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Gibson, at the corner of Leicester-square: they are invaluableexperto crede. Any cavalry officer will tell you that in the longest marches they prevent a sore back; and, even to the hunter, their softness and pliancy are most comfortable. See to the strength of your good web girths: those made to fasten with three buckles, being the widest, are the most efficacious. Do not despise a breast-plate: it will enable you to leave your girths sufficiently loose; and on the importance of so leaving them, as regards respiration, I need not enlarge to you, if you ever unbutton your waistcoat after dinner. Neither trust sufficiently in the stores of a village blacksmith to dispense with a portable shoe, which adds but little to your weight, and will sometimes be the means of bringing you home with an unbroken hoof: those made with a joint in them are easily fitted, and on occasion will do for the horse of a less cautious friend. Use the widest stirrups you can procure, with two bars on which you plant your feet. Should you get off, either voluntarily or otherwise, they will not retain the mud and dirt which you bring with you on the soles of your boots. Let your stirrup-leathers have spring-bars, and holes punched in them very near together. Counting the latter will not always bring the stirrups even, and, if the saddlers are not very careless, we can only conclude that few men are made with legs of equal length.
On bridles we will not venture to give an opinion: try all till you find one your horse likes, and ride him in that, whatever it be, as long as he remains in your stable. There is an irrational prejudice in the minds of many men, tolerably skilful in equitation, against the use of a martingale; they conceive it to confine the liberty of the hunter, and to have a tendency to pull him into his fences-not so easy a process as many people imagine. For one fall that originates in the horse's getting too close to his leap before taking off, a dozen are the effects of his head being abandoned by his rider at the last stride, and his making his effort in consequence too soon. The martingale (of course a running one) brings his head into the place where his rider wishes him to carry it, and at least gives the former considerable confidence, which is no small advantage. The hand can be eased as soon as the animal makes his spring; nor is he the less likely to make an effectual effort to save himself, in the event of an unexpected difficulty, that he has come up to his fence with his hind-legs well under him, and his whole powers collected and combined for their exertion. If riding with a double bridle, it is better to put the martingale on the lower or curb rein, and for this simple reason-you have then all the restraint together; and when the horse drops amiably to your hand, you can return the compliment by riding him on the snaffle, when he will feel himself rewarded by comparative freedom. By reversing this plan, as is the usual custom, he never feels as if he could be doing right; for on the upper rein he is aware of the confinement of the martingale, and on the lower he is irritated by the severity of the curb.
Notwithstanding the apparent danger of the attitude, both to the performer and the looker-on, we are bound to confess that we cannot call to mind our ever getting a fall from a horse carrying his head in the air. But, at the same time, we candidly admit that we have not
nerve to ride one of these star-gazers at a blind fence down hill, with his ears between our front teeth; and we will take care never to do so, as long as we possess so simple an appliance in our saddle-room as a running-martingale.
With regard to your own appearance, Mr. B., it is needless to say much. The costume of so public a character, like the plaid trousers of Lord Brougham, or the great Duke of Wellington's white neckcloth, is essentially characteristic and appropriate. We would venture to suggest, however, that the different articles of dress worn in the hunting-field should be adapted to the wear-and-tear of hunting, and that very smart satin neckcloths and embroidered waistcoats are hardly in character with buckskin breeches and top-boots. It was but last autumn we saw a Frenchman habited for his first day's partridge-shooting in the following selection, each article being placed exactly so as to be least useful. He had patent-leather boots with high heels, shepherd's-plaid trousers, a corduroy shooting-jacket and waistcoat, a satin stock, a flannel shirt, and a black velvet huntingcap. In his hand he flourished a straight silver-mounted ridingwhip, and at his button-hole hung a dog whistle!
Your own costume, if we remember right, is not apt to err on the side of over-magnificence; so, with the simple recommendation to wear boots with soles thin enough to admit of your feeling your stirrup, and an entreaty to put a spare pair of gloves in your pocket in case of rain, we will give you a "leg up" and proceed to start you for the day.
