Chapter 28: A Job Horse and His Drivers
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.
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!"