Friday, August 22, 2014

South African Horses - Horace Hayes

back to English :) - but I am planning to write an entry or two in Spanish - on winged hussars :) -
Ad rem, my favorite XIX century British horse writer M. Horace Hayes travelled extensively and widely during the Victorian era, and after his military career  he travelled around the globe studying and breaking (gentling) horses.
Captain Hayes wrote about his horse adventures and observations in many books, perhaps the most important and longest lasting being his book "Points of Horse," but for the purposes of this 'chain' of entries also "Among Men and Horses " and perhaps couple more works may be quoted etc.

Cpt Hayes wrote a bit about the South African horses, from his experiences of  riding them and observing these horses and horse practices in the British South Africa before and during the 2nd Boer War. In this part of the entries I am posting quotations about Cpt Hayes's observations and quotations on the history of horse breeding in South Africa, fodder, coach travel etc.

In the chapter titled "Colonial* Horses' of his treatise 'Points of Horse' our horseman tells us that:
''My first introduction to Cape horses was in the early
sixties, when I was a subaltern in an Indian field battery.
Throughout the fifties, the Cape Stud Department, which
was under the control of that good horseman. Colonel
Apperly, furnished a large number of very useful remounts
to the Indian Army; but soon after the Mutiny, the supply
dwindled down almost to vanishing point. To judge by
the remainder which I saw and by a couple I owned,
they were remarkably hardy and wiry animals, and were
up to a fair amount of weight ; although somewhat under-
sized (about 15 h) and rather plain about the head and
croup. They were certainly well adapted for campaigning
in India, on account of their having been bred in a dry
and warm climate. This type of Cape horse is now prac-
tically extinct. The thick-set Transvaal gelding shown in
Fig. 499 is, however, a near approach to it''

Then he goes to say that:                           
 ''We should
here bear in mind 'that in South Africa there are few
districts suitable for the breeding of valuable horses, and
that the horse-breeders of that part of the world are,
during the spring, summer and autumn, beset by the
danger of " horse sickness." This disease and want of
water are the two great banes of horse-breeding there ;
and the inordinate dryness of the country greatly reduces
the supply of fodder and the amount of arable land.
Also, the indigenous locusts have an unpleasant custom
of eating up every green thing during their frequent
Nearly all the grass in South Africa is natural ; " tem-
porary " and '' permanent " pastures being comparatively
unknown. Consequently, on the grazing grounds there is
a very large admixture of weeds and deleterious herbs.
Therefore the Cape horse, which has existed for many
generations under this condition of pasture, has acquired
the useful ability of being able to distinguish good grass
from noxious herbage. If he is turned out on the veldt
with several new arrivals from foreign lands, there will
be no difficulty in recognising the native equine product
from the others, by the peculiar way he grazes ; because,
instead of eating the plants as they come, he plucks his
favourite grasses in small tufts, here and there, at com-
paratively wide intervals of space. This faculty of
selecting proper food on the veldt is undoubtedly the
chief cause which made him the best campaigner during
the late Boer war.''
''The Dutch East India Company appears to have founded
the race of Cape horses towards the end of the seventeenth
century by the importation of Barbs and Gulf Arabs.
Mr. Duncan Hutcheon, who is the Colonial Veterinary
Surgeon, tells us in his interesting pamphlet, Military
Horses and Hoiv to Breed Them, that " in 1792 eight stud-
horses were imported from England. They are believed
to have been of the early English roadster breed. In the
same year, five stud-horses arrived from Boston, and the
following year a number of horses and mares were brought
from the New England States, and are described as of
Spanish or Eastern blood. In addition to these, in March,
1807, during the Peninsular War, two French vessels were
captured at the Cape, containing some Spanish horses
en route to Buenos Ayres for breeding purposes. It is
said that from these were obtained the blue and red roans
which were considered by the colonists as so valuable
for their great power of endurance. ... It was in
1813, however, that the dawn of a new era in horse-breeding
commenced at the Cape. In that year Lord Charles
Somerset was appointed Governor of the colony, and soon
after his arrival he directed his attention to the improve-
ment of the Cape horse by means of the English thorough-
bred, and during his term of office he imported a con-
siderable number of first-class thorough-breds, both stallions
and mares. During the three following decades, first-class
thorough-breds continued to be imported by the leading
horse-breeders of the Western Province, and the male
progeny of these were distributed all over the colony as
stud horses. It was after these importations had im-
pressed their character and qualities on the native-bred
stock — from 1840 to 1860 — that the Cape horse reached
the highest stage of perfection which it has ever attained.
It was during the latter part of this period that large
consignments of horses were shipped to India, which
earned for the Cape horse such a high reputation with the
Indian authorities."
''The decay of horse-breeding at the Cape, which began
about forty years ago, was considerably hastened by the
importation of weedy and worthless English thorough-
breds, few of which I venture to think cost more than
£50. At the same time, some of the Cape breeders, like
Mr. Hilton Barber and Mr. Alec Robertson of Storm-
fontein, employed good thorough-bred sires, and bred
animals that were able to hold their own on the Turf
against imported English race-horses. Like other dry
countries (Arabia and India for instance), South Africa
possesses the great advantage, from a horse-breeding
point of view, that its equine produce hardly ever suffer
from that form of laryngeal paralysis which is commonly
termed " roaring," even when their dams and sires are
'' musical." Hence the fact of a sire being wrong in his
wind is of little detriment to his stud career in that
country. The noisy Belladrum and the still more obstre-
perous Candlemas, who was own brother to St. Blaise, are
cases in point.''
''Mr. Mellish, whom I have the pleasure of knowing,
has imported several high-class Cleveland bays and Hack-
neys for crossing with South African mares, and may
probably be successful in producing fashionable trappers
by their means; but such an admixture of blood would be
useless for saddle purposes, if we may judge by the result
of similar experiments which have been tried in India. ''

