Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

Draft Horses the Selection of Horses for Draft Purposes

Draft Horses the Selection of Horses for Draft Purposes

Draft Horses the Selection of Horses for Draft Purposes the innumerable conditions which operate to produce varieties of team-labor render unsatisfactory any attempt at advice to purchasers of horses for specific purposes that might be given in a chapter of limited extent.

If it were practicable to offer useful suggestions, they would be of little service to anyone who has not acquired by experience an accurate conception of this important section of horse-keeping ; my remarks will therefore be confined to a brief recapitulation of the three cardinal points — symmetry, soundness, and action—prefaced by the assertion that a thorough knowledge of the nature of the work to be exacted and an actual experience of horse-power can alone be trusted as safe guides for the purchase of suitable animals.

Symmetry. —The practical eye of an equestrian takes in immediately symmetrical form, and his mind quickly gauges the animal’s capacity for performing a specific description of labor. When considering the outward proportions, temper and constitution of stallions and mares for breeding purposes, the salient points of good and bad conformation were reviewed; those remarks apply equally to horses destined for the general purposes of team-work.

A horse required to move heavy weights must be himself weighty ; he ought to be ‘ all over ‘ muscular, ‘ near the ground,’ and possess strong, sound feet, broad back and loins, deep chest and ribs, prominent shoulders, wide between his fore legs, and wide from croup to hocks; he should stand firm and square with his fore-limbs well outside him, the fore-feet in a direct line with the body, the hinder ones very slightly pointed outwards ; the pasterns should be sufficiently oblique to indicate elasticity and freedom in action without being too slanting ; all joints and sinews should be well defined, and the limbs clean and proportionate.

For the purposes of heavy draught, the necessity for excellent conformation of the hind-limbs is of far more importance than the symmetry of the anterior extremities, and although the perfect form and position for a horse’s hind-legs are familiar to every experienced man, I have found the difficulty of correctly describing them to be so great that I have been reluctantly compelled to give up the attempt. Horses required for lighter and quicker work in pair-horse vans may be more upstanding, but they should possess depth of rib, plenty of heart-room, and all essential qualifications for usefulness.

Soundness. —As there are few absolutely sound horses, so there are a substantial number practically sound—that is, free from diseases or defects which are likely within a limited time and under reasonable usage to incapacitate an animal from satisfactorily performing a fair amount of labor. It requires considerable judgment, based upon extended practice, to know where practical soundness begins and ends, and upon this point it is not unusual to find wide divergence of opinion even amongst experienced men. All horses, to be useful to their owners, should be practically sound at the time of purchase.

The law of warranty, as applied to the soundness of horses, is perhaps capable of being more extensively abused than any other Act contained in the Statute Book. Many sellers, who upon inadequate evidence are ever ready to declare a horse ‘ sound, stand convicted of the fact that they have no knowledge of the meaning of the word, or that they do not know a sound horse when they see one.

The term ‘ soundness,‘ applied to a warranted article, means perfection, and comprises not only the absence of any defect which may render it unfitted for use as a perfect thing, but also the absence of any imperfections which may at a future and remote period make it inapplicable for use as a complete whole.

It is right that the purchaser who pays a good price for a working animal should be protected from fraud in regard to staunchness of draught, freedom from vice and diseases the nature of which cannot be detected in a reasonably limited ex- amination; but — caveat emptor—the buyer should be required to satisfy himself that a horse does not possess causes of unsoundness which are capable of being found out.

How many farmers have suffered loss and annoyance at the hands of unscrupulous dealers, who having bought an animal above his worth, and missed their market, threaten the seller with law, unless he takes back the horse at cost price, or refunds some portion of the purchase-money! Such a practice could not be successfully adopted in the business transactions with general articles of merchandise; but in horse-dealing, as an animal may be perfectly sound one day and a ‘ screw ‘ the next, an opportunity is afforded for sending back an unsuitable horse upon an unjust pretext.

The facilities for wrongful return are rendered much greater by the fact that, although ninety per cent, of cart horses are sound for the purposes of ordinary work, not more than ten of that number are free from defects which may technically and legally be regarded to constitute unsoundness, and therefore furnish pretexts for breach of contract.

As horses are returned upon the certificates of veterinary surgeons whose examinations are frequently made some time after the sale, it is evident the causes of unsoundness may have arisen whilst the horse was in the hands of the purchaser, and hence the conflicting opinions of skilled witnesses who are called upon to express their ideas as to the probable time the defects have existed.

A seller having a sound horse for disposal will do well to protect his warranty by a certificate of soundness from a veterinary surgeon whose examination is done on the day of sale. In a court of law such a certificate from a man of known probity would outweigh opposing evidence, bearing only upon the probable duration of an alleged cause of unsoundness.

As the law stands, and for the reasons I have named, it is unwise for a seller to give a warranty, except regarding freedom from vice and capacity for work; but he should, if required, guarantee the buyer against the existence of occult diseases, the evidence of which cannot be discovered.

If the custom of warranting horses was disestablished, dealers, who know accurately what practical soundness is, would give an equal price for an animal without as with a contract of security, and much annoyance would frequently be spared to the horse selling farmer.

Action. —Second to soundness, and far more desirable than perfect symmetry, is the possession of good action; without it an otherwise excellent animal is incalculably depreciated in both value and usefulness.

Good and true action is very frequently but not invariably associated with perfect symmetry, but the possession of it may be accepted as evidence of fairly equal con- formation • for defective or slovenly action can only arise in a sound animal from an unequal distribution of physical power, or from want of stamina or pluck. In many horses’ good bold action is evidence of power, and the heavier the horse the better he should move in both walk and trot. An educated ear can distinguish a horse possessing good action on a pavement, by a regular succession of sonorous thumps—one, two, three, four.

In a walk, which is essentially the draught horse’s pace, each of the four feet should be brought down perfectly flat, the heels, toes, and quarters reaching the ground at the same instant, the fore ones with the toe and heel in a line with the body, neither turned out nor in, the hinder ones the least bit everted.

Straight and full extension of the fore-limbs is desirable rather than excessive elevation of the feet by high knee and shoulder action.

The movement of the hind extremities should be free and loose, the feet carried far under the belly by perfect flexion of the hocks, which in advancing should in turn have a slightly inward tendency, and the toe at the same time should be as slightly turned outwards. Defective and wide hind-leg action, usually arising from malformed hocks possessing but limited mobility, is most especially to be guarded against • horses with round bowed-hock action always wear unsatisfactorily.

Following the extension of each limb in turn, the corresponding foot ought to be boldly and firmly planted upon the ground; the least sign of weakness, faltering, or unequal movement during progression may be regarded with grave suspicion, and it is much safer to refuse an animal where such reasonable grounds have been aroused than to run the risk of effecting an unsatisfactory purchase.

Whenever practicable, a trial at work ought to be insisted upon before a purchase is completed, not only for the purpose of ascertaining that the power and temper of the animal are suited to what is required from him, but also that any symptom indicative of defect or unsoundness, particularly of the respiratory organs and spine, may be more surely detected.

The Breeding and Management of Draft Horses

Best Wishes

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