« AnteriorContinuar »
Blindly we deemed our fondest purpose gained,
Is it not thus, when prosperous fortune smiles,
I. M. T.
LETTER FROM A GROOM.
Park, August 22, 1823. DEAR WILLIAM, You cannot think how pleased I was to find by your letter to me in the summer,
you was " happy in your situation, and did not doubt but you would get on well in it;” but I soon found out how this happened, when
you told me a few lines further on, that (as I had said it ought to be) your business was your delight, and your master's good word a great comfort If you continue
upon this plan, I am sure you will be contented within yourself, and give satisfaction to your master, though you " fancy him to be as strict and particular as any man alive." It is a good sign “your taking quite a pride in your horses :" only get to see that your credit depends upon their condition and appearance, and you will pever complain of labour, for it will be your pleasure ; nor reckon your work a hardship, for it will be your happiness. Besides, unless your heart is in the thing, you will never attend to small matters, and what some might call trifles, but which, after all, soonest show a groom's character for neatness, diligence, and understanding of his place, and which help a knowing hand to judge, in a minute, whether you are a groom by chance or by choice. For want of this disposition, it is common to hear many complaints in our line of life. One cries out he is weary of strapping, and would sooner break stones upon the road any day.” Another says 6 he should be happy in a valet's place, to a single gentleman;" and a third keeps fretting “ that he did not stay at home, and take his chance with the 'rest.” Now when a young man's mind is unsettled and restless like this, I can venture to say, without seeing it, that his stable is untidy, his tackling out of order, and his horses plainly shewing that they have not justice done them. These I call grooms by chance. They are the sort of chaps, who will stand, for the hour together, hearing news, and telling news, holding a sponge in one hand, and a rein in the other, without any hope of their coming uearer to each other till the story is done. If a dog-fight is got up in the Mews, or a ballad-singer strikes up a new tane, away they go, never caring that a horse is left half dressed, a boot half blacked, or a bridle half put on; and when ordered at a particular time, they are idling and talking up to the very last minute, when it is too late to do many things at all, and certainly too late to do most things as they should be done. I am sure it is no wonder, if, under such hands, horses become rough in look, and resolute in temper; not likely to be obedient for want of proper teaching to make them so, and a vast deal more troublesome, through carelessness and bad management, than they otherwise would be. But, from all that I know and bear of you, William, you are of a better sort, one what I call a groom by choice ; and, for this reason, and according to your desire, I send you another letter of advice, believing that you will consider what I say, and try what you think reasonable.
* A violent North East wind.
The secret of managing a' liorse, is to gain his love; and it is a very true saying, “ if you love your horse, your horse will love you.” It is natural enough that some should be more favorites than others; but, in doing our duty towards them, - what's fair for one is fair for all." There are, we say, as many different tempers amongst horses as amongst men, and it is as much the groom's duty to know the disposition of his horse, as the disposition of his master. Before you can give him physic, or tell exactly how to treat him in many particulars, you must learn his constitution of body, and his general way of feeding, and so, in like manner, your corrections must be according to his disposition. There are times when all horses need some correction, but never employ it to ease your own passion, or indulge a cruel inclination ; let it be just enough to teach him who is master, and only continued long enough to shew him that obedience and submission are all you require. This, together with patience and kindness, (and we should never forget, that a horse has not an understanding like ours, and therefore is longer bringing under role,) will not fail to make him tractable. And I am sure, of all beasts he is most teachable, so that if you always take the same plan with him, and use the same words, to bring him to do any particular thing from the first, he will soon learn your ways, and give you very little trouble in the end. Many a horse is kicked and flogged for awkwardness and viciousness in the stable, and for fidgetting and shying out of the
stable; when the blame really belongs to the groom, who never cared about bringing him to order by any steady course at home, nor took pains to keep him to his good behaviour at exercising times. By constant practice and training, you may bring the best bred, and the highest spirited horse to stand quiet, when dressed or mounted, to lead well, to be handy at opening a gate, to keep his due distance behind another, without fretting and pulling, to find out by a touch or a check what you want; in short, by his manner of going and acting, to shew, plainly, that besides being well fed, and well groomed, he is also : well broke and well tutored; and I should think nothing would give a gentleman a better opinion of his groom's skill, and kindness of disposition, than to see his horses under complete command, whilst at the same time they are treated with kindness and gentleness.
In my last letter, I said something about the books which a groom should read to gain a little useful knowledge in his particular business; but you will not get much good by reading, unless you also improve every opportunity you meet with for practice and observation. To shew you my meaning better, there are few people who do not know that a borse's age may be found out by the teeth for some years ; and yet how many grooms have I heard own that,
they did not understand this,” and did not know the difference between a colt's tooth and a horse's tooth, only because they never took the trouble to look into the mouths of a dozen or two of the hundreds of horses they must have come across in their time, for : the very purpose of learning the changes that take place year after year. Don't you think, William, it seems much better when a groom, by quickness and practice, can guess pretty near a horse's height at sight, than to be unable to answer the question, how many inches make a hand," as you will find is the case with many y? And of one thing you may be sure,
whatever information of a good sort you do get, you will have many opportunities of turning it to account. Then, if your opinion is asked, you will be qualified to give such an answer as will gain you credit with your master, and will have, what many have not, a reason for your manner of acting; which can never happen, if you take up things by hearsay, or do only what has been the custom. When
you have a long day's work coming on, plan it out beforehand; settle what should be done first, how you may save time in trifles, what way will be the best as things go. Indeed if, when we were about finishing one job, we asked ourselves, what shall I take in band next? how must I manage the matter most cleverly? we should have less trouble; and, after a while, the best plan would become our common plan, and quite natural.
I have often blamed myself for taking up and putting down the same brush, or cloth, or sponge, twenty times; when one hanlding would have served, if I had had my wits about me, and engaged my head as well as employed my hands in the business I was then following:
I am inclined to think we stop the feet, in our stable, often enough of all conscience, but you say
your orders are different, and you wish to know what you should do.” Now my rule has always been this; and I have found it answer. When horses are trusted to me, out and out, I am bound to do for them to the best of my knowledge and judgment; and I ought to be qualified accordingly; if not, I am not equal to my place ;-but, should my master choose to look into these things himself, or upon any occasion to give particular orders without talking to me on the business, or allowing me a plain opportunity of telling him my mind in the matter; then I have nothing to do but to obey. I may think what I please, but « the least said the better, either to him, or to my fellow-servants, bis will is my law; there is no