In an interesting article on fox-hunting, the London Quarterly Review gives some excellent hints on horsemanship, one or two of which will not come amiss to riders who are not fox-hunters. Four-fifths of the art of horsemanship depends on attaining a proper seat, and one-fifth on possessing a pair of light hands. The generality of riders are apt to sit on their horses in a bent attitude, and when a man rides in this toadlike position he travels always ready, at a moment's notice, to describe a parabolic curve over his horse's head, should the animal take a notion to stumble, and fall, and the result is likely to be a concussion of the brain or a dislocation of his neckthe horse standing by uninjured. On the other hand, when a man sits upright, evenly balanced on his saddle, any sudden jerk or movement forwards throws his shoulders backward. If the horse falls, the animal is the sole sufferer, the fore part of his body becomes a buffer, preventing the concussion from injuring, in the smallest degree, the rider. If a horse only trips, a rider justly poised in the saddle can easily recover him. The instant he is down, howeverj the rider should vacate his saddle, as the momentum of the animal will probably cause him to roll over. In leaping a fence, too, if the rider sits properlv on his saddle, the horse, and not lie, receives the concussion of any fall that may ensue, simply because the spring of the animal, in taking the leap, had thrown his shoulders backward and his head out of danger j whereas, if the rider had assumed a bent attitude, his nose would have been seen plowing mother earth the moment the muzzle of his nose, impinged it. In the year 1848, Major General William Yorke Moore, of the British army, rode over a precipice of two hundred and thirty-seven feet, perpendicular height, on the island of Dominica, and escaped with his life, although every bone in his horse s body was broken. The accident occurred in the evening. Three men had previously been dashed to pieces at the same place, and a fourth mot a similar fate subsequently, when the Colonial Assembly took measnres to prevent such catastrophes. Had not the General preserved an erect posture and clung to his horse, his life would have paid the forfeit. Hi recovery from the shock of the fall was nearly as miraculous as his escape from instant death. If a horse be but properly dealt with, he can gallop down a turf hill with as much rapidity as along a race course. He should be encouraged by a loose rein, to carry his head as low as possible, to enable him to take care of his feet, and in case of treading on a rolling stone to recover the balance by throwing it up. If the rider, following, the instinct and example of the horse, throws his weight backward, the descent can be made at considerable speed, without the smallest danger. The horse must not be allowed to descend the slope diagonally, as he will inevitably Blip upon his side. His head must be guided straight onward, but care taken not to induce him to raise it up. Seated in the attitude described, Jack Shirley, whipper-in to the Todworth hunt, was one day observed fixing a piece of whip-cord to his lash while following his hounds at a slapping pace, downhill, wilh a large open clasp knife in his mouth, his reins lying nrarly loose on his horse's neck. Another advantage of riding in an upright posilion is that after a while the muscles of a rider lose their obstinacy by getting tired, and it becomes impossible for him to prevent his body undulating to the infinite relief of both parties, with every movement of the horse; whereas, if, like an English ockey, he rides like a frog on a shovel, he inflicts upon his whole frame, as well as upon the poor animal that carries him, an amount of unnecessary fatigue which prematurely tires both. Another qualification of a good horsemanespecially in fox hunting, when fields and pastures are to be ridden overis to allow the horse to carry hie head at its natural level, and not to rein it up, as is the general custom, so that he will lose the habit of using his eyes to ascertain the character of the ground over which he is traveling. If given free scope in this respect, the horse will easily avoid holes, stones, and other dangerous obstructions, even in fields and woods, ond if not reigned up at a chance stumble, will learn to depend on himself, and rarely falls ir he happens to make a misstep.
This article was originally published with the title "Horsemanship" in Scientific American 3, 25new, 385 (December 1860)