Oscar Wilde.

Lady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest online

. (page 21 of 61)
Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 21 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

lieved that he possessed a single drop of trotting blood. He was
a very fast pacer and could do nothing else, and a large percent-
age of the mares bred to him were pacers, and practically all the
others had more or less pacing blood, but his great roll of trot-
ters in the 2:30 list was the wonder of all horsemen of that
period. Certainly the average of the elements in his inheritance
would place him very low in theory, but in practice he struck
back to some ancestor that was strongly prepotent. The trouble
in his case is practically the same as in all other pacing stallions
— the inheritance traces back to a period more remote than any
of the fast trotting stallions, but at intervals it has been neglected
and not developed until it has become weak and uncertain from
lack of use. The same may be said of the Copperbottoms,
Corbeaus, Flaxtails, Hiatogas, Davy Crockets, Pilots, Rainbows,
Redbucks, St. Clairs, Tippoos, and Tom Hals, as well as other
heads of minor families that will be considered in their proper

The changes that have been wrought in the status of the pacer
have been truly wonderful. Instead of being hidden away as an


outcast and a disgrace to the family, condemned to a life of in-
feriority and drudgery, he has been brought out and exhibited to
the public as a son and heir and the equal of the best. In looking
back over the trotting records of twenty years ago, any one will
be surprised to observe that at all the leading meetings of the
whole country there were no pacing contests. Occasionally at
the minor and local meetings of the middle Western States, a
pacing contest would be given for a small purse, in which local
and obscure horses only would be engaged. Very naturally the
owners of pacing horses protested against this practical exclusion
of their favorites from the trotting meetings, and employed all
their energies in begging for admission. "When they began to be
really clamorous the managers of trotting tracks argued that
there could be no profit to them in opening pacing contests, for
nobody cared about seeing a pacing match, that the entries would
not fill, and especially that there would be no betting, that, con-
sequently, the pool-sellers would have nothing to divide with the
management. As the receipts for pool-selling and all other
gambling privileges were making the track managers rich, they
were very slow about admitting an untried element that might
diminish their profits. But gradually and patiently the pacers
worked their way into the exclusive circle, and when they ap-
peared everybody, especially in the Eastern States, was surprised
to see what excellent horses they were and the terrific speed they
showed. Instead of the typical pacer, as formed in the popular
mind, with the low head, bull neck, low croup, hairy legs, ex-
uberant mane and tail, and generally "Canuck" all over, that
would stop at the end of the first half-mile, here was an array of
horses that in make-up and gameness would average just as well
as the same number of trotters. This was a revelation to great
multitudes of people, and from that time forward the pacer had
a fair show, on his merits. For hundreds of years the pacer,
with very few exceptions, has been able to show a little higher
rate of speed than the trotter. When Flora Temple smashed all
records in 1859 by trotting in 2:19f, Pocahontas had drawn a
wagon, five years earlier, in 2:17^; and when Maud S. trotted in
1885 in 2:08|, this beat all laterals as well as diagonals, except
Johnson, who the year before had paced in 2:06:^. In 1894 Alix
trotted a mile in 2:03f ,which stands the best at this writing, but the
same year Robert J. paced in 2:01^, and John R, Gentry in 2:00-^
in 1896,


