EQUUS - - Conformation Insights -

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.

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