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The History of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles 1914-1919

Appendix A — The Thoroughbred, Racing, and Remounts

page 253

Appendix A
The Thoroughbred, Racing, and Remounts.

Palestine, 1918.

The suppression of racing in England and the British Colonies has focussed no little attention on the breeding of remounts for army purposes. Many of the leading studmasters strenuously advocate racing on this account.

Unfortunately most of the writers are racing men pure and simple. They have had little or no experience in the field or on active service. The greater number entirely miss the crux of the question they attempt to discuss.

The writer of this article has been on active service since the outbreak of the War, and has under his charge over 2,000 horses. The greatest number of these have withstood a desert campaign that will assuredly live in equestrian history as the most trying on horseflesh in the annals of warfare. The three and a half years of service has been with a force from the Antipodes, where the horse still holds his own in spite of motor cars and other mechanical contrivances which have endeavoured to relegate the most beautiful animal in the service of man to a day that is dead.

It is not because New Zealand was the adopted home of the writer for a few years prior to War breaking out, but solely as a result of observation, he being in a position to note the good and bad features of horses gathered from various quarters of the globe, that leads him to the conviction that New Zealand and Australian bred horses stand out pre-eminently in a class by themselves.

New Zealanders and Australians are not the only men who appreciate the steed bred in the countries under the Southern Cross. Every British officer who appreciates good horseflesh is satisfied if he can obtain one, for it is known throughout the Army the odds are with the horse standing up to his work.

Now, why should the horses from New Zealand and Australia stand the rigors of a campaign so well?

(a)Is it because they are bred in an ideal climate, where the climatic conditions and environment are such as to produce an ideal constitution?
(b)Is it the care given to selection and breeding?
(c)Is it the preponderance of the Thoroughbred?

The questions may be answered seriatim.

(a) Is it because these horses are bred in an ideal climate where the climatic conditions and environment are such as to produce an ideal constitution?

The horse is bred and reared in an ideal climate. During his early days he lives a natural outdoor life; the climate is such that there is an abundance of feed for both dam and offspring. The environment is such that the true characteristics of the equine race are developed. The different types of animals of the same species are more often developed by the climatic conditions and environment than by the interference or influence of man.

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Even in the human, the part played by climatic conditions and environment can be easily seen. To illustrate this point, take the population of the Delta of the Nile in Egypt. Although the original race which populated this region has been conquered many times by other nations, the influx of the Arab race was preponderant, yet the type to-day tends to revert to the same as the original type of the Early Egyptians. This reversion is best seen amongst the agricultural workers away from the larger towns, although in the streets of the cities the Early Egyptian type is frequently seen.

To prove the above assertion it is only necessary to visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and study the facial features and physique of the mummies which have been deprived of their wiappings. Take the mummy of Remeses; compare it with the men of the Delta at the present time. You find the same facial features, stature, and physique in hundreds of them.

This tendency to revert to the early Egyptian type is nothing more or less than the influence of climatic conditions and environment. As it is with the people of the Delta so it is with horses. Climatic conditions produce races of men and also of horses.

The racehorse was originally produced from the Arab. It was not the interference or influence of man that produced the type, but the climatic conditions and environment. Without these, man's work Would have been of little or no avail, and the thoroughbred horse as known to-day would not have existed.

Take again the Argentine. This country imports yearly hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of Shorthorn bulls. Now why should this country import pure-bred bulls to this extent? The question is not difficult to answer. The climatic conditions in the Argentine are such that Shorthorn cattle tend to revert to the original type, and in the course of time would revert to it or produce a breed of cattle distinct in characteristics from the fixed type of Shorthorn bred in England to-day. Therefore, the Argentine must import pure-bred stock yearly to keep the breed fixed to type. Breeds are not made in entirety by man's selection; the influence of climatic conditions and environment are the potent factors.

(b) Is it that the best foundation stock only has been imported? This can be dismissed in a very few words. The horses imported into Australasia were by no means the best. Other countries imported more valuable and better bred horses; the foundation stock in Australia and New Zealand could very easily be classed as only of medium quality. It must be clearly understood that the very best sires are not used for breeding the commercial horse. The best bred sires in New Zealand and Australia are used for the breeding of racing stock. The sires used on the stations are horses that have been sold as unsuitable for racing; their breeding may be good or indifferent. Therefore, it is the racing which keeps the standard high. Every year there are numbers of yearlings and two-year-olds that have met with injuries or accidents which Tender them useless as racehorses; these are the class which find their way into the stations and are used as sires on good class mares. This is where the New Zealand and Australian remount comes from.

(c) Is it the care given to selection and breeding?

No more care in selection is used in New Zealand or Australia than in other countries.

