Tag Archive | horses

Horse Sense for You Charactes

akhal-teke1I’m doing my “Horse Sense for Your Characters” workshop over at Savvy Authors starting Monday (Feb 3), and there’s still time to register if you like. But I thought it would be good to talk about why I came up with this workshop–and why you might need it.

The workshop came out of my own frustration at reading what otherwise would be a really good story–except the things horses did (or had done to them) stretched out of my ability to suspend disbelief. This happens a lot with historical romances where you almost always have to include horses. And it can happen with modern novels set either around horse breeding, showing, or racing.

What are the worst mistakes?

1-The horse who acts like a dog. An recent animated movie committed this sin and had the horse lapping up water like a dog (they suck water down like Hoovers). Horses are not big dogs. Granted, they sometimes act like big, dumb dogs, but they have a whole different set of instincts due to being prey animals.

2-The horse who acts like a car. This is even worse. Horses do not park well, not even when tied. Horses have to be harnessed or tacked up and have to be cooled off and have to be walked and fed and watered and generally take a lot more care–this is why cars won the battle for convenient transportation.

buckedoff3-The easy to get up and down from horse. Even the shortest horse is a long way up from the ground. Unless we’re talking pony, most folks cannot easily swing up on  a horse (I knew one cowboy who had this trick, but forget it if we’re talking knights with armor here). Getting on and off a horse is a production–and horses seem to delight in moving right when you’re most off balance with one foot in the stirrup.

4-The stretch limo horse. Horses have limits of weight and speed and distance. The weight limit is a big one. Most horses can manage one person, but two is a huge burden, and generally puts weight over the horse’s loins (not good). It’s also really uncomfortable to ride double, and so not that romantic.

5-The kiss. Speaking of romance, the kiss from horseback is generally a myth. Yes, some horses will stand still for this (really, really well trained horses). Most horses feel you leaning and shift away–making for a really awkward moment. If you want some laughs at the expense of others, check out You Tube for the mounted weddings (hint: billowing wedding dresses and horses do not mix well–brings new meaning to the phrase run-away bride).

6-The stallion! Truth is stallions are generally a pain in the butt. If they’ve been used for breeding, they want to breed everything. You may think your mare is touchy, but stallions are just as moody. Yes, there are some good ones–and some very well trained ones. But, in general, if you want a good, steady ride, you’re looking for a gelding who’ll keep his mind on work.

arabian7-The big hero on the Arabian. Don’t get me wrong, I love Arabs–and I’ve ridden some great ones. I’ve  never seen one bigger than about 16 hands and that’s a rarity. They’re usually between 14 and 15.3 hands high (with a hand being 4 inches). This means they’re on the small side–any guy over 6′ is going to look like he is riding a pony. He will not look dashing–and I always start laughing at this point in any book that puts that big dude on that little horse.

So, in general, think of horses as characters–they want to eat (and eat some more). They have their own fears, their own opinions about things, and their own tempers. They aren’t dogs, or people, or cars. They are wonderful, however. And if you’d like to learn more, particularly about horses through history, stop by the workshop.

In the Saddle: Regency Riding

foxhunting The horse was a vital part of everyday Regency life, but few of us today have such an intimate acquaintance with that lovely animal.  We all know how to describe someone getting in and out of a car, but what about getting on and off a horse?  What does it actually feel like to ride side saddle?  How can two people ride a single horse?

The English saddle has changed little in its appearance over the past two hundred years.  The major change came at the end of the 19th century when the modern “Forward Seat: was invented and the saddle flap began to be cut “forward” so that it lay over a horse’s shoulder (allowing a shorter stirrup).  Prior to this, riders sat very straight in the saddle, leaning back when jumping fences, as seen in hunting prints of the era.

The Side Saddle

sidesaddle1790-1810Prior to 1835, a side saddle had one or two pommels; one turned up to support the right leg, some with a second pommel which turned down over the left leg.

Riding Habits

The riding habit had to be cut so that it draped down over the horse’s side, covering ankle and boot in a lovely flow.  This drape required that a loop also be attached to the hem, so that, when dismounted, a lady could gather up the extra length of skirt.

The modern Thoroughbred, on the other hand, has changed a good deal. The Eastern breeds (Arabian, Turk, Barb) were introduced to England in the mid 1700’s. Cross-breeding to English mares produced the Thoroughbred’s ancestors. Horses in racing and hunting prints of the era reveal characteristic Arabian features– dished face, large eyes, dainty, clean legs. More important is the size of these horses: rarely did a Thoroughbred of that era stand over 16 hands (64 inches). Most Blood horse of the ear resembled their Arabian fathers and stood around 15 hands (60 inches) at the wither. This makes a big difference when mounting.

A lady’s side saddle requires a slight alteration in the standard mounting and dismounting method. Again, the reins are held in the left hand. The lady stands facing the horse, or even slightly forward. She also holds the reins and whip in her left hand. Taking the stirrup iron in her right hand to hold it steady, she places her left foot in the iron. With her foot in the iron, she can reach up to hold the saddle. As she hops up, her weight goes to the left foot in the iron and she leverages her weight up. However, instead of swinging her leg over the horse, she pulls her right leg up in front of her and seats herself sideways in the saddle. She then can settle herself with the right leg over the top pommel, the left under the left pommel and in the stirrup.

To dismount, a lady unhooks her right leg, takes her left foot out of the stirrup and slips off. (If she has any sense, she only does this if she’s certain she can get back on again.)

Modern views make it seem as if riding side saddle must be awkward and uncomfortable. In fact, it is neither.

girl_sidesaddle     The skirt has always been designed to facilitate both mounting and riding. It is either a full skirt, usually cut with a drape on the left; or a wrapped skirt is worn over pantaloons (which came into fashion around the early 1800’s). Because of its cut, as you mount, the skirt falls into its natural position, covering the legs to the ankle. In the saddle, the skirt is forgotten. On the ground, a loop over the wrist keeps the draping skirt out of mud and dust.

These skirts are neither difficult to wear, nor are they heavy and cumbersome. The fabric is usually a heavy cotton or twill. A habit provides any woman with a long stride as much freedom as breeches (and more than a fashionable round dress of the era would offer). Having worn both, I should always prefer a habit and can well understand the country ladies who wore little else.

The important factor in riding side saddle is the horse: a comfortable stride and good manners are essential. In other words, a lady’s mount is preferred. This does not have to be a placid horse, but a horse with a rough or bumpy stride is not any fun under a side saddle.

The side saddle requires the rider to sit with a straight back and with hips and shoulders absolutely even. Slightly more weight should be carried on the right hip to compensate for the weight of both legs on the left. Any tilting to one side, leaning or twisting eventually results in a horse with a sore back.

Side saddles have a broad, flat and comfortably padded seat. The right leg goes over a padded leather branch which turns up (the top pommel). The left leg is in a stirrup that is short enough to bring it firmly up against a second pommel which turns down. If the horse plays up at all, you clamp both legs together, gripping these horns to stay up. It is not as secure as being able to wrap your legs around a horse that’s bucking, but only the worst riders would fall from a mild mishap.

sidesaddle     On a comfortable horse, riding side saddle soon begins to feel a bit like riding a padded rocking chair. It’s far less tiring than riding astride for the only effort is to sit straight and still. It is also amazingly comfortable to let the right leg rest on the horse’s shoulder (the right foot actually rests a bit forward of the horse’s left shoulder).

