Back to the text, and back to the whips. Beauty has been describing the Lady of the house and her hatred of the bearing, or check rein., and the way she would try to persuade the farmers and carters not to use it.
I don’t think any man could withstand our mistress. I wish all ladies were like her. Our master, too, used to come down very heavy sometimes. I remember he was riding me toward home one morning when we saw a powerful man driving toward us in a light pony chaise, with a beautiful little bay pony, with slender legs and a high-bred sensitive head and face. Just as he came to the park gates the little thing turned toward them; the man, without word or warning, wrenched the creature’s head round with such a force and suddenness that he nearly threw it on its haunches. Recovering itself it was going on, when he began to lash it furiously. The pony plunged forward, but the strong, heavy hand held the pretty creature back with force almost enough to break its jaw, while the whip still cut into him. It was a dreadful sight to me, for I knew what fearful pain it gave that delicate little mouth; but master gave me the word, and we were up with him in a second.
For every reference to the bearing or check rein, you will find three or four about whips, almost all, like this one, not in favour, yet all you riders remember that Beauty was against the bearing rein, and you remember the fire. I just wish you had all remembered the whips. Then I wouldn’t have to remind you.
So we trawl on, looking, like Diogenes, for a good whip. If you are following this in the text, we are about to reach the river crossing described in my previous post, not the finest example of whip use, but at least a good man who recognised that his use of the whip was totally wrong. So now we look for more examples of whip use.
One day when John and I had been out on some business of our master’s, and were returning gently on a long, straight road, at some distance we saw a boy trying to leap a pony over a gate; the pony would not take the leap, and the boy cut him with the whip, but he only turned off on one side. He whipped him again, but the pony turned off on the other side. Then the boy got off and gave him a hard thrashing, and knocked him about the head; then he got up again and tried to make him leap the gate, kicking him all the time shamefully, but still the pony refused. When we were nearly at the spot the pony put down his head and threw up his heels, and sent the boy neatly over into a broad quickset hedge, and with the rein dangling from his head he set off home at a full gallop. John laughed out quite loud. “Served him right,” he said.
Another negative. As is the next passage.
“Well, sir, I saw your son whipping, and kicking, and knocking that good little pony about shamefully because he would not leap a gate that was too high for him. The pony behaved well, sir, and showed no vice; but at last he just threw up his heels and tipped the young gentleman into the thorn hedge. He wanted me to help him out, but I hope you will excuse me, sir, I did not feel inclined to do so. There’s no bones broken, sir; he’ll only get a few scratches. I love horses, and it riles me to see them badly used; it is a bad plan to aggravate an animal till he uses his heels; the first time is not always the last.”
Beauty is taking John to fetch the doctor to the master’s wife.
There was before us a long piece of level road by the river side; John said to me, “Now, Beauty, do your best,” and so I did; I wanted no whip nor spur, and for two miles I galloped as fast as I could lay my feet to the ground; I don’t believe that my old grandfather, who won the race at Newmarket, could have gone faster.
And now the Doctor is ready to ride Beauty
John stood by me and stroked my neck; I was very hot. The doctor came out with his riding-whip.
“You need not take that, sir,” said John; “Black Beauty will go till he drops. Take care of him, sir, if you can; I should not like any harm to come to him.”
If the Master’s wife’s life is it stake, and the whip is unnecessary, when, according to Black Beauty, is a whip necessary? This book has sold 50 million copies, every horsey child has read it, why do they all carry whips? Where is the coded message that says, “This is a really good book, full of really useful horsey advice, just ignore all the crap about whips, Black Beauty was wrong about them.”
Maybe this is the bit which says whips are OK as long as they are used the right way.
The note was delivered, and we were quietly returning when we came to the brick-field. Here we saw a cart heavily laden with bricks; the wheels had stuck fast in the stiff mud of some deep ruts, and the carter was shouting and flogging the two horses unmercifully. Joe pulled up. It was a sad sight. There were the two horses straining and struggling with all their might to drag the cart out, but they could not move it; the sweat streamed from their legs and flanks, their sides heaved, and every muscle was strained, while the man, fiercely pulling at the head of the fore horse, swore and lashed most brutally.
“Hold hard,” said Joe; “don’t go on flogging the horses like that; the wheels are so stuck that they cannot move the cart.”
The man took no heed, but went on lashing.
