Chapter 32: A Horse Fair
No doubt a horse fair is a very amusing place to those who have
nothing to lose; at any rate, there is plenty to see.
Long strings of young horses out of the country, fresh from the marshes;
and droves of shaggy little Welsh ponies, no higher than Merrylegs;
and hundreds of cart horses of all sorts, some of them with their long tails
braided up and tied with scarlet cord; and a good many like myself,
handsome and high-bred, but fallen into the middle class, through some
accident or blemish, unsoundness of wind, or some other complaint.
There were some splendid animals quite in their prime, and fit for anything;
they were throwing out their legs and showing off their paces in high style,
as they were trotted out with a leading rein, the groom running by the side.
But round in the background there were a number of poor things,
sadly broken down with hard work, with their knees knuckling over
and their hind legs swinging out at every step, and there were some
very dejected-looking old horses, with the under lip hanging down
and the ears lying back heavily, as if there were no more pleasure in life,
and no more hope; there were some so thin you might see all their ribs,
and some with old sores on their backs and hips. These were sad sights
for a horse to look upon, who knows not but he may come to the same state.
There was a great deal of bargaining, of running up and beating down;
and if a horse may speak his mind so far as he understands,
I should say there were more lies told and more trickery at that horse fair
than a clever man could give an account of. I was put with
two or three other strong, useful-looking horses, and a good many people
came to look at us. The gentlemen always turned from me
when they saw my broken knees; though the man who had me
swore it was only a slip in the stall.
The first thing was to pull my mouth open, then to look at my eyes,
then feel all the way down my legs, and give me a hard feel
of the skin and flesh, and then try my paces. It was wonderful
what a difference there was in the way these things were done.
Some did it in a rough, offhand way, as if one was only a piece of wood;
while others would take their hands gently over one's body,
with a pat now and then, as much as to say, "By your leave."
Of course I judged a good deal of the buyers by their manners to myself.