I
 

Claiming to have attained some proficiency in horsemanship[1] ourselves, as the result of long experience in the field, our wish is to explain, for the benefit of our younger friends, what we conceive to be the most correct method of dealing with horses.

There is, it is true, a treatise on horsemanship written by Simon, the same who dedicated the bronze horse near the Eleusinion in Athens[2] with a representation of his exploits engraved in relief on the pedestal.[3] But we shall not on that account expunge from our treatise any conclusions in which we happen to agree with that author; on the contrary we shall hand them on with still greater pleasure to our friends, in the belief that we shall only gain in authority from the fact that so great an expert in horsemanship held similar views to our own; whilst with regard to matters omitted in his treatise, we shall endeavour to supply them.

As our first topic we shall deal with the question, how a man may best avoid being cheated in the purchase of a horse.

Take the case of a foal as yet unbroken: it is plain that our scrutiny must begin with the body; an animal that has never yet been mounted can but present the vaguest indications of spirit. Confining ourselves therefore to the body, the first point to examine, we maintain, will be the feet. Just as a house would be of little use, however beautiful its upper stories, if the underlying foundations were not what they ought to be, so there is little use to be extracted from a horse, and in particular a war-horse,[4] if unsound in his feet, however excellent his other points; since he could not turn a single one of them to good account.[5]

In testing the feet the first thing to examine will be the horny portion of the hoof. For soundness of foot a thick horn is far better than a thin. Again it is important to notice whether the hoofs are high both before and behind, or flat to the ground; for a high hoof keeps the "frog,"[6] as it is called, well off the ground; whereas a low hoof treads equally with the stoutest and softest part of the foot alike, the gait resembling that of a bandy-legged man.[7] "You may tell a good foot clearly by the ring," says Simon happily;[8] for the hollow hoof rings like a cymbal against the solid earth.[9]

And now that we have begun with the feet, let us ascend from this point to the rest of the body. The bones[10] above the hoof and below the fetlock must not be too straight, like those of a goat; through not being properly elastic,[11] legs of this type will jar the rider, and are more liable to become inflamed. On the other hand, these bones must not be too low, or else the fetlock will be abraded or lacerated when the horse is galloped over clods and stones.

The bones of the shanks[12] ought to be thick, being as they are the columns on which the body rests; thick in themselves, that is, not puffed out with veins or flesh; or else in riding over hard ground they will inevitably be surcharged with blood, and varicose conditions be set up,[13] the legs becoming thick and puffy, whilst the skin recedes; and with this loosening of the skin the back sinew[14] is very apt to start and render the horse lame.

If the young horse in walking bends his knees flexibly, you may safely conjecture that when he comes to be ridden he will have flexible legs, since the quality of suppleness invariably increases with age.[15] Supple knees are highly esteemed and with good reason, rendering as they do the horse less liable to stumble or break down from fatigue than those of stiffer build.

Coming to the thighs below the shoulder-blades,[16] or arms, these if thick and muscular present a stronger and handsomer appearance, just as in the case of a human being. Again, a comparatively broad chest is better alike for strength and beauty, and better adapted to carry the legs well asunder, so that they will not overlap and interfere with one another. Again, the neck should not be set on dropping forward from the chest, like a boar's, but, like that of a game-cock rather, it should shoot upwards to the crest, and be slack[17] along the curvature; whilst the head should be bony and the jawbone small. In this way the neck will be well in front of the rider, and the eye will command what lies before the horse's feet. A horse, moreover, of this build, however spirited, will be least capable of overmastering the rider,[18] since it is not by arching but by stretching out his neck and head that a horse endeavours to assert his power.[19]

It is important also to observe whether the jaws are soft or hard on one or other side, since as a rule a horse with unequal jaws[20] is liable to become hard-mouthed on one side.

Again, a prominent rather than a sunken eye is suggestive of alertness, and a horse of this type will have a wider range of vision.

And so of the nostrils: a wide-dilated nostril is at once better than a contracted one for respiration, and gives the animal a fiercer aspect. Note how, for instance, when one stallion is enraged against another, or when his spirit chafes in being ridden,[21] the nostrils at once become dilated.

A comparatively large crest and small ears give a more typical and horse-like appearance to the head, whilst lofty withers again allow the rider a surer seat and a stronger adhesion between the shoulders and the body.[22]

A "double spine,"[23] again, is at once softer to sit on than a single, and more pleasing to the eye. So, too, a fairly deep side somewhat rounded towards the belly[24] will render the animal at once easier to sit and stronger, and as a general rule better able to digest his food.[25]

The broader and shorter the loins the more easily will the horse raise his forequarters and bring up his hindquarters under him. Given these points, moreover, the belly will appear as small as possible, a portion of the body which if large is partly a disfigurement and partly tends to make the horse less strong and capable of carrying weight.[26]

The quarters should be broad and fleshy in correspondence with the sides and chest, and if they are also firm and solid throughout they will be all the lighter for the racecourse, and will render the horse in every way more fleet.

To come to the thighs (and buttocks):[27] if the horse have these separated by a broad line of demarcation[28] he will be able to plant his hind-legs under him with a good gap between;[29] and in so doing will assume a posture[30] and a gait in action at once prouder and more firmly balanced, and in every way appear to the best advantage.

The human subject would seem to point to this conclusion. When a man wants to lift anything from off the ground he essays to do so by bringing the legs apart and not by bringing them together.

A horse ought not to have large testicles, though that is not a point to be determined in the colt.

And now, as regards the lower parts, the hocks,[31] or shanks and fetlocks and hoofs, we have only to repeat what has been said already about those of the fore-legs.