“Stop! pray stop!” said Joe. “I’ll help you to lighten the cart; they can’t move it now.”
“Mind your own business, you impudent young rascal, and I’ll mind mine!” The man was in a towering passion and the worse for drink, and laid on the whip again. Joe turned my head, and the next moment we were going at a round gallop toward the house of the master brick-maker. I cannot say if John would have approved of our pace, but Joe and I were both of one mind, and so angry that we could not have gone slower.
The house stood close by the roadside. Joe knocked at the door, and shouted, “Halloo! Is Mr. Clay at home?” The door was opened, and Mr. Clay himself came out.
“Halloo, young man! You seem in a hurry; any orders from the squire this morning?”
“No, Mr. Clay, but there’s a fellow in your brick-yard flogging two horses to death. I told him to stop, and he wouldn’t; I said I’d help him to lighten the cart, and he wouldn’t; so I have come to tell you. Pray, sir, go.” Joe’s voice shook with excitement.
“Thank ye, my lad,” said the man, running in for his hat; then pausing for a moment, “Will you give evidence of what you saw if I should bring the fellow up before a magistrate?”
“That I will,” said Joe, “and glad too.” The man was gone, and we were on our way home at a smart trot.
Maybe not, but I will stick with the text. Somewhere there has to be the passage that will make whips make sense.
Lizzie was standing quietly by the side of the road a few paces off, with her back to me. My young mistress was sitting easily with a loose rein, humming a little song. I listened to my rider’s footsteps until they reached the house, and heard him knock at the door. There was a meadow on the opposite side of the road, the gate of which stood open; just then some cart horses and several young colts came trotting out in a very disorderly manner, while a boy behind was cracking a great whip. The colts were wild and frolicsome, and one of them bolted across the road and blundered up against Lizzie’s hind legs, and whether it was the stupid colt, or the loud cracking of the whip, or both together, I cannot say, but she gave a violent kick, and dashed off into a headlong gallop. It was so sudden that Lady Anne was nearly unseated, but she soon recovered herself. I gave a loud, shrill neigh for help; again and again I neighed, pawing the ground impatiently, and tossing my head to get the rein loose. I had not long to wait. Blantyre came running to the gate; he looked anxiously about, and just caught sight of the flying figure, now far away on the road. In an instant he sprang to the saddle. I needed no whip, no spur, for I was as eager as my rider; he saw it, and giving me a free rein, and leaning a little forward, we dashed after them.
I needed no whip no spur. The damage was done by the whip, but the whip wasn’t going to find a remedy.
Blantyre’s halloo soon brought them to the spot. The foremost man seemed much troubled at the sight, and asked what he could do.
“Can you ride?”
“Well, sir, I bean’t much of a horseman, but I’d risk my neck for the Lady Anne; she was uncommon good to my wife in the winter.”
“Then mount this horse, my friend—your neck will be quite safe—and ride to the doctor’s and ask him to come instantly; then on to the hall; tell them all that you know, and bid them send me the carriage, with Lady Anne’s maid and help. I shall stay here.”
“All right, sir, I’ll do my best, and I pray God the dear young lady may open her eyes soon.” Then, seeing the other man, he called out, “Here, Joe, run for some water, and tell my missis to come as quick as she can to the Lady Anne.”
He then somehow scrambled into the saddle, and with a “Gee up” and a clap on my sides with both his legs, he started on his journey, making a little circuit to avoid the dike. He had no whip, which seemed to trouble him; but my pace soon cured that difficulty, and he found the best thing he could do was to stick to the saddle and hold me in, which he did manfully. I shook him as little as I could help, but once or twice on the rough ground he called out, “Steady! Woah! Steady!” On the highroad we were all right; and at the doctor’s and the hall he did his errand like a good man and true.
Still no nearer to finding a whip as a solution to anything.
Reuben Smith, the worse for drink, goes from a capable horseman to his death.
The landlord stood at the door and said, “Have a care, Mr. Smith!” but he answered angrily with an oath; and almost before he was out of the town he began to gallop, frequently giving me a sharp cut with his whip, though I was going at full speed. The moon had not yet risen, and it was very dark. The roads were stony, having been recently mended; going over them at this pace, my shoe became looser, and as we neared the turnpike gate it came off.
