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‘Breeding’ Category

  1. Buying A Horse

    March 11, 2015 by saratogasam

    Buying A Horse – Hints And Tips From 1751



    Having recently been lent an original copy of the ‘Treatise on the Diseases of Horses’ written by William Gibson, Surgeon, in 1751, it has been interesting to compare horse lore then to now. This article looks at one of the early chapters. Some pictures from the book are reproduced at


    Written in the old English manner with ‘f’s instead of ‘s’, it does not make easy reading, but it is fascinating, not least in the fact that little seems to have changed in the last 300 years of our relationship with horses. The chapter on ‘Such Faults and Defect as ought chiefly to be avoided in buying of Horses’ does not read very differently to the advice to be found in any horse magazine or book today!


    The author opens with the statement ‘I believe most of those who have had any great dealing in horses will readily agree to this, that few things in common life are more difficult than the buying of a horse well, and I have know many who have boasted of their skill and dexterity that way, and made greater pretense than others in the knowledge of horses, very much deceived’. Ah, well, yes – still very true today, though more poetically put perhaps.


    Gibson says that long experience and good taste regulated with some judgment is necessary when buying a horse, ‘otherwise a man is like to make but an indifferent choice’.


    Of course, 300 years ago buying a horse must have been more like buying like buying a second hand car today. A horse was a necessity if you wanted to get around, plough your farm or carry your goods. It was not the luxury it is nowadays, and a hobby, but the only mode of transport and a way of life. Today many mistakes are made when purchasing horses, but imagine how much worse it would have been when your livelihood depended on it!


    Gibson says that there is so much advice that could be given that it would fill up a whole volume, and indeed points his readers to other books that were available at the time – that of the Duke of Newcastle for example! To show nothing much changes, today, this type of advice is found in nearly every edition of every horse magazine sold.

    Nowadays we advise new owners to try and take a horse for a trial period – Gibson also recommends this, noting that ‘several defects in a horse are of such a nature, that they cannot be easily discovered till a person has had him a short time in his own keeping’. Visible defects, which should automatically be avoided, include specks on his eyes, ‘if he startles or flies off at the sight of common objects, if his feet are so plainly bad as to make him go crippling along, if he heaves at his flanks and coughs: these and many more of suchlike are defects that cannot be hid even from those who perhaps know but little of the horse’.


    Unfortunately, this is the one chapter in the book where some pages are missing; however it is interesting to see the order in which Gibson refers to the main points which should be inspected. The first few pages are devoted to examining the eyes, which we don’t talk much about today. This is followed by a discussion about the foot, before he moves onto look more at the form, starting with the shoulder. Unfortunately it is at this point the pages are missing, and from this particular volume we can gain no more advice from 1751.


    Much weight is given to the eyes, which can apparently fool even experienced people. Horses apparently should have ‘transparency’ of the eyes, but because of the way they are growing, up until the age of six their eyes can appear better than they really are. It is important therefore to look at the ‘form and manner of the eye, which includes not only the body of the eye, but the eyelids’ and eyebrows. Apparently ‘many good ey’d horses have a heaviness in their countenance with a lowering brow, yet great numbers of this aspect go blind with cataracts when they are about seven years old’.


    A tip for examining horses eyes is given ‘Most people in examining a horse’s eyes lead him under a gateway or some shade that they may see perfectly the colour and transparency of the eyes, but the best way is to observe his countenance when he comes first out of a dark stable into a strong light; for if he has any weakness in his eyes he will wrinkle his brow, and look upwards to receive more light’. ‘If the pupil lessons upon his coming out into a strong light it is almost an infallible sign that the eye is good’. Gibson also mentions the link between poor eyes and spooking, or ‘startling’ as it was put 300 years ago, although he dismisses what ‘some suspect that all horses that startle to have bad eyes… for many horses startle merely out of fear’. Although he does ‘imagine not a few [startle] from some defect in vision’. All horses may at some time see something ‘indistinctly’ which causes them to spook, but a horse which spooks frequently when nothing is in front of him might be doing so because of something wrong with his eyes!