Your great object is to obtain as much as possible out of your horse in the shape of enjoyment, and as little as possible in the shape of exhaustion. You had better not ride him to covert yourself, if you have a careful servant and a pony or hack of any description that will serve for that purpose. If you do take your hunter on, give him plenty of time: five miles an hour is the maximum speed at which you should travel, and, above all, be careful to put him into a stable for five minutes before you reach the place of meeting. The excitement of seeing hounds and other horses will perhaps prevent his making those arrangements which are indispensable to his comfort if you postpone this halt till the day's business has fairly begun, and after a gallop he may be quite unable to perform the most necessary functions. We were once within an
ace of losing a very valuable horse from neglecting this precaution. When fairly started and ready to begin, take the opportunity of saying all you have got to say to your various friends before the hounds are put into covert. When the huntsman has once given the talismanic Yooi-over," let no earthly consideration distract your attention from the purpose for which you came out. The best rider we know is a gentleman whom we never remember to have heard complain that he did not "get a start:" he always gets it, and he always keeps it. It is wonderful how well even a slowish horse, if he is stout and in good condition, and, of course, ridden straight, can live with bounds in a quick thing, if he only comes out of covert alongside of them. His rider can then take every advantage of the turns they make, and can indulge in many a welcome pull at each of the momentary "hovers" or slight hesitations which moderate the
Watch the pack as
pace of all hounds in pursuit of a wild animal. they cross the first field. If you see them shooting along rather lengthening out, like a telescope, than condensed in a body" which," as Beckford says, " you might cover with a sheet," particularly if they scarce throw their tongues and carry their sterns low (pshaw! Mr. B., you know when hounds mean running, as well as I do), make up your mind that this shall be one of your "going" days, and do not spare pace for a few hundred yards to keep on terms with them : you will get a pull by-and-bye, when they turn; and depend upon it, a trot is more beneficial after than before the first ten minutes. If the fence is practicable, never mind its being a trifle larger than your measure: despise the gate, that will cause more loss of time than can be made up for by a convenient egress. Every grain in the hourglass is golden now. Catch fast hold of your horse's head, and wherever the thorns lean most away from you, there charge it like a man. Your own mettle will rise your horse will feel that you are in earnest. He will settle all the more kindly to his work, that he is not interfered with by any equine rival, and you will sail across the adjoining field in a state of ecstasy that makes you a boy once more. Now, remember that you are literally the head of that firm in which your four-footed friend is the working-partner: if you will find brains, he will find courage, obedience, and endurance. Be careful not to ride on the line of the hounds; but as you must choose one flank or the other of that fleeting body, select that which is downwind. So will the odds be at least twenty to one that you have every bend of the chase in your favour; but do not give them too much room, for remember if they should turn up-wind, the pace will be alarming, and you must have little lost distance to make up. Above all, ride for ground more than for fences-the latter will take care of themselves, and galloping is far more distressing to a hunter, particularly under weight, than jumping. Choose the headlands whereever you can get them-greeting the sounder spaces, where the rushes grow, as the Arab welcomes the date trees in the desert. When you encounter ridge-and-furrow, cross it, if practicable, diagonally it is the most exhausting of all the exertions your horse will be called on to perform. In the ploughs pull him back patiently to a trot, even should the hounds be disappearing in consequence. From that pace he may increase his speed again; but if once he subsides into a walk, depend upon it his galloping is over for the day. Select the furrows where the water stands, and avoid the darkest-coloured, which is always the deepest soil. Never let his head go; and when a check gives you the opportunity, jump off and turn his honest face
to the wind.
With regard to jumping, it is far less dangerous than you have been accustomed to think. Horses dislike falling as much as their riders. The ground, too, is soft; and if worst comes to worst, after all, a fox-hunter's head is not easily broke. Select timber whilst your horse is fresh, but be chary of it after the first twenty minutes. Pay more attention to the soundness of your "take-off" than the size of your leap. With regard to what is on the further side, no amount of anxiety can be of the slightest avail, and therefore you had better take your chance with composure. Never ride at a brook unless it
is absolutely necessary; but if that is the case, face it as you would the Styx. It is the one "neck-or-nothing" catastrophe of the pursuit, and the boldest rider out scarcely jumps a dozen of them in a season. Even here, however, let valour be tempered with discretion. Cross where the hounds do: a fox always chooses the narrowest place. If you see them jump at it, ride with perfect confidence-it cannot be so very wide. When you are over, give your horse a pull in common gratitude.
Be satisfied with one run. Take him home on the hard road. After three or four days' rest, he will be able and willing to come out again.
You are fond of hunting, Mr. B. Long may you enjoy it in temperate and rational moderation!
