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Trotting and Sleighing in New York. .
BY GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA.
America may be described (if you will pardon a paradox) as at once the “horsiest” and the least“ horsey” country in the world. All the men seem to ride, and to ride without falling off-which seems to me the principal aim and end in equestrianism, although their style of horsemanship might provoke sharp criticism in Rotten Row, or at Melton Mowbray. I remember, when down on the Chickahominy in 1864, going out with a night reconnaissance with some members of General Ingle's staff and their friends. Our cavalcade comprised a colonel, who had been a solicitor in Vermont, a quarter-master, who had been an hotel clerk in New Orleans, an aide-de-camp, who was junior partner in an auctioneering firm, a jeweller of the Hebrew persuasion, and a Washington bookseller and stationer. Save the colonel and the aide, they were all mounted on strange troop-horsesbeasts which had only recently been taken up from the contractor's corrals, and some of them scarcely “bridle-wise.” Yet the riders all went across country (which was full of “ snags,” or tree-stumps) in the most gallant style. Given a similarly assorted party of equestrians in England-what “ croppers” one might have looked for, to be sure! The “M'Clellan" saddle which we all bestrode, and which is a clever modification of the Mexican, or old Spanish Mauresque demi-pique, is a capital crutch for indifferent horsemen, certainly. You can scarcely tumble out of it, and the stirrups fit you like half-boots. The only inconvenience presented is, that the saddle itself, being made of wood, slightly covered with raw hide, is not quite so luxurious a seat as a "Dundreary" fauteuil, price five guineas and a half.
The American rides usually for business, and not for pleasure. Although old Lord Fairfax kept hounds in Virginia before the Revolution-hounds to which young Mr. George Washington often rode-a fox-hunt, or, as our cousins call it, a “ fox-chase,” is seldom seen in the States, save in a circus. The Americans hunt bigger things than foxes, and follow their quarry on foot or on horseback, precisely as the circumstances of the case demand; but their hunting costume tends more towards mocassins, a blanket coat, and a 'possum-skin cap, than towards scarlet swallow-tails, buckskins, and top-boots. Before VIII.
the construction of the exquisitely-beautiful Central Park in New York, equestrianism, as a mere recreation or fashionable display, was almost unknown in the Empire City. Now and then a party of young men might take a gallop on the Bloomingdale Road, but that was all. As for Amazonianism among the ladies, it was simply non-existent; and twenty years since, had Mr. Solon Shingle been shown a young lady on horseback, he might have asked, “Who's yon gal in the man's hat, and the long-tailed frock, with her fut kicking up at the skirt ?” Ils ont changé tout cela. The “ride” in the Central Park may now vie with our own Hyde Park, or with the Bois de Boulogne.
There are vast numbers of steady-going men of business in every American city, who, if the exigences of their business took them down South, or to the Far West, would be quite ready to jump on horseback, and spend days and nights in the saddle. The settlers in Texas, and Colorado, and Sonora almost live across a horse. The American, too, will drive a gig, a waggon, a stage, a buggy, a rockaway, or any conceivable kind of wheeled vehicle you like to mention-hackneycoaches and hearses alone excepted: the Jehus of those carriages are mainly Irishmen. With all this, the native American has very little of the “horsey" element in his composition. In England, as you know, there flourishes a whole race—and a very numerous race to boot—who talk horse, think horse, dream horse, and at last come themselves, with their wiry flanks, exhausted calves, and long, thin, anxious faces, to look almost as much like horses as human beings. The“ stable mind” forms no part of American intellectuality. If an American bets, it would be preferably on the performances of a “celebrated jumping frog," and not on those of a racing crack. There is as yet no American Tattersalls to rival the attractions of the Wall Street Gold Room. There are not many young men of leisure to spend their fortunes on the “turf”; and there is a deficiency of that lower class who seem, with us, generically and innately destined to be grooms, ostlers, helpers, postboys, copers, chaunters, and trainers. I had a dear friend once who set up a four-in-hand, quite of the “ Whip Club” pattern, in the City of Mexico. He came to New York in the vain endeavour to find two grooms, who would sit behind in the approved automaton British fashion. No American citizen, however large the bribe offered, could be found willing to wear a livery and play dummy in the dickey. He unearthed at last a couple of Irishmen, who for high wages consented to wear leathers and tops, and cockades in their hats ; but they wouldn't fold their arms ; and the Napoleonic