    Judging a horse from his feet is apparently easier than judging the state of his eyes, but is considered of great importance, as ‘bad feet in a horse is like a horse that has a weak foundation’. He describes the problems which make them more prone than others to lameness or ‘at least makes them unfit for the most common uses, as hunting and traveling’.


    It is not enough, according to Gibson, simply to judge the condition of the horse’s feet just by seeing them walking as ‘there are other things to be considered, without which a good horseman may be deceived’.


    A ‘thin foot’, where the ‘crust or horn is thin’ can be easily seen when the shoe is removed, but Gibson recognizes ‘this trial will seldom be allowed in buying of a horse’, but can be seen by examining where the shoe nails are clenched and riveted. Even strong feet can cause problems if they have been neglected on a long journey, by too much hard riding, ‘especially on dry stony grounds, or when they stand long in a hot dry stable’ as they can go lame and tender, although will have no visible defect. A very hard strong foot is the ‘greatest inconveniency’ as is subject to rifts and fissures.


    Narrow heels are another defect described, although ‘some horse’s feet are tolerably good even where the heels are narrow’. Both forefeet too, should be looked at to ensure that they are of equal size, although he says that this can occur from the horse ‘using one leg more than the other as it happens to working men who use the right hand and arm more than the left’. A ‘very high heel is another extreme which greatly lessons the value of a horse’ and is a ‘cause of unsteadiness in a horse’s going’ and ‘exposes him often to trip and stumble’. A large foot which is disproportioned to ‘his other parts’ is also to be avoided, and may have damage ‘which not only denotes weakness, but heaviness and inaptitude to any brisk and vigorous action, and therefore unfit for the coach or saddle’.


    Gibson does not agree that white feet are generally worse that any other colour, stating ‘I have seen white footed horses have their feet such as the ablest judges could not find fault with’. He continues; when a foot is smooth and tough, of a middle size without wrinkles, neither too hard and brittle nor too soft, and when the heel is firm, open and no ways spongy or rotten, and the frog horny and dry, and the sole somewhat hollow like the inside of a dish or bowl, whatever be the colour, such a foot will for the most part turn out good’. Though he does note that a ‘dark or black hoof where it resembles that of a deer is generally the best’, and that this is the reason people will avoid buying a horse with too many white feet!


    Moving to the shoulders, both too heavy or narrow shouldered horses should be avoided. Heavy ( by which he means flabby as opposed to muscular ), as they cannot move well, and narrow as ‘such horses are generally weak’. Heavy shouldered horses can sever for a wagon or team, but are not fit for saddle or coach.


    Although the next few pages of the chapter are missing, it was interesting to have been able to gain an insight into what buying a horse was like 300 years ago, and to see the similarities with today. An important purchase in those days, yet equally as difficult to judge a good horse then as now.


    There are many tricks used today, as there probably were 300 years ago, to get the unsuspecting owner to part with their money. Horses can be drugged to appear more docile than they really are, might have been lunged to get rid of their excess energy before you ride, and of course, the seller will probably talk up their good points and avoid making mention of the bad!


    Nowadays it is recommended that horses are always subject to a vet’s inspection prior to purchase. The vet will ask what you intend to do with the horse (use for pleasure, jumping, driving etc.), and will judge the horse’s fitness for that purpose, and provide you with a report on his health. The pitfalls that Gibson describes emphasizes to the modern novice horse owner just how important the eye of an experienced person in animal husbandry really is!


    Having recently been lent an original copy of the ‘Treatise on the Diseases of Horses’ written by William Gibson, Surgeon, in 1751, it has been interesting to compare horse lore then to now. This article looks at one of the early chapters. Some pictures from the book are reproduced at


    Written in the old English manner with ‘f’s instead of ‘s’, it does not make easy reading, but it is fascinating, not least in the fact that little…


    Trish Haill is the Webmaster for Limebrook Farm Riding School and Livery Yard. This ever growing website is a great resource for riders and horse lovers everywhere. Other great knowledge and insights into the 1751 will also be on this website. 