Beyond the turnpike was a long piece of road, upon which fresh stones had just been laid—large sharp stones, over which no horse could be driven quickly without risk of danger. Over this road, with one shoe gone, I was forced to gallop at my utmost speed, my rider meanwhile cutting into me with his whip, and with wild curses urging me to go still faster. Of course my shoeless foot suffered dreadfully; the hoof was broken and split down to the very quick, and the inside was terribly cut by the sharpness of the stones.
A drunk and a whip, and Beauty’s career as a class animal is over. When he falls, Reuben dies, but Beauty’s knees are scarred, and while whips may be acceptable, scarred knees aren’t. Beauty’s slide down the social scale has started. Beauty is sold to a jobbing stable, taking all comers, however they drive, and I am not sure I entirely agree with the following passage.
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.
Simon is probably the ultimate loose rein driver, and if I am honest, I don’t get into bad or lazy habits, I stay in bad or lazy habits. But Simon has the good sense to know that I am not going to be whipped out of them. Instead he takes me to fun places where I can enjoy myself behaving badly at high speed. He seems to enjoy it as well, so we hoon around and have fun. I suppose we could say this passage is neutral about whips. Maybe we are about to find the positive stuff.
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 and the frog of my foot. The stone was sharp on the inside and round on the outside, which, as every one knows, is the most dangerous kind that a horse can pick up, at the same time cutting his foot and making him most liable to stumble and fall.
Whether the man was partly blind or only very careless I can’t say, but he drove me with that stone in my foot for a good half-mile before he saw anything. By that time I was going so lame with the pain that at last he saw it, and called out, “Well, here’s a go! Why, they have sent us out with a lame horse! What a shame!”
He then chucked the reins and flipped about with the whip, saying, “Now, then, it’s no use playing the old soldier with me; there’s the journey to go, and it’s no use turning lame and lazy.”
Just at this time a farmer came riding up on a brown cob. He lifted his hat and pulled up.
“I beg your pardon, sir,” he said, “but I think there is something the matter with your horse; he goes very much as if he had a stone in his shoe. If you will allow me I will look at his feet; these loose scattered stones are confounded dangerous things for the horses.”
“He’s a hired horse,” said my driver. “I don’t know what’s the matter with him, but it is a great shame to send out a lame beast like this.”
The farmer dismounted, and slipping his rein over his arm at once took up my near foot.
“Bless me, there’s a stone! Lame! I should think so!”
At first he tried to dislodge it with his hand, but as it was now very tightly wedged he drew a stone-pick out of his pocket, and very carefully and with some trouble got it out. Then holding it up he said, “There, that’s the stone your horse had picked up. It is a wonder he did not fall down and break his knees into the bargain!”
“Well, to be sure!” said my driver; “that is a queer thing! I never knew that horses picked up stones before.”
“Didn’t you?” said the farmer rather contemptuously; “but they do, though, and the best of them will do it, and can’t help it sometimes on such roads as these. And if you don’t want to lame your horse you must look sharp and get them out quickly. This foot is very much bruised,” he said, setting it gently down and patting me. “If I might advise, sir, you had better drive him gently for awhile; the foot is a good deal hurt, and the lameness will not go off directly.”
Then mounting his cob and raising his hat to the lady he trotted off.
When he was gone my driver began to flop the reins about and whip the harness, by which I understood that I was to go on, which of course I did, glad that the stone was gone, but still in a good deal of pain.
I can’t get on my high horse about this passage can I. The problem was the stone. The whip was a minor detail, no flogging, no thrashing, no blood running down Beauty’s flanks. Just another person who doesn’t know what they are doing issued with a whip, because it is the done thing. You see a horse, you grab a whip. You don’t ask, why, you don’t ask what it is for, you don’t ask when you should use it, you just have it in your hand.
And if you have it in your hand, and you are annoyed, or irritated, or late, or it starts to rain, and you want the horse to go faster, you hit it, and the horse goes faster, so you think “Wow, whips work!” And they do. We go faster if you hit us. Try it on people, it works on them too. Hit them and they speed up. It used to be called slavery, and went out of a fashion, for people at least, a few years ago.
We’ll plug on through the text, searching for that promised land of a reason for whipping that makes sense. But the good home has gone, the less good home has gone and I don’t see the current one lasting much longer. But this research on whips will continue to the bitter end.
©Simon Mulholland 2012