Obama on Black Beauty on Whips 3

The promised land is in sight. I’ve found a passage where the whip is used well, but to keep this chronological, you have a bit of the bad stuff to cope with first, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Persevere.

These people never think of getting out to walk up a steep hill. Oh, no, they have paid to ride, and ride they will! The horse? Oh, he’s used to it! What were horses made for, if not to drag people uphill? Walk! A good joke indeed! And so the whip is plied and the rein is chucked and often a rough, scolding voice cries out, “Go along, you lazy beast!” And then another slash of the whip, when all the time we are doing our very best to get along, uncomplaining and obedient, though often sorely harassed and down-hearted.

and when they want to stop, they first whip us, and then pull up so suddenly that we are nearly thrown on our haunches, and our mouths jagged with the bit—they call that pulling up with a dash;

Beauty has had his say, it is now Peggy’s turn.

“Why, you see,” said she, “men will go so fast, and if one can’t keep up to other horses it is nothing but whip, whip, whip, all the time. And so I have had to keep up as I could, and have got into this ugly shuffling pace. It was not always so; when I lived with my first master I always went a good regular trot, but then he was not in such a hurry. He was a young clergyman in the country, and a good, kind master he was. He had two churches a good way apart, and a great deal of work, but he never scolded or whipped me for not going faster. He was very fond of me. I only wish I was with him now; but he had to leave and go to a large town, and then I was sold to a farmer.

“Some farmers, you know, are capital masters; but I think this one was a low sort of man. He cared nothing about good horses or good driving; he only cared for going fast. I went as fast as I could, but that would not do, and he was always whipping; so I got into this way of making a spring forward to keep up. On market nights he used to stay very late at the inn, and then drive home at a gallop.

It’s not just Beauty is it. Peggy describes the vicar as “he never scolded or whipped me” and the farmer, who comes to a sticky end “was always whipping”. The next passage is Beauty talking to the youngster who replaced Peggy, and we still haven’t reached the nice bit about whips.

I asked him what made him shy.

“Well, I hardly know,” he said. “I was timid when I was young, and was a good deal frightened several times, and if I saw anything strange I used to turn and look at it—you see, with our blinkers one can’t see or understand what a thing is unless one looks round—and then my master always gave me a whipping, which of course made me start on, and did not make me less afraid. I think if he would have let me just look at things quietly, and see that there was nothing to hurt me, it would have been all right, and I should have got used to them. One day an old gentleman was riding with him, and a large piece of white paper or rag blew across just on one side of me. I shied and started forward. My master as usual whipped me smartly, but the old man cried out, ‘You’re wrong! you’re wrong! You should never whip a horse for shying; he shies because he is frightened, and you only frighten him more and make the habit worse.’ So I suppose all men don’t do so. I am sure I don’t want to shy for the sake of it; but how should one know what is dangerous and what is not, if one is never allowed to get used to anything? I am never afraid of what I know. Now I was brought up in a park where there were deer; of course I knew them as well as I did a sheep or a cow, but they are not common, and I know many sensible horses who are frightened at them, and who kick up quite a shindy before they will pass a paddock where there are deer.”

If there is one passage from this book I would nail on every field gate, this is it. I see horses look askance when they see me pulling one of Simon’s vehicles, but the riders shouldn’t complain, all the horsey people look askance when they see one of Simon’s vehicles, but it is one law for them, and a whip for the horse. Simon always asks them to stop whipping when they come past as it frightens me, which seems to make them even more annoyed, especially as I join in the joke and stand rock steady on Simon’s typical washing line contact. But since I ate the crosspull noseband out of the bitless bridle, contact doesn’t achieve very much unless I want it to.

The stupidity of hitting fear is beyond belief, and in my opinion is the major cause of the problems people have with their ponies and horses. It is certainly the major cause of the problems the ponies and horses have with their people.

But back to the text, yes folks it’s the good bit, maybe it is all change from now on.

Of course we sometimes came in for good driving here. I remember one morning I was put into the light gig, and taken to a house in Pulteney Street. Two gentlemen came out; the taller of them came round to my head; he looked at the bit and bridle, and just shifted the collar with his hand, to see if it fitted comfortably.

“Do you consider this horse wants a curb?” he said to the hostler.

“Well,” said the man, “I should say he would go just as well without; he has an uncommon good mouth, and though he has a fine spirit he has no vice; but we generally find people like the curb.”

“I don’t like it,” said the gentleman; “be so good as to take it off, and put the rein in at the cheek. An easy mouth is a great thing on a long journey, is it not, old fellow?” he said, patting my neck.

Then he took the reins, and they both got up. I can remember now how quietly he turned me round, and then with a light feel of the rein, and drawing the whip gently across my back, we were off.

I arched my neck and set off at my best pace. I found I had some one behind me who knew how a good horse ought to be driven. It seemed like old times again, and made me feel quite gay.

This gentleman took a great liking to me, and after trying me several times with the saddle he prevailed upon my master to sell me to a friend of his, who wanted a safe, pleasant horse for riding. And so it came to pass that in the summer I was sold to Mr. Barry.

Good, kind, totally valid use of the whip. No problem. Maybe the ending is happy after all, maybe the first 29 chapters are showing the bad side of whips, and now we get the positives and everyone rides off happy into the sunset, whips, horses and people, all happy together.

I’ll be back with the text again, hoping that all will turn out well, a happy end for whip users everywhere.

©Simon Mulholland 2012

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