While it is possible to rise to the trot (post) side saddle, some claim that this is the real cause of giving a side saddle horse a sore back as it requires too much weight to be put into the left stirrup.

Betty Skelton, author of Side saddle Riding, found that….”As a teenager in the 1920’s, side saddle riding was second nature to me. I found it comfortable and I did not fall off as often as I had done from a cross saddle.” In teaching side saddle, Ms. Skelton has found that a beginner rider can often be comfortably cantering during her first lesson– not likely when riding astride!

A Gentlemen’s Mount & Dismount

For a gentleman’s saddle, mounting requires the reins (and any whip) to be held in the left hand. A rider traditionally mounts from the left. The rider stands at the horse’s shoulder, facing the horse’s hind quarters (or haunch). With the right hand, the rider turns the stirrup iron sideways. The left foot goes into the stirrup. The rider may grasp the cantle or back of the saddle with the right hand. He then pushes himself off the ground with the right foot, transferring his weight to the left foot in the stirrup and pushing himself into the saddle. Swinging the right leg over the horse’s back, the rider lands lightly in the seat.

By natural inclination, a horse will move out of the way of any rider attempting to leap onto its back with a vault from the rear or a jump from a high point. However, horse may be trained to put up with this behavior– as movie horses are.

To dismount, the gentleman kicks his feet out of both stirrups and swings off to the left, the right leg coming over the horse’s back.

Horses seem to have a sixth sense for when the rider is off balance with one foot in the stirrup. At that moment, the animal steps forward, making the rider hop along with all the grace of a one-legged duck. Some horses have this timing so exact that it is impossible to mount without assistance.

mounting     A groom who leads a horse out, for a gentleman or lady, will stay and hold the horse’s head. If the gentleman is portly, the groom may also hold the stirrup on the opposite side from the rider to keep the saddle from ending up under the horse’s belly. (This can happen no matter how much the girth is tightened.)

In giving a “leg up” to a lady, a groom would not dare to be so bold as to take a lady by the waist (as a rather forward gentleman might). Instead, the groom makes a stirrup from his hands. He then holds his hands low enough to allow the lady to easily step into them with her left foot. Then the groom boosts her lightly into the saddle. (I’ve seen riders tossed over a horse by too strong a boost, to the smothered laughter of everyone except the rider.)

When a groom is unavailable, a mounting block can help (and is particularly recommended to help keep a side saddle even on the horse’s back). This can be a block about two feet in height, or a fallen tree or bank can serve the same purpose of giving the rider a little extra elevation to easily step into the stirrup and swing up.

Two Astride

tworiders     In a man’s saddle, it is quite easy to manage two on a horse. If the lady stands with her back to the horse, a gentleman can boost her into the saddle by picking her up around the waist and lifting her up so that she sits facing sideways. This is “tossing” a lady into the saddle (best done by tall heroes with short heroines).

With the lady up, the gentleman can mount up behind her so that he sits in the saddle and actually holds her somewhat on his lap. This is a nice arrangement if the two intend to amble home at a gentle walk on a placid horse. The gentleman can use his arms to steady his lady (and to other purposes, if he’s less than a gentleman). The lady can hold onto the horse’s mane for security (hopefully, she won’t grab the reins and frighten the horse).

The disadvantage is that the lady is sitting on the pommel (the round front part of the saddle). At the least, a gallop in this position will be painful on the posterior. At the worst, the gentleman may lose control of his mount.

For fast flight, a different arrangement is necessary.

The gentleman should mount first. (If he’s thin and athletic, he can swing himself up without using the stirrups– a most impressive feat when done right, and a ridiculous scramble up otherwise.) Then he reaches down to the lady. Grasping her hand, he can instruct her to put her left foot on his toe, then he swings her up behind him. Alternately, if he’s strong enough, he might be able to haul her up behind without her help (if he doesn’t mind half-pulling her arm out of the socket).

For a really spectacular mount, it’s quite easy for a rider to gallop up to someone on the ground, reach down and grab that person by the arm, relying on the horse’s momentum to swing the second rider up. The only critical elements are timing, good aim and a brave enough soul on the ground who won’t run from a galloping horse. (This maneuver makes up the modern “Rescue Race” held at some Rodeos.)

A lady, if she’s wearing a habit, she can sit astride or sideways. If she’s grown up riding side saddle, she will probably prefer to sit sideways behind the gentleman. Either way, she should wrap her arms around him to manage any pace faster than a walk. She does not sit in the saddle, but sits behind on the horse’s back. She’ll feel the heat of the horse and her skirts will end up covered in horse sweat and hair.

A side saddle is an added problem when fitting two astride. If both ride well, the best option is to strip off the saddle and have the lady up behind or in front of the gentleman.

Riding without a saddle requires excellent balance– fortunately, most Arabian horses (or part Arabs) have small withers and are therefore fairly comfortable. The horse’s skin slides under you like a silk rag on polished wood, but there’s a pleasant sensation of muscles moving. You feel every twitch, and it can sometimes feel as if you will slip off (which you won’t as long as you don’t lean to the right or left).

If the side saddle must stay on, the next best choice is for the gentleman to mount up behind the lady (swinging himself up, or using the stirrup to mount). Because of the positions of the horns in a side saddle, no gentleman is going to find any comfort in trying to ride a lady’s side saddle. If he has any sense at all, he’ll either strip off the saddle or stay up behind a lady. This requires a good rider on the gentleman’s part to carry it off (and a patient horse).

When two riders dismount, there are several options. The person behind can dismount first by swinging a leg off over the back of the horse. Or, if sitting astride, the person in front can dismount first by swinging the right leg over the horse’s neck. Most horses do not object to this. With a lady up front and sitting sideways, she can easily slip off to dismount, however, the gentleman would most likely dismount first out of courtesy and then help her dismount.

Riding Harness Horses

As a general rule, horses broken to harness are not necessarily broken for riding (the exception being post horses). Being creatures of habit, a horse who is accustomed to pulling a carriage will object strenuously to any attempts to mount it. You will end up spinning in circles trying to mount. The opposite also holds true– attempting to attach a hunter to a carriage is a good way to see the carriage kicked to splinters. It takes months of training for a horse to accept harness and will pull any weight.

Finally, some useful “English” riding terms that you may want to know:

Cantle – the back of a saddle.

Pommel – the front of a saddle.

Girth – the strap that goes under the horse’s belly to hold the saddle.

Horn – an extension to the pommel (as in side saddles and western saddles).

Post– to rise up & down in the stirrups to the two-beat trot of a horse

Reins – the part of the bridle held by a rider, connecting the rider’s hand with the bit in the horse’s mouth.

Stirrup Iron – the metal iron used as a stirrup on an English saddle (which is attached with a stirrup leather– a leather strap that buckles to itself).

Trot – a two-beat gait, faster than a walk, slower than a canter (legs move in diagonal pairs).

