Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hints on Purchase of Riding Horses (1901)

A horse should be rejected for any one really bad fault. The greatest strength of a horse is limited by his worst point.

Horses are often bought because they possess one or more very good points. This is a wrong principle in buying. The selection of horses should begin by rejection for bad points. 

Bad points are of course, in a great measure, a question of degree. Discretion is needed in rejecting as well as buying.

In measuring a horse or judging of his height and size by sight, take care that he stands on a level with yourself. Dealers generally stand a horse, if under-sized, on higher ground, or is over-sized on lower ground that the intending purchaser.

Want of a fair amount of breeding should be an absolute bar.

Reject a horse with a:

Big coarse head
A small sunken eye. (They are generally obstinate and sulky).
A colour light of the sort.
With a long slack back. (It will not carry weight).
With a hollow back. (The formation is weak).
With flat sides. (They will not do work or look well).
With a slack loin. (Undue length between the last ribs and hind quarters. They are often bad feeders and will run up light with work).
With a light loin. (Want of breadth over the loins. They run up light with work.)
With scraggy hips. (They never do credit to feeding particularly if also slack in the loins).
With a bad girth. (Light through the heart. This formation will always cause trouble in saddling).
With a thick or short neck.

Unless it has a good rein. (With a clumsy neck the head is in consequence badly set on. Without a good rein a horse will never break well, or be pleasant to ride.)

Reject a horse with very low withers. The saddle will be apt to work forwards, and the 'rein' will probably be deficient, and the leverage for the muscles of the forehand is defective. A slug always a nuisance.

To see the above points stand on the side and form your opinion before the horse moves off.

Reject a horse with a narrow or shallow chest. (There is not sufficient capacity for the Lungs.)

With forelegs very, close together. (This and the former defect generally go together.)

To see these points stand in front.

Whose forelegs are not straight. (They will not stand wear).

Stand behind the horse as he walks away from you, and you will be able to notice these defects, if they exist.

Which is light below the knee, especially if light immediately below the knee. The conformation is essentially weak.

With long, or with short or with upright pasterns. (Long pasterns are subject to sprains. Short or upright pasterns make a horse unpleasant to ride, and on account of extra concussion are apt to cause ossific deposits).

With toes turned in of out. The twist generally occurs at the Fetlock. Toes turned out are more objectionable that toes turned in. (When toes are turned out, the fetlocks are generally turned in, and animals so formed are very apt to cut or brush. Both, however, are weak formations).

Whose hind legs are too far behind. Good propelling power will be wanting, and disease as a result may be expected in the hocks.

Which goes either very wide or very close behind.

With very straight or very bent hocks. (The former causes undue concussion, the latter are apt to give way).

Which is 'split up', (Show much daylight between his thighs. Propelling power comes from behind, and must deficient in horses without due muscular development between the thighs.

With flat feet or over-large feet, also with very small feet. Medium sizes are the best.

With one foot smaller than another.

A goose rump is not objectionable as mechanical formation, but it is ugly.

Action must be light, easy, free, and straight. Reject a horse that crosses his legs in walking or trotting. He will be unsafe. Freedom, power to move easily along, is the great point.

A good walk is absolutely essential. Reject a horse that does not walk well; he is never a pleasant ride. If a horse walks well, he will probably trot well; but a horse may trot well without walking well.

To ascertain whether the action is true and straight, stand behind the horse as he walks and trots away from you. You cannot ascertain this important point be standing on the side.

Never omit to stand behind a horse as he walks away.

A good sloping shoulder is an important item in a riding horse, but bad action may co-exist with a good shoulder; and vice versa, good free action may co-exist with a somewhat straight shoulder.

Reject a horse, which is straight in the shoulder and long from the point of the shoulder to the upper part of the forearm. This formation places forelegs too much under the horse, and makes him unsafe to ride.

You may have a plain horse, even if all the above very apparent defects are absent, but you will, at least, have a serviceable one if in addition found sound on veterinary examination.

Having first of all kept clear of all absolute defects such as the above, then select your horses for the presence of good, serviceable, and handsome points, and easy, free, graceful carriage.

But, I repeat, begin by rejection for any one positively bad defect. The greatest strength of a chain is limited by the strength of its weakest link.

In purchasing Horses, it is a great point not to lose time. If you see any one radical defect, reject the Horse at once. The Dealer will, of course, try and persuade you to do otherwise, and will call your attention to some very good point or points in the really defective animal.

Do not lose time. A dealer, if you are a stranger to him, will probably bring out and try and palm off on you his inferior horses. But if you are quick in seeing bad points, and at once reject defective animals, he will soon find it necessary to show you his best horse.


We shall conclude these remarks by observing that neither frame nor constitution is of much use without good condition. This latter great essential can only be obtained by food grooming, careful and regular feeding on the best forage, strong and regular exercise, fresh wholesome air in the stables, and general good management.

-- end of article.

From Horses and Stables by British Lt. Gen, Sir F Fitzwygram, 1901
Published by Longmans, Green, and Co. 
39 Paternoster Row, London, New York and Bombay 

Editor's Note:

I find this interesting in so far as giving us a glimpse into what some people were looking for when buying a horse back at the dawn of the 20th century. In many respects, not much different than folks today.

This was re-printed here exactly as published in 1901. 

Tom Correa