I will here note some indications by which one may forecast the probable size of the grown animal. The colt with the longest shanks at the moment of being foaled will grow into the biggest horse; the fact being--and it holds of all the domestic quadrupeds[32]--that with advance of time the legs hardly increase at all, while the rest of the body grows uniformly up to these, until it has attained its proper symmetry.

Such is the type[33] of colt and such the tests to be applied, with every prospect of getting a sound-footed, strong, and fleshy animal fine of form and large of stature. If changes in some instances develop during growth, that need not prevent us from applying our tests in confidence. It far more often happens that an ugly-looking colt will turn out serviceable,[34] than that a foal of the above description will turn out ugly or defective.

[1] Lit. "Since, through the accident of having for a long time 'ridden' ourselves, we believe we have become proficients in horsemanship, we wish to show to our younger friends how, as we conceive the matter, they will proceed most correctly in dealing with horses." {ippeuein} in the case of Xenophon = serve as a {ippeus}, whether technically as an Athenian "knight" or more particularly in reference to his organisation of a troop of cavalry during "the retreat" ("Anab." III. iii. 8-20), and, as is commonly believed, while serving under Agesilaus ("Hell." III. iv. 14) in Asia, 396, 395 B.C.

[2] L. Dind. [in Athens]. The Eleusinion. For the position of this sanctuary of Demeter and Kore see Leake, "Top. of Athens," i. p. 296 foll. For Simon see Sauppe, vol. v. Praef. to "de R. E." p. 230; L. Dind. Praef. "Xen. Opusc." p. xx.; Dr. Morris H. Morgan, "The Art of Horsemanship by Xenophon," p. 119 foll. A fragment of the work referred to, {peri eidous kai ekloges ippon}, exists. The MS. is in the library of Emmanual Coll. Cant. It so happens that one of the hipparchs (?) appealed to by Demosthenes in Arist. "Knights," 242,

{andres ippes, paragenesthe nun o kairos, o Simon, o Panaiti, ouk elate pros to dexion keras};

bears the name.

[3] Lit. "and carved on the pedestal a representation of his own performances."

[4] Or, "and that a charger, we will suppose." For the simile see "Mem." III. i. 7.

[5] Cf. Hor. "Sat." I. ii. 86:

regibus hic mos est: ubi equos mercantur, opertos inspiciunt, ne, si facies, ut saepe, decora molli fulta pede est, emptorem inducat hiantem, quod pulchrae clunes, breve quod caput, ardua cervix.

and see Virg. "Georg." iii. 72 foll.

[6] Lit. "the swallow."

[7] Al. "a knock-kneed person." See Stonehenge, "The Horse" (ed. 1892), pp. 3, 9.

[8] Or, "and he is right."

[9] Cf. Virg. "Georg." iii. 88; Hor. "Epod." xvi. 12.

[10] i.e. "the pasterns ({mesokunia}) and the coffin should be 'sloping.'"

[11] Or, "being too inflexible." Lit. "giving blow for blow, overuch like anvil to hammer."

[12] i.e. "the metacarpals and metatarsals."

[13] Or, "and become varicose, with the result that the shanks swell whilst the skin recedes from the bone."

[14] Or, "suspensory ligament"? Possibly Xenophon's anatomy is wrong, and he mistook the back sinew for a bone like the fibula. The part in question might intelligibly enough, if not technically, be termed {perone}, being of the brooch-pin order.

[15] Lit. "all horses bend their legs more flexibly as time advances."

[16] Lit. "the thighs below the shoulder-blades" are distinguished from "the thighs below the tail." They correspond respectively to our "arms" (i.e. forearms) and "gaskins," and anatomically speaking = the radius (os brachii) and the tibia.

[17] "Slack towards the flexure" (Stonehenge).

[18] Or, "of forcing the rider's hand and bolting."

[19] Or, "to display violence or run away."

[20] Or, "whose bars are not equally sensitive."

[21] Or, "in the racecourse or on the exercising-ground how readily he distends his nostrils."

[22] Or if with L. D. [{kai to somati}], transl. "adhesion to the horse's shoulders."

[23] Reading after Courier {rakhis ge men}. See Virg. "Georg." iii. 87, "at duplex agitur per lumbos spina." "In a horse that is in good case, the back is broad, and the spine does not stick up like a ridge, but forms a kind of furrow on the back" (John Martyn); "a full back," as we say.

[24] Or, "in proportion to." See Courier ("Du Commandement de la Cavalerie at de l'Equitation": deux livres de Xenophon, traduits par un officier d'artillerie a cheval), note ad loc. p. 83.

[25] i.e. "and keep in good condition."

[26] Al. "more feeble at once and ponderous in his gait."

[27] Lit. "the thighs beneath the tail."

[28] Reading {plateia to gramme diorismenous ekhe}, sc. the perineum. Al. Courier (after Apsyrtus), op. cit. p. 14, {plateis te kai me diestrammenous}, "broad and not turned outwards."

[29] Or, "he will be sure to spread well behind," etc.

[30] {ton upobasin}, tech. of the crouching posture assumed by the horse for mounting or "in doing the demi-passade" (so Morgan, op. cit. p. 126).

[31] {ton katothen astragelon, e knemon}, lit. "the under (or hinder?) knuckle-bones (hocks?) or shins"; i.e. anatomically speaking, the os calcis, astragalus, tarsals, and metatarsal large and small.

[32] Cf. Aristot. "de Part. Anim." iv. 10; "H. A." ii. 1; Plin. "N. H." xi. 108.

[33] Lit. "by testing the shape of the colt in this way it seems to us the purchaser will get," etc.

[34] For the vulg. {eukhroastoi}, a doubtful word = "well coloured," i.e. "sleek and healthy," L. & S. would read {eukhrooi} (cf. "Pol. Lac." v. 8). L. Dind. conj. {enrostoi}, "robust"; Schneid. {eukhrestoi}, "serviceable."