"Qu'allez vous faire tous les ans en Suisse?" is a question that has more than once been put to me, by the pretty hostess of the Hotel Windsor, at Paris. And my answer has been, and I hope for some years to come will be, "M'amuser!" The pater-Familias, with all his impedimenta, may find locomotion difficult; but how an unmarried man can hang about the door-posts of Pall Mall or St. James-street all the summer and autumn, has always been to me a matter of unfeigned astonishment. If the following pages induce any of that class to visit the Alps next year, I think that I shall have conferred a favour, not only on those individuals themselves, but also on those they leave behind them. A caged hyena in the dog-days must be an desirable companion as compared to a Club Bore in September.
To the tourist, the Alps are an inexhaustible mine: always fresh, always new. Few people, I believe, have perambulated Switzerland more than I have done during the last twenty years, and yet I never go there without exploring new country. Of course I travel with my knapsack, and do not depend on guide-books or innkeepers for information. Dufour's map, a good telescope, and a compass, are the best guides in the Alps: they give you information, but still leave you a free agent, which is not the case with a living guide. A chamois hunter or a cowherd, who knows the country, is often necessary over a glacier, or when new snow has fallen; and a boy to walk behind you, and carry your knapsack up a steep ascent, is sometimes a great comfort; but they should all be dismissed the moment the special services for which they were engaged have been performed. One may no doubt occasionally have to sleep à la belle étoile, or in a chalet; but that is no great grievance for sportsmen, which I presume most of the readers of this magazine are.
This year I walked up the Eggishorn, with Mr. M
a friend with whom I was travelling, and having seen the sun
set, we thought we might as well wait to see the comet; the consequence was that it got too late and too dark to get to the hotel. We found some new hay in a chalet, which of course made an excellent bed; but had we not closed our eyes all night we should have been amply indemnified by the glorious view we had the next morning at sun-rise. Beautiful as sun-set is, a panoramic view is always finer at sun-rise, as the air is clearer, and the mountains have a sharper outline. On this very occasion at sun-rise we clearly distinguished the summit of Monte Rosa, although at sun-set we were not sure that the same point was not a part of the Mischabel, which in shape much resembles its fair neighbour and rival.
The Mischabel, by-the-bye, is no longer a virgin mountain: its highest point, which is called The Dom, and is upwards of 14,000 feet above the level of the sea, was reached this year by Mr. Imseng, the indefatigable Curé of Saas, accompanied by three local guides and a chamois hunter. They fixed an iron cross on the top, which remains as a permanent memento of the feat they performed. The Dom, may in fact, properly be called the highest mountain in Switzerland. As the summit of Monte Rosa is in Piedmont, and The Combin, if really as high,* cannot be said to be entirely Swiss, as the Piedmontese frontier runs along the ridge, of which it forms the culminating point. It appears that Mr. Imseng's Diocesan considers that he has devoted rather too much of his time to mountain excursions, and it is said he has intimated to him that he had better remain a little more with his parishioners. This, if true, may be a great misfortune to travellers who visit Saas and its vicinity, as the Curé was invaluable as a guide in all great expeditions. Often have I benefited by his assistance and advice, and I still hope that he may, without serious injury to his own flock, be able to give a small portion of his valuable time and experience to strangers.
I must apologize for having par parenthèse, alluded to the Eggishorn, to which most interesting neighbourhood I hope again to conduct the reader; but having entered Switzerland about the middle of August last by Geneva, and worked our way eastward, it will be more convenient to take Leman's fair lake as a starting point.
After spending one day at The Métropole, one of the most splendid hotels in Europe, but dear-as indeed all the best hotels at Geneva are— we started for Evian, in Savoy, slept at the little village of Biot, in the Val d'Abondance, where I believe no Englishman ever slept before, and the next day reached Samoens, in the Valley of Sixt. As I have already on a former occasion spoken of the excellent accommodation to be had at Samoens, I will only now mention that the "Croix d'Or" has not degenerated in the least, and that its landlord, Mr. Pellet, is as obliging as ever. He recognized me at once, although some years had elapsed since I had been there. The Hotel du Fer-à-Cheval at Sixt, I regret to say, is not quite so well managed as it ought to be; old Moccand indulges a little too freely in strong beverages, and his stories of his feats in time of yore on the Vaudru, his favourite mountain, are getting rather tiresome! When his son is at home matters go on better, and
*The Combin is now said, by Professor Studer, to be as high, if not higher than Mont Blanc. By next summer, Monte Rosa, Mont Blanc, and The Combin will have been carefully surveyed, and we shall know to a fraction their respective heights.