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BY AN EQUESTRIAN.
I confess myself an ardent lover of the noblest quadruped that moves upon the face of the earth, and an enthusiastic admirer of the art of riding. Consequently, I regard a jockey with some awe, being, as I premise,
Smit with the love of the laconic boot,
The cap and wig succinct, the silken suit.' And I pride myself upon having carefully separated this enthusiasm from all mercenary motives. Never did I own a running horse ; and when, yielding to a momentary impulse, I backed a four-footed favorite with a trifling wager, the careless or venal boy, that rode him, suffered himself to be distanced, when all present had relied upon his winning. This was the first and only time that I speculated on the turf; and I have often congratulated myself on the results of that first loss. But, I am wandering away from the point in view.
If we cast a look back at the history of the early ages, we shall find horses and horsemanship making no inconsiderable figure. The war-horse of Scripture, that neigheth among the trumpets, whose neck is clothed with thunder,' is described with all the beautiful fullness of language, and copiousness of epithet, which characterize the Hebrew poems. The Greeks were by no means despicable horsemen, although the fragments of their sculpture which have descended to us, seem to prove that their artists were happier in fixing the delicate contours of fleeting female loveliness, than in portraying the beautiful proportions of the horse. If we seek to learn at what period the ancients found the art of taming horses, and reducing them to obedience under the curb, we are lost at once in the obscurity of fiction and tradition. The story of the Centaurs is vaguely conjectured to involve the origin of riding : a party of Thessalians, mounted on their newly-tamed steeds, and seen from a distance, having assumed the appearance of those formidable monsters, described as being half charger and half man. It is probable that the Greeks acquired the art of horsemanship at a very early age, as it is alluded to in the following passage of the Iliad:
• High on the decks, with vast, gigantic stride,
Drives four fair coursers, practiced to obey,
Admiring numbers follow with their eyes.'* Racing formed one of the most important and interesting features of the Olympic games ; and the blood horses of antiquity were often ridden by royal jockeys. Hiero, king of Syracuse, was once the winner of the Olympic wreath, upon a horse named Phrenicus ; and the poet Pindar, has celebrated the achievement in immortal verse. Philip, king of Macedon, was a noted gentleman-jockey ; and when we reflect upon Alexander's victory over Bucephalus, we must allow him to have been an adept in the art of breaking. Descending to later times, by regular chronological steps, we shall find a Roman emperor (Caligula) making a companion of his horse, and preparing, with misanthropical malevolence, to elevate him to the consulship. In our days, more ignoble animals often fill the chairs of office, royal, magisterial and literary.
Who does not love to look back upon the days of chivalry, and to conjure up pictures of those brilliant and imposing scenes, upon whose like we shall never, never look again? What throngs of noble cavaliers and gentle ladies! Mark you not yon train of horse winding down a green and wooded declivity — a gallant company of fair dames and chivalrous knights! The hoofs of the horses hardly sound upon the springing turf ; but the spurs jingle, and the silks ruffle ; and, ever and anon, there comes the tinkling of silver bells, from the hawks that sit hooded on the ladies' wrists. She, whose tall plume is fastened by that huge diamond brooch, and who manages her white horse with such dexterous grace, is Elizabeth, queen of England ; and the cavalier, upon her left, the earl of Leicester. Yes, fair reader, in that bright age, riding was as fashionable, far more necessary that it is at present ; and Elizabeth, Mary, all the sovereigns of Europe, took their airing in the saddle. Ah! happy, happy days! Your memory yet lingers with us, like the fragrant dew, distilled from the summer flower, which refresheth our senses long after the leaves that gave it birth are withered and gone, decayed in the brown grave of autumn. Happy age! when the lady started from her couch, at dawn, wakened by the reveillée of the huntsmen, who sang, beneath her window,
“Waken, lords and ladies gay,
* Pope's Homer.
