28. A Job Horse and His Drivers
Hitherto I had always been driven by people who at least knew how to drive; but in this
place I was to get my experience of all the different kinds of bad and ignorant driving to
which we horses are subjected; for I was a "job horse", and was let out to all sorts of
people who wished to hire me; and as I was good-tempered and gentle, I think I was
oftener let out to the ignorant drivers than some of the other horses, because I could be
depended upon. It would take a long time to tell of all the different styles in which I was
driven, but I will mention a few of them.
First, there were the tight-rein drivers -- men who seemed to think that all depended on
holding the reins as hard as they could, never relaxing the pull on the horse's mouth, or
giving him the least liberty of movement. They are always talking about "keeping the
horse well in hand", and "holding a horse up", just as if a horse was not made to hold
Some poor, broken-down horses, whose mouths have been made hard and insensible by
just such drivers as these, may, perhaps, find some support in it; but for a horse who can
depend upon his own legs, and who has a tender mouth and is easily guided, it is not only
tormenting, but it is stupid.
Then there are the loose-rein drivers, who let the reins lie easily on our backs, and their
own hand rest lazily on their knees. Of course, such gentlemen have no control over a
horse, if anything happens suddenly. If a horse shies, or starts, or stumbles, they are
nowhere, and cannot help the horse or themselves till the mischief is done. Of course, for
myself I had no objection to it, as I was not in the habit either of starting or stumbling,
and had only been used to depend on my driver for guidance and encouragement. Still,
one likes to feel the rein a little in going downhill, and likes to know that one's driver is
not gone to sleep.
Besides, a slovenly way of driving gets a horse into bad and often lazy habits, and when
he changes hands he has to be whipped out of them with more or less pain and trouble.
Squire Gordon always kept us to our best paces and our best manners. He said that
spoiling a horse and letting him get into bad habits was just as cruel as spoiling a child,
and both had to suffer for it afterward.
Besides, these drivers are often careless altogether, and will attend to anything else more
than their horses. I went out in the phaeton one day with one of them; he had a lady and
two children behind. He flopped the reins about as we started, and of course gave me
several unmeaning cuts with the whip, though I was fairly off. There had been a good
deal of road-mending going on, and even where the stones were not freshly laid down
there were a great many loose ones about. My driver was laughing and joking with the
lady and the children, and talking about the country to the right and the left; but he never
thought it worth while to keep an eye on his horse or to drive on the smoothest parts of
the road; and so it easily happened that I got a stone in one of my fore feet.
Now, if Mr. Gordon or John, or in fact any good driver, had been there, he would have
seen that something was wrong before I had gone three paces. Or even if it had been dark
a practiced hand would have felt by the rein that there was something wrong in the step,
and they would have got down and picked out the stone. But this man went on laughing
and talking, while at every step the stone became more firmly wedged between my shoe