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A Dissertation on Horses by William Osmer

A DISSERTATION ON HORSES

Whoever supposes that Mess. Heber and Pond, or even Mr. John Cheney, were the first who published accounts of Horse-racing, will find himself much mistaken, for there lived others above a hundred years before them, who not only published accounts of Horse-racing, but acquainted us with the history of the wrestling, backsword-playing, boxing, and even foot-racing, that happened in their days; and from them we learn also who were the victors, and how the racers came in.

Amongst these, lived a man whose name was Homer, a blind or obscure man (for they are synonimous** terms) who occasionally published his book of sports, and to him we are obliged also for the pedigree of many Horses that were esteemed the best in his time. This man was said to be poor, in little esteem, and to travel about the country to sell his books; but though his circumstances were very low, his understanding, it seems, was not, for he always took care to pay his court to the great personages wherever he came, and to flatter them in the blood of their Horses. But though he was little esteemed in his life-time, yet his book of pedigrees and genealogy of Horses was thought so useful, that he was greatly honoured for it after his death. And what is more strange, though the place of his nativity was unknown, and no country would receive him as a member of their community when living, yet when dead, many nations contended for the honour of it; but whatever arguments each country may produce for the support of its claim, nothing is more evident than that he was an Englishman; and there is great reason to believe he was born somewhere in the North, though I do not take upon me to say it absolutely was so. His partiality however, to that part of the kingdom, is manifest enough, for he pretended to say, that a good racer could be bred in no place but the North; whereas, late experience has proved that to be a very idle notion. But as the northern gentlemen were the first breeders of racing Horses, so it is very probably they were also the first subscribers to his book, and then we shall find his partiality might arise, either from his gratitude to these gentlemen, or from its being the place of his nativity, or perhaps from both.

There was in the North in his time, a very famous Stallion called Boreas: Whether the present breeders have any of that blood left, I do not certainly know; but Homer, to flatter the owner, who was a subscriber to his book, and always gave him two half guineas instead of one, fabled that this same Boreas begot his colts as fleet as the wind. This to be sure will be looked upon as nothing more than a matter of polite partiality to his benefactor: But it is much to be feared, this partiality has not been confined to persons alone; for there is reason to believe, that in many cases, he has varied the true pedigree of his Horses, and (not unlike our modern breeders) has left out one cross that has been thought not good, and substituted another in its room held more fashionable.

We have an account in one of his books, (I forget the year when it was published) of a very famous chariot-race, that was run over Newmarket between five noblemen; and though it was the custom at that time to run with a two-wheeled chaise and pair only, instead of four, we find all other customs nearly the same. The names of the Horses are given us, their pedigrees, and the names of the drivers; the course is marked out, judges appointed, betts** offered, but no crossing or jostling allowed; a plain proof they depended on winning from the excellence of their Horses alone. But though a curricle and pair was then the fashion, there lived at that time a strange mad kind of fellow, haughty and overbearing, determined that no body should do anything like himself, who always drove three; and though the recital of this circumstance may be considered as trivial, or little to the purpose, we shall find something in the story worth our attention, and with respect to Horses, a case very singular, such a one as no history, no tradition, nor our own experience has ever furnished us with a similar instance of.


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