It is not my purpose here to undertake to discuss the reasons
for the almost continuous supremacy of the pacer over the trot-
ter, for there is no data from which I might frame a conclusion
that would really ''hold water." At best, therefore, I can only
suggest two or three thoughts. Speed at the pace is older, and has
been longer in the process of development, than speed at the
trot. In 1747 pacing races had then been fashionable in Mary-
land, and had been carried on in that colony time out of mind,
but we have no trace of trotting races. One year later (1748)
"running, pacing and trotting" races had become so numerous
and so common in the colony of New Jersey that they were de-
clared a nuisance and suppressed by the legislative authority.
My impression from the language of the act is that it was aimed
chiefly at the running and the pacing races, and that the trotters
were not very numerous. It seems to be a reasonable conclusion
that this racing mania in New Jersey took its rise about 1665,
when Governor Nicolls established the Newmarket race course
on Long Island, and if so, it had been growing in strength for
over eighty years, and if we add the time from then till now we
find that the speed of the pacer has been going on almost
continuously for over two hundred years in our own
country. There is another fact entering into the rural life
of colonial times that- must not be left out of consideration.
The pacer was the universal saddle horse, and the trotter never
was tolerated for that service. Every farmer's son had his saddle
horse, and when two of them met what so natural and common as
to determine then and there which was the faster, if a little
stretch of road offered? In these neighborhood rivalries, if not
in actual racing, the instinct of speed at the pace was kept alive
and developed, from generation to generation. If I am right in
this little study of colonial life, we can understand that the in-
heritance of speed at the pace has come down to our own time
through a great many generations of pacers, and hence the pace
is the faster gait. There is one fact in our own experience that
seems to sustain this with great force, and that is the small
amount of "pounding" that the pacer requires in order to reach
the full development of his powers. There is no need of driving
a pacer to death in order to teach him how to pace, for he already
knows how to pace, and all that is needed in the way of training
is to get him into high condition. It may be possible that the
lateral action is faster than the diagonal because it is less compli-


cated, but I can see no anatomical reason for this, as the two legs
in both gaits act as one leg. The only difference I can see in
joractice is that the trotter has more up-and-down motion than
the pacer; that is, he bounds in every revolution, describing a
series of depressed curves with his back as he moves, while the
pacer rises less from the ground with his hind feet and seems to
glide instead of bound; in other words, there is less action thrown
away by the pacer than the trotter, and this may arise from
the more complex action in the diagonal than in the lateral

The pacer has reached a higher acJclivity than the trotter, but
he is not so well assured in his footing. His present popularity
and his upward flight are phenomenal, but the causes that have
sent him there are abnormal and not lasting. In his best in-
dividualities he is simply a gambling machine when in the hands
of unscrupulous men, to be manipulated in whatever direction
he will make the most money. Eacing, at whatever gait, is not
necessarily demoralizing nor disreputable, but when it falls into
the control of the "professionals" it becomes both. So long as
it remains under the control of the breeders it is not only honor-
able and legitimate for them to develop and race their stock,
but it is a necessary adjunct to their business, for they must thus
bring their products before the public, if they expect to
make their business pay. Breeders should not own race tracks,
or if they do, they should have no part nor lot in the percentage
uniformly paid fdr the gambling privilege.

The history of racing in this country teaches over and over
again that whenever the breeding and racing interest falls into
the control of gamblers, down goes the whole interest and honest
men suffer with the rogues. The grasping track managers are
to-day complaining loudly that they cannot afford to give trot-
ting meetings unless they are allowed to bring in the pool-sellers
and make them divide the "swag" with the track. Every at-
tempt by legislatures to make gambling on races a felony outside
the race track and a virtue inside is a most arrant humbug and
most destructive in its results. It makes the race track a cess-
pool of every vice, and a stench in the nostrils of every honest
man and decent woman. The moral sense of the people all over
this country is being aroused, and if public gambling cannot be
suppressed on horse races, then history will repeat itself and
horse racing Avill be wiped out. The gamblers and their friends


will sneer at this as ''puritanism," but no difference about the
name — it will come.

But, destructive and ruinous as gambling on races may be to
the life and moral character of young men, as well as to the
material interests of honest and reputable breeders, it hardly
comes within my province to discuss it further in this place, and
therefore I will return to the consideration of the pacer. As
the historical periodicity is now looming in sight when the moral
sense of the people will command the suppression of racing of
every kind, the question becomes exceedingly pertinent as to
what is to become of the pacer? He will no longer be of any
value as a gambling machine, the days of the saddle horse are
past as a means of travel, except by a few about the parks of the
cities, and however uppish and handsome he may be, he is not
and never will be a desirable driving horse in harness. AVe have
already used sufficient of his blood to create the American Saddle
Horse, and if the saddle horse shall produce "'after his kind" we
need no more infusions from the pure pacer. In the trotter his
blood has leavened everything, and in some lines more than we
desire or need. He has been a great source of trotting speed,
and if, as I am inclined to believe. Messenger's power to transmit
trotting speed came from the old English pacer, then the pacer is.
the only source of that speed. Under the condition of things as
here foreshadowed he will probably sink back into the obscurity
from which he emerged twenty years ago.