    #flanks #saddle #shoe  #rifts  #fissures

  2. Horse Breeds

    March 11, 2015 by saratogasam

    Horse Breeds – American Quarter Horse


    By Nanette Hughston

    The American Quarter Horse is the first breed of horse native to the United States. The breed evolved when the bloodlines of horses brought to the New World were mixed. Foundation American Quarter Horse stock originated from Arab, Turk and Barb breeds. Selected Stallions and Mares were crossed with horses brought to Colonial America from England and Ireland in the 1600’s. This combination resulted in a compact, heavily muscled horse that evolved to fill the colonists passion for short distance racing.
    The amazing power behind a quarter horse enabled this great animal to run short distances over a straightaway faster than any other horse with the fastest being named Celebrated American Running Horse. The names for this breed has changed many times over the years until 1940 when a registry was formed to preserve the breed which officially became the American Quarter Horse Association.
    In the year 1674 in Enrico County, Virginia the first American Quarter Horse Race was held. They were one-on-one match races down village streets, county lanes and level pastures. Many disagreements and fights were generated from heavy betting of large purse races by 1690. The American Quarter Horse, due to their calm disposition and quick response time, the horse became known for its “cow sense”, being able to outmaneuver cattle. During the 1800’s as many pioneer folk moved westward, so did the American Quarter Horse. An abundant amount of cattle ranches stretched across the plains. Making this breed well suited for the cattle ranchers.
    In today’s world, the American Quarter Horse still remains a great sprinter known for their heavy muscling, but they have exceeded way past the cattle horse. These amazing horses compete in almost every discipline available, from rodeo events, such as barrel racing and calf roping to English disciplines such as dressage and show jumping. The make a nice little children’s hunter as well, with the ability to jump a wide range of heights. They are one of the most versatile breeds in the world. Many pleasure riders still look to the American Quarter horse for recreational riding, as they make a nice pleasure horse as well.

    Breeders, since the creation of the breed over fifty years ago, have diligently been trying to perfect the bloodlines to produce a high quality versatile animal.. Strict guidelines have been set by the American Quarter Horse Association regarding registration of the American Quarter Horses. Some of these guidelines include:

    1. Limited white markings on the face and below the knee

    2. Only thirteen accepted colors recognized by the AQHA. These are sorrel (reddish brown), bay, black, brown, buckskin, chestnut, dun, red dun, gray, grullo, palomino, red roan and blue roan. The official gray color is what most people call white, but there are no “white” American Quarter Horses.

    3. A quarter horse foal must be the product of a numbered American Quarter Horse dam and a numbered American Quarter Horse sire. There is an appendix registry for foals with one numbered American Quarter Horse parent and one Thoroughbred parent registered with The Jockey Club.

    Some other notable characteristics of the American Quarter Horse is their speed, versatility, gentle nature, heavy muscling and keen cow sense. If you own an American Quarter Horse, no matter what discipline you choose to ride, your horse will excel. This breed is one of the most enjoyable horse breeds around today and one of the most popular.


    #breed  #bloodlines  #arab  #turk  #barb #quarterhorse #jockey  #thoroughbred

  3. Sport of Kings

    March 11, 2015 by saratogasam

    The Sport of Kings


    By Michael Russell 

    Thousands of years ago, man discovered that an animal from the Equus order was good for carrying his burdens and lightening his load. Then one day, as the human race as a whole are natural competitors, we began to use that animal, called the horse, to race against others.

    Then man began breeding horses to excel in speed and endurance. When this new type of entertainment and sport began to evolve, it was the nobility, or royalty, who could afford the expense of breeding horses for this purpose. Therefore, that “class” of people were the ones who most often enjoyed the leisure of competing in horse races.

    Early picture records of horse racing were found in the origins of prehistoric nomadic tribesmen of Middle Asia. It was they who first domesticated the horse around 4500 B.C. The first written records came much later, after horse racing was already an established sport from Central Asia to the Mediterranean. Horse racing became a part of the Greek Olympics around 638 B.C. And the Roman Empire was obsessed with the sport.