Canter – a three-beat gate, faster than a trot, slower than a gallop.

To learn more, the Horse Sense for Your Characters workshop begins in February 2014.

Private Carraiges of the English Regency

The Regency saw the pinnacle of the art of carriage driving. New technologies provided opportunities to build better carriages. In 1804, Obadiah Elliott of Lambeth invented the elliptic spring, lightening the weight and eliminating the need for perches. Samuel Hobson improved carriage shapes by lowering the wheels in 1820. At the same time, the engineer Jon Loudon McAdam introduced his process to pave roads to create a hard, smooth surface and double the speed at which carriages could travel.

During this time, carriage types flourished, and perhaps the most popular of carriages were the phaetons and curricles.

Phaeton by StubbsPhaetons first appeared around 1788. The young Prince of Wales popularized their use in the 1790’s. In Greek, the name means “shining”, and Phaeton was a mythical character who stole his father’s sun-chariot. The carriage was noted for being built very high over the body, with four wheels (large wheels in back and smaller wheels in the front). They sported two types of under-carriage. A high perch phaeton had a straight or sightly curved central beam that connected the two axles. The ‘superior’ crane-neck phaeton offered a heavier construction of iron with two beams and hoops which allowed the front wheels to turn. These “Highflyers”could be drawn by a pair, four or six horses. However, contemporary artists usually shown them as postillion-driver (with riders on the horse’s backs), if more than four horses were in harness.

Ladies as well as gentlemen drove phaetons, and the carriages were known as spider, park, and ladies phaetons. These were often drawn by ponies. Lady Archer, Lady Stormont, Mrs. Garden and even the Princess of Wales were noted whips. Among the gentlemen, Sir John Lade, Lord Rodney, Charles FinchRE and Lord Onslow set the pace.

CurricleThe curricle came into fashion in the 1800’s. This was a two-wheel vehicle, built to take a pair of horses. Again, the sponsorship of the Prince of Wales (now too fat to climb into his high perch), promoted their popularity. Horses were attached to the light-weight body by harness connected pole, with a steel bar that attached to pads on the horse’s back to support the pole. The curricle offered seats for two, with a groom’s (or tiger’s) seat behind (the tiger was not the big cat, but a slang name for a small groom who could easily jump down to hold or walk the horses).

Chair Back GigLess fortunate gentlemen had to be content with driving a gig, which remained in service from the 1780’s until the 1900’s. Originally, the gig was built high and given such names as the “suicide” gig, denoting popular opinion of the safety of such vehicles. However, since the groom’s seat sat three feet above that of the driver’s, the name might well be based on the opinion of those in service. Since carriages were built to custom order, there were many designs, and gentlemen often competed with each other for new innovations in their carriage designs.

By the 1800’s, the big and whiskey were in common use, however, Quality did not take to them until after 1815. Both were two-wheeled vehicles that could be drawn by one horse. The whiskey got its name from the fact that it was light and easy to go ‘whisking’ along.

Many noted whips designed their own carriages, hence the Stanhope gig made in 1815 to the design of the Hon. Fitzroy Stanhope. Carriages also bore the name of their builders. The Tilbury gig of 1820 was designed and made by Tilbury the coach-builder. Unlike other gigs it had no boot, and the rib-chair body was supported entirely on seven springs, making it a popular vehicle for use on rough roads.

Cocking Cart driven tandemAt the same time the suicide gig became popular, so did the cocking cart. This two-wheeled vehicle was often driven tandem, with one horse between the shafts and the lead horse attached only by harness, so you’d have one horse in front of the other. As one might infer from its name, the cocking cart offered a boot with slatted venetian blind panels on either side for carrying fighting cocks.

CabrioletIn 1815, Count d’Orsay (the king of fashion in London after Waterloo) sponsored the cabriolet. This was in addition to his curricle, for a rich gentleman could afford to keep multiple carriages and teams. The cabriolet was import from France, and appeared similar to the curricle but required only a single horse. Instead of providing a seat for the groom, it held a small platform on which the ‘tiger’ stood. This carriage, like the curricle, offered a hood to help protect the driver and the passenger from weather, but it still served better as a town carriage for fair weather.

Full enclosed town coaches had been is use since 1605. However, in the late 1700’s these began to evolve away from the massive vehicles that held four and which required up to six, heavy draft horses.

The sociable appeared in the 1780’s. This low-hung vehicle offered a box seat for a driver and held four passengers (two facing backwards). In bad weather, a hood could be raised over the back seat, and the front seat could be folded down.

By the 1800’s, the sociable had evolved into the sociable-landau and the landau. Both were usually drawn by a pair of horses, and driven with postillions or by a coachman if a box seat had been built onto the body. Hoods could be raised, front and back, so that the landau resembled a coach, or could be lowered in fine weather.

Landeu Luke Hopkinson of Holborn introduced the briska-landau, which offered seats that rose six inches then the top was put down. Canoe-landaus offered curved, shallow bodies and were sometimes called Sefton-landaus, after the Earl of Sefton. (The landau with postillions is often the carriage still used by English royalty for events where great visibility and ceremony is required, such as for weddings, reviewing the troops, or for arrivals at the Royal Ascot race meet.)

Another town coach, the barouche did not gain in popularity until it’s heavy body and low build had been modified. However, when Mr. Charles Buxton founded the Whip Club in 1808 (which became the Four-In-Hand Club the following spring), its members drove “…fifteen barouches and landaus with four horses to each….” to the first June meeting on a Monday in Park Lane. Because its members often drove barouches, the Whip Club sometimes came to be called the Barouche Club.

BaroucheThe barouche required large, ‘upstanding’ horses, with impressive action. It could be driven from the box or with postillion riders, and could accommodate a pair, four or six horses. Two passengers could be seated in the body, and a seat provided comfort for two grooms.

A private drag was the slang term for a gentleman’s private coach, and these were built for four-in-hand driving.

Drags of the Four in Hand Club by AikenCopying the Mail Coach, a drag offered seats inside the coach, and on the roof for the driver and for two grooms. Gentlemen drove their drags to race meetings (for grandstand viewing), to meets of the Four-in-Hand and other sporting events. A convenient tray in the boot could even be lowered to create a table for picnics.

By 1815, the heavy traveling coach had been replaced by the traveling chariot. Two or four horses could be used with this light body vehicle, and were driven by postillions or post-boys. Some offered seats at the back for servants, all offered upholstered seats in satin or petit-point.

Post Chaise "Yellow Bounder" These vehicles also served as the post-chaise carriages which could be hired on the road at posting houses. At a cost of 1s 6d (that’s one shilling and six pence) a mile for a pair of horses, and double that for four, a post-chaise was not an economical method of travel. They earned the slang name ‘Yellow Bounder’ for the almost inevitable yellow bodies.

Until the advent of the automobile, carriages continued to flourish in type and design.

In 1820, the cleche (a larger version of the barouche) came to England. In 1818, T.G. Adams introduced the briska or britzcha. The fourgon and plentum, the vis-a-vis came and went. Beauty in shape and color for carriage and horse became symbols of wealth and leisure.