The saddle gaits come only from the pacer — Saddle gaits cultivated three hun-
dred years ago — Markham on the saddle gaits — The military seat the best
— The unity of the pace and trot — Gaits analyzed — Saddle Horse Register —
Saddle horse progenitors — Denmark not a thoroughbred horse.

In the preceding chapters the pacer has been considered from
the standpoint of his antiquity, history, speed at the pace, and
his contributions to speed at the trot. We now come to consider
him as the founder of the best and most delightful type of saddle
horses in the world. This estimate of his quality and value had
a solid foundation in the judgment and habits of our ancestors at
an early period in our history. When our patriotic forbears
entered upon the struggle for independence, they were fully
alive to the necessity of foreign sympathy and aid. For this
purpose agents were sent abroad to enlist the good feelings and,
if possible, secure co-operation of foreign governments, especially
that of France. Mr. Silas Dean was sent to Paris, and in a com-
munication to the secret committee of Congress, under date of
November 28, 1776, he writes: "I wish I had here one of your
best saddle horses, of the American or Rhode Island breed — a
present of that kind would be money well laid out with a certain
personage." This was probably intended as a present to Marie
Antoinette, or some other person having great influence at court.
It further indicates that "the American or Rhode Island Saddle
Horse" was at that period, in Mr. Dean's opinion at least, the
best in the world. (See Dean Papers, New York Historical
Society, Vol. I., p. 377.)

To the man of average intelligence and candor on horse sub-
jects it certainly is not necessary to enter upon an elaborate dis-
cussion to show that the saddle gaits come from the pacer, but a
certain class of writers, who neither declare nor attempt to prove
their position, constantly imply that the saddle gaits came from
the "thoroughbred." As it is better, therefore, to make every-


thing plain as we go along, I will very briefly consider this
point. Twelve years ago, through Wallace's Monthly, I presented
the following questions to all gentlemen interested in saddle-
horse affairs and acquainted with saddle-horse history: "Are all
the tribes and families noted for their saddle qualities descended
in whole or in part from pacing ancestry?" In order to cover
the whole question, no difference from what standpoint it might
be considered, I added the following: '"Has any family or sub-
family of saddle horses come from pure running ancestry and
without any admixture of pacing blood?" To these questions
Major Hord, then editor of the Spirit of the Farm, at Nashville,
Tennessee, a gentleman of very wide and accurate knowledge on
this subject, but strongly in favor of running blood, made the
following response through his paper:

" We can only draw conclusions from established facts in reference to these
questions, for we do not think they can be answered otherwise, as the original
ancestry of our best saddle families is more or less clouded iu obscurity. It is
an established fact, deuionstrated by experience, that in order to get a saddle
horse, the quickest and most successful way is to get in the pacing blood; it
matters not how good or bad the other blood may be, a strong dash of pacing
blood will almost invariably improve the animal for saddle purposes, and never,
under any circumstances, does a pacing cross detract from an animal's qualities
for the saddle. Judging from these facts, we conclude that all our saddle
families are descended, at least in part, from pacing ancestry. On the other
hand, all our best saddle families have a strong infusion of thoroughbred run-
ning blood. This blood, however, is valuable only for the courage, bone, and
finish it gives the animal, for it imparts none of the saddle gaits; and while
we have secured the best results in breeding the saddle horse by mixing the
running and pacing blood, we have observed that too much running blood in
the stallion detracts from his success as a sire of saddle stock. As a rule, no
trainer's skill can make a good saddle horse out of a thoroughbred runner,
whereas if you mix two or more strong pacing crosses on top of the running
blood, a child can gait the produce to the saddle. We have sometimes seen
good saddle horses that were thoroughbreds, but have never seen a perfect one.
Our observation and experience lead us to the conclusion that the natural saddle
gaits come from the pacers, but to the runner we are indebted for the size,
style, bone and finish of our saddle stock."

