The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses/Introduction

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The Modern Art of Taming Wild Horses by John Solomon Rarey
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THE first domestication of the horse, one of the greatest achievements of man in the animal kingdom, was not the work of a day; but like all other great accomplishments was brought about by a gradual process of discoveries and experiments. He first subdued the more subordinate animals, on account of their being easily caught and tamed; and used for many years the mere drudges, the ox, the ass, and the camel, instead of the fleet and elegant horse. This noble animal was the last brought into subjection, owing, perhaps, to man's limited and inaccurate knowledge of his nature, and his consequent inability to control him. This fact alone is sufficient evidence of his superiority over all other animals.

Man, in all his inventions and discoveries, has almost invariably commenced with some simple principle, and gradually developed it from one degree of perfection to another. The first hint that we have of the use of electricity was Franklin's drawing it from the clouds with his kite ; now it is the instrument of conveying thought from mind to mind, with a rapidity that surpasses time. The great propelling power that drives the wheel of the engine over our land, and ploughs the ocean with our steamers, was first discovered escaping from a tea-kettle. And so the powers of the horse, second only to the powers of steam, became known to man only as experiments and investigation revealed them.

The horse, according to the best accounts we can gather, has been the constant servant of man for nearly four thousand years, ever rewarding him with his labour and adding to his comfort in proportion to his skill and manner of using him ; but being to those who govern him by brute force, and know nothing of the beauty and delight to be gained from the cultivation of his finer nature, a fretful, vicious, and often dangerous servant; whilst to the Arab, whose horse is the pride of his life, and who governs him by the law of kindness, we find him to be quite a different animal. The manner in which he is treated from a foal gives him an affection and attachment for his master not known in any other country. The Arab and his children, the mare and her foal, inhabit the tent together; and although the colt and the mare's neck are often pillows for the children to roll upon, no accident ever occurs, the mare being as careful of the children as of the colt. Such is the mutual attachment between the horse and his master, that he will leave his companions at his master's call, ever glad to obey his voice. And when the Arab falls from his horse, and is unable to rise again, he will stand by him and neigh for assistance; and if he lies down to sleep, as fatigue sometimes compels him to do in the midst of the desert, his faithful steed will watch over him, and neigh to arouse him if man or beast approaches. The Arabs frequently teach their horses secret signs or signals, which they make use of on urgent occasions to call forth their utmost exertions. These are more efficient than the barbarous mode of urging them on with the spur and whip, a forcible illustration of which will be found in the following anecdote:—

A Bedouin, named Jabal, possessed a mare of great celebrity. Hassan Pasha, then governor of Damascus, wished to buy the animal, and repeatedly made the owner the most liberal offers, which Jabal steadily refused. The pasha then had recourse to threats, but with no better success. At length, one Gafar, a Bedouin of another tribe, presented himself to the pasha, and asked what he would give the man who should make him master of JabaPs mare? "I will fill his horse's nose-bag with gold," replied Hassan. The result of this interview having gone abroad, Jabal became more watchful than ever, and always secured his mare at night with an iron chain, one end of which was fastened to her hind fetlock, whilst the other, after passing through the tent-cloth, was attached to a picket driven in the ground under the felt that served himself and his wife for a bed. But one midnight, Gafar crept silently into the tent, and succeeded in loosening the chain. Just before start- ing off with his prize, he caught up JabaPs lance, and poking him with the butt end, cried out : "I am Gafar ! I have stolen your noble mare, and will give you notice in time." This warning was in accordance with the customs of the Desert, for to rob a hostile tribe is considered an honourable exploit, and the man who accomplishes it is desirous of all the glory that may flow from the deed. Poor Jabal, when he heard the words, rushed out of the tent and gave the alarm; then mounting his brother's mare, accompanied by some of his tribe, he pursued the robber for four hours. The brother's mare was of the same stock as Jabal' s, but was not equal to her; nevertheless he outstripped those of all the other pursuers, and was even on the point of over- taking the robber, when Jabal shouted to him : "Pinch her right ear and give her a touch of the heel." Gafar did so, and away went the mare like lightning, speedily rendering further pursuit hopeless. The pinch in the ear and the touch with the heel were the secret signs by which Jabal had been used to urge his mare to her utmost speed. Jabal's companions were amazed and indignant at his strange conduct. "O thou father of a jackass !" they cried, "thou hast enabled the thief to rob thee of thy jewel." But he silenced their upbraidings by saying : "I would rather lose her than sully her reputation. Would you have me suffer it to be said among the tribes that another mare had proved fleeter than mine? I have at least this comfort left me, that I can say she never met with her match."