SOURCES:

The Elegant Carriage, 1979, Marylian Watney

Horse & Carriage, 1990, J.N.P. Watson

The History of Coaches, 1877, George A. Thrupp

The Coachmakers, 1977, Harold Nockolds

The Regency Horse World

Hunter. Carriage horse. Race horse. Town hack. Horses were part of everyday life in Regency England. And the horse world of a few hundred years ago was quite different than its modern counterpart.

RACING

 

By the start of the 1800’s one of the biggest innovations in horses had already occurred—the Thoroughbred had arrived. Three founding stallions—the Darley Arabian “Manak,” the Godolphin Barb, and the Byerley Turk—had been brought to England in the early 1700’s. When the light, fast and sturdy Arabians were bred with the larger, cold-blooded English mares, the cross produced a horse with size, speed and stamina. It produced the Thoroughbred.

At the same time that the Thoroughbred was being established as a breed, horse racing was also becoming a regulated sport. In 1711, Queen Anne had established regular race meetings at her park at Ascot. Gentlemen organized races for themselves, often “matching” particular horses against each other, and by 1727 a Racing Almanac began to be printed.

Flat and jumping races were also held for women only. Mrs. Bateman wrote in 1723, “Last week, Mrs. Aslibie arranged a flat race for women, and nine of that sex, mounted astride and dressed in short pants, jackets and jockey caps participated. They were striking to see, and there was a great crowd to watch them. The race was a very lively one; but I hold it indecent entertainment.” Some women—such as the infamous Letty Lade, who apparently swore like a coachman—rode and drove to please themselves, but they were the exception in the Regency world.

Around 1750, the gentlemen who regularly met at the Red Lion Inn at Newmarket started the Jockey Club. And in May of 1779, the first Derby was held. By 1791, the Jockey Club had issued the “General Stud Book”, and by the early 1800’s Jockey Club stewards attended every racing meet.

Assize-week was the time for races, for that was when the gentry came into the chief town of the shire for trials and selling harvest. Meet sprang up, and still run, at Newmarket in April and October, York in May, Epsom, Ascot in June, Goodwood, Doncaster, Warick, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Cheltenham, Bath, Worcester, and Newcastle.

Racing, however, was a sport for the rich. Before the Prince Regent quit the racing scene in 1807, his racing stud farm came to cost him 30,000 pounds a year.

FOX HUNTING

For the less wealth, horses still served as sport, primarily for fox hunting. While Thoroughbreds might be seen in the field, one might also see farmers upon their heavier draft horses, such as the Suffolk Punch. Children might well be mounted upon the small but handy Welsh Cob or Welsh pony. And Irish Hunters, with their thick bones and size have always been prized for horses who can go all day and then some.

While fox hunting traces its roots back to the mid-1600’s, the sport did not take its present form of jumping and long runs until after the Enclosure Acts of the 1700’s. By the 1780’s, fox hunting had become the most popular of sports, replacing the more ancient sport of stag hunting.

November to March was, and remains, fox hunting season, starting after the fall of the leaf, when the fields lie fallow, and ending after the last frost, just before the first planting.

Hunt territories varied widely. The fifth Earl of Berkely hunted an area from Berkley Castle to Berkley Square, stretching 120 miles.

By 1810, there were 24 subscription packs—a packs that one could pay to hunt with, as opposed to requiring an invitation from the Master. This would double, so that by the mid-1800’s hunting had become more a matter of ‘subscribing’ in exchange for the right to hunt with the pack.

The golden age for hunting in Leichesterchire is considered to be 1810 to 1830. During this time, there were as many as 300 hunters stabled in Melton Mowbray—with some gentlemen keeping up to 12 hunters. A gentleman could hunt six days a week with the Quorn, the Cottesmore, the Belvoir, and the Pytchley.

Ladies were also found in the field. Mrs. Tuner Farley hunted for 50 years. Lady Salisbury was master of the Hatfield Hunt from 1775 to 1819. She hunted old and blind, in her sky blue habit, with a groom leading her horse and yelling at her to, “Jump, damn you, my lady.” And from 1788 to 1840, Lord Darlington hunted his own hounds four days a week in Yorkshire and Durham, with his three daughters and his second wife, all in their scarlet habits.

However, between late 1700’s to about mid 1800’s, when the jumping pommel was invented for the side saddle, ladies were more likely to be advised to “ride to the meet and home again to work up an appetite.”

While fox hunting was viewed as a sport for everyone, the reality was that it cost money to keep a pack of hounds and hunt them. However, anyone could take a horse and follow, if the master allowed it, and some followed the hunt in their carriages.

CARRIAGES

For most families, a carriage was a necessity, and specific breeds of horses were used in harness. The ideal hunter had a long, low stride. But a carriage horse needed high-stepping action, which looks lovely in harness, but which is not always the most comfortable ride.

Carriage breeds of the era included the Yorkshire Trotter, the Norfolk Trotter, the Hackney Horse, the Hackney Pony, and the Cleveland Bay, which is still one of the most desired of carriage horses. Ponies were often used for smaller vehicles, and for ladies. Prints of the era often show ladies driving a matched team of cream ponies–which looks a lovely sight.

Owning and maintaining a horse could be expensive, but there were more affordable options.

John Tilbury of Mount Street in London offered a horse for rent at 12 guineas a month. For 40 guineas, one could hire two hunters and a servant.

Carriages were more expensive than horses, for they had to be custom built. Families with modest incomes would often purchase a carriage second hand, from an advertisement in The London Times. Those who could afford it would have a carriage built to their own specifications.

In Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey, Mr. Thorpe enthuses over his new carriage, boasting: ‘Curricle-hung, you see; seat, trunk, sword-case, splashing-board, lamps, silver moulding, all you see complete; the iron work as good as new or better’ — and all for fifty guineas.

Chandros Leigh, a distant cousin of Jane Austen, obtained an estimate for a fashionable laundau in 1829. The price of the basic carriage was 250 pounds, which included: ‘plate glass and mahogany shutters to the lights, and plated or brass bead to the leather, lined with best second cloth, cloth squabs, and worsted lace….’ The ‘extras’ ordered including footman’s cushions, morocco sleeping cushions, steps, silk spring curtains, his crest on the door, embossed door handles and full plated lamps. These brought the cost to 417 pounds, 11 shillings and 6 pence, but he was given 60 pounds in exchange for his old carriage.

Carriages for country and for town were generally quite different in build, for they served different purposes. And since carriages were custom built, almost every carriage could be a unique design. Common types of carriages, however, included:

The Phaeton – a four-wheeled, owner-driven vehicle fitted with forward facing seats, usually an open carriage.

The Gig – a two-wheeled vehicles (Whiskey), built to hold two, usually an open carriage.

The Curricle - the “gig” of the quality, built to hold two, which could be two or four-wheels, and which sometimes had a top that could fold down.

A Town Coach – a closed coach that could be drawn by one horse or a pair.

Landau – a four-wheeled vehicle that held four, which was drawn by a pair and built with a removable or folding top.

Barouche – a four-wheeled vehicle drawn by a pair, or by four or even six horses, with an option for a driver, or for post boys to ride and control the horses. Sometimes built with a fold-down top.

