THE TRAVELLING GROOM SOLELY IN CHARGE OF HORSES
The employer, in most cases, when about to engage a servant, forms his impressions of him from his appearance, replies, and recommendation; but the servant now being treated of — namely, "the travelling groom solely in charge of horses" — rarely owes a debt to personal appearance or smoothness of temper, his passport being his trustworthiness and readiness in duty; and in engaging himself, he feels justly proud of the evidences he can produce in proof thereto, showing his many written testimonials from those he so has served at home and on the continent — and that service performed full often amidst difficulties which would dishearten many.
His employ is the arduous one of the charge of valuable horses, conveying them from one country to another: from London to Rome, to St. Petersburgh, to Paris, to Vienna, to Messina, to Palermo, to Egypt, to America (where the famous and valuable horse Priam, sold for 4700£., was taken), or to whatever part of the globe his instructions may guide him.
His trust of horses sometimes, as in the above instance of Priam, may be limited to one, or may include so many as thirteen, eighteen, or twenty. They often are the valuable property of noblemen, of gentlemen, and even of royalty itself, as was the case in the conveyance of those of his Imperial Highness the late Duke Michael of Russia, and the Dowager Queen Adelaide of England.
This servant never has any difficulty as to luggage, when his time to take his charge arrives; since his medicine store or chest, whether from Hyburn's, or elsewhere, generally forms his whole luggage, because he is careful to avoid to the utmost the distressing his horses by unnecessary burdens. He is not only well known, but his whereabouts, whether he be on the Continent or elsewhere, is easily ascertained by applying to any of our largest dealers in horses in London. Indeed, there are not, it is believed, more than a few men at the present day engaged in this department of the stables, and amongst them may be named a Benjamin Bellamy, a Brett, and a Harvey. Of Bellamy it must be said, that there are but few servants who hold more numerous and high testimonials in this respect than he does. The charges of horses of the late Duke Michael, of the late Dowager Queen of England (Adelaide), ftnd of Prince Benjamin, were entrusted to Bellamy, and he holds his testimonials of the faithful discharge of the duty. In the treatment of horses, this servant cannot be too experienced, whether the animals be in or out of health; and knowing how precarious is the continuance of health during travelling, it may well be judged that his cares must be numerous and his anxieties weighty; and for a mere sketch of his endurances, take him from the first moment he receives his charge: — the shipping his horses follows; then see the hopes and fears with which he looks on during this time of extreme danger, and particularly when no employer is present to give directions, knowing the accidents in shipping which he then has to guard against and a most serious time this is for him, for were a sling or horse-box to give way through any imperfection, his horse falls, and is injured, or perhaps ruined for ever. And say his horses are all safely shipped; think you all ends there? Oh, no; for between his native shores and the point of disembarkation, every lurch of the vessel is an additional anxiety; and in many voyages, how often these lurches are! and in some vessels, how badly horses are circumstanced respecting their proper comfort! After this follows the troubles of disembarking.
Should a horse become ill on the journey, and that, too, when far from any place of advice, then it is that the true value of this man is known; and often whilst administering his restoratives, he may be seen tenderly fondling his animal, as though it were a human being that were in his safe keeping, with all an Arab's tenderness. He is also prompt in meeting the numerous obstacles of the road, — from a horse having cast his shoe, or lost a nail thereout, and applying the remedy, to the providing proper food and shelter; and is ever ready in the various rencontres at the inn, or other place where he may rest his horses on their way; and is found as quick at appreciation and repartee, but always possessing self-command, as Jorrocks in "The Huntsman of Handley Cross,'' where he says, -- "I does not wish to disparage the value of your Kabob, but this I may say, that no man with a bad liver will make a good huntsman. An huntsman, or M. F. H. (master of the fox-hounds), should have a good digestion, with a cheerful countenance; and, moreover, should know when to use the clean and when the dirty side of his tongue — when to butter a booby and when to snub a snob. He should also be indifferent as to weather; and Nabobs all come from the East, where it is werry 'ot — all sunshine and no fogs!"
Sometimes the skill of this groom is tested in appliances to meet the effects of the difference of temperature, of food, and of water, and the shocks from shaking and trembling which the poor animal in travelling is attacked by: — not to physic a sick horse, but to know the favourable time for blood-letting, and the particular constitution of each horse; to judge how far its strength or its robustness may be affected by the changes of climate, yea, or even by fretting, through loss of a companion; to know the proper times and lengths of journeys, when to move and when to stop to the greatest advantage to their comfort, so as not to unnecessarily expose them to the attacks of the grasshopper, flies, or other insects, most tantalizing and annoying to them in the summer and autumnal season; to not over-heat them by excessive travelling. And for the protection of his charge, he is often found acquainted with many useful remedies of pharmacy, and at the same time, farrier enough to put a nail into his horse's shoe when required — ay, and even to shoe him, should he in his journey need it. This mixed knowledge is the more sought of him, since, as was previously observed, the horses drafted out under his charge are often of the most expensive character and of the highest blood; therefore it frequently happens, from the important nature of his business, that the position and wealth of many are influenced, whether the stock he conveys, of noblemen or others, come through our large London horsedealers, or is a charge direct from the nobleman himself. And in proportion to the successful performance of his duty, and his employer's sound appreciation of it, it is not unusual for him to receive a substantial pecuniary compliment on his return home; and it must be acknowledged that tasks of this nature deserve to be well recompensed.
The travelling groom is no slave to his toilet, but is almost the impersonation of the old Gaelic proverb, "Toujours pret". (The motto, "Toujours Pret" is believed to be Old French meaning "always ready".)