Different countries have their different modes of horsemanship, but amongst all of them its first practice was carried on in but a rude and indifferent way, being hardly a stepping-stone to the comfort and delight gained from the use of the horse at the present day. The polished Greeks, as well as the ruder nations of Northern Africa, for a long while rode without either saddle or bridle, guiding their horses with the voice or the hand, or with a light switch with which they touched the animal on the side of the face to make him turn in the opposite direction. They urged him forward by a touch of the heel, and stopped him by catching him by the muzzle. Bridles and bits were at length introduced, but many centuries elapsed before anything that could be called a saddle was used. Instead of these, cloths, single or padded, and skins of wild beasts, often richly adorned, were placed beneath the rider, but always without stirrups; and it is given as an extraordinary fact that the Romans, even in the times when luxury was carried to excess amongst them, never desired so simple an expedient for assisting the horseman to mount, to lessen his fatigue, and aid him in sitting more securely in his saddle. Ancient sculptors prove that the horsemen of almost every country were accustomed to mount their horses from the right side of the animal, that they might the better grasp the mane, which hangs on that side, a practice universally changed in modern times. The ancients generally leaped on their horses' backs, though they sometimes carried a spear with a loop or projection about two feet from the bottom, which served them as a step. In Greece and Rome, the local magistracy were bound to see that blocks for mounting (what the Scotch call loupin'-on stanes), were placed along the road at convenient distances. The great, however, thought it more dignified to mount their horses by stepping on the bent backs of their servants or slaves, and many who could not command such costly help, used to carry a light ladder about with them. The first distinct notice that we have of the use of the saddle occurs in the edict of the Emperor Theodosius (A.D. 385), from which we also learn that it was usual for those who hired post-horses to provide their own saddle, and that the saddle should not weigh more than sixty pounds—a cumbrous contrivance, more like the howdahs placed on the backs of elephants than the light and elegant saddle of modern times. Side-saddles for ladies are an invention of comparatively recent date. The first seen in England was made for Anne of Bohemia, wife of Richard the Second, and was probably more like a pillion than the side-saddle of the present day. A pillion is a sort of very low-backed arm-chair, and was fastened on the horse's croup, behind the saddle, on which a man rode who had all the care of managing the horse, while the lady sat at her ease, supporting herself by grasping a belt which he wore, or passing her arm around his body, if the gentleman was not too ticklish. But the Mexicans manage these things with more gallantry than the ancients did. The paisana, or country lady, we are told, is often seen mounted before her caballero, who takes the more natural position of being seated behind his fair one, supporting her by throwing his arm around her waist (a very appropriate support, if the bent position of the arm does not cause an occasional contraction of the muscles). These two positions may justly be considered as the first steps taken by the ladies towards their improved and elegant mode of riding at the present day. At an early period, when the diversion of hawking was prevalent, they dressed themselves in the costume of the knight and rode astride.

Horses were in general use for many centuries before anything like a protection for the hoof was thought of, and it was introduced at first, as a matter of course, on a very simple scale. The first foot defence, it is said, which was given to the horse, was on the same principle as that worn by man, and was a sort of sandal made of leather, tied to the horse's foot by means of straps or strings. And, finally, plates of metal were fastened to the horse's feet by the same simple means.

Here again, as in the case of the stirrupless saddle, when we reflect that men should, for nearly a thousand years, have gone on fastening plates of metal under horses' hoofs by the clumsy means of straps and strings, without its ever occurring to them to try so simple an improvement as nails, we have another remarkable demonstration of the slow steps by which horsemanship has reached its present state.

In the foregoing remarks I have taken the liberty of extracting several facts from a valuable little work by Rollo Springfield. With this short comment on the rise and progress of horsemanship, from its commencement up to the present time, I will proceed to give you the principles of a new theory of taming wild horses, which is the result of many experiments, and a thorough investigation and trial of the different methods of horsemanship now in use.