In this reply, when the author says "all of our saddle families
are descended, at least in part, from pacing ancestry," and when
he adds to this that "running blood imparts none of the saddle
gaits," he has answered both questions very fully and very satis-
factorily. The argument that running blood gives bone and
finish, and all that, is very well as a theory of breeding, but it


has nothing to do with the questions propounded. As all
families of saddle horses have pacing blood, and as there is no
family without it, it may be taken as settled that the saddle
gaits come from the pacer.

I notice that at least one of the present saddle gaits was culti-
vated more than three hundred years ago. Mr. Ge'rvaise Mark-
ham, a writer of the sixteenth century, and probably the second
English author on the horse, says: ''If you buy a horse for
pleasure the amble is the best, in which you observe that he
moves both his legs on one side together, neat with complete de-
liberation, for if he treads too short he is apt to stumble, if too
large to cut and if shuffling or rowling he does it slovenly and
besides rids no ground. If your horse be designed for hunting,
a racking pace is most expedient, which little differs from the
amble, only is more active and nimble, whereby the horse ob-
serves due motion, but you must not force him too eagerly, lest
being in confusion he lose all knowledge of what you design him
to, and so handle his legs carelessly." The orthography of the
work "rack" as used by Markham is "wrack," and this is the
only place I have met with it in any of the old authors. Webster
defines the word "rack" as "a fast amble,'* but Markham uses it
in contradistinction from the amble. It is worthy of note here
that the word "rack" is older than the word "pace," in its use
as designating the particular gait of the horse, and through all
the centuries it has been retained. Of all the gaits that are
subsidiary to the pace and derived from that gait, the rack is
probably the most common, and in many sections of the country
the pacer is called a racker. Eacking is often designated as
"single -footing," and in this gait as well as in the running walk
and fox trot, there are four distinct impacts in the revolution.
It follows, then, that they are not susceptible of a very high rate
of speed.

In all the services which the horse renders and in all the rela-
tions which he bears to his master, there is no relaiion in which
they can be made to appear to such great mutual advantage as
when the one animal is carrying the other on his back. There
is no occasion on which a beautiful horse looks so well as when
gracefully mounted and skillfully handled by a lady or gentle-
man. And, I wijl add, there is no occasion when a lady or gen-
tleman, who is at home in the saddle, looks so well as when
mounted on a beautiful and well-trained American horse. Eng-


land has no saddle horses, and never can have any till she secures
American blood and adopts American methods. The shortening
of the stirrups and the swinging up and down like a tilt-hammer
is not, with our English friends, a matter of choice, but a neces-
sity to avoid being jolted to death. Their very silly imitators,
on this side, think they can't afford to be out of the fashion, be-
cause "it's English, you know." For safety, true gentility, and
comfort the military seat is the only seat, and if you have a
horse upon Avhich you can't keep that seat without punishment,
he is no saddle horse. If your doctor tells you that your liver
needs shaking up, mount an English trotting horse, but if you
ride for pleasure and fresh air, get a horse that is bred and
trained to the saddle gaits. There is just as much difference be-
tween the two horses as the difference between a springless wagon
on a cobble-stone pavement and a richly upholstered coach on
the asphalt.

The American Saddle Horse has an origin as well as a history.
His origin dates back thousands of years, and his history has
been preserved in art and in letters since the beginning of the
Christian era. For centuries he was the fashionable horse in
England, and the only horse ridden by the nobility and gentry.
Away back in the reign of Elizabeth it was not an uncommon
thing to use hopples to teach and compel trotters to pace, just
as in our day hopples are often used to teach and compel pacers
to trot. In the early settlement of the American colonies pacers
were far more numerous than trotters, and this continued to be
the case till after the War of the Eevolution. The great influx
of running blood after that period practically banished the pacer
to the western frontiers, where a remnant has been preserved for
the uses of the saddle; and on account of his great speed and
gameness he has again returned to popular favor in our own day.