Hounds are in their couples yelling,
Waken, lords and ladies gay.' Then, forth poured the eager followers of hound and horn. An old English poet, whose black-letter volume is before our mind's eye, in some quaint amatory stanzas, promises his ladye-love the enjoyment of rare sport :
*A leash of grey-hounds, with you to strike,
• Homeward, thus shall ye ride
Shall sing as doth the nightingale.' Let us turn to the East. Although the prophet of the Orientals rode to Heaven on Al Borak, yet the Arabs of the present day boast of a matchless race of steeds, descended from the black mare of Mohammed. How often, when wearied and broken down in spirit, with the cares of literary life, have I sighed to become the companion of these wild rovers of the desert. Sweeping over the boundless plains of sand, looking to the east and the west, and to the north and south, and finding no human habitation to break the continuous line of the horizon, I should turn my eyes to the starry firmament above, and luxuriate in those thoughts which solitude and entire freedom never fail to awaken. Give me a fine horse and the free range of these desert plains, or a headlong gallop on the Pampas, or a wild scamper over the green prairies of the west, and I would amass a store of poetry, against my return, which, when fairly printed, should illuminate the pages of Maga with undying radiance.
I have often read, with delight, the Mazeppa of lord Byron, who was a good judge of horses; albeit, he was a timid and ungraceful rider. I could forgive many of his faults for the song of Cæsar's, in the 'Deformed Transformed.'
• To horse ! to horse !- my coal-black steed
Paws the ground, and snuffs the air ;
More knows whom he must bear.
In the marsh he will not slacken,
And will not such a voyage be sweet?
If Shakspeare had written nothing but his description of a horse, in the poem of · Venus and Adonis,' he would have been immortal. As this fine poem is, from its nature, excluded from the shelves of many readers, I shall extract nearly the whole of the passage to which I refer :
Imperiously he leaps, he neighs, he bounds,
The iron bit be crusheth 'tween his teeth,
His ears up-pricked ; his braided, hanging mane
His eye, which scornfully glisters like fire,
What recketh he his rider's angry stir,
He sees his love, and nothing else he sees,
Look !- when a painter would surpass the life,
So did this horse excell a common one,
Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Sometimes he scuds far off, and there he stares ;
Fanning the hairs, which wave like feathered wings.' Sir Walter Scott was fond of horses and riding, and a most accomplished equestrian — keeping the saddle amidst the trying morasses and perilous crags of his native land. Throughout his works, you may find the traces of this passion. What, for instance, can be finer than the description of the flight of El Hakim with Sir Kenneth, in the desert, mounted on those matchless steeds, in whose veins ran the pure blood of the black mare of the prophet? They spurned the sand beneath them ; they devoured the earth before them, in their rapid progress.'
Even the melodramic horrors of "Rookwood' are relieved by the thrilling interest of the book of the · Highwayman.' I can sympathize with the delight of Turpin, in the matchless prowess of · Black Bess,' and can half forgive him for sacrificing the splendid creature, when I consider the fame of the exploit.
Very recently, an impulse has been given to the enterprize of equestrians; and the roads, in the vicinity of our great cities, are thronged, every afternoon, with riders of both sexes. Some, whom we could mention, having profited by the instructions of our friend Towle, make a very tolerable appearance ; but others do not seem to possess the slightest knowledge of horsemanship, not even the mistaken notion of Geoffrey Gambado. Even as I write, a bevy of equestrians are passing beneath my window. There they go — the horses all trotting furiously ; and both ladies and gentlemen thrown from their saddles, at every motion of their steeds. Let me dwell upon yon infatuated wretch, in salmon-colored decencies. Instead of being
Incorpsed and demi-natured
With the brave beast himself,' he appears divorced from the saddle — the sport of every motion that is made. See how he keeps his head and shoulders hovering over the horse's mane, with a look of pale anxiety ; and how nervously he grasps the curb-rein. His bended legs form the two sides of an equilateral triangle ; and his feet, instead of being parallel, are carefully turned outwards, with a grace which he probably learned from his dancing-master. Mistaken youth, do you not perceive, while endeavoring to mitigate the spirit of your steed, that the unnatural position of your foot brings that ill-fitted brass spur in contact with the animal's sides ? Poor youth ! Your fault carries its punishment along with it. And you, madam, his companion in folly, why, in the name of madness, are