(d) Is it the preponderence of the Thoroughbred

Making due allowance for the climatic conditions and environment as the most potent factors, experience and observation show that the page 255preponderance of thoroughbred blood is the remaining factor. A fixed breed has been imported into countries which have a climate and environment where the horse does not deteriorate, but improves. It is a well recognised axiom with breeds of stock that the value of any family is mainly in proportion to the "purity of its origin."

The Arab and Bart) breeds are undoubtedly the purest known form of what are to-day called thoroughbred horses. The Arab and Barb are practically identical in race and surroundings and may be classed under the same heading. There is not the slightest doubt that these two—the Arab and the Barb—represent the great fountain heads or sources from which sprang our present Racing Stock. These horses of the desert were originally war horses. The Arab training was systematically directed to produce a war horse. Arab horsemen are recognised as the only race who surpass the British as horsemasters. The Arab horsemen expended the youngster's energy not to attain speed but to produce the essential qualities of a war horse, viz: Strength, hardiness, endurance, stamina, and courage. These to-day are the essential qualities a remount should possess. Now, although this Eastern blood plays such an important part in making the Thoroughbred what he is to-day, it has only asserted itself in the male line in three instances in the offspring of these three great Eastern sires—Darley Arabian, Byerley Turk, and Godolphin Barb.

The origin of the present day racehorse in the female line was from a number of mares. Some of these were called Royal Mares; others Barb Mares and Natural Barb Mares. In vol. I. of the English Thoroughbred Stud Book some one hundred original mares are entered; in the volumes of recent years only the offspring of some fifty remain.

Although there are no records to prove that the so-called "royal mares" were of Eastern descent, it is possible that some of these mares were of pure Eastern descent. In Vol. I. of the English Stud Book it is stated that Charles I. had three Morocco mares at Tatsbury in 1643.

It will be seen from the above that the English Racehorse of to-day is the original Arab Warhorse, improved where climatic conditions and environment, assisted by man's selection, have played the important parts.

New Zealanders are a horse-loving people; they are sportsmen to the core. Whether in athletics or equine contests, their enthusiasm is great. The pioneers who left Britain to people this Britain of the South included sportsmen who imported, bred, and raced horses for sport and not pecuniary gain. What is the result? The production of a warhorse that stands out from all others. His thoroughbred origin has stood to him. He has stamina and endurance; the true qualities of a racehorse are in him though he may have an admixture of some other blood. In his veins he has the blood of the Arab, the original wsr horse whose cardinal points were stamina, courage, strength, hardiness, and endurance.

The horses that have stood the campaign the best are low-set, well balanced horses. Remounts should show breeding. I do not mean to convey that they should show distinct thoroughbred characters, but true characteristics of the equine race.

Well-built ponies from 14.1 to 14.3 hands, with good, straight, clean action, have withstood the rigours of the campaign much better than taller horses. Most of these ponies are simply miniature thoroughbreds. Seldom have these ponies become debilitated through the effects of short rations and bad water; these little horses have carried their men and equipment day in and day out, never losing a day and always looking well and keeping their condition.

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The big horse is not wanted, neither is the trotter. Big horses seldom have the true make, shape, and constitution of the equine race, and they are quite unsuitable for regular and continuous saddle work. Trotters are generally badly ribbed up, slack in the loins, badly coupled, and the hindquarters do not move in sympathy with the fore. The horse has what the enthusiasts for trotters call "a gait." This class of horse is useless for campaigning; he finds his way into veterinary hospital after every hard day.

I make no remark about legs and feet or fancy points, but good flat bone, big joints, well muscled fore-arms and thighs, are what is wanted, irrespective of weight of bone. If buyers would be impressed with one simple axiom, and they would not allow their own whims to persuade them to buy certain types, the remounts would come forward and stand the rigours of the campaign. The axiom is simply well balanced, clean actioned, medium-sized horses and the more breeding they show the better. How often has it been said, "Look at his shoulder?" and the horse bought for one point only, a big raking shoulder. What is the good of a shoulder if the horse is not balanced? And again, it is said, "Look at his rein," yet he is no horse behind the withers. Every batch of remounts brings them forward, horses with one good point and a hundred bad ones. It is the greatest pity in the world that some of the remount buyers are not sent for six months to ride some of the angular brutes they buy; they would be more careful in buying after their experience. They should remember that the horses they are buying will one day be carrying men of the best material that the world has ever seen. Therefore, to carry them, buy horses the best that can be found. The reputation of our great Empire depends upon our men, and the men depend on their horses. Therefore, let the watchwords of our remount buyers be, "good, clean action, balance, and symmetry." If every buyer threw his leg over the horse he bought and asked himself whether he would like to ride him from twenty to twenty-five miles during the night, fight all day, and ride him back next night, he cannot get far wrong.