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horse's jaw, and one inch above the last teeth with a mare.
It must be adapted to the mouth and temper of the horse as well as to the formation of his head and neck. A riding-master, or the rider, if he has any judgment, ought to be able to form an opinion as to the most suitable bit for an animal.*
The ordinary Bridoon (or Double bridle, as it is called in the North) is best adapted to the well-mouthed and tempered horse, and is the safest and best bridle for either road or field. Unfinished gentlemen as well as lady equestrians, when riding with double reins to the bits, are recommended to tie the curb-bit rein evenly in a knot on the horse's neck (holding only the bridoonrein in the hand), provided his temper and mouth be suitable to a snaffle. This is a practice pursued by some even good and experienced horsemen where the temper of a horse is high, in order to have the curb-bit to rely upon in case he should happen to pull too hard on the bridoon or snaffle, which otherwise would be quite sufficient and best to use alone.
The Curb-chain, when used, should be strong and tight; it should invariably be supported by a lip-strap, an adjunct that is reaUy most essential, but which grooms practically ignore by losing. The object of the lip-strap is to prevent the curb, if rather loose, from falling over the lip, thus permitting the horse to get hold of it in his mouth and go where he pleases; it also guards against a trick some beasts are very clever at, of catching the cheek or leg of the bit in their teeth, and mak
* It has been truly said by the well-known Mr Elmore, that there is a key to every horse's mouth, requiring only proper hands to apply it.
ing off in spite of the efforts of any rider. If the curb be tight, the lip-strap is equally useful in keeping it horizontally, and preventing its drooping to too great a pressure, thus causing abrasion of the animal's jaw. The curb ought to be pretty tight, sufficiently so to admit one finger between it and the jaw-bone.
The Snaffle with a fine-mouthed horse is well adapted for the field—the only place where I would ever dispense altogether with the curb-bit, and then only in favour of a fine-mouthed well-tempered beast disposed to go coolly at his fences.
On the road a horse may put his foot upon a stone in a jog-trot, or come upon some irregularity; and unless the rider has something more than a snaffle in his hand, he is exceedingly likely to suffer for it. Many a horse that is like a foot-ball in the field, full of life and elasticity, and never making a mistake, will on the road require constant watching to prevent his tumbling on his nose.*
At the same time, a horse should by no means be encouraged to lean on the bit or on the rider's support, which most of them will be found quite ready to do; a disposition in that direction must be checked by mildly feeling his mouth (with the bit), pressing your legs against his sides, and enlivening him gently with the whip or spur.
The Martingal.—The standing or head martingal is a handsome equipment—safe and serviceable with a
* The famous Irish jumper "Distiller" was notorious among many other good fencers as a hungler on the road, though he would jump a six-foot-six stone wall with ease, sporting two large broken knees in consequence of his performance in that line; and in fencing he was also first-rate.
beast that is incorrigible about getting his head up, but should be used in the street or on the road only.
The Ring-Martingal is intended solely for the field with a horse whose head cannot be kept down; but it requires to be used with nice judgment, and handling of the second or separate rein, which should pass through it, especially when the animal is in or near the act of taking his fences, when, with some horses, comparative freedom may be allowed to the head, which should, however, be brought down to its proper place directly be is safely landed on his legs again by the use of this second martingal-rein, which is attached to the bridoon bit
N.B.—If this second rein be attached to the snaffle by buckles (and not stitched on as it ought to be), the buckles of the rein should be defended from getting into the rings of the martingal by pieces of leather larger than those rings. Most serious accidents have occurred from the absence of this precaution : the buckle becoming caught in the ring, the horse's head is fixed in one position, and not knowing where he is going, he proceeds, probably without any control from the rider, till both come to some serious mishap. The rein stitched to the ring of the bit is the safest.
The Running-Rein, or other plan of martingal (from the D in front of the saddle above the rider's knee through the ring of the snaffle to his hand), should only be used by the riding-master or those competent to avail themselves of its assistance in forming the mouth of a troublesome or untrained animal. Some experienced horsemen, however, when they find they cannot keep the nose in or head down with ordinary bits, instead of using a martingal of any denomination, employ (especially in the field) with good effect a ring, keeping the bridoon or snaffle-reins under the bend of the neck; or a better contrivance is a bit of stiff leather three or four inches long, with two D's or staples for the reins to pass through on each side.
The Chifney Bit is the most suitable for ladies' use, or for timid or invalid riders: it at once brings up a hard-pulling horse, but requires very gentle handling. I have known more than one horse to be quite unmanageable in any but a Chifney bit.
The more severe bits are those that have the longest legs or cheeks, giving the greatest leverage against the curb. By the addition of deep ports on the mouthpiece of the bit much severity is attained (especially when the port is constructed turned downwards, in place of the usual practice of making it upwards), which can be increased to the utmost by the addition of a tight noseband to prevent the horse from easing the port by movement of his tongue or jaws.
It is almost needless to observe, that the reverse of the above will be the mildest bits for tender-mouthed, easy-going horses.
Twisted Mouthpieces are happily now almost out of fashion, and ought to be entirely discountenanced their original intention was to command hard-mouthed horses, whose mouths their use can only render harder.
The Noseband, if tightened, would be found very useful with many a hard-pulling horse in the excitement of hunting, when the bit, which would otherwise require to be used, would only irritate the puller, cause him to go more wildly, and make matters worse. I have known some pullers to be more under control in the hunting-field with a pretty tight noseband and a snaffle than with the most severe curb-bit .
The Throat-lash is almost always too tight. Grooms are much in the habit of making this mistake, by means of which, when the head is bent by a severe bit, the throat is compressed and the respiration impeded, besides occasioning an ugly appearance in the caparison.
It may be remarked also that, if not corrected, servants are apt to leave the ends of the bridle head-stall straps dangling at length out of the loops, which is very unsightly: the ends of the straps should be inserted in these loops, which should be sufficiently tight to retain them.
A Saddle should be made to fit the horse for which it is intended, and requires as much variation in shape, especially in the stuffing, as there is variety in the shapes of horses' backs.* An animal may be fairly shaped in the back, and yet a saddle that fits another horse will always go out on this one's withers. The saddle having been made to fit your horse, let it be placed gently upon him, and shifted till its proper berth be found. When in its right place, the action of the upper part of the shoulder-'blade should be quite free from any confinement or pressure by what saddlers call the "gullet" of the saddle under the pommel when the animal is in motion. It stands to reason that any interference with the action of the shoulder-blade must,
* I may recommend Gibson, 6 Coventry Street, Leicester Square, as an excellent, intelligent, and experienced saddler.