(For images, visit -Georgian Times.)

A ‘Drag’ was a slang term for a gentleman’s private coach. It was built much like a mail coach, and often used for race meetings or other outdoor events as it height and roof seats created its own grandstand.

In 1805, smaller Hackney coaches came into use and in 1823 the first Hackney cabs came to London. It was not until 1830’s, however, that the famous Handsome Cabs appeared in London.

Both carriage and road constructions were being developed during the Regency and were not without problems.

Sylas Neville’s diary recorded a 1771 journey on the London to Newcastle stage. It took him two days, traveling day and night, to cover the 197 miles from Stilton to Newcastle.

By the 1780’s, private carriages could cover the distance from Bath to London in 16 to 18 hours. But the Royal Mail coaches were much slower until John Palmer produced a mail coach that left the Rummer Tavern in Bath on August 2, 1784 at four PM, and arrived at the Swan with Two Necks in London by eight AM the next morning. The stage had traveled 119 miles in less than 16 hours!

Up to 1820, most coach horses were changed every ten to eleven miles. Thereafter, to get better speeds, they opted for even less distances, changing about every six miles. But as Mr. Darcy says in Pride and Prejudice, “fifty miles of good road was ‘little more than half a day’s journey.’

With so many road problems, those who wished for speed would often ride.

RIDING: SIDE SADDLE AND ASTRIDE

Riders of the 1800’s leaned back and rode with long stirrups that kept their seat in the saddle. Even jockeys rode sitting down square on a horse’s back. And English ‘tack’ or equipment is quite different from its ‘western’ counterpart.

An English saddle has a pommel up front, not a saddle horn. The back of the saddle is the cantle. The saddle is held in place with a girth–not a cinch–and uses stirrup leathers and stirrup irons.

Riders generally carry a hunting whip, which is designed with a crook on the end to open gates, and whip points on the opposite end that can be changed and used to control the hounds. This whip is not actually used to whip the horse.

A lady often used a whip to give a light tap to the horse on the ‘off’ or right side as a command, since her legs hang down on the ‘near’ or left side.

Prior to 1835, a side saddle had only one or two pommels. One turned up to support the right leg, and some had a second pommel which turned down over the left leg. The ‘jumping’ pommel did not exist in Regency times.

A lady’s riding habit had to be cut so that it draped down over the horse’s side, coving ankle and boot in a lovely flow. This drape required that a loop be attached to the hem, so that, when dismounted, a lady could gather up the extra length of skirt. The fabric for a habit was usually a heavy cotton, twill or wool. And due to its cut, a habit can provides any woman with a long stride as much freedom as breeches.

Riding habit styles often copied military fashion, with close cut coats, cravats, and military shakos. Ladies always wore gloves, both to preserve their hands, and to improve their grip upon the reins.

One print from the early 1800 shows a lady strapped into her saddle, but the danger from this would be that if the horse fell the rider would almost certainly be crushed or dragged.

Modern views make it seem as if riding side saddle must be awkward and uncomfortable. In fact, it is neither.

The important factor in riding side saddle is the horse. A comfortable stride and good manners are essential. This does not have to be a placid horse, but should not be a horse with a rough or bumpy stride.

The side saddle requires the rider to sit with a straight back and with hips and shoulders absolutely even. Slightly more weight should be carried on the right hip to compensate for the weight of both legs on the left. Any tilting to one side, leaning or twisting eventually results in a horse with a sore back.

Side saddles have a broad, flat and comfortably padded seat. The right leg goes over a padded leather branch which turns up (the top pommel). The left leg is in a stirrup that is short enough to bring it firmly up against a second pommel which turns down. If the horse plays up at all, the rider must clamp both legs together, gripping these pommels.

On a comfortable horse, riding side saddle soon begins to feel a bit like riding a padded rocking chair. It’s far less tiring than riding astride for the only effort is to sit straight and still.

While it is possible to rise to the trot in a “posting” motion, some claim that this is the real cause of giving a side saddle horse a sore back as it requires too much weight be put in the left stirrup.

Betty Skelton, author of Side Saddle Riding, found that….”As a teenager in the 1920’s, side saddle riding was second nature to me. I found it comfortable and I did not fall off as often as I had done from a cross saddle.” In teaching side saddle, Ms. Skelton has found that a beginner rider can often be comfortably cantering during her first lesson, which is far more progress than most can manage when riding astride.

It is possible for a lady to mound dismount on her own when riding side saddle.

To mount, she holds the reins and whip in the left hand and stands facing the horse, or even slightly towards the horse’s head. Taking the stirrup iron in her right hand to hold it steady, she places her left foot in the iron. With her foot in the iron, she can reach up to grip the saddle. As she hops up, her weight goes to the left foot in the iron and she leverages her weight up.

Instead of swinging her leg over the horse, she pulls her right leg up in front of her and seats herself sideways in the saddle. She then can settle herself with the right leg over the top pommel, the left under the left pommel and in the stirrup.

To dismount, a lady unhooks her right leg, takes her left foot out of the stirrup and simply slides off.

For a gentleman’s saddle, mounting also requires the reins and whip to be held in the left hand. A rider traditionally mounts from the left. The rider stands at the horse’s shoulder, facing the horse’s hind quarters.

With the right hand, the rider turns the stirrup iron sideways. The left foot goes into the stirrup, and the rider may grasp the cantle or back of the saddle with the right hand. He then pushes himself off the ground with the right foot, transfers his weight to the left, stirrup foot, and swings the right leg over the horse’s back to land lightly in the seat.

To dismount, the gentleman kicks his feet out of both stirrups and swings off to the left, the right leg coming over the horse’s back.

By natural inclination, a horse will move out of the way of any rider attempting to leap onto its back with a vault from the rear or a jump from a high point. However, horse may be trained to put up with this behavior.

A groom who leads a horse out for a gentleman or lady will stay and hold the horse’s head. If the gentleman is portly, the groom may also hold the stirrup on the opposite side from the rider to keep the saddle from ending up under the horse’s belly.

In giving a “leg up” to a lady, a groom would not dare to be so bold as to take a lady by the waist, as a rather forward gentleman might. Instead, the groom makes a stirrup from his hands. He then holds his hands low enough to allow the lady to easily step into them with her left foot. Then the groom boosts her lightly into the saddle.

When a groom is unavailable, a mounting block can help, and is particularly recommended to help keep a side saddle even on the horse’s back. This can be a block about two feet in height, or a fallen tree or river bank can serve the same purpose.

In general, horses prefer one horse, one rider. Being creatures of habit, carriage horses also prefer to be driven, not ridden, unless they have been trained for both.

However, with a man’s saddle, it is quite easy to manage two on a horse. The disadvantage is that the lady usually ends up sitting on the pommel, and galloping in this position can be painful on the posterior. For fast flight, it would be best to have the lady sit behind the gentleman and have him hold on to him.

FASHIONS

With all riding and driving, specific fashions evolved in the Regency to denote affiliations.

Each Hunt had its own hunting “colors,” which included a color of coat collar as well as a button insignia. The most fashionable gentlemen in the field might also wear white boot tops to their riding boots. Ladies, too, would wear hunt colors.

