It took about a century and a half after the inception of the Thoroughbred to eliminate from that population the genetic complex which confers the knack for ambling. During the 18th century the most-preferred Thoroughbred was easy-gaited and many of the elite cadre This engraving comes from William Cavendish’s 1657 treatise on horsemanship, “La MŽthode et Invention Nouvelle de Dresser les Chevaux.” In it, the English Duke presents all the strains of horse he considered useful for the man•ge and for war. This image, labeled “Nobilissimo, a Neapolitan Courser” becomes of special significance when we realize what the words mean. The horse is from Naples, Italy, and the Italian name of the breed to which it belongs is “Obino”—a corruption of of horses who became champions at King’s Plate heat racing were ambler-gallopers. Horses too small, too heavy or too slow to win were sold or given away to neighbors and tenants of wealthy breeders, and these became the hunters, cobs and pads of the English countryside. the English word “Hobby.” Neapolitan Obinos, like the English-Irish Hobbies from which they descended, were ambler-gallopers. As gallopers, they were very fast, preferred in the Palio races for which the city of Siena is still famous. Many Obinos were imported to England. It is probable that some of the “Royal Hobby Mares” that form the foundation of the Thoroughbred were Obinos, and it is from these that ambling gait was bred into the Thoroughbred from the very beginning.
This engraving was made in 1780 by Sawrey Gilpin and George Barret, Sr., It shows an English squire out for a day of hawking. Like a cowboy who has just roped a calf, he has pulled up sharp and swung down from the saddle. The hunt has culminated in the yard of a thatched country cottage, and the squire has dismounted in a hurry in order to disengage the talons of his goshawk from the spine of the hare it has just killed. There is no question that the horse here pictured was an ambler-galloper; no civilian of this era practiced posting, and none would have considered going out for a long day a-horseback on anything other than a mount with easy gaits.