    Modern racing traces its roots back to the 12th century. Knights of the British Empire imported Arabic horses upon their return from the Crusades. In the years that followed, hundreds of Arab stallions were crossbred with English mares to give the most desirable combination of speed and endurance. This breed of horse became known, after its evolution, as the Thoroughbred and of course the nobility were leaders in staging competitions between two superior Thoroughbred horses for private wagers, as a diversion.

    As the sport evolved to being more professional during the reign of Queen Anne in the early 18th century, one-on-one races gave way to events in which several horses competed. Racetracks offered purses, or prize money to the winner of the events. And those purses grew larger in order to attract the best horses.

    During the mid-1700s, it was decided that there needed to be a governing body to determine the rules and standards by which racers, breeders, and owners must abide. As a result the Jockey Club was established in Newmarket, and still exercises complete control over English racing to this day.

    Once the Club established the complete rules and standards of the horses and the races which could be run under sanction of the Club, five races were designated as the “classic” races for three-year-old horses. The English Triple Crown – which is open to both colts and fillies – consists of the 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby, and the St. Leger Stakes. Two other races, which are open only to fillies, are the 1000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks.

    As the British settled in America, they brought very fine breeding stock and racing horses with them. The first known racetrack in the Colonies was on Long Island in New York. It was first laid out around 1665. Though horse racing was a popular local event, organized and professional racing did not actually start until after the Civil War. From there, the sport escalated in popularity across the settled parts of the country. And many of the racetracks were run by the “criminal element.” As this was quite undesirable to the more prominent track owners and breeders, they met in New York in 1894 and formed the American Jockey Club. They soon established rules and regulations, similar to those of the English Jockey Club, and quickly eliminated much of the corruption.

    The Kentucky Derby, one of the best known horse-racing events in the United States, was first run in 1875. Its home is at the Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It is one of the three races which make up the American Triple Crown. The other two are the Belmont Stakes, first run on Long Island, New York at Jerome Park in 1867, and the Preakness Stakes, first run in 1873 at Pimlico Park in Baltimore, Maryland.

    Although interest has waxed and waned over the years, horse racing is the second-most attended spectator sport in the United States, outranked only by baseball.

    There are other forms of horse racing in both Great Britain and the United States. These include:

    – The steeplechase, which requires the horse to clear such obstacles as brush fences, stone walls, rail fences, and water jumps. The oldest and most famous steeplechase in Great Britain is England’s Grand National. It was first run in Aintree in 1839, and continues even today. The most famous in the United States is the American National. It was first run in 1899 at Belmont Park and continues to be held there annually.

    – Hurdle racing is similar to the steeplechase, but is much less demanding. It is often use as a training arena for Thoroughbreds who will later compete in steeplechases.

    – Point-to-point races are generally run by amateurs throughout the British Isles.

    – And last but by no means least is harness racing, which was very popular during the Roman Empire. Once the Empire fell the sport all but vanished until its resurrection, by those who liked to race their horses in harness on the country roads of America, at the end of the 1700s. The first official tracks for harness racing came about in the early 1800s, and by 1825 harness racing became a favorite attraction at country fairs all across the U.S.

    Out of the rebirth of harness racing, a new breed of horse was born. In 1788, an outstanding English Thoroughbred stallion was imported to the United States. He was bred with American Thoroughbred and mixed-breed mares to establish the line of Standardbred. The name is based on the “standard” distance of one mile in harness racing speed. The descendants of this line were rebred over the years to create this new breed which has the stamina, temperament, and physical size and structure to endure racing under harness.

    Although harness racing suffered a decline of popularity again in the early 1900s, it bounced back in 1940 after being reintroduced at a raceway in New York as a pari-mutuel betting event. Its number of tracks and scheduled annual events outnumber those of Thoroughbred racing in the United States today. It has also gained popularity in many European countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

    What was once almost exclusively “the Sport of Kings” has segued over the years to encompass people of all lifestyles and income. It remains, however, a sport quite often associated with the “well-to-do”, those who can afford the vast expenditure involved with raising the standard of horse required to run in, and win, the large purses awarded by, the most popular horse-racing events around the world.


    Michael Russell