The exact origin of the bright red hunting coat—which is actually called a hunting pink—is a little vague, but one theory holds that it was army officers hunting in their scarlet regimentals that started that fashion. Another holds that the tailor Mr. Pink started the fashion, and that the coats took their name from him.

Driving clubs, such as the Four Horse Club or the Four-in-Hand Club, also had specific styles of dress that denoted membership. This included a blue coat with insignia buttons, a yellow and blue stripped waistcoat, a white muslin cravat spotted with black, and white corduroy breeches.

And in the stylish Regency, fashion extended to more than just clothing, for horses and carriages were ways to express ability, style and good Ton.

According to Captain Gronow in his Reminisces, Lord Barrymore drove, “…four splendid greys, unmatched in symmetry, action and power.” While Lord Petersham’s carriages, “…were entirely brown, with brown horses and harness.” Gronow accredits Petersham’s affectation as being due to his love for a widow named Mrs. Brown. Regardless, the color soon became his trademark signature.

Through it all, the horse endured as a symbol of style, as a sport, and as a source of pleasure and delight.

For further reading:

  • Horses and Horsemanship though The Ages, Luigi Gianoli
  • Royalty on Horseback, Judith Campbell
  • Side Saddle Riding, Betty Skelton

Horse Sense

Back a few years ago, I wrote this article for RWA’s Beau Monde’s newsletter. Since horse information doesn’t really go out of date, here it is again, for folks who need to write about horses.  Somewhat edited.

For those whose equine experience has been rather limited, this might offer some practical information you can use when your characters have to have some real horse sense.

General Horse Sense

The sexes of horses include: mare, stallion, gelding which is a castrated male horse.  Baby horses are called foals, with filly for a girl, and colt for a boy.  Horses usually mature between ages five to seven.

Horses are creatures of habit and herds.  Despite movies you may have seen, the herd is actually governed by a head mare.  The stallion is there to protect, she leads.

A horse would rather run from trouble than fight, and so a horse will only fight if it is cornered.  Horses are made into vicious animals only by abuse.

For a good source on horse behavior, I recommend Mind of the Horse by Henry Blake. It gives excellent information on a horse’s eyesight–which is designed to see long distances and up close for grazing, on how to read horse communication–which all occurs with nickers, ear positions, and posturing.

As creatures of habit, horses love to maintain the same pattern.  There are many stories of horses knowing the way home to the barn, of work horses doing the same work every day–even after they are retired.

Horses eat hay and grains, or what the English call “corn.”

Corn includes barley and oats.  Hays include oat hay, timothy.  They don’t feed much alfalfa in England, it’s a hay that grows wonderfully in the western states, but not so well in England. Horses do not eat straw–you hope not, at least. They are bedded down on straw.

Horses also come in all variants of brown, with true black and white being the rarest colors.  Horse colors sometimes have specialized names, such as: seal bay (a dark brown with black legs, tail and mane), liver chestnut (a dark red chestnut), roan (which can be blue or strawberry), dun (what we call buckskin in the States), and even piebald or skewbald (what we call paints).

Horses have four basic “gaits” or paces: the walk (a four beat movement), the trot (which is two beats), a canter (a three beat gait), and the gallop (four beats).

A fit horse can travel 25 – 100 miles in a day, at various paces.  The trick is to rest the horse with walking between.  It is possible to do more, but you will be putting stress on the horse, and could possibly damage him.

Speeds for horses vary, for it depends on the horses’ size, fitness, and what he is carrying.  A team of six horses pulling a light carriage will go faster and farther than a single horse pulling a very heavy wagon.  A good source for traveling times is to check mail coach times. 

Some useful terms to know include:  near side (left side), far side (right), hind quarters (back of the horse), forehand (front of the horse).

On a carriage, the leaders are the front team, and the wheelers are the back team.

Horses can be drive as a single horse, a pair, a four-in-hand (and that does mean holding all those reins in one hand), a team of six, a tandem (one horse in front of the other), or Unicorn style (three horses, one in the lead, two as wheelers).

English equipment also has its own vocabulary, and so it’s important to know the English words (rather than the western phrases).

To ride, you would use: saddle, girth, bridle, bit, and stirrups–which are made up of stirrup irons and stirrup leathers.  The back of the saddle is the cantle, the front is a pommel.  There’s no saddle horn on an English saddle.

Do keep in mind that riding styles have change over the last two hundred years.  Modern English riding comes from the forward seat, developed in the early 1900’s.  We ride with a shorter stirrup, leaning “forward” to go with the motion.  Riders of the 1800’s leaned back and rode with long stirrups that kept their seat in the saddle–even jockeys rode sitting down square on a horse’s back.  Studying sporting prints of the era will give you lots of information– but make sure the drawings are not caricatures.

In the stable the horse wears a headcollar (not a halter, as we call it in America).

A carriage horse is in harness, usually between carriage shafts.

The aides to control a horse include the legs, meaning the calves and heels.  Voice (cluck or whoa, not giddyup), hands, the whip and spur.  A hunting whip actually is a special design with a crook on the end to open gates, and whip points on the end you can change to actually use to control the hounds.  The whip is not actually used to whip the horse.

A lady will often use a whip to give commands to the horse on the ‘off’ side, since her legs hang down on the ‘near’ side.  The whip here is used to just tap the horses’ side.

Horses have been bred for specific function for centuries.  There are hundreds of breeds, but there are also some generic terms for horses used for specific purposes.

Hack – a city riding horse, can also be called a cob.

Hunter – a strong boned, good jumping horse.

Carriage Horse – a strong horse with showy action (not necessarily rideable, or a good ride).

Ladies’ Horse – a comfortable, smooth riding horse.

Now, how much would a good hunter or hack cost you in Regency England?

To put it into perspective, think of horses as cars–the more status, the more they cost.

John Tilbury of Mount Street in London offered a horse for rent at 12 guineas a month.  For 40 guineas, you could get two hunters and a servant.  (He also gave his name to a carriage he designed–the Tilbury.)

The average value of a coach horse in the Regency era was 20 pounds.  A hunter or race horse might go for anything from 20 pounds to 1,000 guineas.

On 5,000 a year, family could keep 22 servants, 10 horses, and three carriages–so long as they weren’t spending 1,000 guineas per race horse bought.

Carriages were even more expensive than horses.

In Northanger Abbey, Mr. Thorpe enthuses over his new curricle, boasting: ‘Curricle-hung, you see; seat, trunk, sword-case, splashing-board, lamps, silver moulding, all you see complete; the iron work as good as new or better’ — and all for fifty guineas.

Chandros Leigh, a distant cousin of Jane Austen, obtained an estimate for a fashionable landau in 1829; the price of the basic carriage was 250 pounds, which included, ‘plate glass and mahogany shutters to the lights, and plated or brass bead to the leather, lined with best second cloth, cloth squabs, and worsted lace….

The ‘extras’ he ordered, including footman’s cushions, morocco sleeping cushions, steps, silk spring curtains, his crest on the door, embossed door handles and full plated lamps brought the cost to 417 pounds, 11 shillings and six pence, but he was given 60 pounds in exchange for his old carriage.