The walk and the canter, or short gallop, are gaits that are
common to all breeds and varieties of horses, but what are known
as "the saddle gaits" are derived wholly from the pace and are
therefore considered modifications or variations of the pace. In
regions of country where the saddle horse is bred and developed
these gaits are well known among horsemen and riders as the
rack (single-footing), the running-walk, and the fox-trot. These
gaits are not easily described so as to be understood without an
example before the eye. The rack is the most easily explained
so as to be comprehended, and it is sometimes called the slow


pace. In this movement the hind foot strikes the ground an
instant before the fore foot on the same side, then the other two
feet are moved and strike in the same way; thus there are four
strokes in the revolution, in pairs. As each foot has its own
stroke we see the appositeness of the phrase "single-footing."
The four strokes are in pairs, as one, two — three, four, and in many
cases as the speed of the horse increases the interval between the
strokes is lost and the horse is at a clean rapid pace. As a mat-
ter of course none of these gaits in which the horse makes four
strokes instead of two in the revolution can be speedy. They
are not developed nor cultivated for speed alone, but for the com-
fort and ease of the rider and the change from one to another for
the rest and ease of the horse.

These "saddle gaits" are always derivatives from the pace, and
I never have seen one that did not possess more or less pacing
blood. A careful examination of the first and second volumes of
"The National Saddle Horse Register" establishes this fact be-
yond all possible contradiction. This work is a very valuable
contribution to the horse history of the country, but it is a mis-
fortune that more care has not been taken in the exclusion of
fictitious crosses in a great multitude of pedigrees. This trouble
is specially apparent among the supposed breeding of many of
the old stallions that are inserted as "Foundation Stock." The
tendency throughout seems to be to cover up and hide away the
very blood to which we are indebted for the saddle horse, and to
get in all the blood possible that is in direct antagonism to the
foundation of the saddle gaits. It can be accepted as a funda-
mental truth in horse lore, that from the day the first English
race horse was imported into this country to the present day,
which covers a period of about one hundred and fifty years,
nobody has ever seen, either in England or in this country, a
thoroughbred horse that was a pacer. When the old race horse
Denmark covered the pacing daughter of the pacer Cockspur,
the pacing blood of the dam controlled the action and instincts
of the colt, and in that colt we have the greatest of saddle-
horse sires, known as Gaines' Denmark.

As this horse Denmark was by far the greatest of all saddle-
horse progenitors, and as his superiority has been widely
attributed to his "thoroughbred" sire Denmark, the son of im-
ported Hedgford, I have taken some pains to examine his pedi-
gree. His sire was thoroughbred, his dam and grandam were


mongrels, and the remoter crosses were impossible fictions. The
fact that he ran four miles cuts no figure as evidence of purity
of blood, for horses were running four miles in this country be-
fore the first "thoroughbred" was born. Of the fourteen stallions
that are inserted as "Foundation Stock," it is unfortunate that
the choice seems to be j)ractically restricted to the State of Ken-
tucky, while the States of Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee, to say
nothing of Illinois, Missouri, etc., have produced numbers of
families and tribes that are much more prominent and valuable
from the true saddle-horse standpoint than some that appear in
the select list of fourteen. It is doubtless true, however, that
more attention has been paid to symmetry and style, and to the
correct development and culture of the true saddle gaits, in
Kentucky than in any of the other States. "With such horses as
Oaines' Denmark, John Dillard, Tom Hal, Brinker's Drennon,
Texas, Peters' Halcorn, and Copperbottom the list is all right,
but the other half-dozen are mostly young and have hardly been
heard of outside of their own immediate neighborhoods. It is a
notable fact that old Pacing Pilot does not appear as the pro-
genitor of a saddle family.

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 21 of 61)