck, and give free play to the lungs. It likewise lengthens the gait, steadies the horse, prevents breaking, obviates “hitching” behind, takes the pull off the driver’s hands, and brings out a horse’s trot, if he has any at all in him. The evils are, that it spoils a handsome erect carriage, lowers the crest, and makes the animal poke his nose in an unsightly manner. In short, it is invaluable for training a road horse, or trotter, but the habitual use of it is undesirable and even cruel, for a horse cannot possibly bend while he has it on. So rigid are its effects, and so impossible is it for an animal to lower his head while wearing it, that I am of opinion it would put an effectual “stopper” upon the tricks of the most confirmed buck-jumper living, if connecting-straps were just passed, say, underneath the saddle, and attached firmly to the crupper. This is merely an idea,—but I should like to see it tested in a practical way.

The Kemble Jackson is another kind of bit employed very largely in the States, especially in Kentucky, which is a very horsey district,—one of the most so, indeed, in America. The Jackson can be used with or without an upper jaw bit, and has the reins of the check to run through loops directly under the ears—where some tandem lines go. This has the effect of giving a lofty carriage to the head, without making the horse poke his nose as the Carleton does. No noseband is employed with it, and the wearer can hold his head in handsome position—which is an immense advantage with a carriage horse, in which up-headedness is an essential attribute. It is in some points quite before the Carleton, which latter (if constantly used) imparts absolute rigidity to the muscles of the neck, and intensifies the evil known as “ewe”-neck; but for helping the trot, and teaching sense to a youngster, the Carleton beats anything that I have ever seen.

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“Before everything, the volume before us is in reality what it professes to be—a Directory for India. Besides an enormous mass of information of the purely Directory kind, which must have taken a world of labour to collect and collate, the volume comprises complete Army Lists for Bengal, Madras, and Bombay, including the Volunteers; lists of officers in the various Government Departments; lists of the Tea, Indigo, Coffee, and other estates in the country; and much valuable information regarding the Telegraphs, Postal Rules, Law Courts, Charities, and a host of other subjects. Nothing more strikingly represents the change that has come over India in recent years than this great Directory.”


“The Directory now includes every district and principal town in British and Foreign India, every Native State, and in fact aims at being a directory to the whole of India. It contains separate classified and street directories of each of the cities of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, a remarkably comprehensive and detailed Mofussil Directory, and a vast amount of general information relating to India, its Government, commerce, postal arrangements, festivals, and official establishments.... The expansion of the work will be welcomed as a response to the growing requirements of commerce with India.”



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Transcriber’s Notes.

Variant spelling, punctuation, and inconsistent hyphenation have been preserved as printed; simple typographical errors have been corrected. The following list shows the changed text below the original text. The changes are also noted in the source code: search <!--TN:

End of Project Gutenberg's Riding for Ladies, by Mrs. Power O'Donoghue


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