But what is the difference between a hack and a hunter, or a race horse?

Many of the modern horse breeds existed in the Regency.  General horse breed types include:

Ponies – less than 14.2 HH – often used by ladies in pony carts or carriages, or for packing goods — they’re smart, sturdy, good ‘doers’ (they get fat on very little food)

Cobs — Often a cross with TB and Pony — usually 13 – 15 HH – often a ‘hacking’ horse, or a light city riding horse.

Cold Blooded Horses – Draft horses.  Used mostly in farm work, and later in factories.

Warm Bloods – Often crosses of Hot Blood to cold Blood.  Used as carriage horses, and good military horses, for pulling cannon and what not.

Hot Bloods — Arabian and Thoroughbred.  Used for racing, and in general showing off.  Arabians were very exotic as they were hard to come by.  They tend to be smart, sturdy horses with great endurance.  When crossed with English mares, they produced tall, athletic horses which we’ve come to know as Thoroughbreds.

All Thoroughbreds trace back to three breed establishing stallions.

The Darley Arabian, Manak, came to England in 1703.  I actually lived in the house owned by the family who had imported him. They had a life-size portrait in the main hall.  The portrait seemed a little stiff, and that was because it was traced directly from the horse–after he had died.  He was quite a small horse, even by today’s standards of Arabians.

The Godolphin Barb came from Paris to England in 1738.  He was a gift from the Bey of Tuins to Louis XV, but he was ill-valued and ill-treated and sold off as a cart horse.  Eventually was sold to Lord Godolphin, who took him home to England and set about producing excellent race horses.

The Byerley Turk–most likely an Arabian–was a war-horse acquired by a Captain Byerley. 

These stallions produced, when crossed with English mares Matchem, Herod and Eclipse–racing stallions who can also be found in the ancestry of every Thoroughbred. 

The Racing World

Racing in the Regency was only for the very rich.  The Prince Regent’s racing stud farm came to cost him 30,000 pounds a year.

While racing can be traced back as far as English history goes, it’s modern form really comes out of the 1700’s.

In 1711, Queen Anne established regular race meetings at her park at Ascot.

Racing continued rather unorganized and unregulated.  Gentlemen organized races for themselves, often “matching” particular horses against each other.  By 1727 a regular Racing Almanac began to be printed.

Flat and jumping races were also held for women only.  Mrs. Bateman wrote in 1723, “Last week, Mrs. Aslibie arranged a flat race for women, and nine of that sex, mounted astride and dressed in short pants, jackets and jockey caps participated. They were striking to see, and there was a great crowd to watch them. The race was a very lively one; but I hold it indecent entertainment.”  This sort of attitude continued, but those women–such as the infamous Letty Lade–who did not care about their reputations rode and drove to please themselves, but they were the exception in the Regency world.

Around 1750, the Jockey Club comes into being, as a loose organization founded by gentlemen who regularly met at the Red Lion Inn at Newmarket. By 1758 the first regulation–for the weight of jockeys–was issued and the Jockey Club became responsible to the Crown for its organization.

In May of 1779, the first Derby was held.  Initially, it was called “The Oaks” after the name of the hunting Lodge in Surrey, owned by the then twenty-seven-year-old Edward Smith-Stanley, 12thEarl of Derby.  It became “The Derby” after the Earl won the coin toss to see whether the race would be named after him or Sir Charles Bunbury. Bunbury got his revenge in that his horse–Diomed–won the first Derby in 1780.

In 1791, the Jockey Club issued the “General Stud Book”, and by the early 1800’s Jockey Club stewards were at every racing meet.

In 1807, George III gave away the first gold cup at Royal Ascot. Also that year, Prince George quit racing after there was an accusation that his jockey, Sam Chiffney, was involved in dealings to fix a race.  The prince was never a good looser.

Racing meet sprang up– and still run–at Newmarket in April and October, York in May, Epsom, Ascot in  June, Goodwood, Doncaster, Warick, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Cheltenham, Bath, Worcester, and Newcastle.

Assize-week was the time for races, for it was when the gentry came into the chief town of the shire for trials, for selling harvest, and for races.

Steeplechasing–or what we know as races over fences–started off much slower and less organized than flat racing.

In the mid 1700’s, steeplechases were literally races between one church steeple to the next — over whatever lay in between.

By 1792 a race for 1,000 guineas was recorded near Melton Mowbray to Dalby Wood, covering about nine miles.  But it was not until the 1840’s that Steeplechases began to be held over organized courses.  They tend to remain informal races between individuals who want to try out their own hunters.

In both flat racing and Steeplechasing, do remember that England races clockwise–not counterclockwise as are horse races in the US.

But fox hunting is very similar to both the US and England.

In the Country: Hunting and Hacking

The record of the oldest English foxhunt dates back to mid 1600’s and the second Duke of Buckingham, who hunted the Bilsdale pack in Yorkshire dales.  November to March is fox hunting season.  It starts after the fall of the leaf…. it’s when the fields lie fallow. And it ends after the last frost and before the first planting.

Each hunt is composed of a Master– usually the man who owns the hounds.  The Master may employ “whipper-ins” to help keep the hounds together.  Hunting is informal in the 1700s–anyone can join in to follow the hounds (as in that wonderful scene from the movie Tom Jones when the Squire cannot resist the call of the huntsmen’s horns).  Those horns are actually signals to the other huntsmen and the pack as to where the fox is headed.

The Duke of Bedford’s hounds hunted actually stags until 1770’s.  But by 1780’s fox hunting took over in popularity. Enclosure Acts and reduction of forests mean less stag hunting.  And hare hunting was generally regarded as more a necessity of country life.

Hunt territories varied widely. The fifth Earl of Berkely hunted an area from Berkley Castle to Berkley Square, stretching 120 miles.  Most hounds were kept by rich individuals, and they often invited local farmers to hunt with them, for very often you depended on the locals allowing your hunt access over their farms—there’s still no way to predict which way a fox will run.

By 1810, there were only 24 subscription packs–or packs that you could pay to belong to and hunt, as opposed to requiring an invitation from the Master.  But this would double, so that by the mid 1800’s hunting became a more a matter of ‘subscribing’ in exchange for the right to hunt with the pack.

The golden age for hunting in Leichesterchire is 1810 – 1830.  This starts off with Hugo Meynell, who hunted his foxhounds from Quorn Hall in Leicstershire from 1753 to 1800.  His record run was 28 miles in two hours 15 minutes.

During this time, there’s as many as 300 hunters stabled in Melton Mowbray–with some gentlemen keeping up to 12 hunters.  You could hunt six days a week with the still famous packs–the Quorn, the Cottesmore, the Belvoir, the Pytchley.  Lord Sefton, Master of the Quorn from 1800-02, went through three horses a day–which is why you might need a dozen horses.

