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In our dealings with the brute creation, it cannot be too much insisted on that mutual confidence is only to be established by mutual good-will. The perceptions of the beast must be raised to their highest standard, and there is no such enemy to intelligence as fear. Reward should be as the daily food it eats, punishment as the medicine administered on rare occasions, unwillingly, and but when absolute necessity demands. The horse is of all domestic animals most susceptible to anything like discomfort or ill-usage. Its nervous system, sensitive and highly strung, is capable of daring effort under excitement, but collapses utterly in any new and strange situation, as if paralysed by apprehensions of the unknown. Can anything be more helpless than the young horse you take out hunting the first time he finds himself in a bog? Compare his frantic struggles and sudden prostration with the discreet conduct of an Exmoor pony in the same predicament. The one terrified by unaccustomed danger, and relying instinctively on the speed that seems his natural refuge, plunges wildly forward, sinks to his girths, his shoulders, finally unseats his rider, and settles down, without further exertion, in the stupid apathy of despair.
The other, born and bred in the wild west country, picking its scanty keep from a foal off the treacherous surface of a Devonshire moor, either refuses altogether to trust the quagmire, or shortens its stride, collects its energies, chooses the soundest tufts that afford foothold, and failing these, flaps its way out on its side, to scramble into safety with scarce a quiver or a snort. It has been there before! Herein lies the whole secret. Some day your young one will be as calm, as wise, as tractable. Alas! that when his discretion has reached its prime his legs begin to fail!
Therefore cultivate his intellect—I use the word advisedly—even before you enter on the development of his physical powers. Nature and good keep will provide for these, but to make him man’s willing friend and partner you must give him the advantage of man’s company and man’s instruction. From the day you slip a halter over his ears he should be encouraged to look to you, like a child, for all his little wants and simple pleasures. He should come cantering up from the farthest corner of the paddock when he hears your voice, should ask to have his nose rubbed, his head stroked, his neck patted, with those honest, pleading looks which make the confidence of a dumb creature so touching; and before a roller has been put on his back, or a snaffle in his mouth he should be convinced that everything you do to him is right, and that it is impossible for you, his best friend, to cause him the least uneasiness or harm.