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Reflections on Riding

The writing of this paper has been inspired by a debate
recently held at the literary society of my native town
on the question, "Resolved: that the bicycle is a nobler
animal than the horse." In order to speak for the negative
with proper authority, I have spent some weeks in completely
addicting myself to the use of the horse. I find that
the difference between the horse and the bicycle is
greater than I had supposed.

The horse is entirely covered with hair; the bicycle is
not entirely covered with hair, except the '89 model they
are using in Idaho.

In riding a horse the performer finds that the pedals in
which he puts his feet will not allow of a good circular
stroke. He will observe, however, that there is a saddle
in which--especially while the horse is trotting--he is
expected to seat himself from time to time. But it is
simpler to ride standing up, with the feet in the pedals.

There are no handles to a horse, but the 1910 model has
a string to each side of its face for turning its head
when there is anything you want it to see.

Coasting on a good horse is superb, but should be under
control. I have known a horse to suddenly begin to coast
with me about two miles from home, coast down the main
street of my native town at a terrific rate, and finally
coast through a plantoon of the Salvation Army into its
livery stable.

I cannot honestly deny that it takes a good deal of
physical courage to ride a horse. This, however, I have.
I get it at about forty cents a flask, and take it as
required.

I find that in riding a horse up the long street of a
country town, it is not well to proceed at a trot. It
excites unkindly comment. It is better to let the horse
walk the whole distance. This may be made to seem natural
by turning half round in the saddle with the hand on the
horse's back, and gazing intently about two miles up the
road. It then appears that you are the first in of about
fourteen men.

Since learning to ride, I have taken to noticing the
things that people do on horseback in books. Some of
these I can manage, but most of them are entirely beyond
me. Here, for instance, is a form of equestrian performance
that every reader will recognize and for which I have
only a despairing admiration:

"With a hasty gesture of farewell, the rider set spurs
to his horse and disappeared in a cloud of dust."

With a little practice in the matter of adjustment, I
think I could set spurs to any size of horse, but I could
never disappear in a cloud of dust--at least, not with
any guarantee of remaining disappeared when the dust
cleared away.

Here, however, is one that I certainly can do:

"The bridle-rein dropped from Lord Everard's listless
hand, and, with his head bowed upon his bosom, he suffered
his horse to move at a foot's pace up the sombre avenue.
Deep in thought, he heeded not the movement of the steed
which bore him."

That is, he looked as if he didn't; but in my case Lord
Everard has his eye on the steed pretty closely, just
the same.

This next I am doubtful about:

"To horse! to horse!" cried the knight, and leaped into
the saddle.

I think I could manage it if it read:

"To horse!" cried the knight, and, snatching a step-ladder
from the hands of his trusty attendant, he rushed into
the saddle.

As a concluding remark, I may mention that my experience
of riding has thrown a very interesting sidelight upon
a rather puzzling point in history. It is recorded of
the famous Henry the Second that he was "almost constantly
in the saddle, and of so restless a disposition that he
never sat down, even at meals." I had hitherto been unable
to understand Henry's idea about his meals, but I think
I can appreciate it now.

Stephen Leacock