Ptychey’s record run was in 1802, when the pack covered 35 – 40 miles in four and a quarter hours. With horse medicine being about the same as for people–horses were bled after a long, tiring day.  So the life of a hunter could be a short, hard one.  In Warwickshire, a hunter might fetch 200 – 500 guineas.  But in Leichestershire, a hunter could cost up to 800 guineas

Wellington’s officers took to hunting in their regimental scarlet coats.  These started to be called hunting pink (the story goes that this was after the tailor Mr. Pink, but there’s no evidence this is true).  Each hunt, however, has its own colors–a color of leather boot tops, coat color and collar color and even button design.   It’s said that Brummell never hunted past the first field, for he hated to get his white-leather boot tops muddied.

Ladies were also found in the field.  Mrs. Tuner Farley hunted for 50 years. Lady Salisbury was master of the Hatfield Hunt from 1775 – 1819.  She hunted old and blind, in her sky blue habit, with a groom leading her horse and yelling at her to, “Jump, damn you, my lady.” From 1788 to 1840, Lord Darlington hunted his own hounds four days a week in Yorkshire and Durham, with his three daughters and his second wife, all in their scarlet habits.

But between late 1700’s to about mid 1800’s, when the jumping pommel was invented for the side-saddle, ladies were more the exception than the rule, and they were more likely to be advised to “ride to the meet and home again to work up an appetite.”

Traditionally, each hunt always has a designated meeting place–a gate, or an inn, or even a house.  You meet, the hunt cup is taken–folks drink to stave off the cold.  You might meet around 11 and hunt all day–or until it’s dark.  Bad weather does not stop hunting–wet weather means the scent will be high (so long as it’s not pouring).  Ice can be dangerous–that’s when you get broken necks and legs.

A hunt really is lots of standing around, with bits of galloping to and fro.  Trotting from cover to cover, hoping to draw a fox.  Some hunts kept tame foxes they could let go if the day’s sport proved too slow.  Some areas had to curtail their hunting to allow the fox population to come back.

Hunting was always viewed as a sport for everyone, but the reality was that it cost money to keep a pack of hounds and hunt them.  However, anyone could take a horse and follow, if the master allowed it, and some followed the hunt  in their carriages.

In Town: Hacks, Carriages and Hyde Park

Carriages for country and for town were generally quite different in build, for they served different purposes.

This was the pre-mass-production era–everything was custom built, or was bought second hand.  Because carriages were often built to the owner’s specifications, they often acquired the owner’s name–as in a Stanhope Gig.  One of the main places to have a carriage built was Longacre in London.

Types of carriages included:

The Phaeton – four-wheeled owner driven vehicle fitted with forward facing seats.

The Gig – two-wheeled vehicles (Whiskey), built to hold two.

The Curricle – which acted as the “gig” of the quality, and was built to hold two, sometimes with room for a goom behind.

A Town Coach – could be drawn by one or two horses (a pair).

Landau – held up to four people, and was drawn by a pair.

Barouche – could be drawn by a pair, or a team (four or six horses).  Had an option for a driver, or for post boys to ride and control the horses.

A “Drag” was a slang term for a gentleman’s private coach. It was built much like a mail coach, and often used for race meetings or other outdoor events as it height and roof seats created its own grandstand.

In 1808, Mr. Charles Buxon founded the Four Horse Club, its members drove barouche carriages and so was also called the Barouche or Whip club.

Another driving club was the Four-in-Hand Club.  The club assembled at George St., Hanover Square and drove to Salt Hill to the Windmill Inn.  The pace was never to exceed a trot.  Lord Barrymore could often be seen driving his matched grays, and he was also one of the founders of the Whip Club as well a member of the Four-in-Hand.

In 1805, smaller coaches came into use and in 1823 the first Hackney cabs came to London. It was not until 1830’s, however, that the Handsome Cabs–those single-horse vehicles we know from so many movies–appeared in London.

With a fashionable carriage you might go driving in Hyde Park at five PM, the fashionable hour.   You might hire a hack to be seen riding, if you could not afford a carriage. Ladies often drove ponies.

Handling the ribbons was not for the unskilled, or the timid.  To drive a single horse is to have around 1600 pounds of muscles in your two hands. You begin to see why men have the advantage in shoulder strength.

It takes a fine hand not to drag on the horse’s mouth and make them hard mouthed, and yet to control the team, and it’s quite an art to drive a horse up in to the bit so that it doesn’t slip behind your control.  It’s not at all like driving a car, for a horse is always thinking ahead to how to get its own way about what it wants to do.

To see some great carriage driving, look for three-day event Carriage driving.  Drivers have to perform through Dressage phase for movement, a cross-country phase (where you see the grooms clinging for life to the carriage), and an obstacle phase. 

Getting Around: Coaches and Stage Travel

Riding in a carriage is also very unlike riding in a car.  It’s a good step to climb up into a carriage.  And both carriage springs and road constructions were being developed during the Regency–and were not without problems.

Sylas Neville’s diary, dated 1771, recorded a stagecoach journey on the London to Newcastle stage.  To travel the 197 miles Stilton to Newcastle took him two days, traveling day and night at a speed of about four MPH.  The speed was restricted by the road conditions.

By the 1780’s, private post-chaises could cover the distance from Bath to London in 16 to 18 hours.  But the Royal Mail coaches were much slower–until John Palmer put a plan forward for a special coach.

Palmer’s improvements produced a mail coach that left the Rummer Tavern in Bath on August 2, 1784 at four PM, and arrived at the Swan with Two Necks in London, before eight AM the next morning. They traveled 119 miles in less than 16 hours, earning the coaches names such as The Quicksilver.

Up to 1820, most coach horses were changed every 10 – 11 miles.  Thereafter, to get better speeds, they opted for even less distances, changing about every six miles.

Average speed could vary between 4 MPH for a slow coach or up to 12 MPH for a fast one.  16 mile an hour tits would be a team of four to six high-strung, well fed horses, and a fast, light private carriage that would only ‘be sprung’ over a short distance.

Problems on the road included mud, ruts, cast shoes, lame horses, broken wheels, dust, collisions, snow drifts, overturns, runaways.  On the stage or mail, when going uphill you might even have to get out and walk up the hill to spare the horses.

 However, a good road could do well.  As Mr. Darcy says in Pride and Prejudice, “fifty miles of good road was ‘little more than half a day’s journey.’  And the roads were so good to Brighton that they were often used for setting speed records.

Now, you might not be able to travel the Brighton road today in a carriage–at least not with as they did in the Regency.  But there are other ways to gain valuable experience by going out to take a few riding lessons or even driving lessons–and nothing beats hands-on experience for color in a book.

REFERENCES

The Ultimate Horse Book, Elwyn Hartley Edwards, Dorling Kindersley Horses and Horsemanship Through the Ages, Luigi Gianoli, Crown Publishers
Horse & Carriage; The Pageant of Hyde Park, JNP Watson|
A More Expeditious Conveyance; The Story of the Royal Mail Coaches, Bevan Rider
The Encylopedia of Carriage Driving,Sallie Walrond
The Elegant Carriage, Marilyn Watney
Fox Hunting, Jane Ridley
Hints on Driving, Captain C. Morley Knight
The Young Horsewoman’s Compendium of the Modern Art of Riding, Edward Stanley
Records of the Chase by “Cecil”
Nimrod’s Hunting Reminiscenses