''At present, the vast majority of South African horses
might be fairly classed as ponies, from an English polo-
pony point of view. Their blood is so mixed that it is
impossible to divide them into distinctive classes, according
to the districts in which they are bred. Of course I here
refer to the ordinary South African horse or pony, which-
ever name we may hke to give him ; and not to thorough-
breds specially intended for racing, or the produce of
recent foreign crosses. The South African as a rule is
hardy, docile, sound, capable of standing a great deal
of hard work, but is somewhat lacking in speed. Although
his want of size and substance put him altogether out of
the hunter class or the misfit hunter class, from which
the English cavalry trooper is obtained, he makes a very
useful hack, and an admirable mounted-infantry remount.
His deficiency of blood and the semi-starvation diet which
he has had to endure for several generations, unfit him as
a rule for high-class polo.''
''The best horse-breeding districts I have seen in South
Africa are those of Colesberg in the Eastern Province,
and of the Mooi River in Natal. ''
Captain Hayes goes to elaborate about his further personal and very close experiences with the South African colonial horses when
''during a horse-breaking tour which I made through South 
Africa in 1891-92, I had excellent opportunities of studying the 
horses of Cape Colony, Orange River Colony, the Transvaal, 
and Natal; for I broke in many scores of them, and was
asked to judge horses at several agricultural shows which
were held, while I was staying in that country. During
1901 [during the 2nd Boer War], I had the pleasure of renewing 
my acquaintancewith these animals on two occasions 
when I went out to the Cape in veterinary charge of remounts,
and of taking the photographs which illustrate these pages.''
 Now we will cross over to ''Among Men and Horses'' where Cpt hayes tell us about his arrival and about the manner of his travel in South Africa :

''As the journey from Kimberley to Johannesburg, where
I had arranged to go, was rough and costly, I thought
it best to leave my wife at Kimberley, where we had several
pleasant friends, and to attack the Randt alone. After a
wearisome journey of two nights and a day in a most un-
comfortable train service, I arrived in Kronstadt, which is a
small town in the Orange Free State, and had then to travel
twenty-four hours in a coach before arriving at Johannesburg,
the capital of the gold fields. 

The coaching in South Africa is of a primitive kind, and
would not commend itself to old Charlie Ward, or even to
his son Frank. Yet for all that it admirably accomplishes
its purpose. There are no roads either to speak of, or to see.
After saying that the country is an open one and not fenced
in, I have praised the 'going' as far as I may truthfully
venture. The coach is of the old American backwoods sort,
is hung on leather springs, and is capable of holding twelve
closely-packed inside passengers, with a few less hampered
ones outside. Having to be very strong to resist the terrible
jolts it receives on its cross-country travels, it is heavy,
and as the cattle are either weedy ponies, or small mules,
their individual deficiency in pulling power has to be made
up by an increase in their numbers. Consequently, a team
of ten or a dozen has to do the work of four or six ordinary
horses. These animals are harnessed two by two, with one
pair of reins for the leaders, and another for the wheelers.
The intermediate pairs follow the leaders and do not require
any special guidance. The man who holds the reins is an
unconsidered cypher. The driver, who is the ornamental
man of the show, amuses himself with a light fifteen foot
pole, from the end of which hangs a long thong, finished
off with a lash of gemsbok raw hide. This sportsman prides
himself on the dexterity with which he can manipulate this
funny-looking whip, and has more tricky ways of ' catching '
and ' double thonging ' than ever entered into the mind of
even poor Jim Selby. With this flail he can reach either the
near or off leader, and can, if he likes, cut ' chunks ' out of
any of his team. He is, however, supposed to show his
skill less by punishment, than by describing figures in the
air with the thong, and by shrieking in a peculiarly terrifying
manner at his horses. Besides the fifteen-footer, he carries
a kind of magnified dog-whip for the special benefit of the
wheelers. The third and last person of the coaching show
is the guard, whose business is to take tips, tell the passengers
yarns, and induce them to patronise the halting-place shanties,
at which he is on the free list for food and drink.''
''The ponies, or horses, if I may dignify them by that term,
are admirable workers for their weight, and will trot along
merrily and pull gamely up hill and down dale over bad
ground, a stage of twelve miles, once, and sometimes twice a
day. Their sole food is Indian corn, oat hay, and any grass
they can pick up on the veldt. The ' mealies ' are given in a
dry state, whole or crushed, or after having been soaked over
night in water. The oat hay, or ' forage ' as it is called,
consists of oats which have been cut before the grains in the
ears have lost all their milky character, and which have been
dried in the sun like ordinary hay. If the ears were allowed
to ripen more than I have stated, the grains would become
so much loosened that they would fall out of the ears on
too slight provocation to bear transit, or ordinary handling.
This ' forage ' is an excellent food. Although I have used
a good deal of it with horses when I lived in Calcutta, to
which city it is often brought from Australia, where it is
known as oat hay, in steamers that are loaded with horses,
I am unable to decide whether or not it would be a good
substitute for English hay. Anyhow, it is a valuable adjunct
or change to a horse's food. It is sometimes used in
England during years in which there is scarcity of ordinary
to be continued
Original spelling in quoted passages
*  British Empire prior to 1945
Battle of Falaise Gap took place 70 years ago and our Polish Armoured Cavalry fought and attained  immortal glory in this decisive engagement during the battle of Normandy 1944. Let us remember and hope that Europeans would stop fighting one another,  eg the present and terrible war in Ukraine. 

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